Squat and Deadlift Singles Routine

Updated July 15, 2019

Powerlifting is a sport that relies on strength, power and technique. Lifters ultimately want the biggest possible 1 rep max for the big 3 lifts: bench press, squat and deadlift. 

Prior to initiating this routine, lifters should have trained using a standard split which has plenty of volume. Thus by switching to this routine, it’ll shock your body, forcing your muscles to become stronger. 

A singles routine for the squat and deadlift can look like the following:

Day 1 

  • Squat: 80% of 1 rep max for 6 sets.
  • Deadlift: 80% of 1 rep max for 3 sets 

Day 2  

  • Squat: 85% of 1 rep max for 4 sets 

Day 3  

  • Squat: 90% of 1 rep max for 2 sets 
  • Deadlift: 90% of 1 rep max for 2 sets


The lifter would then add 5lbs each week per session, for 6 weeks.  

The obvious question at this stage should be, what about the bench press?

Of course, the bench press would not be neglected in any way. It would still be performed, in a certain routine, on the same 3 workout sessions. In order to avoid excess CNS fatigue, it’d be advised to avoid heavy singles or doubles during the 6 weeks.  

The reasoning why the duration is 6 weeks is because after this amount of time, users tend to plateau and strength gains start to tail off.

It’s also possible to add 10lbs to these lifts in the first 2 weeks before switching to 5lb increments afterwards. Ultimately, there would be a rest period of 4 days before attempting 1 rep max testing. 

Accessory Work 

Given the low volume nature of this program, there should definitely be accessory work done during these 6 weeks but only at a very low volume. Exercise selection should be variable based on the other lifts being trained, tolerance for volume, lifter’s work capacity, injury risks and the lifter’s weaknesses.

Generally, days with both squats and deadlifts should limit posterior chain work to only 1-2 sets. Other exercise selection should still be limited to 1-2 sets. However, upper body accessory work can be done at higher volumes based on the lifter’s needs and their bench press routine.  


There are two things to consider when performing singles routines.  

  1. Central nervous system stress – becomes a major issue once the load exceeds 90-95%. Thus it’s very important to get optimal sleep and to rest well in general.
  1. Muscular system injuries – similar issue with loads over 90%. Excellent warm ups and cool downs + lots of mobility work is very important. Same goes for stretching during off days. Good nutrition and sleep is importance too, in addition to good posture and excellent lifting technique.

Personal Thoughts 

Singles routines can play a key role in improving muscular strength during powerlifting. Such programs should be implemented sporadically, as excess reliance on singles can lead to plateaus and injuries.  

The content above is strictly for general educational purposes only. 

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