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  • Nathanael Littauer, CSCS

Super Strong: Adaptation Based Training For Super Total

A while ago, a friend convinced me to do a Powerlifting meet. I've always found powerlifting meets interesting, but had never done one until this friend half-twisted my arm into doing this meet (it wasn't that hard to do) with only two months notice. Now as a weightlifter, the idea of squatting something heavy or pulling something heavy is not foreign or anything worrisome. But the bench press was a different story.

Ultimately, I ended up finishing second in the squat, first in the deadlift, and 9th in the bench press. Notice the issue? The result, however, lead me to explore the opportunity to train for Super Total: the total weight of the Snatch, Clean & Jerk, Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. To maximize this total is maximize the ability to display raw power and strength, and the pursuit of which would leave one ultimately "Super Strong."


But how do we chase both goals? Weightlifting is not just about Absolute-Strength, but about displaying Speed-Strength, Strength-Speed, and Absolute-Strength in a short time frame. Powerlifting is pure force and strength about in three different lifts, and demands similarly high neural outputs. How do we maximize all five lifts without letting them go to the wayside?

First, we have to look at expanding the normal one week micro-cycle in order to spread lifts out to avoid overly taxing the nervous system and not creating sessions that take up too much time during the day (both weightlifting and powerlifting are not necessarily money sports for the majority of participants). In doing so, we have to look at how we pair exercises in order to maintain frequency for ones that are more complex such as the Snatch and the Jerk, and ones that need intensity such as the Squat, Deadlift, and Clean. The way we can do this is by pairing similar demands on the body, or similar to an "upper/lower" split. Here's an example:


Day 1: Snatch and Back Squat

Day 2: Power Clean/Jerk and Bench Press

Day 3: Snatch and Clean

Day 4: Bench Press and Deadlift

Day 5: Power Snatch and Power Clean

Day 6: Snatch and Clean

Day 7: Snatch and Back Squat

Day 8: Power Clean/Jerk and Bench Press

Day 9: Snatch and Front Squat

Day 10: Clean & Jerk and Bench Press


This is not the only way to pair these movements, but with like movements paired (like a jerk and bench press) we can start to target specific adaptations for training.


When we look at the qualities of weightlifting and powerlifting, one requires a large of amount of Speed-Strength and Strength Speed, and the other requires max force output. So when we plan out training we have to account for training these factors.


Personally, I like to implement a modified Conjugate System to the above ten day cycle, and then linearly periodize it across a 4-6 week span. It looks very similar to this:


Day 1: Snatch and Back Squat - Absolute Strength (Max Effort)

Day 2: Power Clean/Jerk and Bench Press - Speed-Strength (Dynamic Effort)

Day 3: Snatch and Clean - Strength-Speed (Dynamic Effort)

Day 4: Bench Press and Deadlift - Absolute Strength (Max Effort)

Day 5: Power Snatch and Power Clean - Speed-Strength (Dynamic Effort)

Day 6: Snatch and Clean - Strength-Speed (Dynamic Effort)

Day 7: Snatch and Back Squat - Absolute-Strength (Max Effort)

Day 8: Power Clean/Jerk and Bench Press - Speed-Strength (Dynamic Effort)

Day 9: Snatch and Front Squat - Strength-Speed (Dynamic Effort)

Day 10: Clean & Jerk and Bench Press - Absolute Strength (Max Effort)

The major thing to notice about this layout, is how every movement gets a Max Effort day each week, and gets at least one Dynamic Effort day. The only exception goes to the Squat, the Deadlift, and Clean & Jerk, because they achieve the same dynamic effort stimulus through the Strength-Speed days for the Snatch and Clean. The other thing to notice is that due to the nervous system fatigue created by a Max Effort Deadlift and Max Effort Clean & Jerk, each lift only gets one Max Effort day within the ten day cycle. But with those lifts being heavier than the others, and accumulating more systemic fatigue, they only need to be performed once every 10-14 days to continue making progress.



Obviously, there are many ways to structure training for Super Total, as it's evolution is relatively new and there are not tons of athletes out there doing it. Over time this specific approach may change, but this is an approach that has been used with success of developing all lifts over time.

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