Powerlifting 42. An analytical review of my first 6 months of training!


Monday morning weigh in 90.6kg, Saturday morning weigh in 91.6kg

This weeks work sets were as follows:

Monday: Squats for volume 115kg (10,10,9,9), Bench for volume 82.5kg (10,10,10,10) - Very happy with the progress on the bench here. I could have and should have done 10s for the last two sets of squats also ... I was being lazy ... not good!!

Tuesday: Heavy deadlifts 162.5kg (5)

Wednesday: Light squats 70kg (5,5,5), Light bench 50kg (5,5,5)

Thursday: Heavy Squats 137.5kg (3) - stalled at 2 on the first attempt, but managed 3 on the second.

Friday: Heavy bench 97.5kg (4,3) - no real progress here ... possibly half a rep. I will try again for 5 next week. I did attempt a second set of 5, but only made 3 (this was towards the end of my session, so cumulative fatigue was no doubt occurring); Light deadlifts for volume 100kg (10,10,10)

My two new books arrived on Monday. More on these in a later post.

I have now completed my first six months training in powerlifting at Full Contact Performance Centre, Rochdale, so I felt it was time for a comprehensive critical analysis of what I have achieved, where I am ... and where I might be heading. As a scientist by training I could not resist the urge to write this review in the form of a pseudo-scientific paper and I beg your pardon for this gross self indulgence!


Following a couple of years of relatively unfocused gym training, during which time I transformed myself from somewhat of an unfit middle-aged slob into something I was very happy with, I picked up the gauntlet of powerlifting at age 48, having been inspired to do so by watching Jane Girdlestone compete at an event. Two of the three lifts were totally new to me: straight bar squat and straight bar deadlift, though I had done some bench pressing previously, albeit using the Smith machine. In short, it was all new to me, so there was a steep learning curve in terms of refining the techniques and in making sure I had the flexibility to do them. Similarly, the training program theory was also new, so I had a lot to learn as I went along. Of course, I could have used a PT to teach me the lifts and to design a program for me, but that is not how I like to operate. Doing this would have increased my success to date in terms of weights lifted, but I expect it would also have impacted negatively on my own personal learning experience and on my sense of achievement and understanding of what it is I am doing. I should stress here that the foregoing statement is not intended to reflect badly on PTs or their clients ... it is just how I roll. Indeed, I have very gratefully accepted training and programming tips from the various PTs and other informed folk that train alongside me at FCPC (see acknowledgements) and am always very happy to receive their input! Moreover, many of the most important lessons I have learned have been from these folks, either directly in the gym of via their online posts. My training program over the six month period had 177 training days scheduled into it. Of these, I missed NO training sessions. Since the outset I have kept meticulous records on a daily basis and these form the basis of the analyses reported below.


Data were analyzed over a 26 week period (excluding two deload weeks) based on the following values:

1. For each lift, the maximum weight lifted x number of reps performed each week were converted to an estimated 1 rep max using the following online calculator: http://www.shapesense.com/fitness-exercise/calculators/one-repetition-maximum-1rm-calculator.shtml

2. A body weight value for each week was taken on each Wednesday morning after taking a leak but before breakfast and coffee.

3. For each lift, a weight lifted to body weight ratio was calculated for each week over the six month period.

4. Age-adjusted Wilks scores were calculated for each week based on the sum of the estimated 1 rep maxes for each lift, using the following online calculator: http://tsampa.org/training/scripts/relative_strength/

5. Just for fun, relative strength levels for the highest data point in each lift (entered as est. 1RM) were calculated using the following calculator: http://strengthlevel.com/

The raw data spreadsheet can be downloaded by clicking here

Results and Discussion

Estimated 1RMs for each lift over the course of the first six months (deload weeks removed because these outliers mask the trends).

Weights lifted relative to body weight over the course of the first six months.


At the onset of training I had an estimated 1RM of 112kg and this currently stands at 157kg, an increase of approximately 40%. In terms of body weight, I started out lifting approximately 1.22x my body weight and am currently lifting 1.74x my body weight. My previous 1RM on this lift was 140kg, though I have not tried it for a while, so I reckon the estimate of 157kg is reasonable. The relative strength calculator placed me in the intermediate category and stronger than 69% of male lifters in my age category at 90.5kg.

Bench press

At the onset of training I had an estimated 1RM of 91kg and this currently stands at 110kg, an increase of approximately 21%. In terms of body weight, I started out lifting approximately 0..99x my body weight and am currently lifting 1.22x my body weight. My previous 1RM on this lift was 100kg, though I have not tried it for a while, so I reckon the estimate of 110kg is reasonable. The relative strength calculator placed me in the novice category and stronger than 56% of male lifters in my age category at 90.5kg. Clearly, this is my weakest lift, but it is worth noting that I am only 1kg away from falling into the intermediate category, so it should not take too long to get there. I put my reduced progress in this lift down to a shoulder injury I incurred during the competition I attended after only a few weeks of training (see below). This persisted for a couple of months as I trained around it and worked to rectify it. This is visible in the decline in progress on the bench seen in the graphs above from week 7 until week 17, when it started picking up again.


At the onset of training I had an estimated 1RM of 140kg and this currently stands at 190kg, an increase of approximately 36%. In terms of body weight, I started out lifting approximately 1.5x my body weight and am currently lifting 2.08x my body weight. At around week 20 in the 'deload-data-removed' graphs there is a marked decline in progress for this lift. This was due to accumulated fatigue as a result of over training. Reducing the volume work on this lift and altering my heavy deadlift day schedule slightly have rectified this problem and progress is once again being made. I am happy with the figure of 190kg as an estimate of 1RM given that I have previously lifted 180kg on several occasions. The relative strength calculator placed me in the intermediate category and stronger than 75% of male lifters in my age category at 91kg.

Comparing my progression in the different lifts

Progression has been at a reasonably constant rate for all lifts. However, looking at the rates at which the slopes increase, the order from highest to lowest is: squat, deadlift, bench press. Hence, according to the data, the squat has progressed the quickest and the bench the slowest. I do not believe this to be a true representation because the deadlift slope has been reduced as a result of the overtraining decline at around week 20, resulting in a slope that is only very slightly lower than that for the squat. I have no doubt that over the coming weeks the deadlift slope will rebound and be greater than that of the squat.

Combining the data

Calculating the Wilks scores for each week provides a final summary of the overall picture of progress for all lifts combined over the six month period. The highest score of 315.50 was achieved on week 20, currently at 313.75, with the trend continuing to increase from 238.23 at the onset of training. I am happy with this and need to make sure the trend continues.

Weekly Wilks scores based on the sums of the estimated 1RMs over the course of the first six months


My strongest (and favorite) lift is the deadlift, my weakest (and least favorite lift) is the bench press; the squat lies somewhere in between and this is reflected in all the metrics illustrated above.

Shortly after the onset of training I attended a powerlifting competition. It was a great experience, but not really a smart move, given that I had been training for only two or three weeks at the time! Somehow I managed to damage my right shoulder during the comp and this took a very long time to heal, and indeed, it has still not fully returned to normal functionality, but is considerably better. I had to stop doing overhead accessory work and my bench press also suffered as a result of the injury. It is only within the last four weeks that I have been able to put overhead work back in my training program. I have another competition arranged for 2nd April, but this is only for the deadlift and I feel I am in a much better position to prepare for this now and to execute the lifts with better form. Based on the analysis above, my plan is to prepare a peaking routine for this lift based on a 1RM (=190kg) of 195kg and then see what happens on the day! I am also hoping to enter a competition for all three lifts in May, so will need to start thinking about peaking routines for the other lifts also. Tomorrow (Sunday) I am going to watch (and shout for) Adam Mack compete in his first major competition, in Liverpool, so I will pick his brains about peaking on the drive over!

So far I have thoroughly enjoyed this journey and I look forward to what the next six months have in store. It is time to start mixing things up now as I continue my transition from a novice lifter to an intermediate and because I will be competing in the near future. This will require peaking phases in my program, so I will have nowhere near as much linear incremental data to play around with at the end of the next six months. Nonetheless, it should still suffice for a reliable analysis of progress.

Having now assessed my progress over the first six months, it is time to set some new goals. These are as follows: Squat - 2x my body weight, Bench - 1.5x my body weight, Deadlift - initially 200kg (though I am expecting this in the very short term) followed by 250kg (which is around the current Masters II record). I will be transitioning from the Masters I to Masters II class in January next year, so have PLENTY of time to chase the Masters II records!

This is such a great sport and probably the best foundation you can provide for your body to support good health in old age. EVERYBODY SHOULD BE DOING IT!


I am grateful to the following (in no particular order) for their input, help and discussion ... or just for liking my blog posts: Lee Moran of Freedom Strength, Jane Girdlestone, Andy Lavery of Apocalypse Training Systems, Gail Lavery, Sarah Docker, Adam Mack, Andy Tyson (Marine Fit), Stapes Stapleton (FCPC), David Green of Strongest Version, Louise Jane, Richard Herbert, Dean Lomax, Rod Cullen ... and of course to all the folks (members and staff) at FCPC who share the passion for training and make training there such a great experience. My regular spotters: Andy, Paul, Alan, Mike, Danny, Sean, Pav and whoever else happens to be on hand at the time (sorry if I missed you out) also deserve a BIG thumbs up ... Many thanks! Thanks also to all the FCPC PTs I follow who constantly post informative, motivational and inspirational content in their online forums. I also thank my wife (who is also now powerlifting!) for understanding my 'driven' nature ... most of the time!

As always ... thanks for reading!