Raw Powerlifting: How To Increase Your One Rep Max

Raw Powerlifting: How To Increase Your One Rep Max

Updated July 1, 2020
Raw Powerlifting: How To Increase Your One Rep Max

In this article I will cover my interpretation of training for unequipped Powerlifting. That is how to increase your 1RM in the Power Lifts. This article will assume you have graduated from beginner status, have a strong foundation and have a good grasp of form on all of the Powerlifts.

Firstly the weekly schedule that I would recommend:

  • Monday: Bench Press & Assistance
  • Tuesday: Squat & Assistance
  • Thursday: Overhead Press & Assistance
  • Friday: Deadlift & Assistance

Now a look at how I split up the three types of exercises and how they are to be performed.

The Power Lifts

These exercises will be the focus of each day. They are the lifts which will be contested and as such they will be performed exactly how they are to be performed in competition; for max or near max singles. Form changes as the body uses different loads, the form you may have while warming up might not be the form your body takes while using a maximum attempt, also strength is very specific therefore there is more benefit to training with singles if your body allows it. Training to increase your 5RM will surely increase your 1RM as well, however training specifically to increase your 1RM will do a better job of increasing your 1RM.

The power exercises:

  • Bench Press
  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Overhead Press

For the purpose of the weekly schedule I will include the Overhead Press as the main exercise on what is the second Benching Day. I believe and have seen through experience a direct correlation between improving the Press to improving the Bench.


As mentioned above these will typically be performed for single reps. In training this would amount to multiple singles and multiple doubles or triples to back off. We will get a similar training effect to our intended display of strength i.e., the limit single in competition, however we should avoid actually taking the limit single regularly in training.

The Assistance Exercises

This is the second group of exercises. These exercises will be done heavily and for moderately high volume and will have a direct influence on improving the power exercises. These will variations of the power lifts or exercises which will help improve the strength in areas neglected by the Power Lifts themselves.

Common assistance exercises:

  • Bench assistance: Chins, Rows, Pull Ups, Dips, Incline Press, CGBP
  • Squat/Deadlift assistance: RDLs, SLDLs, GMs, Partial Pulls, Deficit Pulls, Power Cleans, Leg Press, Heavy Ab work, Heavy Back extensions


The sets and reps for these assistance exercises are variable; however they will be done for higher reps than the Power Lifts. Common rep schemes include 5×12, 5×5. So we’re aiming to accomplish at least 3-5 sets with at least 3-5 reps per set. Anything less than that would constitute unnecessary stress for the aim.

A special note on the Leg Press: For the longer legged trainee I wholeheartedly recommend loading up the Leg Press, placing the feet high and wide and really pile on the weight. The Leg Press was a major factor in increasing my Squat. I know it has fallen out of favour for PowerLifting in recent years, but like anything I’d urge you to try it yourself and make up your own mind.

Auxiliary exercises

These are exercises which are for prehab and injury prevention. These will typically be isolation exercises and are done for high reps and high volume, using a smooth rep performance.

Common Auxiliary exercises:

  • Rotator Cuff work
  • Bicep work
  • Neck work
  • Forearm work

On any typical workout day from the template mentioned at the start there will be one Power Lift, a few assistance exercises and one or two auxiliary exercises. So let’s put this together:


  • Bench Press – 5 singles, followed by 2-3 triples
  • Chins – 5 x 12
  • Incline DB. Bench – 5×8
  • Cable Rows – 5×8
  • Flyes – 5×12
  • Bicep Curl – 5×12


  • Squat – 5 singles, followed by 1 back off set of higher reps
  • GMs – 5×5
  • Leg Press 5×5
  • Abs – 5×12
  • Hypers – 5×12


  • Overhead Press – 5 singles, followed by 1 back off set of higher reps
  • CGBP – 5×8
  • Rows – 5×8
  • Rear Laterals – 5×12
  • Bicep Curl – 5×12


  • Deadlift – 5 singles, 1 back off set of 10
  • Deficit Deadlift – 3 triples
  • Rack Deadlift – 3 triples
  • Abs – 5×12
  • Hypers – 5×12

So there you have it; that is the basic template. Each of the exercises can be changed depending on what the trainee prefers or the equipment that is available. As long as the basic template is stuck to, it should prevent too much overlap and provide a focus and hopefully progression directly on the Power Lifts.

In future articles I will offer a few ways to cycle your poundage’s and volume to avoid burning out, as well as how to peak for competition.

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