So progress had been made, but not dramatically. I had many 275+ benches in the gym, but consistently missed heavy benches in competition due to technical errors. I was coming off 20 weeks following a conjugate method template (max effort days and dynamic effort days) and was feeling pretty beat up. I decided to take some time to figure things out, and not compete again until fall.
Then I read Pavel’s superb “No Distractions” blog post at the fortuitous moment I was also reading Dan John’s Intervention. The error of my previous ways became so obvious I was almost embarrassed. I had spent five months hitting PRs in lifts I would never do on the platform, working with poundage that didn’t allow me to self-correct or discover the subtleties of technique or how to apply maximal tension.
This is not a criticism of the conjugate method (which has produced brutally strong lifters), but rather a realization that the proof is on the platform. It was the wrong program for me at this time in my training career because it did not produce the desired result. What I needed was much less weight, but much more frequency and practice in the competition lifts.
I began the program Easy Strength, a brainchild of Dan John and Pavel, briefly outlined in Intervention. I rotated lifts every two weeks: the same, but different. Warm-ups were always easy TGUs, broomstick overhead squats, and swings.
Barbell front squat
Seated barbell overhead press
Barbell suitcase deadlift
Barbell front squat
Competition bench press
Snatch-grip deadlift from blocks
Close-grip bench press
After the main lifts, I occasionally chose a supplement, such as bodyweight rows, farmer carries, or ab wheel rollouts. Usually just one set, and easy.
Although I did this with no intention of competing, it occurred to me quickly that since in a meet, one must squat, then press, then pull, it also made sense in a training session to squat, then press, then pull.
Then, in early April, my friend Jordan Syatt announced that he’d entered a meet. I checked---it was only 30 minutes away, so quite impulsively, I entered too. I wanted to cheer him on, but also, I realized, I wanted to test out Easy Strength. I kept thinking about Coach John, alone in his cold garage, smashing his lifetime incline bench PR.
I went to the meet on April 27th and put 70 pounds on my total, setting a PR on every lift, and going 8/9 on attempts (my previous best was 5/9). I was astonished. I squatted 475, benched 315, and deadlifted 540, taking 2nd place in the 242 raw class.
In six weeks of Easy Strength, I’d more than doubled my progress in the year leading up to it.
- Don't use a belt or any other supportive equipment until two weeks out from the competition or testing day.
- Choose variations of the powerlifts that will naturally limit your poundage and address your weaknesses: my choice of snatch-grip deadlifts in cycle 2 came from wanting to increase my upper back strength. Don’t use more than two “competition” styles per cycle---one is even better.
- Two weeks out from your meet or testing day, in one training session, take your openers for a triple. Use whatever gear or equipment you'll use in competition. This is grueling but cements confidence. Take a week off.
- One week out from you meet, take conservative second attempts for a single. Take something 10-30 pounds under your current PR. Rest until the meet.
Although it’s aimed toward in-season athletes, I’ve discovered Easy Strength is a well-kept secret for intermediate powerlifters---we are who are in the tough spot of being lightyears ahead of the casual gym-goer, but not yet ready to hang with the big dogs.