Isometrics For Powerlifting: The Ultimate Guide!


Isometrics for powerlifting

If you are a serious powerlifter and you have never tried isometrics then you are missing out. Isometrics are one of the fastest ways to increase your bench press and deadlift.

In fact the world-class powerlifting coach Josh Bryant considers isometrics to be his “secret weapon” for setting world records in the bench press and deadlift!

Introduction

  • Part 1: The Advantages Of Isometrics
  • Part 2: Isometrics For Powerlifting
  • Part 3: The Josh Bryant Powerlifting Program
  • Part 4: A 12 Week Bench Press Isometrics Training Program
  • Part 5: A 12 Week Deadlift Isometrics Training Program

In this comprehensive guide I am going to teach you everything you need to know about how to use isometrics to become a stronger powerlifter.

Isometrics for powerlifting is an advanced training method that involves pressing or pulling a barbell against a pair of safety pins for 6-8 seconds. Your goal is to push or pull so hard that you literally break the safety pins in half! 

Here is an example of an isometric bench press:

And here is an example of an isometric deadlift:

As a general rule of thumb powerlifting style isometrics work best for building the bench press and the deadlift. For various reasons they are less effective for building strength in the squat. 

Powerlifting style isometrics are extremely beneficial for building maximal strength. They accomplish a number of things that are impossible to achieve with more traditional training methods.

Isometrics increase the number of motor units that you can recruit, dramatically increase how much force your muscles can produce and obliterate your sticking points in the bench press and deadlift. 

The best way to program powerlifting style isometrics is to alternate them with speed sets in the bench press or deadlift. For example you could perform a set of isometric deadlifts, rest 2 minutes, perform a set of speed deadlifts, rest 2 minutes, and perform another set of isometric deadlifts.

This process is usually repeated for 2-6 total sets. In fact this is the exact strategy that Matt Ladewski used to hit his first 800 pound deadlift. He used isometrics on the deadlift to increase his deadlift from 711 pounds to 800+ pounds in less than 2 years. Talk about fast progress!

If you want to learn the ins-and-outs of how to program isometrics for powerlifting then this article is for you.

In part 1 I will discuss the science behind why isometrics work so well for boosting maximal strength. In part I will discuss exactly how to structure a bench press or deadlift workout with isometrics. Finally in parts 3-5 I will cover how to design your very own 13-week powerlifting peaking cycle using isometrics.

Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this cutting edge information. Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines in this article then this article is for you.

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: The Advantages Of Isometrics

Isometrics are a unique training tool that offer many advantages for the serious powerlifter. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Motor unit recruitment
  • Force production
  • Rate of force production
  • Minimal muscular damage
  • Obliterating sticking points

Let’s take a closer look at each of these advantages.

Advantage #1: Isometrics Help You Recruit More Motor Units

One of the most important factors in building strength is increasing the number of motor units that you can recruit. You can think of a motor unit as being a cluster of muscle fibers. Your brain sends a signal to the motor unit to fire and then the motor unit sends a signal to the cluster of muscle fibers to contract.

Here’s a simple way to think of it:

More motor units firing —-> more muscle fibers contracting —-> more weight lifted!

Research has shown that the average untrained individual can recruit about 40-50% of their total motor units. That means that they cannot contract half of the muscle fibers in their body.

On the other hand elite powerlifters such as Ed Coan in his prime can recruit up to 80-90% of the motor units in their body. One of the major reasons why isometrics work so well for building strength is they allow you to recruit more motor units.

In fact research has shown that maximal isometric contractions let you recruit up to 6% more motor units than either concentric or eccentric contractions. This means that isometrics help you tap into unused muscle fibers.

Over time your body will learn to use these muscle fibers on regular sets as well which translates into massive strength gains.

Advantage #2: Isometrics Help You To Produce More Force

This is another massive advantage of isometrics, and I do mean massive! Research has shown that isometrics allow you to produce up to 15% more force than either concentric or eccentric muscular contractions.

Let’s say you are a relatively advanced powerlifter and you can bench press 400 pounds for a single. This means your muscles are capable of producing about 400 pounds of force. If you were to perform an all-out isometric bench press then you would be able to produce up to 460 pounds of force. This is a massive difference!

If you alternate sets of isometric bench presses with sets of speed bench presses like Josh Bryant recommends then your body will learn to produce more force on your dynamic sets as well. In other words your speed deadlifts will be way more explosive than normal!

Advantage #3: Isometrics Increase Your Rate Of Force Production

The powerlifting genius Louie Simmons deserves a lot of credit for popularizing the use of the dynamic effort method. The dynamic effort method involves lifting submaximal weights as explosively as possible.

One of the major benefits of the dynamic effort method is it increases the rate of force development. In other words it teaches you to be more explosive and display your maximal strength more quickly. This is absolutely key for putting up big numbers in the squat, bench press or deadlift.

If you don’t believe me then go and try to perform your 1-rep max on the deadlift with a nice, slow speed on the way up. I’m guessing you won’t lift the bar more than an inch off the ground this way!

It turns out that isometrics build explosive strength at least as well as the dynamic effort method. Even though you are just pressing against a pair of safety pins you are actually teaching your body to be more explosive with the weight! 

Advantage #4: Isometrics Result In Minimal Muscular Damage

This is another huge benefit of isometrics for the serious powerlifter. Isometrics don’t cause any damage to your muscle tissues.

Yes, your muscles will be fatigued after an all-out set of isometrics but there won’t actually be any microtears within the muscles themselves. This means that isometrics are relatively easy for your body to recover from.

This means you can use isometrics at any time during your meet prep cycle without having to worry too much about being able to recover from them.

Yes, isometrics are very demanding on the central nervous system. You definitely don’t want to over-do them. However, their overall impact on your recovery ability is minimal when compared to the strength gains that they stimulate.

Advantage #5: Isometrics Are Perfect For Obliterating Sticking Points

Almost everyone has a sticking point in the bench press or the deadlift. Some trainees miss their deadlifts a few inches off the ground. Others tend to miss when the bar is a few inches below their knees or even right above their knees.

One of the most difficult aspects of powerlifting is figuring out how to attack these weak points. There are many different ways that you could attack each of these sticking points. For example some trainees use deficit deadlifts to address a weakness off the ground while others use Kroc rows to address a lockout weakness.

However in my experience nothing beats isometrics for eliminating sticking points. Isometrics are so effective because you can set the safety pins to the exact point in the lift where you are weak.

If you get stuck right below your knees on the deadlift then you can set the safety pins there for your isometrics. This is the exact strategy that Johnnie Jackson used to attack his deadlift sticking point below the knees:

Pay close attention to the video. Johnnie is pulling against the pins right at his sticking point for a full 6-8 seconds. Compare that to a regular set where you might spend a third of a second at your exact sticking point.

This means that Johnnie is accumulating 18-24 times as much time under tension at his weak point with the isometric set compared to a regular set! This is incredible!

Research has shown that when you perform an isometric bench press or deadlift most of your strength gains occur at the exact point that you are training. In other words with isometrics you are building strength at the exact point in the exercise that you need it most!

If you have two sticking points then you could easily perform 2-3 isometric sets at one sticking point and then 2-3 at another. Isometrics are arguably the single best training method you can use to overcome sticking points in the deadlift or bench press!

Part 2: Isometrics For Powerlifting

I mentioned earlier that alternating isometric sets with “speed” sets is one of the best ways to structure an isometrics workout. Now let’s look at how you might set up a full isometrics workout. In my opinion Josh Bryant has one of the best systems for utilizing isometrics.

He breaks his powerlifting workouts down into four separate parts:

  • Part 1: Work up to a heavy triple, double or single on the competition lift
  • Part 2: Perform 3-10 speed sets
  • Part 3: Perform 1-2 supplementary exercises
  • Part 4: Perform 1-4 accessory exercises

If you are performing isometrics as part of your workout then you would alternate them with your speed sets in part 2 of the workout. This is an extremely intelligent way to structure a powerlifting style workout. Each part of the workout works synergistically to build your strength on the competition lift.

Here is what a typical bench press workout might look like:

James Strickland Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 1**, 1/1/X/0, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Bottom position bench press overcoming isometric (competition grip), 2 x 1, 6-second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 2***, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest  
  • C1: Lockout position bench press overcoming isometric (competition grip), 2 x 1, 6-second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • C2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 2***, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest , 
  • D1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 2 x 5, 1/0/X/1, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: DB floor flys (neutral grip), 3 x 10, 2/1/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 x 10, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Standing rope cable pushdown, 3 x 10, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 96% of his projected 1-rep max

***Performed at 73% of his projected 1-rep max

Here is a training video of James performing this entire workout:

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To review:

  • The “A” exercise is James’ top set on the competition grip
  • The “B” and “C” exercises are James’ isometric sets and speed sets
  • The “D” exercise is James’ supplementary bench press exercise
  • The “E”, “F” and “G” exercises are James’ accessory movements

In this workout James is attacking two separate weak points: 2 inches above the chest and 2 inches below lockout. Obviously if you were going to perform bench press (or deadlift) isometrics then you would set the pins to your individual sticking point(s).

If you are weak halfway up towards lockout then that is where you would set your safety pins. It is very important that you use an empty 45 pound barbell when performing the bench press isometrics. This allows you to maximally accelerate into the safety pins.

When you are using isometrics on the deadlift I recommend you use a barbell loaded with 135 pounds. If you use an empty barbell then you may find that you have a difficult time controlling the barbell as you are pulling into the pins. In other words the barbell may move around and force you out of your groove.

An isometric deadlift workout would be set up exactly the same way: you would start with your top set on the competition lift, then perform your isometric and speed sets, and finally finish off with your supplementary and accessory exercises. 

Now let’s examine how you would organize an entire powerlifting peaking cycle using isometrics.

Part 3: The Josh Bryant Powerlifting Program

Josh Bryant is the master of using isometrics for powerlifting so let’s take a closer look at how he typically organizes his clients’ training cycles. As a general rule of thumb Josh likes his athletes to train each lift once per week using a 12-week peaking cycle.

Yes, there are exceptions. Some trainees would perform the competition lifts more than once per week while others such as the world’s strongest bench presser Julius Maddox only perform the competition lifts every 10 days.

However, for the purposes of this article we are going to keep things simple and assume you train each lift every 7 days.

Here is what a typical training cycle might look like:

Block #1: 

  • Week 1: Triples
  • Week 2: Triples
  • Week 3: Triples
  • Week 4: Deload

Block #2

  • Week 5: Doubles (Isometrics!)
  • Week 6: Doubles (Isometrics!)
  • Week 7: Doubles (Isometrics!)
  • Week 8: Deload

Block #3

  • Week 9: Singles (Isometrics!)
  • Week 10: Singles (Isometrics!)
  • Week 11: Singles (Isometrics!)
  • Week 12: Deload
  • Week 13: Competition day!

As you can see the peaking cycle is broken up into three separate blocks. You have a 4-week block focused on triples, a 4-week block focused on doubles and a 4-week block focused on singles. Each workout starts off with you working up to a heavy but slightly submaximal set of 1-3 reps.

As the training cycle progresses you are going to use heavier and heavier weights on your 1 top set. This is a variation of linear periodization and it works very well for powerlifting.

Don’t worry, the exact percentages you should used will be covered in parts 4 and 5 of this article. Every 4 weeks you would perform a “deload” workout where you reduce the volume and intensity of your workouts. These deload workouts are absolutely critical to give your body a chance to fully recover from the prior weeks of heavy training.

Things are a little bit tricker when ti comes to programming in the isometrics. You can use the isometrics anywhere from 3-6 weeks at a time. After 3-6 weeks your body will have adapted to them and they will stop working.

You can use the isometrics at any point in your training cycle. In other words you can use them in one or two of the three total training blocks. It is up to you where you want to place them.

You could place them at the end of your training cycle to better peak your strength. Or you could perform them at the start of your training cycle to give yourself a better “taper” going into the meet. The choice is up to you.

Part 4: A 12 Week Bench Press Isometrics Training Program

In this section I am going to give you a sample 13-week bench peaking program. You are going to perform isometrics in 6 of the workouts performed towards the end of this program. This training cycle was modeled after the training of some of the world’s best bench pressers such as James Strickland and Vincent Dizenzo.

I recommend you perform 2 upper body workouts per week. One of the upper body workouts would be the bench press workouts listed below. The other one should be an upper body accessory day.

You could perform some extra upper back work and perhaps some moderately heavy work for the shoulders, triceps and biceps on the accessory day.

Please note that this is only a sample isometric bench press program. If you want a more personalized bench press peaking program then you can check out my online coaching page.

Week 1 (Triples)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 3**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Bottom position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Top position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 2 minutes rest
  • C2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: V-bar dips, 2 x 8, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Floor DB fly, 3 x 8-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 85% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with an empty 45 pound barbell

****Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 2 (Triples)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 3**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Bottom position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Top position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 2 minutes rest
  • C2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: V-bar dips, 2 x 8, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Floor DB fly, 3 x 8-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 87% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with an empty 45 pound barbell

****Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 3 (Triples)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 3**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Bottom position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Top position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 2 minutes rest
  • C2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: V-bar dips, 2 x 8, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Floor DB fly, 3 x 8-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 89% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with an empty 45 pound barbell

****Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 4 (Deload #1)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 3 x 3**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: V-bar dips, 2 x 8****, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Floor DB fly, 2 x 8-12****, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 2 x 8-12****, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 2 x 8-12****, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 65% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with 65% of your weights from weeks 1-3

Week 5 (Doubles)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 2**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Bottom position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Top position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • C2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: V-bar dips, 2 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Floor DB fly, 3 x 8-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 91% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with an empty 45 pound barbell

****Performed with 72% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 6 (Doubles)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 2**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Bottom position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Top position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • C2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: V-bar dips, 2 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Floor DB fly, 3 x 8-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 93% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with an empty 45 pound barbell

****Performed with 72% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 7 (Doubles)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 2**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Bottom position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Top position overcoming isometric, 2 x 1***, 6 second hold, 2 minutes rest
  • C2: Speed bench press (competition grip), 2 x 3****, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: V-bar dips, 2 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Floor DB fly, 3 x 8-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 95% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with an empty 45 pound barbell

****Performed with 72% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 8 (Deload #2)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 3 x 3**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: V-bar dips, 2 x 8****, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Floor DB fly, 2 x 8-12****, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 2 x 8-12****, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 2 x 8-12****, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 65% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with 65% of your weights from weeks 5-7

Week 9 (Singles)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 1**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Speed bench press (competition grip), 4 x 2***, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Reverse band bench press, 3 x 2****, 2/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: V-bar dips, 2 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Floor DB fly, 3 x 8-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 97% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed at 80% of your starting 1-rep max

****Perform 3 sets at approximately 75%, 85% and 95% of your estimated 2-rep max for that day 

Week 10 (Singles)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 1**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Speed bench press (competition grip), 4 x 2***, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Reverse band bench press, 3 x 2****, 2/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: V-bar dips, 2 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Floor DB fly, 3 x 8-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 99% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed at 80% of your starting 1-rep max

****Perform 3 sets at approximately 75%, 85% and 95% of your estimated 2-rep max for that day

Week 11 (Singles)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 1**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Speed bench press (competition grip), 4 x 2***, 1/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Reverse band bench press, 3 x 2****, 2/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: V-bar dips, 2 x 5, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • E1: Floor DB fly, 3 x 8-12, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • G1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 101% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed at 80% of your starting 1-rep max

****Perform 3 sets at approximately 75%, 85% and 95% of your estimated 2-rep max for that day

Week 12 (Deload #3)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 3 x 3**, 1/1/X/1, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: V-bar dips, 2 x 8****, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Floor DB fly, 2 x 8-12****, 2/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Wide overhand grip cable pulldowns, 2 x 8-12****, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Rope cable tricep pushdowns, 2 x 8-12****, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

**Performed with 65% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with 65% of your weights from weeks 9-11

Week 13 (Meet Week!)

Break your old PR!

Part 5: A 12 Week Deadlift Isometrics Training Program

Here is a 12-week deadlift peaking program that you may want to try. The deadlift isometric sets are performed in the last 2 training blocks of this peaking cycle.

Once again I am recommending that you perform the deadlift once every 7 days. You may want to perform a squat-focused workout 3-4 days after this workout during the week.

This deadlift training frequency will work great for some of you and terrible for others. That is the nature of writing a sample peaking cycle without knowing anything about you. If you are looking for more personalized program design then you can always check out my online coaching page.

Week 1 (Triples)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 3**, 2/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 6 x 4***, 1/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Deficit conventional deadlift (3 inch deficit), 2 x 5****, 2/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 85% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max

****Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max 

Week 2 (Triples)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 3**, 2/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 6 x 4***, 1/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Deficit conventional deadlift (3 inch deficit), 2 x 5****, 2/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 87% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max

****Performed at 66% of your starting 1-rep max 

Week 3 (Triples)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 3**, 2/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 6 x 4***, 1/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Deficit conventional deadlift (3 inch deficit), 2 x 5****, 2/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 89% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max

****Performed at 67% of your starting 1-rep max 

Week 4 (Deload)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 3 x 3**, 2/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12****, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12****, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12****, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max

****Performed with 65% of your weights used from weeks 1-3

Week 5 (Doubles)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 2**, 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches above floor), 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 3****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches below lockout), 2 x 1***, 10/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 3****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 91% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with 135 pounds

****Performed at 72% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 6 (Doubles)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 2**, 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches above floor), 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 3****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches below lockout), 2 x 1***, 10/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 3****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 93% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with 135 pounds

****Performed at 72% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 7 (Doubles)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 2**, 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches above floor), 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 3****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches below lockout), 2 x 1***, 10/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 3****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 95% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with 135 pounds

****Performed at 72% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 8 (Deload)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 3 x 3**, 2/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12****, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12****, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12****, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max

****Performed with 65% of your weights used from weeks 1-3

Week 9 (Singles)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 1**, 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches above floor), 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 2****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches below lockout), 2 x 1***, 10/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 2****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 97% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with 135 pounds

****Performed at 80% of your starting 1-rep max

 Week 10 (Singles)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 1**, 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches above floor), 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 2****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches below lockout), 2 x 1***, 10/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 2****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 99% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with 135 pounds

****Performed at 80% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 11 (Singles)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 1 x 1**, 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • B1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches above floor), 2 x 1***, 1/0/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • B2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 2****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Conventional deadlift overcoming isometric (2 inches below lockout), 2 x 1***, 10/X/6, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Conventional deadlift speed sets (competition stance), 2 x 2****, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • E1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 101% of your starting 1-rep max

***Performed with 135 pounds

****Performed at 80% of your starting 1-rep max

Week 12 (Deload)

  • A1: Conventional deadlift (competition stance), 3 x 3**, 2/1/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12****, 2/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • C1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12****, 3/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest
  • D1: Standing bilateral barbell shrugs, 3 x 8-12****, 1/0/X/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 65% of your starting 1-rep max

****Performed with 65% of your weights used from weeks 9-11

Week 13 (Competition Week!)

Go set a new 1-rep max in the conventional deadlift!

Conclusion

Isometrics for powerlifting

Isometrics are hands-down one of the most effective ways to build your bench press or deadlift. This is especially true if you are more of an advanced powerlifter.

If you have made it this far then let me be the first to congratulate you. You should now know exactly how to program isometric bench presses and deadlifts into your next powerlifting peaking cycle.

If you want more help with programming isometrics then I highly recommend any of the following articles:

If you want even more help with isometrics then you can check out my online coaching page. I often use isometrics with my powerlifting clients to help them blast through strength plateaus in the bench press and deadlift.

“Pain doesn’t tell you when you ought to stop. Pain is the little voice in your head that tries to hold you back because it knows if you continue it will change.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen

I am the creator and owner of Revolutionary Program Design. I help advanced athletes take their training to the next level and achieve results they never imagined possible.

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