A good powerlifting routine is hard to find. Most trainers don’t really focus on the major compound lifts for the general public and powerlifters tend to put too much emphasis on bench press. Thus both methods tend to be missing something.
What’s so good about following a powerlifting routine for strength development anyway? Well for those that don’t know, powerlifting is a sport of basically pure strength, even more so than strongman competitions. Powerlifting consists of three lifts; the squat, bench press and deadlift. The goal is simply to complete a single repetition of each lift with as much weight as possible using correct technique as judged by competition judges. The lifter with the highest total for the three lifts wins the competition.
The following powerlifting routine is designed for both competition powerlifters and non-powerlifters alike. I always recommend powerlifting training for all types of athletes. The best all-round combination for total strength and power is a programme incorporating powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics. Add some plyometrics and specific speed and power drills to that mix and you have a well-rounded strength and conditioning routine no matter who you are or what you train for.
As for powerlifters themselves, a good powerlifting routine is hard to come by. Most often they will be advised by old-style coaches that recommend all sorts of unnecessary auxiliary work. So the powerlifting routine outlined here is basic in nature but will get the job done.
Also note that we will utilise power movements such as plyometrics and Olympic lifts in our programme. It may seem unnecessary however strength development works best when it is accompanied by power. The reason being that if you are able to lift something at a higher velocity the muscles involved will be able to ultimately produce more force at those sub maximal efforts.
For this powerlifting routine I will outline intensity and volume over a 12 week period. This routine is designed for either an elite powerlifter, a strength and power athlete or someone that really wants to focus their efforts on strength development more than anything else. For those that require less strength work I recommend scaling back the volume but sticking to the same intensities.
This 12 week powerlifting routine will come in three phases. Each phase will include three workouts to be done twice per week each in a three days on one day off pattern.
Phase one will be focussing on form and building a solid, balanced base of strength and power in all major planes of motion, including rotational force production and absorption. Here we will also focus mostly on strength development with limited work on explosive power.
Phase one should be done at an intensity of 75% of the maximum that you can lift for the specified number of repetitions. So if you can lift 100kg for five reps to failure then lift 75kg for sets that specify five reps. The same goes for other repetition ranges. Try to increase the weight you use without actually increasing intensity in phase one.
Squat for 5-5-5-3-3-1-1 reps
Lunge for 5-5-5 reps
Bench press superset with bent over barbell row for 5-5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1 reps
Rest 2-3 minutes between supersets.
Powercleans for 5-5-5 reps
Continuing upwards in weight with the same bar do deadlifts for 3-3-2-2-1-1
Overhand pull-ups for three sets stopping one or two reps before your maximum
Overhead press (barbell) for 5-3-1 reps
Phase two is where we start to ramp it up a bit. Here we will need to add a little more power work and some auxiliary exercises. The reason for this is to prevent a plateau and keep the body adapting.
Phase two should be done at an intensity of 85% of the maximum you can lift for the specified number of repetitions. See phase one for an example and further details.
Deficit deadlifts: These are simply deadlifts while standing on a block or on a couple of weight plates to elevate you further from the floor. This means you have to pull further. Do these for 5-5-5 reps.
Heavy rack pulls: Rack pulls are simply a shorter range deadlift. You can do these by setting the safety bars on a power rack at about just below knee height. Then load the bar on the safety bars. Pull from this limited range of motion. Note that you will always be able to lift a lot more weight on rack pulls, so make the most of it. Do these for 3-3-3 reps.
Powercleans for 3-2-1 working up in weight to…
Standard deadlifts (competition style) for 1-1-1 reps
Bench press superset with bent over barbell row for 5-5-3-3-1-1 reps
Overhead press superset with weighted pull-ups for 5-4-3-2-1 reps
Plyometric (clap) push-ups for 5-5-3-3 reps
Walking lunges for 20 reps
Long rest then…
Squats for 5-5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1 reps
Triple broad jumps for four sets
Phase three is our final phase before having a restoration period. This is utilising periodisation so that the body can continue adapting as you only have so much adaptive capacity and training continuously hard can actually hamper results.
Here we will include a lot more power movements and so additional auxiliary movements. Phase three should be done at an intensity of 95% of the maximum you can lift for the specified number of repetitions. See phase one for examples and an explanation.
Single leg deadlifts: These are deadlifts done on one leg. Grab a loaded bar while standing on one leg with the other leg extended out behind to counter the weight then deadlift. Do these for 5-5-5 reps
Bulgarian split squat: Look these up on you tube for a video demo. Do these for 3-3-3 reps
Single leg squat jumps: In the same position as for a Bulgarian split squat but with no weight, perform squat jumps on one leg. Do these for 5-5-5 reps
Powercleans for 5-3-1 reps then continue increasing weight moving to…
Deadlifts for 3-2-1 reps
Squats for 5-3-1 reps
Triple broad jumps for three sets holding a heavy medicine ball
Overhead medicine ball toss: Throw a medicine ball as you would perform a throw in for soccer. Do 10 total throws.
Dumbell incline bench press for 8-6-4-2 reps
Barbell bench press for 3-3-2-1 reps
Plyometric (clap) push-ups for 5-5-5 reps
Overhead barbell press superset with weighted pull-ups for 3-3-3 reps
Walking twist lunge: This is a lunge holding a dumbell or medicine ball with outstretched arms. Each time you lunge simultaneously twist towards the inside leg. Do these for a total of 20 reps.
Weighted scissor jumps for 6-6-6 reps
Chain squats: This is a squat performed with a regular barbell. The only difference is that you have a heavy chain hanging from each end of the bar. As you get higher in the lift the chain will unravel from the floor adding more weight to be lifted as you rise higher in the squat. Do these for 3-2-1 reps with an emphasis on accelerating through the concentric portion of the lift.
Hang cleans: Power cleans where the bar is only pulled from just below the knees. Do these for 5-4-3-2-1 reps then keep increasing weight for…
Heavy rack pulls for 3-2-1 reps
Russian twist for 20 reps
This powerlifting routine is designed for a high level athlete. Volume should be scaled to suit the needs of the individual. For most athletes or highly conditioned individuals that have strength training experience this programme will boost all-round strength radically. Movements are trained in all planes and each angle of each lift is strengthened in several ways. Intensity is progressively increased before being dropped back down again for a restoration phase. The restoration phase should be immediately after this three month programme. At this point you can go back to the start of the programme and begin the cycle again, this time with stronger lifts at each level of intensity. Alternatively you may want to change the programme entirely.
The preceding powerlifting routine should not be done by anyone that is unsure of the correct technique of each of the exercises specified. If there are exercises you have not mastered then it is recommended that you take as much time as needed to learn and perfect them.