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How To Train Immediately After A Powerlifting Competition

The period before a competition where the pressure is highest, recovery is lowest and stress is through the roof can be tough AF.

I love the period after competition where these feelings dissipate before the inevitable call of competition calls again.

Post-competition training is a time of opportunity.

Competition is an intense process, doing lifts you've been hammering for months.

The time after the competition is a time to get the barbell out of your hands and do other stuff for a week or so. Connect with your partner, go on hikes, train your arms, do light bodybuilding stuff and take it easy.

If you are someone who needs structure and you don't want to make it up as you go along, before your competition prep, plan what you are going to do after the competition and follow the plan.

Once the week off the barbell is complete, we can dig into new and interesting training.

Performance tends to drop significantly in the 1-4 weeks after the competition so now is a great time to get away from your main powerlifting lifts, allowing recovery and any overtrained areas to catch up.

After a competition, we enter an experimental/pivot/different block where we use variations on the main lifts before gradually reintroducing their competition-style lifts.

There are nuances here. If I have a client who has dialed in their low-bar squat after years of work and I feel they'll lose it if they have 2-8 weeks away from it then I'll keep moderate-weight low-bar squat work in during their post-competition training.

Training can be more general here compared with the ultra-specific powerlifting training largely comprised of heavy squats, bench, and deadlift which takes place in the weeks leading to competition.

I use this opportunity to increase conditioning via cardio, and I increase movement variety. I increase the amount of power/athleticism stuff we do and I diversify the strength work we do to include more overhead work, carries, single arm and leg work, and of course, more arm parties.

Time Spent In The Gym

After a competition, I either reduce the number of times I expect someone to train each week or I reduce the amount of time each workout takes.

If someone is routine sensitive, we'll reduce the workout time, if someone is less routine sensitive, I reduce the number of sessions per week.

This is because training takes longer as the competition approaches. This makes people start to hate the gym because it is so time-demanding. This 'less time in the gym' strategy presses reset on these feelings.

Warm Ups

Powerlifters are an interesting bunch, with many people spending 30-40 minutes warming up a lift when 5 minutes would suffice. As competitions approach training time skyrockets as they are squatting, benching, and deadlifting heavy in the majority of sessions. Suddenly, sessions are (often unnecessarily) taking 3-4 hours.

Directly after the competition, I choose exercises needing less warm-up time. This gets people out of the gym quicker. Hopefully in 60 minutes or less.

Others love being in the gym a little longer. I guess they'll do my sessions slower and talk more during this period. Which is great.

It's time for a needed mental deload.

Sometimes this shows people they've been warming up for too long and acts as a reset button, for others, it means they will be looking forward to starting doing their usual warm-up routine when the powerlifts are back in.

Cardiovascular Work

Cardiovascular fitness drops off as competition approaches due to giving everything to the powerlifts.

This is unhealthy long-term and could manifest as an elevated resting heart rate, getting out of breath easier, and feeling terrible every time you go above 3 reps.

You should use the post-competition period to introduce cardio. Start gently, before upping the ante and adding circuits, sprints, intervals, and other fun things.

Your gains won't be impacted, your health will be better and a less dead powerlifter means you can be hitting PBs for many more years without having type 2 diabetes.

How to fit cardio into your program:

My general cardiovascular advice is to walk more. Walking is wonderfully health-promoting, supports fat loss, and builds tolerance to sustained effort in a less-impactful way than running.

In terms of programmed cardio I would recommend the following:

Cardio sessions can be standalone sessions or be done before or after a power/strength/muscle building session.

Session A

Low-intensity walking/cycling/rowing/cross trainer

10-60 minutes

50-70% max heart rate

If you are very unfit start at 10 minutes and gradually add time.

Quite unfit?

Start at 10-20 minutes

Average fitness?

Start at 15-30 minutes

Higher than average fitness levels?

Start at 20-60 minutes

Session B

Medium intensity cardio Fartlek intervals

(Fartlek training is bouts of speed play broken into higher and lower effort bouts to improve your cardio engine.)

Choose between walking/cycling/rowing/cross trainer

  1. 5-minute easy warm-up

  2. Moderate Pace 1-2 minutes 6-7/10 difficulty

  3. Recovery Pace 2-3 minutes 1-5/10 difficulty

  4. Moderate Pace 2-4 minutes 6-8/10 difficulty

  5. Recovery Pace 2-4 minutes 1-5/10 difficulty

  6. Moderate Pace 3-5 minutes 6-8/10 difficulty

  7. Recovery Pace 2-4 minutes 1-5/10 difficulty

  8. 3-5 min slow pace cool down 1-4/10 difficulty

Session C

Low-intensity walking/cycling/rowing/cross-trainer

10-60 minutes

50-70% max heart rate

If you are very unfit start at 10 minutes and gradually add time.

Quite unfit?

Start at 10-20 minutes

Average fitness?

Start at 15-30 minutes

Higher than average fitness levels?

Start at 20-60 minutes

Power Stuff

Power stuff is moving fast, throwing stuff, jumping, slamming, and performing activities you can maintain for short periods because of MAX POWER.

Power exercises ironically go by the wayside as people get nearer to a powerlifting competition because powerlifting training involves high forces, not high power for the main work, but POWERLIFTING sounds way cooler than FORCELIFTING.

As we age we lose power, speed, explosiveness, and our ability to jump.

This has negative consequences, so most coaching I do involves power training.

In the post-competition period, power stuff gets added to my clients' program and stays in there as long as possible. We'll start easy, using simple movements, and then we'll progress to stuff that looks impressive on the gram where appropriate.

How might this look?

If someone is doing 4 sessions a week at the start of each session you might do the following:

Session A

Box Jump 4x3 reps

Session B

Sandball Slam

3x4 reps w/3-6kg

Session C

Fast Prowler Push

4x10m at a lightweight

Session D

4x5 second Aero Bike Sprints

Strongman Stuff

Powerlifters like lifting heavy.

In a quest to keep training fun, I'll add Strongman stuff to many programs.

Yoke, loaded carries, and overhead movements tend to be my go-to variations.

Yoke is a great way to desensitize to having heavier weights on your back.

My best Yoke walk is 260kg whereas my best all-time squat PB is 215kg. Suddenly, the idea of squatting 200kg isn't as daunting.

Loaded carries rule. They aren't a cure-all panacea, but they are pretty close.

My favorites include upside-down kettlebell carries, single-arm overhead carries, front-loaded heavy medicine ball carries, and my all-time love, the farmer's walk with handles.

Carries make people happy because they can be heavy and feel athletic because you are moving as fast as you can.

Here's how I would fit strongman into a post-competition program:

Session A

Choose between: Axel Clean & Press/ Log Clean & Press/ Barbell Floor To Overhead

4X1 rep progressively heavier until a 7-8/10 difficulty

1X3 reps 7-8/10 difficulty

2x5 reps 7-8/10 difficulty

Session B

Farmers Walk- Carry a certain weight as far as possible in 10 minutes

Usually, this is 15-60kg per hand starting low if you haven't done these before.

Session C

Yoke Walk/High Pin Squats

5-8 progressively heavier lengths building up to a 7-9/10 difficulty


Build-up to a high pin squat single with a 5-10 second hold at the top over 5-8 sets

Session D

Stone Over Yoke Or Stone Carry On Chest:

1x8 times over the yoke

1x6 times over the yoke

1x4 times over the yoke

1x2 times over the yoke


See how long it takes you to carry the ball/stone/sandbag 100m, 200m, or 300m

Bodybuilding/Rehab Work

During the post-competition program, I love to attack areas we leave behind as competitions approach.

I go for areas my client wants to build first with higher rep pump work as it requires little to no warm-up. It's fun. It builds muscle and it's a change of pace from normal powerlifting programming. Many rehab protocols call for traditional bodybuilding rep ranges so I lump them into the same section of the workout or use rehab exercises as 'fillers' instead of rest periods.

Areas I focus on after the competition are:

  • Shoulders

  • Biceps

  • Lats

  • Abs

  • Calfs

  • Hip Flexors

  • Arm party central

Here's how working these areas might fit into a post-competition program:

Session A


A1: dumbbell lateral raise 3x 8-12 reps

A2: dumbbell bicep curl 3x 8-12 reps

A3: chest-supported dumbbell reverse fly 3x 8-12 reps

Session B


B1: Single Arm Dumbbell Row 3x10-12 each side

B2: Cable Crunch 3x 12-15 reps

B3: Side Bend 3x 8-10 reps

Session C

Leg Press Calf Press 3x 12-15 reps

Banded Hip Flexor Leg Lift 3x 8-12 reps each side

Session D


D1: V-Bar Lat Pulldown 3x 8-12 reps

D2: Plank Bodysaw 3x 15-30 seconds

Technique Tweaking/Cue Exploration

In the last few weeks leading up to competition, bad habits may creep in.

This means you might have technical work to do directly after your competition.

As well as technique, you may be working on using a new coaching cue or working on your intent/mindset going into a lift. Post-competition training can be a great way to work on these areas.

When you are ready to add them in, low-exertion cluster sets are great for repeat singles giving you ample opportunity to practice adding in what you need to add in.

A cluster set is a few short sets grouped together as one set. My favorite powerlifting clusters are 3x3, 4x2 rep, and 8x1 rep clusters.

Let's take the 8x 1 rep cluster idea.

You would perform a rep, and rerack the weight.

You rest for 10-30 seconds then do another rep until you've done all 8.

This is one set.

You might do 1-3 more rounds during this phase as I want to keep your powerlifting to a minimum as you've been hitting them hard for the last few months.

You wouldn't go above a 7 RPE (no more than medium difficulty.)

Keeping the difficulty low but the weight high enough for you to have to think about executing well is the balance you are aiming for in your weight selections.

You should focus on the technique changes you are trying to make and gradually make the change subconscious if you deem the technique change successful.

I tend not to use dedicated technique sessions featuring only technique work as people tend to hate them and execute them poorly, so I view them as pointless unless they are someone who loves that kind of thing.

Here's how I would fit technique work into our post-competition plan:

Session A

Low Bar Squat Clusters

4x2 reps with 20-30 seconds between every 2 reps

3 rounds

No higher than 7 RPE

Session B

2CT Pause Bench Press

3x 3 reps with 20-30 seconds between every 3 reps

2 rounds

No higher than 7 RPE

Session C

No technique work

Session D

Competition-style deadlift

4x 1 rep with 20-30 seconds between every rep

3 rounds

No higher than 7 RPE


Training after a competition helps to lift the post-competition blues by making training fun, more varied, and more encompassing of multiple aspects of fitness vs the pre-competition training which is largely focused on expressing maximum strength.

I've taken the above program and put it on my app. If you want to follow along, track your progress and leave me abusive feedback, you can purchase the program via the link below.

I'd recommend you follow this plan for 4-8 weeks with clearance from a medical professional if you have any concerns.

Thanks for reading.

By Chris Kershaw

The Heavy Metal Strength Coach

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