If you’re a competitive lifter, your “core” lifts are your actual competitive lifts (clean & jerk and snatch for O-lifters and squat, bench, and deadlift for powerlifters).
Historically, most lifters have tended to go intense & heavy on the core lifts, and then a bit lighter on the assistance lifts. In recent years, powerlifting maverick Louie Simmons turned the traditional paradigm upside down: his Westside charges go moderate and fast on the core lifts, and then get down to business, going super-heavy on the assistance lifts.
Here’s why this approach CAN work very well, especially for experienced lifters:
If you’re experienced, you’re fairly near your ultimate potential. This means that it’s hard to make new PR’s on your core lifts, because those are the lifts you’ve been doing the longest and hardest. Therefore, if you’re an Olympic lifter for example, you’ll have a lot more emotional and psychological angst surrounding your two competitive lifts than you will for assistance lifts like pulls, squats, and so on.
That said, follow me for a second…
If you focus mostly on hitting good numbers on your core lifts, and you don’t do so well, you’ll find yourself getting frustrated and depressed. This further increases future angst. BUT…if you instead train the core lifts moderately, and seek big numbers on the assistance lifts, one of two things can happen:
1) If you do well on the assistance lifts, you think “Great- this should “leak over” into my core lifts.” (if I’ve chosen the right assistance lifts anyway). Or…
2) If you don’t do well, you’ll think “Well, they’re only assistance lifts.” No sweat. It’s a lot better for your confidence.
That’s my take…what’s yours?