Many people ask me for advice on which training program they should start training with. After all, there is a lot of information on every training method out there. Metal Militia, Westside, 2x2, 3x3, hybrid routines are all examples of the routines that can clutter and overwhelm a beginner who just simply wants to get going on their path to superhuman strength.

What I advise is using the basics. Even the most hardcore training methods revolve around simple principles, the main one being; lift heavier weights, get stronger. Obviously that is very vague so let me explain. When you look at a well designed program, you make advances every microcycle (usually every 1-2 weeks.) This is done by either adding weight or reps to the work set(s) that you did the week or two before.

I am astounded by the number of people that are looking for a magical number of sets or reps. I inform these people that there is no magic number, but that there is, however, a magic attitude. If you go balls to the wall mentally, and you do everything humanly possible to make gains, you will succeed. This is true for not only powerlifting or bodybuilding, but any sport or business or activity where you either make it or you don't.

Female athlete performing a deadlft.

"Low sets and low reps and not very much assistance work is normal with top-notch pro powerlifters."

The best examples I can think of when talking about basic principles are Ryan Kennelly and Scot Mendelson. If you think these crazy-strong guys do anything special training-wise, you're sadly mistaken. While they do have their tips that they would tell you if they were training you, they are nothing that would improve long term gains.

Low sets and low reps and not very much assistance work is normal with top-notch pro powerlifters. I do not know of one pro that does anything crazy and profound. They all use old methods and ideas, and they have a top notch winning attitude and the drive to succeed. This is what makes champions. I cannot emphasize this enough. Dedication equals success. If you like to half-Ass things, powerlifting is neither the sport nor the lifestyle for you.

I advocate a 5x5 routine for the beginner. If one were to jump into Westside, for example, they would be performing partial lifts and dynamic lifts with no idea what proper form is. If one tried to jump into Metal Militia with no prior training, they would end up with horrible joint pains and tendonitis. Probably a torn pec or rotator cuff as well simply because there are many bits and pieces of technique of the powerlifts to learn.

Instead of doing something foolish like jumping into a high-volume, high intensity routine that can lead to injury and wasting your time, learn the core lifts first. Work hard and practice, practice, practice.

5x5 Program

Below is the 5x5 program. This is what I advise for beginners as far as their training routine goes.

Barbell Squat
Start with a moderate weight and add 5-10 pounds every week.
5 sets, 5 Reps (Same weight)
Front Barbell Squat
Add 5-10 pounds every week for all sets.
3 sets, 8-10 Reps (Clean-grip)
Butt Lift (Bridge)
If you can not do 8 reps, do as many full reps as you can then do partials to finish.
3 sets, 8-10 Reps
Seated Calf Raise
Use slow reps. Add 5 pounds per week for all sets. 3-4 sets.
4 sets, to failure
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
Start with a moderate weight and add 5-10 pounds every week.
5 sets, 5 Reps (Same weight)
Dumbbell Bench Press
Try to increase the weight as often as possible. It is harder with dumbbells.
2 sets, 8-10 Reps
Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press
This is a core lift. Add 5-10 pounds every week.
3 sets, 5 Reps
Triceps Pushdown
Add weight every week. When you can do the stack for every set do weighted dips.
Barbell Deadlift
Start with a moderate weight and add 5-10 pounds every week.
5 sets, 5 Reps (Same weight)
Upright Barbell Row
Try to add weight every week though it won't always be possible. Strive to make personal records.
3 sets, 8-10 Reps
Hyperextensions (Back Extensions)
These are for rehab and preventative strengthening of the lower back (use a lighter weight for this exercise).
3 sets, 10-15 Reps
Barbell Curl
Start with a moderate weight and add 5 pounds every week.
5 sets, 5 Reps
Male athlete performing a squat in the rack.

"Start with a moderate weight and add 5 pounds every week."

Take Home Message

This routine is very simple. It is intended to be that way. You will understand and learn basic form of the main three power lifts and your Central Nervous System will be used to fire and move the weights in the ranges of motion specific to the core lifts.

This will allow you to be familiar enough with each lift to understand and possibly implicate the use of partial movements to your training routine, which is what makes Westside and Metal Militia work.

By using this routine you will also gain some hypertrophy because there are no sets in which you do triples or singles (sets of 3 or 1 reps, respectively). This will also not cause joint pain or tendonitis unless you're doing something horribly wrong.

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