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Home Articles From the Archives: Coach Pendlay’s Unknown Program

From the Archives: Coach Pendlay’s Unknown Program

Intro

Glenn Pendlay, aka The People’s Coach, will forever be enshrined as one of the most impactful figures in weightlifting over the last three decades. His passing may have signaled an end to his coaching career, but will never cease the influence he continues to have on the sport and many of the athletes and coaches competing within it. 

Glenn is known for many things, his razor sharp wit, khakis, and beard included, but he is best known for his coaching prowess. His ability to program for a variety of weightlifters, different ages, sizes, and skill levels, whilst still seeing great success, is admirable. Just ask the 100+ national champions that he helped produce.

Most of his programming methods are relatively well-known and if you look hard enough, or read the correct book and listen to the right podcast, you’ll learn plenty about them. That doesn’t obviate the fact that Glenn’s programming spanned many decades, changing as the level of the athletes he coached also changed. Recently I was looking over some older periodization papers published in scientific journals and stumbled upon a few that included Glenn in the discussion, and that’s where I found this gem. 

Periodization for Weightlifters

In 2004 a two part series published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, invited a number of S&C professionals (Glenn Pendlay, Michael Stone, Bill Kraemer, etc), to discuss the topic of Periodization. A number of questions were asked and answered, culminating in part two of the discussion, the last question of the paper focused on application of the information:

 “Construct a periodization model for a specific sport of your choice.”

Glenn chose to write about a training program for an intermediate* weightlifter who totals 280kg, but is held back by an inability to stabilize maximal weights overhead. This is accomplished through a 12-week training cycle, formatted in a way to directly target exposure to weights overhead in both a snatch and jerk grip, with a moderate emphasis on leg strength, and minimal emphasis on pulling strength, because “his pull in the clean is especially strong, as he can pull to his shoulders a weight about 5 kg above what he can rise with.” (p. 66)

This program is broken up into blocks, weeks 1-4, 5-8, 9-10, and then 11 and 12 acting as the taper. In a traditional fashion, movements start with higher volumes and gradually decrease over time as intensity starts to build. With that being said, there are plenty of opportunities to go heavy, in Glenn Pendlay fashion. One thing worth noting is the way volume and intensity change from weeks 1-4 and 5-8. With weeks 1-4, it’s a traditional climb in volume, then a drop, but with a concomitant increase in intensity. Weeks 5-8 are a bit different, starting with a big dose of intensity, week 5 is to max, then a drop in intensity and a spike in volume, followed by another spike in intensity. The only other person i’ve spoken to who explicitly mentioned programming like this is Spencer Arnold.

The rest of the plan is relatively straight forward, seeing intensity and specificity continue to climb as the weeks go on. This culminates in a peak and taper. Now, I don’t think anyone should do this program, but there is a lot of merit in looking through it and trying to understand the intention behind each choice. You can also connect many dots, establishing relationships between Glenn’s preferred ways of programming and what you see here, but also how, even with talk of periodization not being necessary, there is a rise in volume, a drop, a rise in intensity, and a drop, then the taper. That’s periodization 101. 

The Program 

Weeks 1 – 4

Day 1
  • Snatch + 3 overhead squats
  • Clean + 3 jerks
  • Front-squat triples

Day 2:

  • Hang-snatch doubles
  • Push-presses, 5 repetitions

Day 3:

  • Back-squat triples
  • Drop-snatch triples
  • Push-jerk triples

Day 4:

  • Military press, 8 repetitions
  • Snatch triples
  • Front squat, 5 repetitions
  • Clean doubles

Loading for week 1 and 2 looking something like 5-6 sets at 60 and 70% or each exercise. Week 3 is a bit of an unload week for volume, but carries a bit uptick in intensity, taking each exercise up to two tops sets as heavy as deemed possible by the athlete. Week 4 is a deload for both intensity and volume, requiring 60% for 4 top sets in each exercise. 

Weeks 5 – 8

Day 1: 

  • Snatch + 2 overhead squats
  • Hang clean + 2 jerks
  • Front-squat doubles

Day 2: 

  • 3-position snatch
  • 2 push presses + 1 jerk

Day 3: 

  • Snatch + 2 drop snatches
  • Overhead supports
  • Back-squat doubles

Day 4: 

  • Military press, 5 repetitions
  • Hang snatch + snatch
  • Front-squat triples
  • Clean doubles

The loading for the next four weeks takes on a different bend, as week 5 includes going to max in exercise for the prescribed rep range. There is then a backing off of intensity, but an increase in volume for week 6, taking the lifts up to 75% for 4 sets. Week 7 is back up to max for each exercise, with week 8 being a taper, including 4 sets at 70%. 

Weeks 9 – 10

Day 1:

  • Snatch + 2 overhead squats
  • Clean and jerk singles
  • Front-squat doubles

Day 2:

  • Snatch doubles
  • Push-jerk doubles

Day 3:

  • Hang-snatch doubles
  • Clean + 2 jerks
  • Back-squat doubles

Day 4:

  • Snatch singles
  • Front-squat doubles
  • Military-press doubles

Week 9 has the athlete take all squatting movements up to a top set of 90-95%, with every other movement going up to 80-85% for a top set. Week 10, things swap as the squats move to a top set of 80-85%, with the snatch and clean and jerk singles being taken up to 100%, as all of the other movements are performed at ~90% intensity. 

Week 11

Day 1: 

  • Snatch singles
  • Clean and jerk singles
  • Front-squat singles

Day 2: 

  • Hang-snatch doubles
  • Push-jerk singles

Day 3: 

  • Snatch doubles
  • Clean and jerk doubles
  • Front-squat doubles

Day 4: 

  • Snatch singles
  • Clean and jerk singles

For week 11, day one sees the greatest intensity, as the weights are 95%. Things then decrease, with day 2 being 80-85%, day 3 is 70-75%, and a ramp up for day 4 at 90%. Each exercise only uses one top set, with the exception of the squat movements, as they use two top sets.

Week 12 – Taper

Day 1 – Monday:

  • Snatch singles
  • Clean and jerk singles
  • Front-squat singles

Day 2 – Wednesday:

  • Snatch singles
  • Clean and jerk singles
  • Front-squat singles

Day 3 – Thursday:

  • Snatch singles
  • Jerk singles

Day 4 – Saturday:

  • Competition

Day one is the last “hard” workout, snatching up to maximum, clean and jerking up to the athlete’s opener, and front squatting up to the athlete’s best clean & jerk. Day two has the athlete snatching up to their opener, clean and jerking to 80% of the athlete’s opener, front squatting with the same weight of the clean& jerk. Day 3 is very low stress, taking the lifts up to 50%.

Note: This entire program is adapted from the paper I linked earlier in the article. Everything from Week 1 to Week 12 and all of the loading details are directly from Glenn Pendlay. 

* For more information on Glenn’s athlete classification system, check out Seb’s book – The Glenn Pendlay Method

joshuagibson
Joshua Gibson
Joshua Gibson is a strength coach and weightlifter located in Columbus, Ohio. He is currently pursuing his Master’s in Strength and Conditioning from East Tennessee State University. His interests are most consumed by human physiology and subsequently periodization, programming, recovery, and mindset. Joshua is also a competitive weightlifter for the last 4 years, training under some of the best coaches in Ohio. He has also coached many to the platform, including both powerlifters and weightlifters. Besides directly impacting athletes through improved performance he continues to share his passion of strength through writing, podcasts, and other platforms.

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