TSA Beginner Approach
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WELCOME!
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PROGRAM EXPLANATION & FAQ
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BEGIN
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1Enter your current 1RMs on the Personal Info tab in the yellow boxes. You may also enter a low-rep, high-RPE set. Do not enter theoretical maxes or desired training outcomes. It is not needed to enter a 90% or 95% of your maxes...simply your maxes will do.
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2Look over the training plan, familiarize yourself with what is to come. We suggest running the plan without modification the first time through before attempting changes. Refer to our guide on RPE included for the best results.
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3Read through the FAQ below, and if you have further questions, don't hesitate to email us by clicking here.
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4If you enjoyed the program, donate here and buy us a coffee!
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DONATE HERECONTACT US
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THE PROGRAM
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This is a 9-week training approach for beginner athletes designed to overcome many shortcomings of common programs that beginner powerlifters run. It’s the starting program we wish we had before powerlifting, designed to bridge into either repeats of the same approach as long as you keep making progress, or into more advanced training approaches as seamlessly as possible. Toward the end, athletes handle heavier and heavier loads as they work toward new 3-rep maxes before rinsing and repeating. Most athletes should find this is a balanced amount of training volume, training stress, and loading to see great progress. We think you’ll really like it.
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For squat, we’ve included two training days of squatting so that athletes have enough frequency to practice the movement and build training volume to progress, but not so much that this program classifies as an intermediate or advanced approach. We’ve included light to moderate single repetitions from the very start to give athletes exposure to walking out and executing single reps. In later weeks, there may be some post-activation potentiation (PAP) from performing heavier single repetitions as well. We utilize multiple rep ranges to ensure maximum strength and hypertrophy. We’ve also included plenty of lower body training volume to allow for leg size increases, as well as strength.
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For bench press, we include three movements per week because bench press especially can tolerate (and often need) more training volume and practice. To this end, we give new athletes a chance to practice pausing the bench on Day 4, practice with heavier loading as the program progresses, and plenty of training volume per week. In addition, we include lots of upper body training volume to grow.
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For deadlift, we work on technique with the inclusion of paused work for much of the training approach. Training volume is lower here than squat or bench press by design, and the approach balances fatigue while allowing athletes to crush progress and set new PRs.
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Over the whole approach, we use autoregulation to make sure athletes can change loads where needed to keep the program at the appropriate difficulty level. Beginner athletes especially progress at different rates, and we decided give both percentage and RPE for athletes to choose from. We’ve made this program with a four-week addition that you can use to run this program directly into a competition! The peak is also designed for first competitions, and we can’t wait to see what you accomplish.
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WHO & WHY
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Q:
Who is this program designed for?
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A:We’ve defined a sample athlete for this program as a male or female with some experience in resistance training, but less than six months of experience in powerlifting. This sample athlete is healthy, has no current injuries or movement limitations, and hasn’t competed in a powerlifting competition. Ideally, this athlete is eating in a small to moderate caloric surplus, sleeping 7-10 hours per night, and stressing as little (or as predictably) as possible.
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Q:What if this program is too easy?
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A:This program is purposefully designed for newer lifters in key areas. If you think you’re a more advanced lifter, check out our free TSA Intermediate Approach, or consider working one on one with a TSA coach to make sure training is continually tailored to you and your goals. You can also modify this program with more frequency, more training volume, or higher loads.
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Q:
What do I need to do before this program?
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A:You need to have done a heavy set of 1-3 reps at RPE 8.5-10 on squat, bench press, and deadlift in the last 3 months. This is so you can populate the loads you'll be using on the plan.
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Q:What are the requirements to run this program?
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A:Have access to any equipment necessary to effectively train, understand RPE and how to rate RPE. Have four available training days in your work/school/life schedule.
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ABOUT THE PROGRAM
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Q:Why the super light squat and bench press singles on day one?
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A:We’ve included these to give new lifters exposure to low reps. Too many beginner approaches either don’t introduce low reps at all, or introduce heavy singles on a near weekly basis. We give athletes chances to develop neural adaptations to low repetitions on a weekly basis while at the same time giving lifters plenty of training volume for muscular growth, balancing these two extremes.
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Q:Should I do the 9-week or the 13-week program?
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A:The approach is primarily built as a 9 week program—an intro week, three weeks of progression, a deload, three weeks of progression, and a training test. We added a 4-week build into a competition, if you wanted to train into your first competition. Most of the time, use this approach as a 9-week program and you’ll keep making progress. If you want to build into 1RMs instead of 3RMs, occasionally use the 4-week addition.
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Q:Which exercises should I choose?
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A:Besides the main lifts, you can select from a drop down menu of exercises. We’ve pre-selected one option for you, but you are free to choose an alternate. Choose the exercise you have equipment for and feel particularly excited about.
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Q:What is the difference from selecting ‘male’ to selecting ‘female’?
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A:We have added more training volume and higher intensities for female athletes, as they likely require it to make the same level of progress. The additions in training volume exist across the main lifts and some accessories as well.
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Q:What is lsRPE? What’s RPE?
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A:lsRPE stands for ‘last set RPE’, the RPE of your very final set of a specific exercise. For information on RPE, please check the tab ‘RPE’.
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ADJUSTMENTS
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Q:
What if I miss reps?
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A:We’ve planned approaches such that most athletes shouldn’t miss reps if you check your recovery boxes (sleep, adequate calories, adequate protein intake) and use appropriate 1 rep maxes. If you happen to miss reps for any reason, don’t panic. Simply move forward with the program as if it never happened. If it becomes a recurring issue, you may need to adjust loads. This is normal and part of the individualization of the training process.
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Q:
What if I overshoot my RPE?
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A:Again, don’t panic. As you learn to use RPE, you will overshoot RPE sometimes and undershoot other times. Just make a mental note and aim to be more accurate in the future. If it’s a regular problem, you may ask yourself why you feel the need to overshoot RPE. Do you not trust the training approach? Are you having a hard time gauging effort? Are you just ego lifting? Getting to the root of this issue will make you a better lifter overall.
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Q:
Can I add anything?
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A:We think the program as-is is a good start for beginner powerlifters. If you feel the need or desire to add something, just make sure that it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. If you’re a bodybuilder or care about complete growth and not just your squat, bench, and deadlift 1RMs, you may consider adding direct calf work, direct hamstring work, and potentially more direct shoulder work. Just more work in general. Proceed with caution with a combined powerlifting/bodybuilding approach, especially as a beginner athlete.
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Q:
What if I have to miss a session/get behind?
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A:If you’re running this approach into a competition, you obviously need to make adjustments to make sure the peak lines up with your competition date. Consider either condensing training into more training sessions per week. In the event that you were sick or needed to miss many sessions, simply resume where you can to stay on track. There is no one right answer here--it’s all training stimulus. If you don’t have a competition scheduled and are just running the base approach, just pick up where you left off and allow the program to be a little longer than expected.
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Q:
How hard should each week be?
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A:This is difficult to say because each athlete responds differently to training, and we’re creating one training approach for many athletes. Generally speaking, most weeks early on will be in the RPE 6-8 range, including the main lifts. It’s usually the case that training actually gets easier after the first week or two as you adapt to a new training split and the repeated bout effect (RBE) takes effect.
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Q:
What if I get injured?
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A:The seriousness of the injury dictates the response to the injury. If you can work around movement restrictions or pain with exercise substitutions, dropping the load, allowing for more rest between exposures or other modifications, please do that! If the injury feels more severe, don’t train through pain. Limit painful movements, work with a trained professional on your recovery so that you can come back stronger. There’s a lot of potential advice here that is only on a case-by-case basis because each situation is unique.
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PERFORMANCE
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Q:
How do I figure out what RPE 5/6 is?
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A:RPE 5 and RPE 6 are admittedly difficult to gauge. It’s better to figure these out by comparison to something harder. RPE 5 should still feel like a warmup. It likely takes less attention to detail and less arousal to perform. It may feel slightly slow, but there should be no sticking point at all. RPE 6 should feel like a serious, heavier warmup, requiring a little more attention than RPE 5 and a serious attitude in setup and lift execution. RPE 6 is still fast, with little to no breakdown in lifting technique.
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Q:
How long should I rest between sets?
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A:As much rest as you need. The literature is pretty clear that limiting rests to any degree dampens performance and strength adaptation. All bodily systems relevant to strength performance are recovered in 2-5 minutes, so this is a good window. However, take as much rest as you need, so long as you can complete your training. If you’re just scrolling instagram/facebook between sets, this can easily climb to 10 minutes. Moderating this is a quick way to reduce the length of your workouts.
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Q:
When should I rest?
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A:Rest in between each set.
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Q:
Are the deadlifts sumo or conventional?
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A:Choose your main stance for the deadlift. If you are brand new to lifting, it’s a good idea to start lifting with the conventional stance.
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When should I use my belt?
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A:Use your belt on any main sets that warrant its use. You will probably be best served adding the belt at some point in your warmups leading into your working sets. Using the belt is as much a skill as it is an aid to safety and lifting strength. As such, we want to get better at the skill of bracing into the belt. That takes practice. As a general guide, anything above 65-70% is fair game for using your belt. You probably don’t need to wear the belt on bench press.
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WHAT'S NEXT?
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