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Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Frequency and individuality are factors that must be considered when planning strength training. However, Israelel et al. (2015) state that specificity is the key point of strength training and that all other factors involved in planning an effective training do not mean anything without specificity. Beardsley (2017) does not agree with this statement and says that the principle of specificity has the same value as the other general principles of strength training: progressive overload, individuality and variation.

Therefore, the principle of specificity could be considered as a general guideline that can be applied most of the time. However, this does not explain why the strength is "specific".

To improve squat, bench press and deadlift performance, the athlete should perform exercises to improve muscle hypertrophy, strength and technique. The movement is more specific, the closer you get to the movement and load of the competition. Tuchscherer (2014) explains that exercises like 1RM squat is very specific, while exercises like the leg curl is not.

According to Yuri and Natalia Verkhoshansky, father and daughter respectively, the choice of complementary exercises should focus on optimizing the primary exercises.

Choosing exercises for a strength training plan isn't obvious and can depend on your school of thought. For example, the American school gives to complementary exercises a predominant role, the Russian school focuses more on the motor pattern of fundamental exercises and the Chinese school uses complementary exercises to improve athletes' proprioception (Gruzza, 2012).

However, research studies have highlighted the importance of the principle of variation by suggesting that multi-joint movements should always be included in training phases, while isolation movements should be performed in rotation as they are less complex.

Another important factor to consider when planning strength training is recovery. Lifting heavy weights puts strain on the body leading to muscle fatigue. Therefore, coaches must be able to evaluate the maximum recoverable volume (MRV) of their athletes in order to plan the volume of each training session taking into account the "Stimulus Recovery Adaptation curve" and schedule unloading and rest periods.

Scientific research also reports that proper nutrition, good sleep and the distribution of training volume during the week bring benefits in terms of neuromuscular adaptations, hormonal markers, increased strength and increased lean body mass.

The training plan is usually divided into periods in order to manage variables and recovery times. There are three main models of periodization in sports:

  • linear periodization

  • block periodization

  • undulating (non-linear) periodization

There is no agreement in scientific literature about which the best model is to create a strength training plan for Powerlifting. Furthermore, these models are only theoretical and conceptual. There are infinite ways to customize a training plan regardless of the model chosen. For example, the linear periodization model has been used by many athletes and coaches such as Reg Park, Bill Starr, Arkady Vorobyov, Alexander Faleev, Pavel Tsatsouline. While they all used the same template, the training plans they created were different from each other.

In the 80s periodization had a more mechanical and mathematical approach than nowadays where coaches plan periodization basing their choices on the individual needs of the athletes, on the feedback they receive, and using methodological concepts based on the needs required by the context.


Antonio, J. (2000) ‘Nonuniform response of skeletal muscle to heavy resistance training: can bodybuilders induce regional muscle hypertrophy?’

Beardsley, C. (2017) What does the “principle of specificity” actually mean?'

Ferlito, A. (2016) 'Project Strength – Per essere padroni della forza e non schiavi dei metodi.'

Fonseca, R. M. et al. (2014) ‘Changes in exercises are more effective than in loading schemes to improve muscle strength.’

Gamble, P. (2013) 'Strength and conditioning for team sports.'

Gruzza, A. (2012) 'Il bodybuilding e l’arte di sollevare pesi in Cina.'

Hakkinen, K. and Kallinen, M. (1994) ‘Distribution of strength training volume into one or two daily sessions and neuromuscular adaptations in female athletes.’

Hakkinen, K. and Pakarinen, A. (1991) ‘Serum hormones in male strength athletes during intensive short-term strength training.’

Hartman, M. J., et al. (2007) ‘Comparisons between twice-daily and once-daily training sessions in male weight lifters.’

Helms, E. R. et al. (2014) ‘Recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: resistance and cardiovascular training.’

Helms, E., Morgan, A. and Valdez, A. (2018) 'The Muscle & Strength Pyramid – Training.'

Israetel, M. et al. (2015) 'Scientific principles of strength training.'

Raastad, T. et al. (2012) ‘Powerlifters improved strength and muscular adaptations to a greater extent when equal total training volume was divided into 6 compared to 3 training sessions per week.’

Schoenfeld, B. J., (2010) ‘The mechanism of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training.'

Smith, C. W. (2015) 'Juggernaut Training: A Thoughtful Pursuit of Strength.'

Tuchscherer, M. (2014) 'A Case Against Specificity.'

Verkhoshansky, Y. and Verkhoshansky, N. (2011) 'Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches.'

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