Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Amit Sapir. After representing Israel in weightlifting at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Sapir became an IFBB bodybuilder and a powerlifter. At the time of writing, he holds the squat world record (raw with knee wraps) in four separate weight classes. Here’s how he competed with enough frequency to reach his goal.
You can compete much more frequently than you think you can.
Four to six meets in twenty weeks is completely possible with what I call my “extra peaking system.”
Here’s a timeline I personally followed to achieve three all-time world records within a five-month period between June and November 2015 — about twenty weeks.
Week 1-8: The Preparation
This is the basic prep and the beginning of your first peaking protocol.
This is the time that you will begin training your neurological and muscular systems to handle heavier weights and lower reps (ideally prior to this you would do a solid 6-8 week hypertrophy phase where you worked on your muscular weaknesses).
The progress in these weeks should be as linear as possible, both in terms of adding weight weekly and also in lowering the reps. Basically, your normal linear periodization, but adjusted to your individual training system as long as it is structured to increase neuro-efficiency and technique.
I think it’s a good idea to try to deload every 6 weeks: 6 weeks of hard work, 1 week of deload, 1 week speed work and then compete. So I put the first meet at week 8.
But honestly, I find it helpful to think of week 12 as the time of the first meet and the week 8 meet as a “test meet.” By week 8, you should be around 85 to 90 percent of where you should be at week 12. Jumping into a “test” meet is the perfect place to test your progress.
This also gives your body a chance to feel out the competition platform, get your head into competing, and get your feet wet before the meet you’re focusing on. I usually treat this as a heavy training day and push it hard if I feel good that day.
The second meet is the first officially “planned” meet of the training cycle and should ideally result in a new PR.
If everything went well for the training cycle, then from this point on you can ride this and improve your neuro efficiency in the weeks following the meet. Neurologically and muscularly, you should be feeling 100 percent, and this condition can be maintained for up to six weeks. This extension of your peaking period improves the CNS efficiency in its ability to handle heavy weight (meaning that the more you handle these heavy weights, the more efficiently your CNS can handle them).
Weeks 13 to 16
The week following the second meet, I recommend medium training — not too light or too heavy, about 60 to 80 percent of your max. I keep this week to mostly speed and technique work.
Week 14 is a heavy week where I hit my planned openers, and week 15 is another deload.
After this meet, you’ve got four weeks until the final competition. The protocol is similar, but stretch each phase into nine days: one microcycle of medium training with speed and technique, one heavy microcycle, one deload.
However, the volume should be lowered. Do not lower the weights, just the volume. You want your nervous system to continue to be stimulated and be ready — at this point, less is more. You are now maxing your body’s limits muscularly and neurologically. Do heavy weights, but mostly singles (low volume and at this point drop your accessory work completely and focus on the main lifts).
If you have done it correctly, you will feel stronger and should open with close to the numbers from your highest lifts at your last meet. Your nervous system will be ready, and the heavy weights should feel lighter. A well-trained nervous system that is adapted to lifting heavy loads is capable of so much more than you would expect. For me, it feels like as a season progresses, I become stronger, and weights that felt so heavy in the first twelve weeks of the prep feel like a medium warm-up.
After this 20 week period, take 2-3 weeks completely off the gym. No touching a bar, treat nagging injuries, eat good food, do some easy active recovery, and chill out.
Then… do it all again!!
Now, my training has not always been smooth and there are always some setbacks, but the bottom line is that I wouldn’t have accomplished everything I have if I hadn’t competed so much. It gave me the chance to fuck up, learn, reassess strengths and weaknesses, and improve mentally, physically and emotionally.
Recovery time for the nervous system from maxing the main lifts are roughly 21 days for deadlift, 10 to 14 days for squat, and 5-7 days for bench. I have experimented with these times in my own athletic career (always keeping in mind that individuals vary) and have found that these timelines are plenty of time to recover properly from maxing these lifts.
My first track and field coach once told me “your worst competition ever will still be way better than your best training session” and he was completely right. I did those 20 weeks myself and also let a few of my top athletes try the same system and ALL of them showed big improvements from meet to meet. Something to think about next time you hear “only compete once or twice a year.”
Featured image via @ifbbproamitsapir on Instagram.