Here is a list of all the best powerlifting programs currently available in our app StrengthLog.
These programs are all primarily aimed at increasing your strength. But, since muscle mass is a critical factor for long-term strength gains, they will also add mass to your major muscle groups.
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Which Powerlifting Program Should You Choose?
How do you know if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter?
While there are many ways to classify training level, I like these definitions from Practical Programming:
- Beginner: Gets significantly stronger from workout to workout.
- Intermediate: Gets significantly stronger from week to week, or bi-weekly.
- Advanced: Gets significantly stronger from month to month, or longer.
By “significantly stronger” I mean that you can add 2.5 kg (or 5 lb) and do the same number of reps or use the same weight but do more reps.
- Beginner Powerlifting Program. 3x/week. A simple but effective training program for the beginner who wants to get started with powerlifting, or for the intermediate lifter coming back after a lay-off.
Intermediate & Advanced
- Intermediate Powerlifting Program. 3x/week. This is a great next step after you’ve followed the beginner program for a few months. Instead of increasing the weights every workout like in the beginner program, the weights increase weekly, with light and medium workouts in between the heavy workouts.
- Advanced Powerlifting Program. 3x/week. A training program for the advanced powerlifter who no longer gets stronger from week to week, and needs a high training volume to progress. Nine weeks long, and ends in a short peaking phase and max attempts.
- Powerlifting Polka. 3, 4, or 6x/week. One of our most popular and effective powerlifting programs. It is six weeks long and comes in three versions: 3, 4, and 6 days per week. Powerlifting Polka is a mash-up of our most popular programs for the three big lifts: Squat Samba, Bench Press Boogie, and Deadlift Disco.
- Powerlifting Pronto. 5x/week. A minimalized version of Powerlifting Polka, this program consists of five short workouts per week, each featuring one of the powerlifts: 2x squat, 2x bench press, and 1x deadlift. No accessory exercises, and medium/low training volume. This program was written for busy powerlifters who want to squeeze workouts in during the workday, for instance during lunch breaks.
- Powerlifting ABC. 3 or 4x/week. Powerlifting ABC is an 11-week long powerlifting program, divided into four weeks of preparatory training, four weeks of specialization, and three weeks of peaking – which culminates in a competition (or max attempts).
- Powerlifting DUP. 3x/week. A daily undulating periodization (DUP) program aimed at strength for the intermediate powerlifter. Choose between the one-lift variant or the one with all three powerlifts.
- Madcow 5×5. 3x/week. This a classic workout routine for intermediate lifters looking to gain strength and muscle quickly. This is a great next program after you’ve exhausted your beginner gains on a linear progression program.
- Beginner Squat Program. 2x/week. A simple yet effective beginner squat program that will give you quick gains and a great start to your squat career.
Intermediate & Advanced
- Intermediate Squat Program. 2x/week. A squat program for the intermediate lifter who has left the beginner phase behind but is not yet ready for advanced squat training. The purpose of this program is to increase your squat strength and build bigger leg muscles.
- Russian Squat Routine. 3x/week. A hard but effective training program aimed at increasing your strength in the squat (or any other lift you choose to use it for) in six weeks. Enter your 1RM into the calculator, and we’ll generate the program for you.
- Advanced Squat Program. 2x/week. A squat program for the advanced lifter, who needs to do a lot of training in order to progress. Nine weeks long and ends in a short peaking phase and a max attempt.
Bench Press Programs
- Beginner Bench Press Program. 2x/week. A simple yet effective beginner bench press program that will give you quick gains and a great start to your bench press career.
- Intermediate Bench Press Program. 2 or 3x/week. A bench press program for the intermediate lifter who has left the beginner phase behind but is not yet ready for advanced bench press training.
- Russian Bench Press Program. 3x/week. A hard but effective training program aimed at increasing your strength in the bench press in six weeks. Enter your 1RM into the calculator, and we’ll generate the program for you.
- Bench Press Boogie. 2 or 3x/week. One of our most popular training programs, having helped thousands of lifters get stronger in the bench press. This is a six-week long bench press program intended to increase your bench press 1RM and build your upper body muscles. The two and three-day versions are suitable for the intermediate lifter.
- Advanced Bench Press Program. 3x/week. A bench press program for the advanced lifter, who needs to do a lot of training in order to progress. Nine weeks long, and ends in a short peaking phase and a max attempt.
- Bench Press Boogie. 4 or 5x/week. One of our most popular training programs, having helped thousands of lifters get stronger in the bench press. This is a six-week long bench press program intended to increase your bench press 1RM and build your upper body muscles. The four and five-day versions are suitable for the advanced lifter who is already accustomed to a very high bench press training volume.
- Beginner Deadlift Program. 2x/week. A simple yet effective beginner deadlift program that will give you quick gains and a great start to your deadlift career.
Intermediate & Advanced
- Intermediate Deadlift Program. 2x/week. A deadlift program for the intermediate lifter who has left the beginner phase behind but is not yet ready for advanced deadlift training.
- Russian Deadlift Program. 3x/week. The same set and rep scheme as the Russian Squat Routine, but for the deadlift. To make this program work for the deadlift, you should enter a very conservative 1RM.
- Deadlift Disco. 2x/week. Our deadlift program for powerlifting. Increase your deadlift 1RM and build bigger back muscles. Six weeks long, but possible to cycle through several times.
- Deadlift Builder. 2x/week. To pull big weights, you need big muscles. This program aims to increase your strength potential by increasing the mass of your deadlift muscles. Six weeks long.
- Lifting Fast and Slow. 2x/week. In this training program, you will be switching between contrasts: one session will have you lifting heavy and slow, and the other will have you lifting light and fast. The goal? Getting stronger, of course!
Follow These Powerlifting Programs in The StrengthLog App
Want to give our powerlifting programs a go?
They’re available exclusively in our workout app.
While some of our programs require a premium subscription, StrengthLog is free. You can download it and use it as a workout tracker and general strength training app – and all basic functionality is free forever.
Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below:
Frequently Asked Questions
For the rest of this article, I’ll attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about our powerlifting programs.
What Is a Powerlifting Program?
A powerlifting program is a training program aimed at increasing your powerlifting total.
To increase your strength in these lifts, our powerlifting programs typically focus on doing many sets with low reps and heavy or moderately heavy weights.
The idea is to practice lifting heavy weights, engrain proper technique under heavy loads, and do a big enough total training volume to increase your muscle mass.
What Is The Best Powerlifting Program?
The best powerlifting program is the one that is suited to your current training status.
- Beginner powerlifters can progress quickly and don’t need much volume to grow. As a beginner, following an advanced program means you would progress in weights slower and increase your injury risk because of the unnecessary high training volume.
- Advanced powerlifters are very adapted to the powerlifts and need a lot of training for a long time to increase their strength. Therefore, the advanced programs have a slow rate of progress and a high training volume.
- Intermediate powerlifters are in the middle ground between these two.
This is why we write many programs for different training levels: the best powerlifting program depends on what training you need right now.
How Do I Know What My 1RM Is?
Many of our programs are 1RM (one-rep max) based. Meaning that we specify how much weight you should lift in terms of a percentage of your 1RM.
The workout app calculates this for you, but you still have to enter your 1RM at the beginning of the program.
Your 1RM is the heaviest weight you can currently lift for a single repetition. It does not necessarily have to be the same as your PR (personal record).
You hit a bench press PR of 100 kg (220 lb) last year. At that point, 100 kg was both your PR and your 1RM. Then you eased up on bench press training for several months and dropped a bit of strength. At this point, your PR is still 100 kg, but your 1RM might be 90 kg.
If you’re unsure of your current one-rep max, you can use our 1RM calculator to get an estimate. Take the results with a grain of salt, though, and use your best judgment.
Then, you enter your 1RM in the app when you follow a program and start the first workout.
Do the prescribed weights seem a little too light or too heavy? Adjust your entered 1RM up or down by a small amount until the weights feel about right.
A common theme in our strength-focused training programs is that you seldom push yourself to failure. Sometimes you will, but most of the time, you will terminate your sets far from failure, which might seem odd if you’ve never trained like that.
The reason is simple:
Stopping further from failure generally allows for a higher total training volume and better technique practice.
If you were to go balls to the wall in every set, you would have a hard time training enough to make progress, especially at the intermediate or advanced level.
So: enter your best guess at your current 1RM, and then make small adjustments in your first or second workout until the weight feels right.
How to Make the Most out of These Powerlifting Programs
Here are some tips and things you can do to improve your chances of successfully increasing your powerlifting total from one of our programs.
1. Enter Proper 1RMs
Enter 1RMs that are neither too heavy nor too light.
You want to perform all reps with a solid technique and not fail any workouts. When in doubt, err on the lighter side.
It is far better to complete every workout of a training program that was 2.5 kg (5 lb) too light than bomb out in week two because the weight suddenly got too heavy.
You can bump up the weight by a few percentages for your next cycle of the program, and light cycles are excellent for engraining proper technique and improving your training capacity.
2. Practice Solid Form
If you’re going to do a lot of training over the following weeks or months, make sure you do it properly.
Don’t practice a thousand reps with poor form. Rather, take the opportunity to engrain a strong, stable, and effective technique.
Check out our guides on how to lift with proper form, and use a weight that is light enough so that 95% of all reps you do look like you want them to look.
3. Eat for Muscle Growth
Muscle mass correlates strongly with strength and is one of the most important drivers of additional strength gains.
But muscles don’t appear out of thin air. You need to supply your body with the building blocks and nutrients it needs in order to grow optimally.
You’ll build the most muscle and strength when you’re in a caloric surplus, i.e., eating above your maintenance level.
If you don’t want to do that, you can still build some muscle and strength if you’re eating at or around your maintenance level of calories.
What you’ll want to avoid is eating less than your caloric requirement. That makes building muscle and gaining strength a whole lot harder, and our powerlifting programs are not intended to be trained in a caloric deficit.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Like eating enough, you’ll get less of everything if you don’t sleep enough.
Most adults require between 7–9 hours per night, and hard training won’t decrease that.
If you sleep less than required, you should expect subpar results.
What Weight Should I Use in the Assistance Exercises?
Many of the programs include accessory work to improve your main lifts.
Contrary to the three main lifts, these assistance exercises don’t have percentages of 1RM specifying which weight you should use; we only specify the number of sets and reps.
What you should do is find a weight that lets you complete all sets and reps with good form. Then, when the next workout with that same assistance lift rolls around, you try to improve on what you did last time by increasing the weight or doing one more rep.
I Followed Your Program but Didn’t Improve. What’s Wrong?
Sorry to hear it, buddy!
The first order of business is to check out the list under How to Make the Most out of These Programs and be honest with yourself.
Most times, when people don’t improve, it’s because they:
- Entered a far too heavy 1RM, which made every workout a struggle.
- Trained with sloppy and inconsistent technique, which robbed them of actually practicing the lift.
- Tried to improve a hundred different things at once, forgetting they were doing a powerlifting specialization program.
- Were eating and sleeping like crap.
Set yourself up for success by following the simple guidelines mentioned earlier.
But what if you did follow these guidelines? What if you did everything by the book and still didn’t improve?
Then, likely the training stimulus was ill-suited to what you needed.
- Either it was too much training for your current level and you would benefit from following a program with slightly lower training volume.
- Or it was too little training for your current level, and you need to kick things up a notch.
I Followed Your Program and Made Great Gains! What Now?
We’re glad to hear it!
If you made nice progress and believe that you could benefit from another round of the same program, bump up your 1RM slightly and go at it again.
You don’t necessarily have to enter your actual new 1RM. For instance, if you increase your 1RM by 10 kg, it might be enough only to enter a 5 kg higher 1RM. That will give you heavier training weights throughout the whole program and will probably be enough to trigger more growth.
Remember that training is not about training as hard as possible but training only as hard as necessary. Keeping some of those kilos in the bag might set you up for longer-term progress and lower the risk of injury.
If you made nice progress, but don’t think you’d benefit from another round of the same program (or don’t want to do the same thing again), then look for another program. Ideally, one that is a step up in training volume if you feel like you can handle it.
Or conversely, if you feel like you need a break from hard training, run a cycle of an easier program before you push the pedal to the metal again.
Follow These Programs in Our App StrengthLog
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