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Phase Potentiation and Periodisation for Powerlifting

When developing a training plan, we need to ensure we have a very specific purpose for what we are doing and when we are doing it. Just as importantly, our system of training needs to make sense: each phase should feed into the next building on the gains that have been made to transform them into the expression of strength. 

This is the goal of phase potentiation, to have all phases of a training plan fit together effortlessly and build up to a peak expression. A very simple explanation of this is a hypertrophy phase moving into a general strength phase. Our new found muscle development will allow us to build more strength in the next phase. 

This is a concept that many lifters struggle with drew to the lower weights used in a hypertrophy phase and the corresponding temporary drop in 1RM. Isn’t lifting the heaviest possible weight the point of powerlifting?!?!? What actually happens in reality is the time we spend building a bigger base with a dedicated hypertrophy phase will allow us reach a higher peak. All our programs consider this in the developmental phases, so don’t be frustrated when doing a more remedial phase, sometimes it is necessary to go backwards to move forwards!

Periodisation is the putting phase potentiation into action! Here is our standard approach.

General preparation – 4-12 weeks: In this phase, we are looking at ensuring the trainee is ready for a base level of proper training. Many people will consider this a rehab or “prehab” approach. The beauty of doing a dedicated phase to this is that it allows us to identify anything that may lead to a complication down the road and address it before it becomes a concern or a limiting factor. This is definitely something we do extremely well at DC Health Performance. 

Hypertrophy Phase – This is the phase where we focus on building muscle. This phase will last anywhere 4-10 weeks based on a needs analysis of how much muscle needs to be built. Deloads will need to be included in this phase as well to mitigate fatigue and allow for adaptation. The only reason for ever avoiding hypertrophy may be due to weight class restrictions but this is rarely ever the case.

General Strength Phase – In this phase we bring the reps down and focus on strength in the 4-8 rep range. There is a gradual decrease in volume due to the higher levels of intensity and more specificity with the lifts used. 

One of the advantages of a strength phase is muscle gains from the hypertrophy phase will be retained with general strength work. This is why phase potentiation is so important, so we can maintain what we have built and continue to get better. This block will last week 8-12 weeks.  

Peaking Phase: This is where we bring down the volume of a program considerably to allow for the dissolution of fatigue so we can express our new found strength in either competition or a testing day. This is what we train for! It also allows us to practice our technique with very near maximal loads. It can last 3 to 8 weeks depending on how advanced a lifter is. 

Active Rest: This is the program after the meet or testing day where we dissipate fatigue (particularly for soft tissue recovery) and still maintain fitness. It is a fairly short phase of training (1-3 weeks) before resuming hypertrophy training.

A year round program should incorporate all these phases in an intelligent way. Implement and gain!

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