The Absolute Best Powerlifting Program For Pure Strength
Pure strength with no exceptions or unnecessary gimmicks. That’s what the best powerlifting program should focus on as that’s what the sport requires. In this article, you're going to learn:
- What powerlifting is
- Important variables of a powerlifting program
- The best exercises to build strength for powerlifting
- The strongest powerlifting routine you can follow
If you’re ready to double your numbers, carry on...
WHAT IS POWERLIFTING?
Before we talk about the best powerlifting program, we need to clarify what we’re talking about. The first topic of confusion that needs to be cleared up is powerlifting contains zero power movements. None. To be clear, in the world of strength and conditioning, “power” and “strength” are two distinct variables.
“Power” describes the ability to move weight relative to time. In other words, it refers to lifting fast. The most obvious choice to illustrate power movements are the Olympic lifts, the snatch and clean. In these movements, the athlete must generate a lot of force quickly to propel an object in the air. Another typical example is jumping (have you ever tried to jump slow?).
On the other hand, “strength” simply refers to the ability to move a maximal amount of weight. As this is the goal, these movements don’t move fast. Think big movements like the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Wait a minute, those are the same movements used in powerlifting!
There are some other physiological differences and alterations to training variables, but the easiest way to think about these is that “power” is fast strength and “strength” is slow strength.
So now that we know powerlifting isn’t really powerlifting, what is it? As stated above, powerlifting consists of lifting maximal weight across 3 different movements. Collectively, these movements are known as “The Big Three”.
THE BIG THREE OF POWERLIFTING:
You have probably heard the term “The Big Three” before, and it comes from the sport of powerlifting. These are the 3 biggest movements that are a sign of pure strength. Sure, there are some arguments on if these are the “best,” but we’re not here for semantics. These three movements allow you to move a lot of weight and are great predictors of overall absolute strength. These movements are:
- The Squat
- The Bench Press
- The Deadlift
WHAT’S THE OBJECTIVE OF POWERLIFTING?
In the sport of powerlifting, the only goal is to lift the most weight you can in these 3 big lifts. Nothing else matters. The only factor that must be addressed is bodyweight as athletes compete in weight classes. To be clear, this has nothing to do with aesthetics; it’s merely to keep things as fair as possible as it obviously doesn’t make sense to have a 150lb athlete compete against a 200lbs athlete. However, some athletes may perform better by competing in a lower weight class while others perform better when moved up.
In a competition, you will have 3 attempts to execute one lift at a time with the heaviest lift going towards your total. The total number of the heaviest attempts of all three lifts are added together and that’s your score. The order of these exercises are as above; The squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. Generally, this is how the lifts will look in a meet.
1) The first lift will be heavy but something known as an “everyday max”. Simply put, this is a weight that you 100% know you can get any day of the week. The purpose of this lift is to just get some points on the board.
2) The second lift will be pushing the envelope some. This is closer to your “true max” which is a lift you can hit if everything is going well.
3) The third lift is usually reserved for a PR. If you miss it, you still have the weight from the second lift, so it’s no loss.
While a full meet will include all 3 exercises, some other powerlifting competitions may only include one or two lifts. Plus, there are dozens of federations that all have different rules on how they hold meets. Regardless, that’s the basics of powerlifting.
TRAINING VARIABLES FOR POWERLIFTING
When it comes to training for powerlifting, the #1 rule is to improve your lifts. Therefore, if an exercise isn’t going to support one of these 3 movements, you’re not going to do it. With this concept in mind, this powerlifting program is going to use a 4-day split. Three of the days will consist of the squat, bench press, deadlift, and variations. The fourth day will consist of accessory work (aka assistance lifts) to support the 3 main movements and support an all-around program. By support, we mean improve those lifts.
Simple yet effective.
The three main lift days will utilize a quasi-form of DUP, or daily undulating periodization. DUP is a form of periodization that alters the intensity or focused training variable daily rather than a traditional block program. The three main lifts and their variations will rotate through these three training variables over the three days (that’s a lot of three’s). Therefore, each lift and it’s variations will hit every training variable. Below is how that looks like w/ the lifts:
- Power/Max Velocity (Lift Variation)
- Strength (Main Lift)
- Hypertrophy/Volume (Lift Variation)
Using a DUP, either traditional or modified, have been found to be extremely effective in various powerlifting programs (study). It allows you to train every aspect of the spectrum simultaneously which should mitigate fatigue and allow for continual gains. Plus, it’s just more fun to train with some variety in your program.
The 4th day will include smaller exercises and isolation work. The main focus of these is for mobility, injury prevention, and strengthening the secondary muscles involved in the main lift.
TEST WEEK FOR YOUR POWERLIFTING PROGRAM
In order to run an effective powerlifting program, you will need to find your training 1-rep max for each of the three lifts. So, what’s a training 1-rep max? Remember above, we spoke about it a little but let’s recap. A training 1-rep max is a maximum load you can confidently lift any day of the week. It’s definitely tough, but you are 100% sure you can do it. This differs from a “true max” in that a “true max” is a load you have purposely trained for. Or, it’s a freak accident when the stars aligned and everything just went right.
We want to use a training 1-rep max because we want to be sure the number is low enough to give a suitable number to start with. Often, trainees start too heavy on a program which leaves them nowhere to go. That being, you’re not straining so hard your popping blood vessels; you’re merely looking for an approximate number.
Now that we got that out of the way, here’s a workout routine to find your 1-rep max.
- Perform a proper warmup that includes a general warmup, specific warmup, mobility, and muscle activation (see below).
- Perform 2 sets of 10 using only the bar.
- Place 50% of your estimate 1-rep max and perform 1 set of 10 reps.
- Add 50% of that weight (so now at 75% of your estimated 1-rep max) and perform 1 set of 5 reps.
- Add 20% of that weight (now at 90% of your estimated 1-rep max) and perform 1 set of 2 reps.
- Now add 5% of that weight (now at 95%) and perform 1-rep.
- Now, continue to add weight performing only 1-rep. The jumps will depend on the weights you have available as well as how hard you think it feels.
You will want to wait 3 minutes between each set up to step 5 (90% est 1-rep max) and then 5 minutes thereafter for all of these sets.
A COMMON MISTAKE IS STARTING TOO HEAVY!!!
You are not killing yourself on the experimental week. The purpose is to get used to the lifts and get a starting point. You are way better off starting 10-20 lbs too light then 10-20 lbs too heavy. You are going to work into it so don’t rush it.
Below is a warmup that includes mobility and muscle potentiation movements to prime you for your workout:
- 5-10 min .general warmup
- Dead bugs 1x10
- Bird Dog 1x10
- Glute Bridge 1x10
- Lunges 1x10
- Pushups 1x10
- Banded Face Pulls 1x15
- Banded Rows 1x15
- Banded OHP 1x15
- Ballistic Pushups 1x5
- Squat Jumps 1x5
THE BEST POWERLIFTING WORKOUT ROUTINE FOR PURE STRENGTH
You now have a pretty good understanding of what you’re going to do so let’s see how it looks. Every day is going to have the same order of variables, it will only be the lifts that change.
Here is your weekly workout plan:
- Warm-up & mobility
- Strength: Back Squat 5/3/1
- Power/Max Effort: Board Press w/ Bands 6x3 @ 70% 1RM
- Hypertrophy: Barbell Romanian Deadlifts 4xRPE7 @ 60%1RM
- Barbell Rollout
- Warm-up & mobility
- Strength: Bench Press 5/3/1
- Power/Max Effort: Banded Romanian Deadlift 6X3 @ 60% 1RM
- Hypertrophy: SSB Squats 4xRPE7 @ 70% 1RM
- Barbell Rollout
- Warm-up & mobility
- Strength: Deadlift 5/3/1
- Power/Max Effort: Banded Squats 6X3 @ 60% 1RM
- Hypertrophy: Triceps Board Press w/ Bands 4xRPE @ 70% 1RM
- Barbell Rollout
- Barbell Hip Thrust 4x8-10
- Chin-ups 4x8-10
- Z-Press 3x8-10
- Barbell Row 2x8-10
- Rolling Triceps Extensions 2x12-15
- Biceps Curl 2x12-15
- Leg Curls 2x12-15
- Leg Extensions 2x12-15
Get Ready To See Your Strength Jump
Now all you have to do is train hard. This program is guaranteed to improve your performance as long as you follow the guidelines.