A Practical Guide for Implementing Block Periodization for Powerlifting
August 6, 2010
Introduction: Powerlifting is a sport that is tailor-made for Block Periodization. This is due to the small number of physical traits that must be trained for: maximal strength, absolute strength and technique. This article is directed toward the average lifter and not the physical preparation coach. The intent is not to discuss the hard science behind the system. The purpose is to outline the principles of the system and how to implement these principles in a practical sense.
How I learned of Block Periodization
I first became aware of Block Periodization while interning under Buddy Morris and James Smith at the University of Pittsburgh. James presented some information on the Block system to me, and while I found it interesting, I was skeptical as it seemed to be different from what I was doing. I also didn?t have a full understanding on the terminology and how to implement it. During this time, I was still using a Westside Barbell-style system of programming. I was reluctant to change, as this system had given me gains in the past. I continued to use a lot of the principles of Westside, but had a lot of injuries. I also was very inconsistent because I was rarely performing the competition lifts. After a string of injuries and bomb outs, I took some time away from powerlifting. After moving to the Washington, DC area, I met Carlos Osegueda that runs Central Virginia Athletic and Barbell Club. He had been training with the Block Periodization system and making progress. At this time, I decided to research by reading Issurin?s Block Periodization: A Breakthrough in Sports Training and Principles and Basics of Advanced Athletic Training. These books gave me a better understanding and for the next year, I used trial and error along with the knowledge I gained to fine tune the programming to fit my needs. Using this system, I set a 190 pound total PR and gained my first Elite at 242.
What is Block Periodization?
The technical definition as Issurin states, ?The general approach to the compilation of Block Periodized training assumes the sequencing of three different-type mesocycle-blocks that form a single training stage ending in some competition.? In practical terms, it?s a system of focusing on general abilities further out from a meet and becoming more directed as the competition draws near. That being said, it?s necessary to know how to classify movements as general, general specific, or specific. This article is a great reference. From here, a lifter can lay out the blocks based on movements that fit into each category and target the weaknesses of each lifter. Because of this, two lifters using a Block system may have training sessions that look completely different. The only absolute is that the programming fits within the guidelines of the three blocks: accumulation, transmutation and realization.
To give an example of the accumulation block, it would be like building a foundation for a house. The intensity is reduced, but there are higher volumes of work. The work during this block will also have a greater amount of general and general specific. It will have less specific movements. In the sport of powerlifting, the purpose of a block like this would be to promote hypertrophy and increase work capacity. The percentages for this block depends on the lifter, but generally range from 50 ? 70 percent. When I calculated volume for this block, I used Prilepin?s chart as a guideline, but it?s not set in stone. The duration of this block can range from two to six weeks. Again, a lot of this depends on the lifter and their level of preparation. The less qualified, the longer the block can be. The length can vary depending on where this block falls in the annual plan. A restoration/deload isn?t necessary after this block, but may be included depending on the individual.
The basis of the transmutation block is to take the general abilities and transfer them to specific abilities. During this phase, the intensity increases and the volume is reduced, but still is considered moderate. The movements in this block start to include the specific/competition lifts, but also has a large volume dedicated towards general specific lifts that build the competition movements. General exercises won?t be prioritized, but may be included at a reduced volume. The goal of this block is to develop the abilities that are specific for the competition lifts. Percentages used during this block generally fall between the 75 ? 90 percent range. Again, I based this off of Prilepin?s chart, but sometimes the workload can be higher or lower. The duration of this block is somewhere in the two to four week range. The length is determined on the qualification of the lifter and where the block falls in the annual plan. The further out, the longer this block can be used. Another aspect of this block is that it?s designed to induce fatigue. There won?t be full recoveries between training sessions. In layman?s terms, it?s normal to feel like shit during this block, but you should still be able to hit all of the numbers you planned to hit. This is by far the most difficult block of all. Pay attention to volume and intensity because it?s very easy to become overtrained. This block needs to be followed by a restoration/deload.
The realization block is the final stage of training before a meet. The volume is low and the intensity is high. Because of this, it?s often referred to as a taper. During this block, the training is directed to the competition lifts. The general specific lifts are phased out and if any general exercises are included, they?re for the purpose of injury prevention or light flushing/pumping work. The percentages used are 90 percent or greater. Lifts should be performed to the standards that are needed in competition. There should be full recoveries between sessions. The frequency of training is also decreased during this block. The duration is shorter, and usually is around two weeks. This should be followed by a restoration/deload that can last one to two weeks depending on personal preference.
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