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The Best Bodyweight Program for Powerlifters

Heavy lifting can leave guys with strength imbalances and mobility weaknesses. This 4-week bodyweight program will change all that, making you a stronger, healthier lifter.

"Elite powerlifting sessions can include moving thousands of pounds on metal plates, barbells, chains, and dumbbells," says Andy Speer CSCS, personal trainer at Soho Strength Lab. Powerlifters show their strength by competing in the squat, bench press, and deadlift afterall. "However, the focus on pushing and pulling immense amount of weight with both feet planted on the floor may lead to bilateral strength imbalances as well as mobility deficiencies," Speer explains.

Weaknesses (even small ones) and a lack of flexibility don't seem serious, but they're going to hinder your progress in the gym, preventing you from hitting the big numbers in the three main lifts. That's where this bodyweight program comes in. "The goal is not to gain specific strength in the three power lifts per se, as without external loading this is nearly impossible," Speer says. "The goal of this program is to improve your symmetry, mobility, and general strength and speed, which will make you a stronger, healthier lifter." And while this program is designed specifically to help powerlifters with issues common to the sport, any lifter regardless of skill or goals can benefit from better hip and shoulder mobility, grip strength and bilateral balance. 

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This 4-week program is comprised of 2 distinct mesocycles. Mesocycles are typically 3- to 4-week training blocks designed to accomplish a particular goal(s). Here are yours:

Lower Body 
- Find and begin to correct strength imbalances in the lower body 
- Improve hip mobility 
- Increase dynamic speed of the hip hinge and squat pattern

Upper Body
- Improve grip strength 
- Improve shoulder mobility 
- Increase rate of dynamic speed in the horizontal press
- Strengthen upper back 
- Strengthen your core
- Improve trunk stability

Each week will consist of an upper body day and a lower body day that you'll complete on back to back days, 2x per week each. Take 1-2 days rest between the 2 training days. 

"As this is a bodyweight program, you can continue your regular lifting program," Speer says. "If you want to use this program concurrently with your lifting program, I recommend doing this at the beginning of a new program," he suggests. That's because the start of a new program usually prescribes lower weight intensities and higher rep ranges, he explains. It's easier and safer to incorporate outside variables at this stage than midway or late in the program when there are higher intensities and recovery periods.

"Secondly, if you start this bodyweight program at the beginning of your new lifting cycle, you'll have some wiggle room to experiment with where you place the program in relation to your lifting schedule; i.e. lower body BW on lower body lifting days or BW program on a recovery day... both can work depending on the lifter and program," he adds. It'll also help prepare and balance your body for more rigorous workouts, making your strength training more effective. 

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