Powerlifting Programs

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Every powerlifter on the planet has an opinion about what the “best” program is. Now, I could tell you what I think or I could attempt to teach you how to make that decision yourself. In this article and video series, we don’t look at powerlifting programs and programming from the context of “good” or “bad”. We look at programs from the context of “good”, “better”, and “best” (and yes, sometimes bad, too).

Article Topics

    1. The Scientific Foundations of Powerlifting Programming

To build a house, you have to lay down a foundation. In this article, the very underpinnings of good, proper powerlifting programming are covered and analyzed. Specificity, overload, fatigue management, and individual differences are all given their proper due and it is explained why they are so critical to powerlifting programming success.

    1. Critical Training Variables

It isn’t enough to know what the core foundation principles are. You also have to know which variables must manipulated in order to satisfy them. Volume, intensity, and frequency are all covered in-depth in this piece. In particular, the relationship they all share within another is examined.

    1. Training Organization

In the final foundational article of the series, training organization is discussed. You need to know how to fit the core foundational principles, and the respective training variables, into the context of an actual powerlifting program. This article touches upon the appropriateness of various periodization and programming schemes for different levels of athletes.

  1. Starting Strength Review
    The program analysis begins! If you’re interested in finding out why I believe that Starting Strength is NOT optimal for powerlifting beginners, definitely read this one. I give my overall opinion of the program for use by novice powerlifters.
  2. StrongLifts 5×5 Review
    I consider StrongLifts 5×5 an inferior beginner program. If you’re interested in the reasons why, this is the article for you.
  3. Jason Blaha’s 5×5 Novice Routine
    In this article, I analyze the utility of using Jason Blaha’s 5×5 Novice Routine for the purposes of powerlifting. Find out why I think it is a solid bodybuilding program, but not necessarily optimal for powerlifting.
  4. Jonnie Candito’s Linear Program
    In this installment of the powerlifting programming series, our analytical lens is focused upon Jonnie Candito’s Linear Program. Candito’s program is very, very solid. For trainees of the right level of advancement, I think the program is an absolutely excellent choice. For others, I don’t think it is appropriate. Check out the article to find out which category you might belong to.
  5. Sheiko’s Novice Routine
    That’s right! Sheiko has a novice routine for powerlifters. Looking at what the foremost Russian powerlifting coach believes is optimal for novices is very instructive to helping us understand where we might expand our horizons in terms of American novice programs. If you’re unfamiliar with Sheiko’s novice routine, I’d highly recommend checking this article out even if you’re not a beginner; you’ll see something new.
  6. GreySkull Linear Progression
    Lately I’ve had a lot of people asking me, “So, if you don’t think Starting Strength and StrongLifts 5×5 are optimal, what LP do you suggest”? Well, the reality is that I don’t believe there is anyone program out there is definitively optimal and there are currently no programs I explicitly recommend for novice powerlifters. However, I do believe that John Sheaffer’s GreySkull LP stands a cut above the rest of the linear progression options. In this article, I present my full argument as to why I believe this is the case.
  7. The PowerliftingToWin Novice Program
    It is finally here! The Official PowerliftingToWin Novice Program is covered in this piece. Click the link to get your free copy of the PowerliftingToWin Novice Program eBook and Workout Calculator Spreadsheet. This is the single most informative and comprehensive piece of content on the entire PowerliftingToWin website. I guarantee that there isn’t another program available that is better suited to producing a bigger total for powerlifting novices. This is a must read.
  8. Madcow’s 5×5
    Moving right along in the programming series, it is time to begin reviewing intermediate style programming. The first program that will fall under our analytical lens is Madcow’s 5×5. Madcow’s is one of the single most popular training programs of all-time. But is popularity any indication of its quality? In this review, I look at the effectiveness of applying Madcow’s programming to the lifter primarily interested in improving his powerlifting results. My conclusion might not be what you were expecting.
  9. The Texas Method
    Continuing with our intermediate program reviews, the Texas Method is next up for dissection. I am simultaneously a big fan of the Texas Method and a hater. I find the programmatic structure to be ideal, but I also find the generic version of the template to be greatly lacking in terms of specificity. If you want further information on my recommendations with regards to the Texas Method, this is the review for you.
  10. 5/3/1 and Beyond 5/3/1
    To be fully honest, I think the original 5/3/1 program sucks for powerlifting. The volume is too low, the frequency is too low, you don’t handle heavy enough weights often enough, and the program just lacks overall specificity to powerlifting. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the massive upgrades to the original 5/3/1 program that are contained within Wendler’s new book: Beyond 5/3/1. If you’d like to learn more about the changes Wendler made, and why I think they’re such vast improvements, this article should pique your interest.
  11. The Cube Method
    I am not a fan of The Cube Method. Now, don’t me wrong, this is not a “bad” program. In fact, it is probably better than a mere “good” program. The Cube is a well thought-out, well-organized program that I think the vast majority of trainees would experience some degree of success on. However, I have some fundamental disagreements with the overall structure of the programming that lead me to believe it is sub-optimal. If you’d like to find out why, this is the article for you.
  12. The Juggernaut Method
    You might not be able to stop The Juggernaut, but you can at least review the program! Terrible jokes aside, this program is far from terrible. I was presently surprised by how intelligently constructed this program is. Chad Wesley Smith clearly knows his stuff. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that The Juggernaut Method is like a more scientifically valid, scientifically supported version of 5/3/1. If you’d like further analysis of The Juggernaut’s merits and faults as a powerlifting program, read this article.
  13. Westside Barbell Method
    Louie Simmons is one of the most important figures in the entire history of the sport of powerlifting. I have the utmost respect for what the man has done for the sport and what his group of lifters have accomplished. That said, if you’re a natural, raw lifter, I couldn’t possibly recommend against using Westside more strongly. In one of the most comprehensive reviews in the entire programming series thus far, PowerliftingToWin takes Westside apart piece by piece addressing why the program simply isn’t well constructed to create optimal results for the raw lifter.
  14. Sheiko Routines
    Sheiko Routines have exploded in popularity over the past few years. Whether it is the exotic appeal of a Russian program or the draw of an extreme, high volume approach, many lifters have gravitated towards Boris Sheiko’s numbered routines. The question to be asked here is whether or not these routines deserve their popularity. Well, while I am a pretty big fan of Sheiko, I do think that many people get lured in by the “hardcore” approaches. Sheiko isn’t necessarily different in this regard. While I think Sheiko is a great program, there are certainly some huge flaws with it. Find out more by reading the rest of the review.
  15. Smolov and Smolov Junior
    Everybody loves them a good ‘ole Russian Routine! Am I right or am I right? Here’s the thing: being extreme for the sake of being extreme isn’t wise. Those who pursue the Smolov Squat Routine, or Smolov Junior for Bench, are, in my opinion, being completely short-sighted and even foolish. Read the rest of this review to find out why I think Smolov is actually damaging to your long term progress.
  16. Paul Carter’s Base Building
    Well, it’s time to take a critical look at the most recent work of every body’s favorite powerlifting philsopher: Paul Carter. Carter’s “Base Building” manual has reached high levels of popularity and deservedly so. The programming is unique, novel, and, unlike so many others, Carter has come up with a system all his own. If you’re interested on my take when it comes to the system’s strengths and weaknesses as it pertains to powerlifting training, read on.
  17. The Lilliebridge Method
    The Lilliebridge family is without a doubt the single most successful group in the history of raw powerlifting. They can claim not one, not two, but THREE #1 rankings in American powerlifting. Would it pique your curiosity to know that they all run the same program… the same program they’ve been using, more or less, for a decade now? In this article, we take a deeper look at whether or not one of the most successful methods in raw powerlifting history is appropriate for the raw, drug-free powerlifter. The answer may surprise you.
  18. Candito’s 6 Week Strength Program
    The single most requested program for review during the entire programming series has been Jonnie Candito’s Six Week Strength Program. I just got the word that Mr. Candito finally released an updated version of the program. And, as such, it is time to give the program a thorough review. Unlike most YouTube sensations, who blow up because of their personality primarily, Candito’s programs are solid. Rock solid. This has to be one of the best programs I’ve reviewed thus far for natural trainees. If you want to find out why, read on.
  19. The Bulgarian Method for Powerlifting
    Ah, the Bulgarian Method. On the one hand, I think something akin to the Bulgarian Method eventually becomes necessary and, in fact, is the best way to train. On the other hand, I think it might be one of the single most inappropriate ways for novices and early intermediates to train. And who is most likely to pursue an exotic, sexy program like the Bulgarian Method? Why, novices and intermediates of course. In this review, find out why I don’t recommend that you hop on super high frequency programs early in your lifting career.
  20. Brian Carroll’s 10/20/Life
    Brian Carroll has recently released his training methods to the public for the first time! Now, the question is whether or not this just another typical powerlifting eBook or if it is something truly worth your while. In my opinion, it is a little bit of both. On the one hand, this is your typical American style powerlifting program with once per week frequency on all the lifts, minimal volume, tons of “recovery”, and a heavy focus on assistance exercises. However, Carroll does a few things to separate his program from the other that follow a similar template. Find out exactly what makes 10/20/Life unique by reading the review.
  21. Destroy the Opposition by Jamie Lewis
    Jamie Lewis is perhaps known as well for his outlandish writing style as he is for his impressive powerlifting exploits. That said, the former all-time world record holder at 181lbs is a lot more than all bark and no bite. In fact, I’d rate Destroy the Opposition as one of the more entertaining and more informative powerlifting eBooks out there. Now, I’m aware that some people just absolutely hate Jamie Lewis because of his crude and offensive writing style. And you know what? Some people love him for exactly the same reason. Nonetheless, we’re here to judge his programming and his character. And, as it turns out, his programming is pretty damn good. Find out why I think Lewis’ intermediate programs are some of the best we’ve looked at thus far in the programming series.
  22. The Coan Philippi Deadlift Routine
    The Coan Philippi Deadlift Routine is possibly the most popular deadlift program of all-time… but does it deserve that rating? Frankly, no, I don’t think so. The ironic thing about the “Coan Deadlift Program” is that this isn’t even what Ed Coan did in order to achieve his four world record deadlifts in separate weight classes. Now, I don’t think Coan/Philippi is all bad and there is at least one circumstance that I’d definitely recommend the program, but, for the most part, I’m luke warm about the routine and it isn’t high up on my list. If you’d like to find out why, read the rest of the review.
  23. German Powerlifting Training: Stephan Korte’s 3×3
    Not everyone believes in the traditional American style of powerlifting: minimalistic deadlift routines, massive amounts of assistance exercises, and once weekly frequency for each of the main movements. Korte’s 3×3 shatters the stereotypical American programming biases. Considering that Korte’s 3×3 developed not one, but two IPF Junior World champions, including the first German to bench 600lbs+ without a bench shirt, it is safe to say the method is proven to work in the real world. If you’d like to find out more about what makes this German style of powerlifting so different from the typical American methods, check this article out!
  24. RTS Generalized Intermediate Program
    Look, I can’t state it any more emphatically than this: RTS is the best programmatic system available for powerlifting today. To me, it is just that simple. There is no other powerlifting system out there that so masterfully combines advanced periodization models, specificity in terms of exercise selection and rep range protocols, and the concept of autoregulation. The RTS Generalized Intermediate Program is Tuchscherer’s attempt to give everyone an example of how he would create an RTS program for a typical intermediate powerlifting athlete. If you consider yourself a student of the iron game, this is one program review you need to check out.

Table of Contents

Powerlifting Programs I: Scientific Principles of Powerlifting Programming
Powerlifting Programs II: Critical Training Variables
Powerlifting Programs III: Training Organization
Powerlifting Programs IV: Starting Strength
Powerlifting Programs V: StrongLifts 5×5
Powerlifting Programs VI: Jason Blaha’s 5×5 Novice Routine
Powerlifting Programs VII: Jonnie Candito’s Linear Program
Powerlifting Programs VIII: Sheiko’s Novice Routine
Powerlifting Programs IX: GreySkull Linear Progression
Powerlifting Programs X: The PowerliftingToWin Novice Program
Powerlifting Programs XI: Madcow’s 5×5
Powerlifting Programs XII: The Texas Method
Powerlifting Programs XIII: 5/3/1 and Beyond 5/3/1
Powerlifting Programs XIV: The Cube Method
Powerlifting Programs XV: The Juggernaut Method
Powerlifting Programs XVI: Westside Barbell Method
Powerlifting Programs XVII: Sheiko Routines
Powerlifting Programs XVIII: Smolov and Smolov Junior
Powerlifting Programs XIX: Paul Carter’s Base Building
Powerlifting Programs XX: The Lilliebridge Method
Powerlifting Programs XXI: Jonnie Candito’s 6 Week Strength Program
Powerlifting Programs XXII: The Bulgarian Method for Powerlifting
Powerlifting Programs XXIII: Brian Carroll’s 10/20/Life
Powerlifting Programs XXV: The Coan/Philippi Deadlift Routine
Powerlifting Programs XXVI: Korte’s 3×3
Powerlifting Programs XXVII: RTS Generalized Intermediate Program

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