Off Season Training For Strength Athletes
By Andy Bolton
Powerlifters and guys who just want to GET STRONG often
ask me about ‘off season training’.
In this article I will talk to you about how you can structure
your off season training.
Firstly, let’s get one thing straight…
Unless you compete in a sport — you do not have an off
season. If you just train to get strong, you don’t have an
Secondly, if you are a typical powerlifter who does 3 or
4 meets a year, all evenly spaced out (so one every 3 months or
so) — you do not really have an off season.
However, with that said, every STRENGTH ATHLETE needs
periods of easier training and periods of harder training.
You cannot train balls to the wall as hard as possible 52
weeks of the year, for the rest of your life.
If you try — you will break down, either physically or
So don’t try it, instead, follow these 5 principles for
1. Have 3 to 4 weeks of the year off from training
If you go on holiday a couple of times a year and then take
a week or two off when you feel over-trained or have just
done a competition, you will easily take this amount of
time off from training.
Do not take anymore entire weeks off because they will
do more harm than good. After 2 consecutive weeks off
from training you can really start to lose strength and
So some time off is good to let the body and mind heal, but
not too much.
2. Take a de-load every 4th week
If you use a Max Effort, Dynamic Effort and Repetition
Effort approach to your training (like the boys at Westside do)
you should have an easy week every 4th week.
On this 4th week, just do assistance work and omit
the main lifts.
Or do the main lifts to a moderate intensity and omit the
The point is to reduce the volume and intensity and let
your body heal and recover.
3. Use the cycling approach
This is how I train.
When you use a cycling approach, you automatically build
easier weeks into your training because every cycle starts
out with several easier weeks and builds up in intensity as
the weeks go by.
Here’s an example squat cycle I’ve done in the past:
Week 1: 227.5kg x 5 (easy)
Week 2: 250kg x 5 (easy)
Week 3: 272.5kg x 5 (moderate)
Week 4: 300kg x 5 (moderate)
Week 5: 330kg x 5 (pretty tough)
Week 6: 362.5kg x 5 (very hard)
Do you see how that works?
Starts easy and ends hard. After a cycle like that you do
not need to take a week off — instead, simply start another
By the way, for more help with your squats, click HERE.
4. Do something different
This is a great option is you are feeling like you need a
change of pace, but don’t want to stop lifting.
Try to do something that will still help you towards your
goals, or at least maintain your strength.
For example, if you want a bigger SQUAT and DEADLIFT,
but want 3 weeks off from squatting and deadlifting — don’t
sit on your ass and do nothing for 3 weeks.
Instead, do exercises that build the squatting muscles
(Hamstrings, Quads, Gltues and Lower back).
You could do Glute Ham Raises, Leg Presses, Sled Drags
and Prowler pushes.
This allows you the change of pace you needed, whilst
Best of both worlds
5. Use higher reps for a few weeks
This is a method I like to use after a big competition. Instead
of taking a month off, I take a week off and then get back
in the gym.
But instead of doing the same old singles, doubles, triples
and 5′s that I use when doing my serious strength training –
instead I go with sets of 8′s and 10′s for a few weeks.
This allows me to carry on training, add some muscle
mass and allows my body to recover.
So there you have it. That’s how to work “off season” training
for the strength athlete.
It’s not so much off-season as knowing when to put your foot
down and when to back off.
For more information about training program design and how
to structure your strength training, check out The Phase That
Launched 1000lbs DVD by clicking HERE.
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