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Linear Periodization For Powerlifting: The Ultimate Guide!

Linear periodization is one of the most common and effective forms of periodization for powerlifters.

Many of the greatest powerlifters of all time including Ed Coan, Eric Lilliebridge and Matt Wenning have used linear periodization as the foundation of their training programs.

If you want to learn how world champion powerlifters organize their training then this article is for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Ed Coan Linear Periodization
  • Part 2: Josh Bryant Linear Periodization
  • Part 3: Eric Lilliebridge Linear Periodization
  • Part 4: Matt Wenning Linear Periodization
  • Part 5: Charles Poliquin Linear Periodization

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you everything you need to know about to use linear periodization to break powerlifting world records. 

Linear periodization is a way of organizing your powerlifting training cycle where you lift progressively heavier weights as you get closer to your next competition.

Linear periodization is so effective for powerlifters because it peaks your strength on the day of your powerlifting competition.

Here is the powerlifting coach Josh Bryant giving a perfect overview of linear periodization:

“The premise is you start your training cycle with high volume and low intensity. As your competition gets closer you decrease the volume and increase the intensity.

You can start off with 2 weeks of 10 reps, 2 weeks of 8 reps, 2 weeks of 6 reps, so on and so forth, all the way down to doubles and singles.”

Here is a great video of Josh talking about this training style for powerlifters:

There are many different ways to set up a powerlifting training cycle using linear periodization.

One of the simplest strategies is to start out lifting sets of 10 reps and slowly decrease your reps over many weeks until you are lifting sets of 1-2 reps right before your competition. For example:

Sample Linear Periodization Training Cycle

  • Weeks #1-2: Sets of 9-10 reps
  • Weeks #3-4: Sets of 7-8 reps
  • Weeks #5-6: Sets of 5-6 reps
  • Weeks #7-8: Sets of 3-4 reps
  • Weeks #9-10: Sets of 1-2 reps
  • Week #11: Competition day!

As you can see the weights get heavier and the reps get lower as you get closer to your next competition.

Most powerlifters would perform their squat, bench press and deadlift in the 1-10 rep ranges and then perform their accessory work in the 5-20 rep ranges.

Of course there are many different ways to use linear periodization.

Eric Lilliebridge performs nothing but singles on the deadlift during his powerlifting training cycles but he still incorporates this type of periodization. I will cover Eric’s training style and many others in the rest of this article.

Linear periodization has many advantages for powerlifters:

  • Advantage #1: It helps you peak your strength on the day of your competition
  • Advantage #2: It helps avoid physical and mental burnout from lifting too heavy year-round
  • Advantage #3: It helps you build muscle mass in the high-rep weeks and maximal strength in the low-rep weeks
  • Advantage #4: It gives you specific numbers that you want to hit on the squat, bench press and deadlift each week

The last advantage is very important.

Many world-class powerlifters like Josh Bryant and Ed Coan talk about how their linear periodization program motivated them in the gym. They loved knowing they had to hit specific numbers on different exercises each week.

You have these specific goals you have to hit each week and if you nail your training each week then you know you’re going to hit a new personal record on your next competition.

Here is Josh Bryant talking about why he liked linear periodization so much during his powerlifting career:

“I found that linear periodization gave me a huge mental advantage.

I love having specific numbers in the squat, bench press and deadlift that I have to hit. I know I’m going to hit those numbers and I thrive on that.

I would not have done well with “hey man, work up to an RPE of 8.5 today.” No!

I want to know I’m going to hit that number, I want to think about it, I want to thrive on it because Josh Bryant always bets on himself.”

If you have that bulldog mentality where you want to hit specific goals each and every week then linear periodization may be the perfect fit for you.

I hope you found this introduction helpful. Now let’s take a closer look at how Ed Coan, Hafthor Bjornsson, Eric Lilliebridge, Stan Efferding, Josh Bryant, Matt Wenning and Charles Poliquin use linear periodization to break powerlifting world records.

Part 1: Ed Coan Linear Periodization

If you don’t know who Ed Coan is then you must be living under a rock!

Ed Coan is known as the greatest powerlifter of all time. He set 71 powerlifting world records and was the lightest man to total over 2,400 pounds in competition.

Some of Ed’s best lifts include a 1,019 pound squat, a 584 pound bench press and a 901 pound deadlift.

Here is a great video of Ed’s famous 901 pound deadlift at 220 pounds:

Talk about strong!

Ed Coan experimented with many different training programs at the beginning of his powerlifting career. However, he quickly figured out that he got his best results using a simple old-school linear periodization program.

Ed would start out performing sets of 10 reps 3-4 months before his competition and slowly increased the weight and lowered the reps each week.

Here is the exact bench press cycle that Ed Coan used to bench 585 pounds in competition. Check it out:

Ed Coan’s Bench Press Training Cycle

  • Week #1: 2 sets of 10 reps @ 395 pounds
  • Week #2: 2 sets of 10 reps @ 410 pounds
  • Week #3: 2 sets of 8 reps @ 425 pounds
  • Week #4: 2 sets of 8 reps @ 440 pounds
  • Week #5: 2 sets of 5 reps @ 455 pounds
  • Week #6: 2 sets of 5 reps @ 470 pounds
  • Week #7: 2 sets of 5 reps @ 485 pounds
  • Week #8: 2 sets of 5 reps @ 500 pounds
  • Week #9: 2 sets of 3 reps @ 515 pounds
  • Week #10: 2 sets of 3 reps @ 530 pounds
  • Week #11: 2 sets of 2 reps @ 545 pounds 
  • Week #12: 2 sets of 2 reps @ 555 pounds 
  • Week #13: 1 set of 1 rep @ 585 pounds

As you can see Ed started out light and slowly increased the weight as he got closer to his competition. Ed Coan used reverse-engineering to figure out how much weight he wanted to lift each week.

He started by figuring out how much weight he wanted to lift on the day of his competition.

Ed knew that he got a little stronger with each training cycle so he picked a weight that was slightly higher than his previous best bench press.

Then he worked his way backwards and figured out how much weight he wanted to lift on week 12, week 11 and so on.

After he was finished he re-examined the entire training cycle to figure out if it looked realistic.

Here is Ed Coan himself describing his thought process for how he planned out his training cycles:

“I think the key was to pick the numbers correctly. I didn’t have an ego. I had all my lifts from week 1 to week 12 or however long it was already planned in.

Every single exercise, every single weight, every single rep was already planned out ahead of time. I never deviated, I never had to.”

Ed Coan was an absolute machine in the gym! He never performed any deloads or back-off weeks because he never had to. As long as he planned out his numbers correctly then he was good to go.

Ed Coan trained his squat and deadlift using a similar linear program. The big difference is Ed started out the training cycle using sets of 5 reps rather than sets of 10 reps.

Ed says that the sets of 10 reps on squats and deadlifts were too difficult to recover from:

“I stopped doing sets of 10 reps on squats and deadlifts towards the end of my career.

Just think about it: If I had to squat 750 pounds for sets of 10, what kind of damage would that do to my body? It just didn’t make sense to me.”

Now let’s look at one of Ed Coan’s lower body training cycles.

Here is the exact training cycle that Ed Coan used to deadlift 901 pounds in 1991. Check it out:

Ed Coan’s Deadlift Training Cycle

  • Week #1: 1 set of 5 reps @ 710 pounds
  • Week #2: 1 set of 5 reps @ 725 pounds 
  • Week #3: 1 set of 5 reps @ 740 pounds
  • Week #4: 1 set of 5 reps @ 755 pounds 
  • Week #5: 1 set of 5 reps @ 770 pounds 
  • Week #6: 1 set of 3 reps @ 795 pounds 
  • Week #7: 1 set of 3 reps @ 805 pounds 
  • Week #8: 1 set of 3 reps @ 815 pounds 
  • Week #9: 1 set of 2 reps @ 825 pounds
  • Week #10: 1 set of 2 reps @ 835 pounds 
  • Week #11: 1 set of 2 reps @ 845 pounds 
  • Week #12: 1 set of 1 reps @ 865 pounds 
  • Week #13: 2 sets of 1 rep @ 880 pounds 
  • Week #14: Assistance work only
  • Week #15: Ed Coan deadlifted 900 pounds in competition!

Ed Coan used these 12-15 week training cycles leading up to all of his powerlifting meets. However, Ed Coan also took some time off in between his competitions to give his body a break.

The powerlifting coach Josh Bryant calls this a “powerlifting offseason” and it is extremely important if you are using any type of linear periodization to get ready for your powerlifting competitions.

In the offseason Ed Coan would focus on sets in the 8-20 rep range to build muscle mass and to give his body a break from ultra-heavy weights.

Ed also used a wider variety of exercises to strengthen his weak points and eliminate structural imbalances. Check it out:

“In the offseason instead of a regular power squat I would do a high bar close stance with no equipment.

In the bench it would be more close grips and inclines with my feet up in the air.

For deadlifts it would be deficit deadlifts with no belt or stiff leg deadlifts with no belt.”

Ed Coan competed about twice per year for most of his career. He would use an offseason phase for 2-3 months and then roll right into his pre-contest phase for 3-4 months.

During the pre-contest phase he would use his linear periodization program to peak his strength for his competitions.

Here is what Ed Coan’s yearly training plan looked like:

Ed Coan’s Yearly Training Cycle

  • January – March: Powerlifting Off-Season
  • April – June: Powerlifting Meet-Prep Cycle
  • July – September: Powerlifting Off-Season
  • October – December: Powerlifting Meet-Prep Cycle

Ed Coan says that these training cycles were absolutely critical for making long-term progress. Check it out:

“I figured that if I could do these 4 training cycles per year and try to get just a little bit better each time, if I did this for 5 years that would be 20 training cycles and I figured where I would be.”

Of course Ed Coan is not the only person to use this type of Ed Coan style linear periodization program.

Hafthor Bjornsson is also a big fan of this training style. He used this exact type of program to break the all-time deadlift world record in 2020 with an Earth-shattering 1,105 pound deadlift.

Here is the exact training cycle that Hafthor Bjornsson used to prepare for the 2020 Arnold Strongman Classic. Check it out:

Hafthor Bjornsson Deadlift Cycle

  • Week #1: 3 sets of 8 reps @ 529 pounds
  • Week #2: 3 sets of 8 reps @ 595 pounds
  • Week #3: 2 sets of 4 reps @ 661 pounds
  • Week #4: 3 sets of 4 reps @ 712 pounds
  • Week #5: 3 sets of 4 reps @ 767 pounds
  • Week #6: 2 sets of 2 reps @ 822 pounds
  • Week #7: 2 sets of 2 reps @ 888 pounds
  • Week #8: 1 set of 2 reps @ 954 pounds
  • Week #9: 1 set of 2 reps @ 999 pounds
  • Week #10: 3 sets of 3 reps @ 705 pounds
  • Week #11: 1 set of 2 reps @ 1,058 pounds
  • Week #12: 1 set of 1 reps @ 1,105 pounds

And here is Hafthor barely missing a 1,105 pound deadlift on the elephant deadlift bar: 

The bottom line is Ed Coan popularized a very simple form of linear periodization where you start out lifting lighter weights for high reps and transition to heavier weights for low reps as you approach your powerlifting competition.

This simple training style works great for beginners and world-class powerlifters.

However, it does have one major drawback: many people burn themselves out after 4-8 weeks of this type of program.

Some powerlifters need deload weeks or more variation from week to week to make progress. If that describes you then you are going to love the rest of the linear periodization training programs in this article!

Part 2: Josh Bryant Linear Periodization

Josh Bryant is one of the best powerlifting coaches in the world today. He trains many of the strongest powerlifters in the world including the world’s strongest bench presser Julius Maddox.

Here is a great video of Julius breaking the all-time bench press world record with a massive 782 pound bench press:

Talk about a strong bench press!

Josh Bryant trains almost all of his powerlifters using a simple linear periodization program.

Every program is customized based on the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. However, Josh really believes that a simple linear periodization program is the way to go for most powerlifters. 

Here is Josh describing his linear periodization program:

“The premise is you start with higher volume and lower intensity.

Over time you decrease the volume and increase the intensity as whatever pre-set date you have approaches.” 

Josh believes that if you are training for a powerlifting meet then you should always start your workouts with the squat, bench press or deadlift.

This is the exercise you are performing in competition so it only makes sense to perform it first in your workout. 

Here is what a typical Josh Bryant style powerlifting workout looks like:

  • Step #1: Work up to a 1-3 rep max in the squat, bench press or deadlift
  • Step #2: Perform 3-10 speed sets of 2-4 reps in the squat, bench press or deadlift
  • Step #3: Perform 1-2 supplementary exercises for the squat, bench press or deadlift
  • Step #4: Perform 1-5 accessory exercises for the squat, bench press or deadlift

Josh starts his powerlifting workouts with 1 heavy set of 1-3 reps in the squat, bench press or deadlift.

Then he performs a bunch of speed sets with 60-80% of your 1-rep max, 1-2 supplementary exercises and 1-5 accessory exercises.

Josh Bryant tells his clients to perform heavy triples at the start of their training cycles and heavy singles right before their competition. Check it out:

Josh Bryant Powerlifting Program Overview

  • Weeks 1-4: Triples
  • Weeks 5-8: Doubles
  • Weeks 9-12: Singles
  • Week 13: Competition Week!

This is very different from Ed Coan’s linear periodization program. Remember, Ed Coan started his training cycle with sets of 5-10 reps and slowly decreased your rep ranges as the meet gets closer.

Overall Josh’s program uses less variation in terms of rep ranges. This is great for strength gains but it comes with a risk: you are more likely to burn yourself out.

Not many people can train with heavy sets of 1-3 reps for 3 months in a row leading up to their competition.

Josh gets around this problem by having his athletes perform a “deload” workout every 4 weeks or so.

During the deload week you use 70% of your normal weights and perform slightly fewer sets. These deloads give your body a chance to recover from the previous 3 weeks of heavy training and set you up perfectly for your next 3-week block of training.

Here is what a full 13-week training cycle looks like. Check it out:

Triples 4-Week Block

  • Week 1: 1 set of 3 reps @ 80% of your 1-rep max
  • Week 2: 1 set of 3 reps @ 83% of your 1-rep max
  • Week 3: 1 set of 3 reps @ 86% of your 1-rep max
  • Week 4: (Deload)

Doubles 4-Week Block

  • Week 5: 1 set of 2 reps @ 88% of your 1-rep max
  • Week 6: 1 set of 2 reps @ 91% of your 1-rep max
  • Week 7: 1 set of 2 reps @ 94% of your 1-rep max
  • Week 8: (Deload)

Singles 4-Week Block

  • Week 9: 1 set of 1 reps @ 96% of your 1-rep max
  • Week 10: 1 set of 1 reps @ 99% of your 1-rep max
  • Week 11: 1 set of 1 reps @ 102% of your 1-rep max
  • Week 12: (Deload)
  • Week 13: Work up to a new 1-rep max at 105-110% of your old PR!

Josh gives his athletes specific numbers to hit each workout rather than training percentages. For example he might tell Julius Maddox to hit 650 pounds for 3 reps on week #1.

He would then increase the weight for week #2 depending on how the first workout went.

This is similar to Ed Coan where he used specific numbers he wanted to hit each week rather than training percentages. 

Josh Bryant does another very interesting thing with his powerlifting training programs: he tapers the training volume as you get closer to the meet.

In other words you perform more total sets at the beginning of your training cycle and fewer total sets as you get closer to the powerlifting meet. This volume reduction strategy helps you to peak your strength on the day of the competition.

Here is how Josh Bryant organized the training volume for Chad Wesley Smith when he was training for a 500 pound bench press. Check it out:

Chad Wesley Smith Bench Press Cycle

  • Week 1: 26 sets
  • Week 2: 26 sets
  • Week 3: 23 sets
  • Week 5: 22 sets
  • Week 6: 22 sets
  • Week 7: 20 sets
  • Week 9: 16 sets
  • Week 10: 16 sets
  • Week 11: 9 sets
  • Week 12: Competition week!

As you can see Chad Wesley Smith performed 26 total sets at the beginning of his training cycle but only 9 sets the week before the competition. 

In case you were curious here is the exact bench press workout that Chad performed on week 1 of his bench press training cycle. Check it out:

Week 1: Primary Bench Press Workout (Triples)

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 3**, 1/1/X/0, 4 minutes rest
  • B1: Speed bench press (competition grip), 6 x 4***, 1/1/X/1, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Bench press (wide grip), 2 x 8****, 1/1/X/01, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Dead bench, 8 x 1*****, 1/0/X/0, 45 seconds rest
  • E1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 3 x 8, 2/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: DB flies, 3 x 11, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • F2: DB front raises, 3 x 8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 76% of his projected 1-rep max.

***Performed at 61% of his projected 1-rep max.

****Performed at 58% of his projected 1-rep max.

*****Performed at 59% of his projected 1-rep max.

Josh Bryant and Ed Coan organize their powerlifting training cycles a little differently from each other. However, there is one thing they agree on: if you are using linear periodization then you MUST use a powerlifting offseason. 

Here is Josh Bryant himself breaking down the importance of a powerlifting offseason:

“As a powerlifter you can minimize the risk of mental burnout and injury by implementing a powerlifting offseason program.

Too often powerlifters ignore this type of training. They think you are just taking it easy. But the powerlifting offseason is actually going to make you stronger.”

During the offseason phase Josh Bryant has his clients perform a wide variety of exercises in slightly higher rep ranges. He also drops the speed sets from his clients’ workouts.

Josh’s main goals for the powerlifting offseason are to build muscle mass, increase work capacity and strengthen weak muscle groups that are holding back your performance on the main lifts.

Here is one example of a bench press offseason workout for a 500+ pound bench presser. Check it out:

Rob Hall Offseason Bench Press Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline DB press, 3 x 7, 1/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Decline bench press (wide grip), 3 x 8, 1/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Lying DB pullover, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/2/0, 1 minute rest
  • D1: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip), 8 x 5, 1/0/X/0, 20 seconds rest
  • E1: Chest fly sled drags, 4 trips of 100 feet, 30 seconds rest
  • F1: Bicep curl sled drags, 4 trips of 100 feet, 30 seconds rest
  • G1: Prone planks, 3 x 1 minute, 30 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

If you are looking for a great linear periodization powerlifting program then the Josh Bryant powerlifting program is a great choice.

Josh Bryant’s program deviates from Ed Coan’s program in two big ways:

  • Difference #1: Josh focuses on sets of 1-3 reps in the competition lifts
  • Difference #2: Josh uses pre-planned deload weeks throughout the training cycle

If Josh Bryant’s linear periodization training style appeals to you then I highly recommend you give it a shot. It is by far one of the smartest ways you can train for your next powerlifting meet.

If you want to learn more about Josh Bryant’s powerlifting training style then check out the following articles:

These articles will teach you everything you need to know about how to train for your next powerlifting meet.

Part 3: Eric Lilliebridge Linear Periodization

Eric Lilliebridge is one of the greatest powerlifters of all time.

Some of his best lifts include an unbelievable 1,052 pound raw squat and a 2,458 pound raw total. This is the third highest raw powerlifting total of all time, regardless of weight class!

Here is Eric performing his ridiculous 1,052 pound raw squat:

So how did Eric Lilliebridge get so strong?

Eric Lilliebridge trains twice per week using a low-frequency training split. He trains the bench press once per week and the squat or deadlift once per week. 

Here is the exact training split that Eric uses during his meet prep cycles:

  • Wednesday: Bench Press
  • Saturday: Squat / Deadlift

Yes, you read that right: Eric Lilliebridge only trains twice per week to set powerlifting world records!

The Lilliebridge Method” won’t work for everyone but it works like magic for Eric Lilliebridge and many other powerlifters.

In fact this is the exact strategy that “The World’s Strongest Bodybuilder” Stan Efferding used during his competitive powerlifting career. Check it out:

“When I squatted 905 lbs raw in training, I was only squatting every OTHER week. Twice a month! I deadlifted on the alternate weeks and benched once a week.

You heard correctly, I trained twice a week when I hit my 2,303 pound raw total and set the all-time world record.

I would bench on Mondays and squat OR deadlift on Saturdays. Wednesdays was stretching, balance and core work. That’s it!”

Eric only trains heavy on the squat / bench press / deadlift every other week. Here is how he organizes his workouts:

Week #1

  • Wednesday: Heavy Bench Press
  • Saturday: Heavy Squat

Week #2

  • Wednesday: Light Bench Press
  • Saturday: Heavy Deadlift

Eric Lilliebridge says the biggest advantage of his training program is you don’t have to worry about overtraining.

You are only performing two workouts per week so you are almost always recovered for your next workouts. This lets Eric train heavy for 10-12 weeks in a row leading up to his competition without having to worry about taking a formal deload week.

For his lower body workouts Eric works up to 1 heavy set on the squat or deadlift using specific training percentages. After the heavy squats or deadlifts he performs various assistance exercises for his lower body.

Here are the exact training percentages that Eric uses leading up to his meet. Check it out:

Eric Lilliebridge Squat / Deadlift Program

  • Week #1: Squat = 85% x 5 reps
  • Week #2: Deadlift = 85% x 5 reps
  • Week #3: Squat = 90% x 3 reps
  • Week #4: Deadlift = 90% x 3 reps
  • Week #5: Squat = 92% x 2 reps
  • Week #6: Deadlift = 92% x 2 reps
  • Week #7: Squat = 95% x 1 rep
  • Week #8: Deadlift = 95% x 1 rep
  • Week #9 Squat = deload at 50% of max x 3-5 reps
  • Week #10: Competition day!

As you can see Eric uses a very simple form of linear periodization leading up to his powerlifting meets. He slowly increases the weights and decreases the rep ranges so that his strength is peaked on the day of his competition.

In the past Eric would perform some light speed sets for the opposite lift after his heavy work. For example if Eric was doing a heavy squat workout then he would perform some light speed deadlifts at 50% of his 1-rep max.

Later in his career Eric found these speed sets to be unnecessary so he dropped them from his program.

Eric’s bench press program is a little bit different: he alternates between a “heavy” week where he works up to a 1-5 rep max and a “light” week where he trains just shy of failure using 70% of his 1-rep max. Check it out:

Eric Lilliebridge Bench Press Program

  • Week 1: 87% x 1 rep
  • Week 2: 70% x AMRAP**
  • Week 3: 90% x 1 rep
  • Week 4: 70% x AMRAP**
  • Week 5: 93% x 1 rep
  • Week 6: 70% x AMRAP**
  • Week 7: 96% x 1 rep
  • Week 8: 70% x AMRAP**
  • Week 9: Work up to planned opener x 1
  • Week 10: Competition day!

As you can see Eric uses a simple linear periodization program to peak his strength on the bench press. He slowly increases the weight each week until he is handling his heaviest weights right before his next competition.

Eric doesn’t need to take any formal deload weeks like Josh Bryant because his training frequency and volume are so low.

After the main sets on the squat, bench press or deadlift you perform various accessory exercises for your lower body or upper body. Which exercises you perform is completely up to you.

I don’t want to leave you hanging here so let’s look at some typical Lilliebridge Method workouts.

Here is a squat workout Stan Efferding performed while training for one of his powerlifting contests. Check it out:

Stan Efferding Squat Workout

  • A1: Back squat, 1 set of 6 reps
  • B1: Leg extension, 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • C1: 45 degree leg press, 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • D1: Seated calf raise, 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about a strong squat! Stan Efferding puts everything he has into his one heavy set of powerlifting style back squats. Then he performs a few different accessory exercises for the rest of his lower body.

Here is a bench press workout that Eric Lilliebridge performed leading up to one of his powerlifting meets. Check it out:

Eric Lilliebridge Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 set of 4 reps
  • B1: Slingshot bench press (competition grip), 2 sets of 1-2 reps
  • C1: Bench press (close grip), 2 sets of 7, 15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

After all the heavy sets of bench presses Eric performs his accessory exercises for the rest of his upper body. They weren’t included in the video but Eric says some of his favorite exercises are lat pulldowns, bent over rows and triceps extensions. 

The Lilliebridge Method is basically a 10-12 week powerlifting peaking program. Eric says that this method is the best way to peak your strength for your competitions but he still uses a powerlifting offseason in between his meets.

Eric likes to use a short 4-6 week offseason phase so that he can compete multiple times throughout the year. Check it out:

The Eric Lilliebridge Macro Training Cycle

  • Weeks 1-4: Powerlifting Offseason
  • Weeks 5-14: Powerlifting Meet Prep Cycle

During the offseason Eric trains with somewhat lighter weights to give his body a break. He believes you can only maintain your peak level of strength for a certain period of time.

After that you have to back off to give your body a break. Check it out: 

“Well I still squat and deadlift even before I start my cycle, just not heavy all of the time. I really just try to maintain my base level of strength, so that I don’t fall below a certain line.

That way I know that any day of the week I can lift “X” amount of weight.”

That is one way to design a Lilliebridge Method offseason phase but it is not the only way.

The powerlifting phenom Stan Efferding likes to use longer offseason phases where he trains more like a bodybuilder. Check it out:

The Stan Efferding Macro Training Cycle

  • Months 1-3: Bodybuilding Training Cycle
  • Months 4-6: Powerlifting Training Cycle

This is the exact strategy that Stan Efferding used during his competitive powerlifting career. He would actually alternate back and forth between training for bodybuilding competitions and training for powerlifting competitions.

The bottom line is The Lilliebridge Method is an awesome way to peak for your powerlifting competitions.

It uses a simple form of linear periodization where you don’t have to worry about deload weeks or varying your training volume. You just go into the gym, hit your heavy lifts for the day, perform some accessory work and get the hell out.

You can learn more about this program right here:

The Lilliebridge Method For Powerlifting!

If Eric’s “no nonsense” approach appeals to you then I highly recommend you give his program a shot!

Part 4: Matt Wenning Linear Periodization

Matt Wenning is a world-class powerlifter and strength coach. Some of his best lifts include a 2,204 pound raw powerlifting total and an 832 pound raw squat.

Here is Matt Wenning putting up his 2,204 pound raw powerlifting total. Check it out:

Matt Wenning is an expert at conjugate periodization and the Westside Barbell powerlifting program.

Conjugate periodization is a style of training where you max out each week on different “special exercises” for the squat, bench press and deadlift.

Matt says that you can max out every week as long as you change the special exercises each week. 

Here is how Matt might rotate through different max effort exercises for the bench press:

  • Week #1: Floor press with chains
  • Week #2: Band bench press
  • Week #3: Incline bench press
  • Week #4: Reverse band bench press

And so on. With conjugate periodization you work up to a 1-rep max on a different special exercise each week.

Note: Matt Wenning loves to use bands and chains on his max effort exercises. Here is where you can get your own:

Matt says this system worked great when he was competing in “equipped” powerlifting contests where he could use special equipment like squat suits and bench press shirts. However, when he transitioned to “raw” powerlifting where he couldn’t use these aids he had more trouble.

Matt found that he needed more practice with the regular squat, bench press and deadlift to make progress.

Matt liked the idea of linear periodization where you get more practice with the regular lifts. However, he also liked conjugate periodization where you challenge your body with different special exercises every week.

Matt Wenning took the best aspects of conjugate periodization AND linear periodization and developed his own hybrid program. I call this program the Matt Wenning training program.

Matt Wenning performs the competition squat, bench press or deadlift every 3-4 weeks using specific training percentages. On the other weeks he maxes out on different special exercises to strengthen his weak points. 

Here is an overview of what one of Matt’s 16 week training cycles might look like:

  • Weeks 1-3: Max effort work
  • Week 4: Straight weight, 85% x 3
  • Weeks 5-7: Max effort work
  • Week 8: Straight weight, 90% x 2
  • Weeks 9-11: Max effort work
  • Weeks 12: Straight weight, 95% x 1
  • Weeks 13-15: Max effort work
  • Week 16: Competition week!

Here is Matt Wenning himself talking about his unique training style:

As you can see Matt Wenning performs the actual competition lift every 3-4 weeks. He also uses specific training percentages for these workouts so that his strength peaks on the competition lifts at the end of his training cycle.

Matt’s program combines some of the best aspects of conjugate periodization AND linear periodization into one-kickass program.

Now let’s look at some typical Matt Wenning powerlifting workouts.

Matt Wenning says that the most important muscle groups for a big bench press are the triceps and the upper back. He tries to perform at least 2 exercises for both of these muscle groups in his bench press workouts.

Here are a couple of sample workouts that I pulled from my article “The Matt Wenning Training Program!” Check it out:

Monday: Max Effort Squat / Deadlift

  • A1: Competition stance back squat, 1 x 3**, 1/0/X/0, 3 minutes rest
  • B1: Chain suspended good morning, 2 x 5, 2/1/X/1, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Reverse hyperextension, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 1 minute rest
  • D1: 45 degree back extension (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 1 minute rest
  • E1: Bilateral lying leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / neutral), 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 1 minute rest
  • F1: Glute ham raise (holding DB at chest), 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/1, 1 minute rest

**Performed at 85% of your projected 1-rep max.

Wednesday: Max effort bench

  • A1: Competition grip bench press, 1 x 3**, 1/0/X/0, 3 minutes rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline DB press, 2 x 15-20****, 2/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Ez-bar JM press, 3 x 8-12, 2/0/X/0, 1 minute rest
  • D1: Bilateral 30 degree prone DB tricep kickback, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/1, 1 minute rest
  • E1: Barbell bent over row, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 1 minute rest
  • F1: Band face pull, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/2, 1 minute rest

**Performed at 85% of your projected 1-rep max.

****Both sets performed to failure.

If you want to learn more about how Matt Wenning combines linear periodization and conjugate periodization then make sure you check out the following article:

The Matt Wenning Training Program!

Matt Wenning has proven that you can use the principles of linear periodization to get superior results with almost any powerlifting training program.

If you are a fan of the Westside Barbell training program then I highly recommend you give Matt Wenning’s program a shot!

Part 5: Charles Poliquin Linear Periodization

Charles Poliquin was one of the greatest strength coaches in the world. Charles was good friends with the powerlifter Ed Coan and trained many of the world’s top powerlifters during his career.

Charles is most famous for using undulating periodization, aka “accumulation and intensification phases” with his clients.

He believed the fastest way to build muscle mass and strength for most people was to alternate between 2-4 week phases focused on building muscle and 2-4 week phases focused on building strength.

However, this was not the only way he trained his clients. Charles sometimes used a modified form of linear periodization to help his clients peak for their powerlifting competitions.

I want to share with you a bench press peaking program that Charles published on his “Strength Sensei” website.

This program is a hybrid between old-school linear periodization and Charles Poliquin’s favorite accumulation / intensification system.

This program was taken down from the Strength Sensei website after Charles unexpectedly passed away. I believe Charles would want his training theories to be available to anyone brave enough to try them so I have reproduced the program from memory.

No, I am not kidding! Ask me to remember a random Charles Poliquin training program I studied 5 years ago – no problem. Ask me to remember what I had for breakfast – forget about it!

For this bench press program Charles wants you to use the following training split:

The Charles Poliquin Training Split

  • Day 1: Chest / Biceps / Triceps
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Back / Rotator Cuff
  • Day 5: Off

Charles liked this training split because it lets you train antagonistic muscle groups together like chest and biceps, quads and hamstrings or your upper back and rotator cuff.

For this program you are going to perform 16 workouts. You are training the bench press once every 5 days so this program should take you about 12 weeks to complete.

Here is an overview of the training program:

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Peaking Program: Phase 1

  • Workout #1: Routine “A”, 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Workout #2: Routine “B”, 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Workout #3: Routine “A”, 4-5 sets of 5-7 reps
  • Workout #4: Routine “B”, 4-5 sets of 5-7 reps
  • Workout #5: Routine “A”, 4-5 sets of 4-6 reps
  • Workout #6: Routine “B”, 4-5 sets of 4-6 reps
  • Workout #7: Routine “A”, 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Workout #8: Routine “B”, 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Peaking Program: Phase 2

  • Workout #9: Routine “X”, 5-6 sets of 4-6 reps
  • Workout #10: Routine “Y”, 5-6 sets of 4-6 reps
  • Workout #11: Routine “X”, 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Workout #12: Routine “Y”, 5-6 sets of 3-5 reps
  • Workout #13: Routine “X”, 5-6 sets of 2-4 reps
  • Workout #14: Routine “Y”, 5-6 sets of 2-4 reps
  • Workout #15: Routine “X”, 2-3 sets of 1-3 reps
  • Workout #16: Routine “Y”, 2-3 sets of 1-3 reps
  • Workout #17: Break your old PR!!

This bench press peaking program is broken down into two separate phases using linear periodization.

For the first phase you start out performing sets of 6-8 reps and slowly work your way down to sets of 3-5 reps. Then for the second phase you start out performing sets of 4-6 reps and slowly work your way down to sets of 1-3 reps.

This is almost like a hybrid between Charles Poliquin’s accumulation / intensification periodization model and the old-school linear periodization model.

The rep ranges slowly go down over time but Charles increases the rep ranges when you transition from the end of phase 1 to the start of phase 2.

This shift in rep ranges prevents you from losing the muscle mass gains achieved in the start of phase 1 while giving your central nervous system a temporary break from heavier and heavier weights.

OK, I’ve made you wait long enough. Here is the full 12-week Charles Poliquin linear periodization bench press peaking routine:

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #1:

  • A1: Flat pin press (mid-range position), 4 x 6-8, 2/1/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated zottman curl, 4 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: Lying ez-bar extension with bands, 4 x 6-8, 2/2/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 75 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #2:

  • A1: Flat pin press (4 inch range of motion), 4-5 x 6-8, 2/1/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 4-5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0**, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 4 x 6-8, 3/2/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline cable curls, 4 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 75 seconds rest

**Perform a 2-second isometric pause on the concentric range at 45 degrees elbow flexion. This isometric pause will help you recruit more of the brachialis muscle.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #3:

  • A1: Flat pin press (mid-range position), 4-5 x 5-7, 2/1/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated zottman curl, 4-5 x 5-7, 3/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: Lying ez-bar extension with bands, 4 x 6-8, 2/2/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 75 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #4:

  • A1: Flat pin press (4 inch range of motion), 4-5 x 5-7, 2/1/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 4-5 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0**, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 4 x 6-8, 3/2/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline cable curls, 4 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 75 seconds rest

**Perform a 2-second isometric pause on the concentric range at 45 degrees elbow flexion. This isometric pause will help you recruit more of the brachialis muscle.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #5:

  • A1: Flat pin press (mid-range position), 4-5 x 4-6, 2/1/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated zottman curl, 4-5 x 4-6, 3/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: Lying ez-bar extension with bands, 4 x 6-8, 2/2/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 4 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 75 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #6:

  • A1: Flat pin press (4 inch range of motion), 4-5 x 4-6, 2/1/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 4-5 x 4-6, 2/0/1/0**, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 4 x 6-8, 3/2/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline cable curls, 4 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 75 seconds rest

**Perform a 2-second isometric pause on the concentric range at 45 degrees elbow flexion. This isometric pause will help you recruit more of the brachialis muscle.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #7:

  • A1: Flat pin press (mid-range position), 2-3 x 3-5, 2/1/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated zottman curl, 2-3 x 3-5, 3/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: Lying ez-bar extension with bands, 2 x 6-8, 2/2/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 2 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 75 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #8:

  • A1: Flat pin press (4 inch range of motion), 2-3 x 3-5, 2/1/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 2-3 x 3-5, 2/0/1/0**, 75 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 2 x 6-8, 3/2/1/0, 75 seconds rest
  • B2: 60 degree incline cable curls, 2 x 6-8, 2/0/2/0, 75 seconds rest

**Perform a 2-second isometric pause on the concentric range at 45 degrees elbow flexion. This isometric pause will help you recruit more of the brachialis muscle.

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #9:

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 5-6 x 4-6, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral preacher zottman curl (offset grip), 5-6 x 4-6, 5/0/1/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extensions with chains (to forehead)**, 5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #10:

  • A1: Bench press against bands (competition grip), 5-6 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 5-6 x 4-6, 2/0/X/1, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated DB hammer curl, 5 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #11:

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 5-6 x 3-5, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral preacher zottman curl (offset grip), 5-6 x 3-5, 5/0/1/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extensions with chains (to forehead)**, 5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #12:

  • A1: Bench press against bands (competition grip), 5-6 x 3-5, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 5-6 x 3-5, 2/0/X/1, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated DB hammer curl, 5 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #13:

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 5-6 x 2-4, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral preacher zottman curl (offset grip), 5-6 x 2-4, 5/0/1/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extensions with chains (to forehead)**, 5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #14:

  • A1: Bench press against bands (competition grip), 5-6 x 2-4, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 5-6 x 2-4, 2/0/X/1, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated DB hammer curl, 5 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #15:

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 6 x 1/2/3**, 3/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: Unilateral preacher zottman curl (offset grip), 2-3 x 2-4, 5/0/1/0, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Decline ez-bar extensions with chains (to forehead)**, 2-3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 2-3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest

**Perform all sets with 90-95% of your 1, 2, or 3-rep max for that day

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #16:

  • A1: Bench press against bands (competition grip), 2-3 x 1-3, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
  • A2: 90 degree preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / pronated grip), 2-3 x 2-3, 2/0/X/1, 100 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated behind the neck press (shoulder-width grip), 2-3 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated DB hammer curl, 2-3 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise A3, exercise A4.

Charles Poliquin Bench Press Workout #17:

  • Break your old PR!

Charles Poliquin says that at the end of this 12-week peaking program you will have eliminated your sticking points near the top of the bench press and you will hit a new all-time PR. 

There are a few things I want to highlight about this peaking program:

  • Point #1: You are alternating between two different bench press workouts at a time
  • Point #2: This peaking program is designed to blast through sticking points near lockout
  • Point #3: This program uses antagonistic body part supersets whenever possible
  • Point #4: This program uses a volume reduction strategy in workouts #7-8 and #15-16

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

Point #1: You are alternating between two different bench press workouts at a time

For this program you are going to be alternating between two different bench press workouts.

In phase 1 you are alternating between routine “A” and routine “B”. These two routines use slightly different exercises but the rep ranges are the same.

The same is true in phase 2: you are going to alternate between routine “X” and routine “Y”.

Advanced powerlifters often make faster progress when they rotate through 2 different bench press workouts because the increased variety prevents them from stalling.

Point #2: This peaking program is designed to blast through sticking points near lockout

Charles Poliquin designed this program for anyone who needs to improve their lockout strength in the bench press.

Charles uses different exercises like pin presses, rack lockouts, band bench presses and triceps extensions with bands or chains to strengthen this part of the lift.

If you have a weakness off of the chest then you would want to pick different exercises.

Point #3: This program uses antagonistic body part supersets whenever possible

Charles Poliquin was a huge fan of antagonistic supersets. This is where you alternate back and forth between sets for opposing muscle groups.

For this routine you might do a bench press, rest 2 minutes, perform a bicep curl, rest 2 minutes and perform another bench press.

Charles says that antagonistic supersets have 3 main advantages:

  • They increase your force output in the target muscle groups
  • They improve your muscular endurance over the course of the workout
  • They let you perform twice as much work in the same amount of time

Charles likes antagonistic supersets so much that he used them with almost all of his world-class athletes.

If you train in a busy commercial gym and cannot perform them then you may want to pick a different peaking program.

If you want to learn more about antagonistic supersets then check out my article “Supersets: The Ultimate Guide!

Point #4: This program uses a volume reduction strategy in workouts #7-8 and #15-16

To deload, or not to deload: that is the question!

Many powerlifters like Ed Coan, Eric Lilliebridge and Matt Wenning say that deloads are unnecessary on a linear periodization program if you organize your workouts correctly.

Other guys like Josh Bryant say that deloads are absolutely essential. Charles Poliquin believed that deloads were a useful tool depending on the individual performing the routine.

For guys who have more of an acetyl-choline dominant neurotransmitter profile he liked to use a volume reduction strategy every few workouts. This is exactly what Charles uses in this routine.

If you are paying attention then you probably saw that Charles reduces the number of sets by 50% in workouts 7, 8, 15 and 16. For example:

  • Workouts #1-2: 16-18 sets
  • Workouts #3-4: 16-18 sets
  • Workouts #5-6: 16-18 sets
  • Workouts #7-8: 8-10 sets
  • Workouts #9-10: 20-22 sets
  • Workouts #11-12: 20-22 sets
  • Workouts #13-14: 20-22 sets
  • Workouts #15-16: 8-12 sets

This reduction in volume helps you to recover from the previous few workouts while still making forward progress. If you want to learn more about deloads then check out the following article:

How To Deload For Size And Strength!

The bottom line is Charles Poliquin shows us that you can borrow ideas from linear periodization and undulating periodization to make a kick-ass powerlifting peaking program.

I highly recommend you try this program if you are stuck in the bench press.

Conclusion

If you want to get stronger in the squat, bench press and deadlift then you MUST use some form training periodization.

In other words you must have a plan for how you are going to structure your workouts so that you can get stronger over time. Just showing up in the gym and “winging it” isn’t going to cut it!

If you aren’t sure where to start then linear periodization is a great option. Many of the strongest powerlifters of all time like Ed Coan and Eric Lilliebridge have used linear periodization to break their own personal records year after year.

Linear periodization isn’t as flashy as some of the newer forms of periodization like undulating periodization or conjugate periodization. However, sometimes the oldest and simplest training styles really are the best.

Here is Josh Bryant explaining training periodization better than I ever could:

“Periodization is not your latest Euro-blast, super pump training, 5/3/1 or starting strength! Periodization is how you break down your training over periods of time.”

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