Powerlifting Workouts: Training Splits and Exercise Selection

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I want to get you thinking about the planning and design of powerlifting workouts. It is beyond the scope of this article to get into training theory, specific powerlifting training routines, bands and chains, or training gear.

What I hope to accomplish is to provide you with pillars; core principles to think about when designing your own powerlifting routine. It is best to do extensive research of the subject. Be prepared to log and tweak your powerlifting workout system as the months pass.

Workout Splits. Common powerlifting workout training splits include:

The Big Three. This training split is generally performed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. During each day, you will focus on either the bench press, squat or deadlift, as well as appropriate supplementary movements.

Push Pull. A push-pull style powerlifting workout is usually comprised of 4 weekly workouts: 2 for bench press, back and shoulder training (push), and 2 for posterior chain training, which improves the squat and deadlift (pull).

Full Body. A full body split is performed three times a week, with each day having it’s primary focus on one of the big three lifts. Full body routines are excellent starter routines, and focus on the basics: learning heavy, compound lifts. It’s also not uncommon for intermediate and advanced powerlifters to utilize full body powerlifting workouts.

Important Exercises. Outside of the bench press, squat and deadlift, powerlifting routines also utilize the following exercises, and their variations:

Good Mornings. A powerlifting routine without good mornings is like a diet without meat. Good mornings train both the squat and deadlift, and can be performed with a wide or narrow stance.

Rack Pulls. Rack pulls are deadlifts performed at varying heights. They allow a powerlifter to train weaker areas of the deadlift, often times with heavier loads.

Box Squat. The box squat is the king of posterior chain training. Not only does a box squat teach proper squatting form and depth, but it also builds deadlift pulling power.

Romanian Deadlifts. Romanian deadlifts help build squatting and deadlifting power by targeting the lower back and hamstrings.

Sumo Deadlifts. Many conventional deadlifters never try the sumo stance deadlift. But sumo deadlifts are amazing at building hamstring strength, and should be rotated into most powerlifting workouts.

Front Squats. Front squats are another underrated posterior chain exercise. Front squats target the lower back, much more so then regular squats, and are an effective supplementary deadlift and squat training exercise.

Rows. Many powerlifters underestimate the role of the lats and upper back in bench press training. By performing either Yates rows, T-bar rows, or barbell rows, you will be adding needed drive as you strive for a new bench press max.

Closegrip Bench Press. It’s easy to focus on lighter weight tricep exercises, and foresake the power of closegrip bench presses. Closegrip benches are the best tricep power and muscle building exercise, hands down.

Overhead and Incline Presses. Both of these training exercises hammer the shoulders, resulting in increased bench press totals. Do not avoid these lifts.

Conclusion. The exercises and training splits provided in this article form a good foundation for any powerlifting workout. How you design your routine is up to you. Get scientific, and stick with a workout for several months.

The best way to change course is to know where you’ve been. Without a proper training log, and months of experience, your next powerlifting workout may just be a shot in the dark.

There are many other popular training exercise not mentioned in this article. After you have mastered the basic, or when you have reached sticking points, it’s time to add more tools to your arsenal.

5 Comments. Leave new

You say: “A push-pull style powerlifting workout is usually comprised of 4 weekly workouts: 2 for bench press, back and shoulder training (push)”.

How are Back exercises push movements? All you do with back is pull. Either pull yourself up (pullups, chinups, inverted rows) or pull something towards yourself (rows ect.).

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jefry, most powerlifting focus on sets with 5 reps or less and work a lot in the 5-3 rep range. normally a benchpress workout would focus on one or two benchpress exercises and then do several tricep, shoulder, and upper back exercises.

if you want, you can check out this website:


they have a ton of powerlifting routines on there (squat, benchpress, deadlift, and full training cycles) and should give you a good understandin of how to set up your training.

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I would approach working the bench press with a heavy emphasis on triceps. I would try to squeeze in close grip bench presses. I would also recommend a form of incline presses. For me, when my incline and overhead press went up, so did my bench press.

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I’ve been an on an off bodybuilder for ten years but decided to become a power lifter.I would like to know if this is the correct way of doing power lifting routine.Chest-flat,incline an decline barbell press-3-sets 6-8 reps (weight-125-150-175-200)

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Max Brawn. Bodybuilding, Powerlifting News, Tweets & Galleries » Blog Archive » Powerlifting Blog Posts, 08/27/2009
August 27, 2009 5:47 pm

[…] Powerlifting Workouts: Training Splits and Exercise Selection … by Steve Shaw I want to get you thinking about the planning and design of powerlifting workouts. It is beyond the scope of this article to get into training theory, specific […]


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