Different training blocks/phases have different purposes. In saying this, the 'journey' is leading to increasing 1RM on the competition lifts (specifically for powerlifting).

Powerlifting training block and phase types explained

SPC Performance Lab gym in Taren Point powerlifting

Our powerlifting gym in Taren Point in Sydney receives quite a few emails or phone calls from people wanting to learn more about the different training blocks and which one may be suitable to increase 1RM on competition lifts. 

1RM, or One Repetition Maximum, is a term commonly used in powerlifting and strength training to refer to the maximum amount of weight a person can lift for a single repetition of a given exercise. It is often used as a measure of an individual’s maximal strength in a specific lift, such as the squat, bench press, or deadlift.

Powerlifters and strength athletes frequently test their 1RM to determine their progress, set training goals, and establish the weights they should use in their training programs. It’s important to note that attempting a 1RM can be physically demanding and carries a risk of injury, so it should be done with proper technique and safety precautions. In powerlifting, the total of a lifter’s 1RM in the squat, bench press, and deadlift is used to determine their overall performance in competitions, with the highest total winning the event.

At our powerlifting gym in Taren Point we give members the option to train on their own (we are open 24/7) to get one-on-one powerlifting training or online powerlifting coaching to get help with any aspect needed from nutrition to technique. 

I’ll explain some of the goals & purposes of each training block below.

Volume / Accumulation / Hypertrophy / Offseason Block Phase

Build muscle, increase work capacity/training and injury resilience

Experiment different technique on main lifts, programming structure etc

Mental break + physical break from heavy lifting

Adapt to new movement patterns, fix technique

Estimated 1RMs and strength at heavy loads may be temporarily lower/decrease (relative to strength blocks) in volume blocks due to high fatigue and reduced specificity

Higher repetitions, more sets, lower RPEs/less intensity

Laying the foundations in preparation for heavier/strength blocks. Should not be overlooked or cut too short. If you want to be a good powerlifter, you need to build muscle  

Strength / Intensity Block Phase

Primary focus is to get stronger/neuromuscular type adaptions with hypertrophy secondary

Re-introduce heavy loads following volume blocks

Optimise/practice technique under increasing loads, adapt to heavy load/higher RPEs

Identify errors/form breakdown under heavy loads and implemented fixes prior to competition

Lower repetitions, possibly reduced sets relative to volume blocks, higher RPEs/higher intensity

Muscle can still be built in strength blocks but is not the primary focus.

Peaking Phase

Maximise 1RM strength to perform in competition

Practice mental cues/focus for competition, highly specific to competition conditions

Hypertrophy on the back burner/maintain muscle at a minimum. Muscle gain at worse maintained, is not a necessity to build muscle during peaking blocks  

Intensity in most cases becomes very high to match competition demands, practice singles/competition lifts

Technique should be established by now. May make minor adjustments to technique if errors are apparent but will not make major changes/introduce new movement solutions as there’s a chance the lifter will get weaker/confused learning new technique. Will save technique overhauls post competition

Volume on non-specific exercises may be reduced/cut to allocate recovery and adaption capacities to get stronger on the competition lifts

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SPC Performance Lab provides Powerlifting coaching with the option to get face to face sessions in our gym, book online sessions or to join a small group. Run by Paul Attard the coaching is customised to suit beginners, recreational or competitive powerlifters.

Deload Phase

Reduce physical and mental fatigue in preparation for the next training block

Recover from injuries/niggles

Deloads do not necessarily have to be (global), could even be just de-loading from particular exercises whilst maintaining volume and intensity on the other lifts

Does not involve ‘peaking performance’ as done in taper

Deload lengths may vary depending on the person and situation. E.g. a 4 week holiday could be viewed as a deload

Ideally at worst, performance is maintained. We want to avoid regressing/doing zero training and losing built adaptations from previous training blocks. If performance is reduced, should be minimal/re-gained quickly. Unless injured, then performance may unavoidably decrease.

Taper Phase

Primary focus is to peak performance for competition day with the hope to get a small % performance gain (average can be in theory be 3% gain)

Generally, involves dropping most if not all accessory movements to minimise fatigue and increase recovery so energy and adaptation reserves can be focused onto the competition lifts.

In most cases has lifters performing opener attempts and warmups in preparation/practice for competition day

Taper sometimes highly individualised to peak athlete for competition day. Some people may need more or less training during taper. Will likely need to experiment with athlete to see what they respond to/optimise performance for competition day.

Technique Focus / Newbie / Teaching Block Phase

Something I typically do for very new lifters who need to learn technique on SBD. Very high focus on learning and optimising technique/identifying movement errors, how to fix errors, how to become self-sufficient to detect and fix technique issues on your own without having to always rely on me

Trial of different techniques/movement executions to find what fits the person. Establishing individualised technique on competition lifts  

Improve technique repeatability/consistency with each repetition. Reduce large fluctuations in movement variability from rep to rep. Try to make each rep look the same, overtime    

Some accessory exercises may be included but not too many to avoid confusion/learning too many movements at once. Will likely do SBD multiple times a week (2+) but very submaximal loads initially to learn technique. Will slowly introduce accessory exercises as lifter becomes more confident/experienced on comp lifts

Load does slowly increase over time but lifting heavy is not the primary focus. Repetitions may be higher (>5) to get more technique practice in

Build muscle and work capacity like offseason blocks

Potentially need to focus on training consistency/routine/habit building if a very new lifter

Why is it important to understand & follow these phases?

Having a good understanding of the training block types in powerlifting and when to progress through each phase is pretty important if you want to increase your 1RM but there are some other reasons too which include;

  • Progressive overload: Training blocks allow for structured progression in your training. Each phase focuses on different aspects of strength development, such as hypertrophy or maximal strength. This systematic approach ensures that you gradually increase the demands placed on your muscles and nervous system over time, promoting consistent and sustainable progress. I can also help you with other aspects like nutrition, recovery etc so that you have a holistic approach to your training.
  • Targeted development: Each block type has a specific purpose. For example, hypertrophy phases prioritise muscle growth, which can provide a solid foundation for strength gains. Strength phases focus on improving neuromuscular adaptations and your ability to lift heavier weights. Peaking phases fine-tune your performance for competitions. By following these phases, you address various aspects of strength development systematically.
  • Reduced plateaus: Without structured training blocks, you may hit strength plateaus more frequently. By cycling through different block types, you can continuously challenge your body in new ways, preventing stagnation in your progress. This variety keeps your training interesting and helps you push through performance plateaus.
  • Injury prevention: Training blocks typically incorporate deload phases, which allow for recovery and reduce the risk of overtraining or injury. These recovery periods are crucial for maintaining long-term training consistency and health, which is vital for achieving and maintaining a higher 1RM safely.
  • Specificity: Powerlifting is a sport with specific demands, including the squat, bench press, and deadlift. By incorporating specificity blocks that focus on each lift individually, you can refine your technique, address weaknesses, and optimise your performance in these key lifts.
  • Measurable progress: Training blocks often include planned assessments or testing phases where you measure your 1RM or other key performance indicators. These assessments allow you to track your progress and make informed adjustments to your training plan.

Understanding the training block types and phases in powerlifting is a well-established method for increasing your 1RM or overall performance. These blocks provide structure, progression, and specificity to your training, making it more effective and reducing the risk of plateaus and injuries. A thoughtful approach to training blocks can help you achieve your strength goals in powerlifting.

Successful powerlifting training involves strategically planning and implementing various training block types or phases. By understanding their purposes you can adjust your program to suit your individual needs and goals. Whether it’s increasing muscle size, building maximal strength, or preparing for competition, these training blocks are essential tools in the powerlifter’s arsenal to achieve new PB’s or the goals you have set yourself.

I’m happy to have a chat on the phone or you can even come and have a free gym trial to see if SPC Performance Lab could be a good fit for your powerlifting training.

Paul Attard
Paul Attard

Paul is the founder and head coach of SPC Performance Lab. Paul has been coaching since 2014 and has worked with all different types of people. From first timers learning the basics, all the way up to the experienced power-lifting competitors.

He tailors his approach depending on the needs, goals and experience of the individual. Paul has extensive theoretical and practical coaching experience.

- Masters of Sports & Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning)
- Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science with First Class Honours
- Competed and won multiple natural body-building shows & power-lifting competitions.
- Held an Australian power-lifting record.

Free advice

SPC Performance Lab is a gym in Taren Point in the Sutherland Shire, Sydney NSW. It is a private gym that offers strength training, powerlifting and body building training. The gym is open 24 hours, 7 days a week with membership options that include casual or regular visits.

Paul also provides a choice of personal training one on one or the option of online coaching.

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