A training cycle for a novice weightlifter should be different from that of an advanced lifter. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the major differences.

In the Russian Weightlifting System, weightlifters are ranked based on their weightlifting abilities. These ranks help coaches effectively plan their athlete’s training cycle. The following chart is used to determine a male weightlifter’s rank based on weight class and how much they can lift in competition (the chart for women can be found here).

2015 russian weightlifting classification standards for men

If a weightlifter is able to lift the required total for a certain rank in competition, they become a weightlifter of that rank. To that end, an Adult Level 3’s goal is to become an Adult Level 2, an Adult Level 2’s goal is to become an Adult Level 1, and so on.  

In 2011, my rank was Master of Sport according to the chart above. I was in the 105kg weight class and had a weightlifting total of 320kg. I wasn’t familiar with the intended use of the above ranking system but I was eager to increase my lifts.

Over the following 2 years I trained using 3 different programs. The problem was, two of the three programs were designed for athletes that weren’t in my rank.

The first program I trained on was designed for a Candidate for Master of Sport, a rank below mine. I was on this program for 5 months and did not improve. The second program was designed for a Master of Sport, which was my rank. I was on this program for 9 months and added 30kg to my total. The third program I tried was Ilya Ilyin’s program, who is of the highest rank (one above Master of Sport International Class – not even listed on the above chart). I was on it for 4 weeks and lost 15 kg from my total.

My best results were reached when I trained using a program designed for someone in my own rank.


A major difference in how weightlifters of different ranks should train is in the amount of time they devote to these 3 categories of exercises:

  • General Physical Preparation (GPP) exercises are performed for all-around fitness and aren’t aimed at any particular sport. Typical GPP exercises include sit-ups, pull ups, running, bodybuilding, and playing other sports.
  • Strength Training (ST) exercises are performed to get “raw” strength in the general areas where strength is needed for the specific sport. Typical ST exercises for weightlifters are squats, presses, and pulls.
  • Technical Preparation (TP) exercises are performed to build technique, positional strength and speed. TP exercises include competition lifts and their variations.

Russian professor and Master of Sport in weightlifting Dr. Leonid Dvorkin developed the standards used in Russia for determining how much time should be spent per training cycle on each of the above exercise categories, based on weightlifting rank.

Dvorkin GPP ST Comp

As we can see, novice weightlifters (Junior 2 and 3) should devote most of their time to General Physical Preparation. They must become athletic, coordinated and build endurance before they devote a significant amounts of time to heavy and difficult weightlifting exercises. As they become more physically fit, they can decrease the time spent on GPP, and spend more time on strength training and technique work.


In the post, “Roadmap for Training,” I discussed the following 3-month training cycle:

training cycle blank

This training cycle is not specific to any rank and is an example of a general roadmap for training. Regardless of rank, every athlete goes through the 3 phases shown above (Training-to-Train Phase, Base Phase, Competition-Prep Phase). 

Now take a look at the diagram below, which expands on the Training Cycle, using an Adult Level 2 rank as an example.

training cycle blank ADULT 2

Notice how much time is dedicated to each type of exercise during each training phase.

For instance, the Training-to-train Phase consists mostly of GPP exercises and should last about 3-5 weeks, to build athleticism. In the Base Phase, a decent amount of GPP work is done to continue advancing coordination, speed, and endurance. However, the focus in the Base Phase for an Adult Level 2 lifter shifts more towards Strength Training and Technical Preparation.  

Now here’s a sample training cycle for a lifter that has reached the Master of Sport International Class rank:   

training cycle blank IMS

As you can see, the focus of the Training-to-Train Phase for most Masters of Sport International Class weightlifters is still on becoming more athletic. However, this phase only lasts for about a week, and during the Base Phase, there is significantly less focus on GPP than on technical and strength exercises.


The above standards were developed for young weightlifters advancing within the Russian Weightlifting System, however, they’re applicable to everyone in weightlifting. Use the classification system and the associated ratios of GPP to ST to TP as guidelines. They are not set in stone, but they’re quite helpful in designing successful training plans. 


A big thank you to Coach Boris Sheiko for providing great information and discussion. Coach Sheiko’s lecture about training young powerlifters in Russia inspired this post and can be found at the powerliftinguniversity.com.


Yasha Kahn
Weightlifter, coach and now: blogger. I've traveled around the world sharing my weightlifting knowledge and experiences. I look forward to the next adventure.
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