I park the car just outside the sport center. As I turn off the engine a car parks just next to me. He arrives. Boris Sheiko has more than 25 years of experience in coaching powerlifting and has helped develop powerlifting champions all over the world. Let’s just say expectations are up.
After a short presentation Boris jumps right into explaining different kinds of training methods that’s been used throughout the years in powerlifting, weightlifting, various team sports, track and field and more. He explains some strength’s, weaknesses and applications of the different methods. Note that everything is from a Powerlifting perspective.
The method of Max Efforts and Linear Periodization are often too hard to go through with, Boris says. The main reason is that the weights will eventually be too heavy to handle with proper technique. There isn’t enough time for central nervous system (CNS) recovery, which means a high risk of injury.
Isometric Training (i.e. static) can be effective for pinpointing and fixing weaknesses. For instance squats with a pause in the bottom to improve the form and getting stronger in the bottom position. Pauses can also help to improve technique by forcing you to improve your bar path. A good example of this is the deadlift with a pause just below the knees. This will help/force to keep the bar close to the body.
The method of Explosive Power can be useful if you got a sticking point in your bench press halfway up. Explosive power (i.e. higher speed) will raise the sticking point. Both Isometric and Explosive training are used during the General Physical Preparation (GPP) to be removed in the Competition Preparation Phase (CPP).
What makes Sheiko’s methods successful is that it super compensates; as the volume goes up, the intensity goes down. The load distribution is never the same for two training sessions in the row, which means a high intensity session is always followed by a low etc. This allows for a bigger volume over time (i.e. more lifts).
Boris also points out that, when making a plan (i.e. program), it’s always for at least six months. The programs are all individualized except for beginners. Distribution of volume during preparatory and competitive phases are crucial and can’t be generalised, Boris says. The same goes for how to distribute the total number of lifts between different exercises. The only exception according to Boris is the deadlift which should have the least amount of lifts of the three. The main reasons are because you will increase your deadlift simply by improving the squat, and too much deadlifting will have a negative impact on your CNS recovery. What is too much is of course relative since Boris can put in variations of deadlifts three times or more in one week.
When it comes to single training sessions Boris often puts in competition lifts twice, but with some variation. In the below example you’ll notice there are squats in between different variations of bench press. This is one of the things Boris is most proud of in his system he says, because it allows recovery enough to perform more lifts of the same exercise. The complementary exercises is often placed in the end of the session and are mainly included in the GPP.
Bench press with chains:
50% 3 reps x 1 set, 60% 3×1, 70% 3×1, 75% 2×4 (17 lifts)
50% 5 x 1, 60% 5 x 1, 70% 3+7+4+8+2+6 reps (40 lifts)
Bench press with slingshot:
60% 3 x 1, 70% 3 x 1, 80% 3 x 1, 90% 2 x 2, 100% 2 x 3 (19 lifts)
Chest muscles: 8 x 5
French press: 6 x 5
Hyperextension: 8 x 4
Sheiko’s training system clearly separates training periodization in two blocks; GPP and CPP, where the latter focus more on the competition lifts and less on complementary exercises. The CPP ends with a test at ~90% of 1RM (One Rep Max) which is done approximately three weeks before a competition, making sure the CNS has time recover. You should exaggerate (i.e squat depth deeper than required on competition) when performing this test.
The GPP is mainly about technique, fixing weaknesses, building muscle mass (i.e hypertrophy) and probably most importantly: Automatization of the competition lifts. Boris always recommend that someone competent takes a look at your lifts so you can make adjustments (i.e. improve your technique) as early as possible, because once you’ve gotten used to a way of lifting it’s very hard to make corrections.
If you get sick or injured and can’t train for several weeks, Boris has a standard method to get back to the program as fast as possible: The first workout is done with ~70% of the load, and if that works another 5-10% is added the following workout until you’re back at 100%. If you’re sick more than one month (without training) you will start losing strength and muscle mass but if you follow this routine you will minimize the loss Boris says.
A good way to improve the squat, bench press and deadlift is to avoid common mistakes. Here is a few and how to fix them.
- Knees travel forward. This will make it harder to squat to proper depth. Wall squats and box squats are perfect for taking care of this problem. You’ll prevent the knees traveling forward too much and the upper body to lean too much forward.
- The movement up starts with the butt. This often happens due to weak hamstrings. To fix this Boris often prescribes squats with a stop half way up, back extensions and leg curls.
- Looking in a bad direction. Boris always want you looking straight ahead, perhaps slightly up and keep looking in that direction during the lift. Looking down can make you lean forward and get off balance.
- Knees moving inwards. Often caused by weak adductors. Complementary adductor exercises with for example rubber bands will help strengthening the adductors avoiding this problem.
- Butt lift. Since Boris always focus on how to perform a competitive lift you should make sure never to lift the but of the bench as it is against the rules.
- Shoulder blades not in position. This makes the shoulders more vulnerable and makes the press weaker. Pull the shoulder blades together as much as possible and keep them together until racking the barbell.
- Dropping the bar down on you chest too fast. Bring the bar down slowly to maintain good form and to get into a good start position of the press.
- Looking down. Can make you lean forward too much hence getting the bar too far from your body. Instead look straight ahead, perhaps slightly up. This will make a better lifting position, Boris says. Same reason as for the squat.
- Looking straight up. This can make you fall backwards in the end of the movement and has actually happened many times, even for elite lifters.
- Start position with the bar too far away from you. When you grab the bar your arms should “lean” slightly towards your shins.
During the seminar Boris explains that he never claimed that his methods are the best, but until he’s proven wrong or find something better he will stick with what works best for his athletes.
To wrap this up, Boris focuses mostly on good form/technique. Weights are mostly around 70-80% of your max for multiple sets (work sets). The key is to focus on the competition lifts and instead of using otherexercises, make small variations to the main lifts. Lastly, vary the intensity in the training sessions and weeks so that you have room to recover.