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GPP for Weightlifters

By Jacob Tsypkin | In Crossfit Training, Olympic Weightlifting | on February 11, 2013

Unless you are at least a national level competitor, weightlifting is generally not considered a seasonal sport.  Therefore it may seem counterintuitive to plan off-season training for a weightlifter.  However, I have found that brief cycles of a GPP bias in training serve my lifters well.  It breaks the monotony, serves to increase work capacity prior to the next training cycle, and gives the weightlifters a chance to do some other activities that they enjoy.  This article is a short one, and will not fully outline the training schedule of a weightlifter in their “off-season.”  Instead it will present five of my preferred methods and modalities for developing GPP in weightlifters.

1. Unilateral Strength Work

Walking lunges, Bulgarian split squats, and step-ups for squat type movements.  The Death March (link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o_lal2jpQc) and single leg RDLs for lower body pulling.  Single arm dumbbell presses, push presses, and various types of rows for the upper body.  Done for high reps and in circuits, these are great for conditioning.  Used with moderate reps and a focus on perfect mechanics and quality of contraction, you can use unilateral work to eliminate muscular imbalances (I’ll usually have my lifters do a few extra reps on the weaker side.)  Heavy weight and low reps can help break plateaus and prepare you to get strong in your next phase of training.

2. Bodybuilding

You know you want to bro out every once in a while.  Work on that bench and catch a pump.  It’s okay.  I do too.

My lifters actually do some type of isolation work fairly regularly, but typically with very high reps for prehab purposes.  Stuff like band facepulls and tricep pushdowns, light bicep or wrist curls to help prevent wrist and elbow issues, band leg extensions to help prevent knee pain.  During the off-season, I like to work in some bench press, curls, heavy tricep work and the like.  I find this helps the lifters joints hold up better during cycles of hard training.  Also, chicks love biceps.

3.  Sprinting

Although some Russian texts seem to suggest runs up to 1000m, I think 400m is about as far as it should go.  Realistically, my lifters focus on 20-100m repeats, with plenty of recovery in between.  Occasionally we will do them with a shorter rest for more of a conditioning stimulus, but I think the real benefit comes from the max effort stuff.

4. Kettlebell, Dumbbell, and Barbell Complexes

Go for volume, not load.  Stick to mostly strength movements, and very simple variations of the lifts.  I like deadlifts, RDLs, Pendlay rows, front squats, push presses, back squats, etc.  Move through sets at a quick pace with rests long enough to allow you to keep good form but short enough to keep your heartrate up.  A sample complex we have used many a time:

5 Romanian deadlifts

5 hang power cleans

5 front squats

5 push press

5 Pendlay rows

Typically our guys will do this at around 135#, ladies around 85#.  Three sets with a few minutes in between should be plenty.

5.  CrossFit

YUP.  I SAID IT.  Come at me bro.

I come from a CrossFit background.  CrossFit was my reintroduction to strength training, and my first real exposure to weightlifting.  It’s definitely the best thing to happen to strength sports in the U.S. in roughly forever.  And not just because of the increased fan base.  CrossFit workouts, applied properly, are great GPP for weightlifters.

What does “properly applied” mean?  Well, it means you’re not doing “Murph.”  I keep it at a limit of 10 minutes at the beginning of the GPP phase, closer to 3-6 minutes later on.  As far as movements go, I like to use stuff that would typically be applied as an auxiliary movement.  Back extensions, back raises, weighted situps, toes-to-bar, kettlebell swings, dumbbell squats and push presses, handstand pushups, dips, pullups (even the kipping kind – I promise you, they have their place.)  For extra conditioning stimulus, rowing is great.  Jump rope and a bit of running (400m or less) works for athletes who don’t have knee or ankle issues.

An Important Reminder

You’re still a weightlifter.  Keep the volume of your “off-season” exercises relatively low, and don’t do all of the above at once.  You will have more than one off-season.  Pick one or two of the suggested modalities and focus on them for a GPP phase.  Play with one or two others next time around.  Take the view that your GPP work is there to help develop you as an athlete and keep you healthy in the long term.

Jacob Tsypkin is a CrossFit and weightlifting coach, and the co-owner of CrossFit Monterey and the Monterey Bay Barbell Club in Monterey, CA.
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