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Nathan DeMetz Personal Training

Simple Yet Effective Powerlifting: Big Strength Gains Program


Dan Green deadlifting


Okay, so this is an update to the program that I wrote here. It became pretty popular online, and I decided to update it. I took the original article, updated the existing content and then added more.



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 a powerlifting program 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 the best powerlifting program. A person does not have to be “big” to be a powerlifter. Whether you are big, small, or somewhere in between, a powerlifting program 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 a powerlifting program; 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 powerlifting 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 powerlifting 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 a powerlifting program 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 deadliftsquat, and bench. The big 4 are the deadliftsquatbench, 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.



Man performing back squats


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 as part of this powerlifting program 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 powerlifting program focuses on raw powerlifting but can be adapted for geared (suited) lifting as well full body workouts. 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 powerlifting 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 squat bench press 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 warmups 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.




Man performing bench press


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 before you start the powerlifting program. Make a copy of the first week of this program and complete it as a stand-alone workout b 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 beginner powerlifting program and begin week one of the full program. The larger powerlifting 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 Triceps 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 Triceps 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 Triceps 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.




Woman performing deadlift

How many times a week do powerlifters train?

The majority of powerlifting professionals practice three to five times a week; others practice six times each week. Because for best strength, you don't have to practice specific muscles more than once every 2 to 3 weeks to achieve maximum results.



Powerlifting is a discipline within the realm of strength training that focuses on three primary lifts: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. Powerlifting professionals, those who are dedicated to pushing their physical limits in these lifts, adhere to rigorous, training programs and schedules to optimize their strength gains and performance.



For many powerlifting enthusiasts, training frequency is a cornerstone of their routines. The general consensus is that practicing the three main lifts multiple times a few training days per week is essential to mastering technique, building strength, and achieving maximum results. Most powerlifting professionals train three to five times a week, with some even dedicating six sessions per week to their craft.



The strategic aspect of powerlifting training lies in the understanding that muscles need time to recover and adapt. Training specific muscles too frequently without adequate recovery can lead to overtraining, burnout, and diminished gains. Therefore, powerlifters often structure their routines to target specific muscle groups and movement patterns with precision, allowing for sufficient recovery in between.



The concept of "muscle rotation" is central to this approach. It entails focusing on different muscle groups during each training session, ensuring that no muscle is worked intensely more than once every 2 to 3 weeks. This rotation strategy not only prevents overuse injuries but also enables muscles to recover and grow stronger.



In powerlifting, intensity is key. Workouts are designed to challenge muscles with progressively heavier weights over time. By incorporating rest days into intermediate program and varying the focus of each training session, powerlifters strike a balance between pushing their limits and avoiding the pitfalls of excessive strain.



Furthermore, the powerlifting lifestyle is about more than just lifting heavy weights. It encompasses comprehensive self-care practices that encompass nutrition, sleep, and recovery techniques. Adequate protein intake, quality sleep, and strategies like foam rolling and stretching contribute to muscle repair and overall well-being.



It's important to note that while powerlifting professionals may train frequently, the exact training regimen can vary based on individual goals, experience levels, and recovery capacities. Consulting with coaches or fitness professionals who specialize in powerlifting can provide personalized guidance on structuring an effective training plan.



In conclusion, the rigorous training schedules of powerlifting professionals underscore the dedication required to excel in this strength-based discipline. By strategically rotating muscle groups and emphasizing recovery, powerlifters achieve impressive strength gains and performance improvements while mitigating the risks associated with overtraining. The marriage of intensity training volume, technique, and recovery ultimately defines the path to success in the world of powerlifting.





What is a typical powerlifting routine?



A weight training program is best done by focusing on core exercises, such as bench press, dead lift, or squatting exercises. Training interval is usually 3-4 days per day and dividing the routine into upper and lower-body sessions allows the highest work to recovery ratio.



Embarking on a weight training journey requires a well-structured program that balances intensity, variety, and recovery. Core exercises, such as bench press, deadlift, and squatting exercises, serve as the foundation of a comprehensive weight training routine. These compound movements engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, promoting functional strength and overall fitness.



When designing an effective weight training program, one key consideration is the training frequency. Many successful weightlifters opt for a training interval of 3-4 days per week. This schedule strikes a balance between allowing the body sufficient time to recover and providing consistent stimulation to facilitate muscle growth and strength gains. This rhythm helps prevent overtraining and burnout while maintaining momentum toward one's fitness goals.



Dividing the training routine into upper and lower-body sessions is a strategic approach that optimizes the work-to-recovery ratio. This segmentation allows for focused targeting of muscle groups, avoiding overloading any particular area while still challenging the body comprehensively. By alternating between upper and lower-body training sessions together, muscle groups receive ample recovery time before being subjected to intense training again. This approach contributes to enhanced muscle repair and growth while minimizing the risk of injury.



The core exercises mentioned—bench press, deadlift, and squatting exercises—are cornerstones of strength training for a reason. The bench press targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, enhancing upper-body pushing strength. Deadlifts engage the posterior chain, including the back, glutes, and hamstrings, while also promoting grip strength. Squatting exercises, such as back squats or front squats, activate the lower body, working the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, and also require core stabilization. These movements not only build up muscle mass but also enhance overall functional strength, aiding in everyday activities and athletic performance.



A well-rounded weight training program doesn't solely focus on core exercises; it also includes accessory exercises to address specific muscle imbalances and target smaller muscle groups. Accessory movements might include bicep curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises, and leg curls, among others. These exercises help create a balanced physique, improve joint stability, and enhance overall muscle definition.



Remember that individual goals, fitness levels, and recovery capacities can influence the design of a weight training program. Consulting with a fitness professional or personal trainer can provide personalized guidance in tailoring a routine to suit individual needs.



In essence, a thoughtfully crafted weight training program built around core exercises and balanced with accessory movements can yield remarkable results in terms of muscle growth, strength gains, and overall fitness. The strategic incorporation of upper and lower-body sessions, along with adequate recovery time, ensures that progress is achieved safely and sustainably.



Do powerlifters only do 3 exercises?



Powerlifters can only perform one or two main exercises, such as the variations from the squatting, the bench press and deadlift or deadlift. The powerlifting athlete will make warm-ups for each of his main exercises.



What should be in a powerlifting program?



Powerlifting workout programs require high specificities and most involve bench squatting, deadlifts and close variations. Powerlifters must also lift at high-intensity while overcoming weaknesses on their movement range.



How long do powerlifting programs last?



The power lifting program typically runs from four weeks to sixteen weeks and is available to the general public. Lift Vault offers a list of programs according to the week's number to make it more convenient. Popular options include 12-week power lifting programs 10 week power lifting programs eight days power lifting programs 6 week power lifting the best powerlifting programs.



How often should I change my weight training routine?



If you jump ship, it's important that you follow the strength training program for the specified duration. Changing software frequently is harmful for your performance.



What are the different kinds of powerlifting programs?



The major variable that a power lifter manipulates is frequency intensity and volume. The volume program is typically more frequent with high volume combined with lesser intensity.It is ideal for off season training and as a starting point for meet preparations. Peaking is the programme ending with reducing volumes and dramatically enhancing strength during preparation for a power lift meeting.



Can I Combine Powerlifting and Bodybuilding?



Yes, we have teamed up with bicep lifting to create an innovative hybrid power building approach. It is possible to reach strength and aesthetic goals by incorporating strength focusing training (low reps, low intensity) and focusing training (higher reps, moderate intensity).




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, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science

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