Search

A simple but effective powerlifting program for big strength gains

Updated: Mar 12


If you are interested in powerlifting, you are looking to become stronger and more powerful; there is no question about it. Whether you are looking to become a competitive powerlifter or simply want to become stronger and more powerful for personal reasons, the basics of powerlifting remain the same. For some, thoughts of a powerlifter bring to mind heavyweight men who lift heavy poundage. It may bring to mind fat bellies and round faces. Now, while there are many powerlifters who fit this profile, not all do. There are many smaller, leaner men and women who engage in powerlifting. A person does not have to be "big" to be a powerlifter. Whether you are big, small, or somewhere in between, powerlifting can be a good training method for you. A Focus on Strength, Not Necessarily Size Regardless of what size you are or will eventually become, while training for power and strength, you will put on mass. How much will depend largely on how frequently you exercise, how many calories you consume, and other factors. What type of weight you put on (muscle, fat, or both) largely depends on how many calories you consume and the quality of those calories in conjunction with your training. However, gaining size is not the primary goal of powerlifting training; the increase of power and strength is. You may not put on a lot of size, but should add a great deal of strength. Getting stronger in itself does not necessarily mean getting bigger though the two do often go together. This program will focus on making you stronger, but not necessarily bigger, though again, you will gain some size. Understand that strength and power are often used synonymously. For the purpose of this program, I want to define them as separate expressions of muscular ability. Power is the ability to move weight with speed. Strength is the ability to move weight slowly or to hold it in a static position. While these definitions may or may not align with the teachings of others, these are the definitions for this program. When you move lighter weights, you will use power more than strength. When you move heavier weights, you will use more strength than power. The basics of powerlifting include the major lifts (bench, squat, and deadlift), major variations (variations of the major lift), and common assistance movements (various assistance exercises to add strength, work on weakness, build muscle). The big 3 are the deadlift, squat, and bench. The big 4 are the deadlift, squat, bench, and overhead press. This program focuses on the big 4 as primary movements, as we feel it is necessary to develop overhead strength and power for better performance. Technique vs Brute Strength Technique is important to any movement, from weightlifting to gymnastics to martial arts. Executing proper form while performing the deadlift, squat, bench, and overhead press will result in greater poundage moved. Poor form may decrease the weight you can move immediately and over time, not to mention put you at a greater risk for injury. Some people have "brute strength", meaning they are just strong to begin with or perhaps gain strength easily. These people can sometimes lift heavy weights from awkward positions (bad form) and be fine. Understand that not everyone can do this, and many people will become injured lifting like this. Even the people who are good at lifting from these bad positions are setting themselves up for injury. Ideally, this program is designed for someone who already understands good form on the deadlift, squat, bench, and overhead press, or who has the capacity and willingness to learn. You must learn proper technique—this cannot be stressed enough. Proper form will allow you to do the movements better, for longer periods of time, and without injury. The Basics of the Program This program focuses on raw powerlifting but can be adapted for geared (suited) lifting as well. As with any powerlifting program, it centers on the squat, bench, and deadlift as well as variations of these movements and related assistance exercises. At the same time, it includes the overhead press for complete strength. The program utilizes some bodybuilding/isolation/body part type work, but these movements will not be the main focus and act only as assistance movements. While someone completing this program can expect to put on muscle and, if following a proper nutritional strategy, develop a more aesthetically pleasing frame, it will not be the frame of a true blue bodybuilder, or of a powerlifter who has a strong focus on bodybuilding.

When utilized correctly, the program is simple in design but yields exceptional results. Each day starts with the main lift, main lift variations, and assistance exercises. Each lift compliments the previous lift and builds upon the whole routine for the day. The major lift for each day has a percentage, or intensity in common powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting terms, attached to it. For week one this number is 70. This number represents the percentage of weight you should use for the major lifts for that week. In order to calculate your weight, simply multiple your max by .7. For example, if your current bench is 225 pounds, then you calculate 225 x 0.7 = 157.5, which you would round up. Your bench weight for the first week would be 160 pounds. You will notice that the required repetitions for the back squat on Week 1, Day 1 are five. I am sure this does not seem daunting. However, look at the volume for the overall sessions and you will notice 22 working sets. Note the "working sets" statement. Note that this does not include warmup sets. Before each workout you should perform a general warmup, such as mobility work, a light run, prowler work, etc. to get the body warm and loose, which should then be followed by warmup sets for the first movement. The exact warmup you choose is up to you, but it should be sufficient to prepare you for the workout. Depending on the number of warmup sets you complete before the main lift for a day, as well as if you decided to use warmup sets for the assistance movements, you might end up with 30+ total sets. For exercises without a percentage, the weight you use should allow you to complete the rep ranges, but be moderate to hard difficulty. Keep that fact in mind. With the exception of the main lift, which has specific percentages, this program is about the weight and the rep ranges, not just the weight. Clearly, the weight must be heavy enough to create necessary stimuli in the body, but it must not be so heavy that you cannot complete all of the reps, or cannot complete them in good form. Completing all of the reps in good form is required. Rest between sets will vary based on your current ability, but ideally, should be no more than 1-3 minutes. However, your level of muscular endurance, as well as cardiovascular health, will determine, in part, how long you need to rest. As a result, you might need up to five minutes of rest between sets. While it is OK to push yourself, be sure to give yourself adequate rest between sets. You must listen to your body. Remember, safety first. Assessing Your Starting Point If you do not know your one-rep maximum weights for the major lifts, then you need to assess them. If you are not sure what weights to use for the major variations and assistance movements, then you might want to take a week to determine these. Make a copy of the first week of this program and complete it as a stand-alone week. Test your one-rep max on the major lifts. Test out how much weight you can use for the variations of the major lifts and the assistance movements. Once you have these numbers, determine your starting numbers for the program and begin week one of the full program. The larger program is three weeks that repeat for a total of 12 weeks with increasing intensities for the duration. The details are included below. Week 1 - Day 1 Barbell Back Squat - 5 sets x 5 reps use 70% percent of 1RM Pause Barbell Back Squat - 4 sets x 1-3 Barbell Front Squat - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Straight Leg Romanian Deadlift - 5 sets x 1-3 reps Hyperextension Roman Chair Back Extension - 4 sets x 8 reps Week 1 - Day 2 Barbell Bench Press - 5 sets x 5 reps use 70% percent of 1RM Pause Barbell Bench Press - 4 sets x 1-3 reps Dumbbell Incline Bench Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Decline Bench Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Overhead Press - 3 sets x 5-8 reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Week 1 - Day 3 Barbell Deadlift - 5 sets x 5 reps use 70% percent of 1RM Barbell Straight Leg Romanian Deadlift - 3 sets x 3-5 reps Rack pull (Barbell Deadlift from Rack) - 3 sets x 3-5 reps Wide Grip Pull Up - 3 sets x 1-20 reps Chin Up - 3 sets x 1-20 reps Hyperextension Roman Chair Back Extension - 4 sets x 8 reps Week 1 - Day 4 Barbell Bench Press - 5 sets x 5 4 3 2 1 reps Pause Barbell Bench Press - 4 sets x 1-3 reps Dumbbell Incline Bench Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Overhead Press - 3 sets x 5-8 reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Week 1 - Day 5 Barbell Standing Row - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Dumbbell Single Arm Bent Over Row - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Dumbbell Alternating Bicep Curl - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Cable Straight Bar Tricep Pushdown - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Week 2 - Day 1 Barbell Back Squat - 5 sets x 5 reps use 75% percent of 1RM Pause Barbell Back Squat - 4 sets x 1-3 reps Machine Leg Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Hyperextension Roman Chair Back Extension - 4 sets x 8 reps Week 2 - Day 2 Barbell Bench Press - 5 sets x 5 reps use 75% percent of 1RM Pause Barbell Bench Press - 4 sets x 1-3 reps Dumbbell Incline Bench Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Dumbbell Decline Bench Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Overhead Press - 3 sets x 5-8 reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Week 2 - Day 3 Barbell Deadlift - 5 sets x 5 reps use 75% percent of 1RM Barbell Straight Leg Romanian Deadlift - 3 sets x 3-5 reps Rack pull (Barbell Deadlift from Rack) - 3 sets x 3-5 reps Wide Grip Pull Up - 3 sets x 1-20 reps Chin Up - 3 sets x 1-20 reps Hyperextension Roman Chair Back Extension - 4 sets x 8 reps Week 2 - Day 4 Barbell Bench Press - 5 sets x 5 4 3 2 1 reps Pause Barbell Bench Press - 4 sets x 1-3 reps Dumbbell Incline Bench Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Overhead Press - 3 sets x 5-8 reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Week 2 - Day 5 Barbell Standing Row - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Dumbbell Single Arm Bent Over Row - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Dumbbell Alternating Bicep Curl - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Cable Straight Bar Tricep Pushdown - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Week 3 - Day 1 Barbell Back Squat - 5 sets x 5 reps use 80% percent of 1RM Pause Barbell Back Squat - 4 sets x 1-3 reps Leg Press Machine Single Leg - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Good Morning Deadlift - 5 sets x 1-3 reps Hyperextension Roman Chair Back Extension - 4 sets x 8 reps Week 3 - Day 2 Barbell Bench Press - 5 sets x 5 reps use 80% percent of 1RM Pause Barbell Bench Press - 4 sets x 1-3 reps Dumbbell Incline Bench Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Decline Bench Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Overhead Press - 3 sets x 5-8 reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Week 3 - Day 3 Barbell Deadlift - 5 sets x 5 reps use 80% percent of 1RM Barbell Straight Leg Romanian Deadlift - 3 sets x 3-5 reps Rack pull (Barbell Deadlift from Rack) - 3 sets x 3-5 reps Wide Grip Pull Up - 3 sets x 1-20 reps Chin Up - 3 sets x 1-20 reps Hyperextension Roman Chair Back Extension - 4 sets x 8 reps Week 3 - Day 4 Barbell Bench Press - 5 sets x 5 4 3 2 1 reps Pause Barbell Bench Press - 4 sets x 1-3 reps Dumbbell Incline Bench Press - 4 sets x 8 reps Barbell Overhead Press - 3 sets x 5-8 reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Week 3 - Day 5 Barbell Standing Row - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Dumbbell Single Arm Bent Over Row - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Dumbbell Alternating Bicep Curl - 3 sets x 8-12 reps Cable Straight Bar Tricep Pushdown - 3 sets x 8-12 reps For Week 4 repeat week 1, but use 75 percent for the major lifts and attempt to go heavier and/or complete more reps for the variations as well as assistance exercises. For Week 5 repeat week 2, but use 80 percent x 5 sets x 3 reps for the major lifts and attempt to go heavier and/or complete more reps for the variations as well as assistance exercises. For Week 6 repeat week 3, but use 85 percent x 5 sets x 2 reps for the major lifts and attempt to go heavier and/or complete more reps for the variations as well as assistance exercises. For Week 7 repeat week 4, but use 80 percent x 5 sets x 3 reps for the major lifts and attempt to go heavier and/or complete more reps for the variations as well as assistance exercises. For Week 8 repeat week 5, but use 85 percent x 5 sets x 2 reps for the major lifts and attempt to go heavier and/or complete more reps for the variations as well as assistance exercises. For Week 9 repeat week 6, but use 90 percent x 5 sets x 2 reps for the major lifts and attempt to go heavier and/or complete more reps for the variations as well as assistance exercises. For Week 10 repeat week 7, but use 80 percent x 5 sets x 3 reps for the major lifts. Keep weight moderate for the variations as well as assistance exercises. For Week 11 repeat week 9, but use 90 percent x 5 sets x 2 reps for the major lifts. Keep weight light to moderate for the variations as well as assistance exercises. For Week 12 repeat week 10, but try to reach new maxes for the major lifts. Keep weight light to moderate for the variations as well as assistance exercises.



Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, and the International Sports Sciences Association. Nathan has 17 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.

#powerlifter #training #fitness #crossfit #health #weighttraining

6,173 views
Nathan DeMetz Personal Training
  • Facebook
  • Instagram

© 2020 by Nathan DeMetz Personal Training.