What Is The Best Powerlifting Workout?

What is the best powerlifting workout? Find out what other people from the message boards think...

The Question:

A powerlifting workout and a hypertrophy workout are like comparing apples to oranges

How often should powerlifters workout? How long should each workout be?

What is the best powerlifting workout? (include sets, reps, etc.)

Bonus Question: What is a good example of a daily powerlifter diet? Be as descriptive as possible.

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

  1. Squats View Profile
  2. DSM18 View Profile


1st place - 50 in store credit.

1st Place - Squats


Powerlifting and bodybuilding workouts are both different. Powerlifting calls for more thought than bodybuilding routines. The exercises as well are quite different from those of a bodybuilders exercises. The rep ranges also make for a big difference; powerlifters utilize lower rep ranges to get enough strength as possible.

Powerlifting routines also call for more intensity and volume. A lot of splits used in bodybuilding are normally from 3-4 workouts per week. But many powerlifters use 4-6 workouts per week; they also have the advantage of using more GPP work which increases your work capacity and allowing more volume without burning out your CNS.

There are a lot of things powerlifters utilize to help make their programs as optimal as possible. There are also many types of clubs out there with their own philosophies on powerlifting. One of the more famous clubs is Westside Barbell. Westside Barbell is home to the strongest powerlifters out there today, with many who have over a 600 lb. bench press and some over 800 lb.

A few can also deadlift over 700 lb. and 3 who can squat over a grand! The owner and founder of Westside, Louie Simmons. A strength coach for many world athletes, he has been training for many years and training athletes for over 10 years.

Westside's philosophies are by far the best for powerlifters. I will explain more of Westside and a sample template later in the article. I will also explain a lot of other philosophies later in the article to help you get the most out of your powerlifting workout.

How Often:

How Often Should Powerlifters Workout?

How Long Should Each Workout Be?

Many beginning powerlifters should start off with a 2-3 three day split for workouts in the gym. Then the trainee should add some GPP (General Physical Preparedness) such as sled dragging. Sled dragging is basically dragging a sled around for a few minutes 2-3 times a week on top of workouts.

I feel many beginning to novice athletes should do basic nonstop sled dragging. I don't feel they should be doing a drag of different movements for 200-feet and then resting for another repetition. Instead they should just do 5-6 minutes of straight dragging with a moderate weight, then do another 5-6 minutes of nonstop movements such as pull-throughs, front raise drags, etc.

Advanced trainees can do a lot more workouts, many times 4-6 with GPP added onto those workouts. I feel advanced trainees should perform regular sled dragging such as 3-4 movements for a few repetition for 200-feet and then add in 1-2 restoration days of light running for 10-15 minutes.

Sled dragging will increase your work load and allows you to lift a lot more. Sled dragging is the best GPP method, doing basic cardiovascular work on a treadmill is poor GPP wise. All you need to make a homemade sled is to get a tire and put a sheet of wood in the bottom of the tire.

Then add a P-hook to the tire and add cement. If you just want to order a sled online, then check out www.flexcart.com, brutestrength.com.

Workouts shouldn't have to last over an hour and a half. It will take a lot more time to max out and then do some supplemental work in a workout. So, workouts will be longer or shorter depending on the amount of volume that workout. Overall, depending on what the volume is that day and if your doing a ME (max effort) lift it will be different. And rest between sets on certain days take a lot longer than a bodybuilder's routine.

Pre-made Workouts:

What Is The Best Powerlifting Workout? (Include Sets, Reps, Etc.)

The following workouts listed below is a sample template of Westside and a hybrid of Westside. Both of these workouts were not created by myself, they were created by Mike Ruggeria and Joe DeFranco. They are added here because they are some of the best Powerlifting routines out there.

Big Mike's Westside Template

Sunday - Speed Day For Bench

    • Bench 8-10 sets 3 reps (50% 1 rep max, 1 minute between sets, explosive but controlled reps)
    • Front Presses 3 sets 3-5 reps (pick 1 shoulder exercise)
      • Standing Front Press
      • Dumbbell Presses
    • Tricep Movement - 1 exercise, reps 10-15, 1 minute between sets
      • Dumbbell Extensions
      • Pushdowns
      • Skull Crushers
    • Upper Back Movement - 3 sets 10-12 reps
      • Lat Pulldown
      • Bent-Over Rows
      • Cable Row
      • 1-Arm Dumbbell Row
    • Abs and Neck

Monday - Max Effort Day For Squat & Deadlift

    • Max Effort Exercise - 1 exercise, work to 1 rep max, do not perform two exercises in a row
      • Front Squat
      • Pin Lockouts (at different heights)
      • Hack Squat
      • Barbell Squat (off a low or high box)
      • Deadlift (off a platform)
      • Arch-Back Good Mornings
      • Stiff-Legs
      • Belt Squat
    • Leg Curls 3-4 sets 5-7 reps
    • Lower Back Movement - switch every 3 weeks
      • Stiff-Legs (not to be done when using as a max effort exercise)
      • Hypers
      • Hypers
    • Upper Back Movement - 3 sets 5-7 reps
      • Lat Pulldown
      • Bent-Over Rows
      • Cable Row
      • 1-Arm Dumbbell Row
    • Biceps and Abs

Wednesday - Max Effort Day For Bench

    • Max Effort Exercise - same directions as for max day squat and deadlift
      • Floor Press (shown with one-arm)
      • Decline Press
      • Dumbbell For Reps
      • Close-Grip Press
      • Incline Press
    • Tricep Movement - pick two, reps 3-7; take longer between sets for optimal recovery, 3 sets
      • Dumbbell Extensions
      • Pushdowns
      • Skull Crushers
    • Back Movement - reps 10-12 for 3 sets
      • Lat Pulldown
      • Bent-Over Rows
      • Cable Row
      • 1-Arm Dumbbell Row
    • Abs and Neck

Friday - Speed For Squat

    • Box Squats 2 reps with 50-60% of 1 rep max, 1 minute rest between sets
    • Leg Curls 3 sets 10 reps
    • Lower Back Movement - same exercise as Monday, but lighter and more reps
    • Shrugs 3 sets 10-15 reps as you can handle
    • Biceps and Abs

Joe DeFranco's Westside Hybrid:

Squats Best Powerlifting Workout

Westside For Skinny Bastards I
Westside For Skinny Bastards II

Day 1 - Bench Press (ME and speed)

    • Bench Press a few sets till you get to a max set of 3-5 reps
    • Incline Dumbbell Press 3-4 sets 6-10 reps
    • Close-Grip Press 3-4 sets 8-10 reps
    • Pressdown 2-3 sets 2-4 reps

      (speed: bench press 8 sets 2 reps 50%
1 rep max
      60 sec. rest between sets)

Day 2 - Squat (ME and speed)

    • Box Squat a few sets till you get to a max set of 3-5 reps
    • Step-ups 3-4 sets 8-10 reps
    • Glute-Ham Raise 3-4 sets 4-8 reps
    • Calf Raises 3-4 sets 8-12 reps

      (speed: box squat 8 sets 2 reps 50%
1 rep max
      60 sec. rest between sets)

Day 3 - Deadlift

    • Deadlift a few sets till you get to a max set of 3-5 reps
    • Row 3-4 sets 6-10 reps
    • Barbell Curl 3-4 sets 8-12 reps

Don't go to failure each set, stop 1-2 reps shy of failure except for the ME lift.

Westside Philosophy:

    • Winning Attitude by J.M. Blakely
    • Periodization Bible : Linear Periodization


    • Squatting by DR. Mel Siff
    • Learn to Squat
    • Squat 900 lbs
    • Why you should box squat
    • Squatting from head to toe
    • Box squats
    • Squatting in the 800's and 900's
    • Squatting by DR. Mel Siff


    • Training the Bench
    • Bench Press 600 lbs
    • How to bench press 500 easy
    • Bench Set-Up


    • Ed Coan Deadlift Routine!!!
    • Deadlift training
    • Westside deadlift training

Core: (DJ)

Article Archives:


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What Is A Good Example Of A Daily Powerlifter Diet? Be As Descriptive As Possible.

A powerlifter needs a lot more protein than the common bodybuilder. Carbohydrates don't matter as much unless you are an athlete in sports. Fats should be high as well and get as many healthy fats as possible. High protein, high fat, and moderate to low carbohydrates is an example as a Bulgarian diet that has been famous for it's success in gaining mass and giving proper nutrition to the athlete to help them recover.

Some powerlifters get a lot of guff for being fat, I know a lot of powerlifters don't care about a clean diet, but a lot of them strive for being lean and eating clean.

A basic meal plan of 6-8 meals with a lot of food, many powerlifters get around 4,000-6,000 calories a day with protein levels of 2 grams per pound of body weight. Fats are upward of 120+ grams. And carbohydrates are usually in the 200-300 gram range. Protein shakes are used a lot in to get all the extreme protein.

2nd Place - DSM18

Bodybuilding and powerlifting are at two ends of the continuum - powerlifting can be seen as a form of sport-specific, functional training, and bodybuilding more of a sculpting art form. Powerlifting is all about strength, doing exercises that recruit the most muscles in one movement, whereas bodybuilding has more of a focus on combing isolation and compound movements with the goal of aesthetics.

A bodybuilder is more specific in his/her choice of exercises, where as a powerlifter would have more of a basic approach. The split in powerlifting can allow more body parts to be worked in each workout because there are less exercises that need to be used for each body part, but volume for each exercise tends to be higher, with lower reps.

A Quick Look At Bodybuilding VS. Powerlifting:


  • MAIN GOAL: Muscle mass
  • Sets: Moderate
  • Reps: 8-12
  • Speed of movement: slow


  • MAIN GOAL: Strength
  • Sets: high
  • Reps: 1-6
  • Speed of movement: fast
  • Powerlifting - functional, focus on your lifts at comps.

Powerlifting Training Principles:

The Lead Up To The Program.

Powerlifting programs generally have a high volume, with multiple sets per exercises (4-8). High amounts of successive sets for one exercise creates a neurological adaptation which is known to increase strength over time.

Exercises are functionally based and consist mostly of compounds that allow the body to lift superhuman amounts of weight. And because the selection is more limited, the amount of amount of exercises in a program is typically less than of a bodybuilder's routine who's aim is hitting muscles from as many angles as they can.

Reps for exercise are usually in a pyramid fashion, being reduced on each successive set. The range usually begins at a rep amount that's at the top of the continuum, usually 5-6 reps, for conditioning, and gradually decreases with each set until the final one or two reps are max-out singles, which are needed in the routine to imitate what would be done in competition.

Powerlifting calls for your red-twitch muscle fibers which are associate with explosive power to come into play during training - these are generally stimulated by a high intensity routine of very heavy weight, explosive movements and longer rest periods during sets (2-3 minutes, sometimes up to 5 minutes).

Although movements should be very explosive, they should remain controlled to reduce momentum. It might be easy to use momentum to your advantage during your workouts, but during competition, form has to be strict. Overall, a muscles time under tension in a powerlifting workout isn't much longer than 10 seconds total.

To stimulate muscle fibers, and cause hypertrophy, muscles have to stimulate with a longer time under tension (anywhere between 30-60seconds). This is one reason why very low reps, including singles, don't always cause muscle growth and why bodybuilders choose to use a higher rep range.

Powerlifting routines should last between 1-1 1/2 hours, any shorter and you're probably not doing enough sets or taking the required rest between sets, and any longer you'll be overtraining.

Powerlifting Workout

It's important to note beginners should only train 3-4 days per week maximum. Advance trainers between 4-6 days. Its important to pyramid weight on each exercise, with particularly low reps on the big 3 main lifts that form the core of the routine.

Day One: Specialization: Flat Bench.

    • Flat Bench Press: 6-8 sets - 6,5,5,3,2,1
    • Incline Bench: 3 sets - 8,6,4 reps
    • Skull Crushers: 3 sets - 8,6,4 reps
    • ABS: Weighted Decline Situps: 3 sets, 6 reps
    • Frog kicks with a dumbbell: 3 sets, 8 reps

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day One: Specialization: Flat Bench.

Day Two: Specialization: Squats.

    • Squats: 6-8 sets - 6,5,5,3,2,1 reps
    • Lying Leg Curls: 3 sets - 6,5,4 reps
    • Standing Calf Raises: 3 sets - 12,10,8 reps
    • Glute/Ham Raises: 3 sets - 6,5,4 reps

Day Three: Specialization: Deadlifts.

    • Deadlifts: 6,5,5,3,2,1 reps
    • Shoulder press: 8,6,4 reps
    • Bent over barbell rows: 8,6,4 reps
    • Reverse Hypers: 6,5,4 reps

Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day Three: Specialization: Deadlifts.

After this cycle of 3 days training, take a one day break. If you feel you are the type who needs more recovery, take two days off.

Notes On Creating Your Own Programs:

It's important to not just include the "big 3" (squats, deadlifts and bench press). During the "big 3" the body uses stabilizers, such as the hamstrings in the squat, and by performing additional exercises like lying leg curls will build hamstring strength, and lead to better poundage in the squat. It's important to also not ignore training abs.

It's an idea to alternate moderate reps (6-10) and lower reps (4-6) for additional exercises too, as using higher reps usually means you don't require extended rest periods and builds speed. On the other hand, use low reps and always pyramid weight for your main exercises.

If you have one particular lift you specialize in, then consider increasing volume for this exercise, or training it twice, but not so much that your over training. Most important, keep it basic. Choose strong and functional exercises and be sure use good form.

Performance Tips:

Include Partial Reps:

Don't rely on them. It can be easy to because they are great at developing strength, and allow you to lift more than usual, but they aren't complete movements. They can however help you develop strength during your "weak" point in a lift you perform in competition.

The rule is pretty easy - whatever area of your lift you need improving, use a power rack to lock out that position, whether it the bottom, mid or upper area of the movement, and do the exercise this way for the assigned reps.

Static Holds:

Also, you might want to use static holds occasionally to get use to handling massive amounts of weight. Again, you can use a power rack to lock out whatever position of a movement you need working on, and when you return back to lifting a full range of motion on that movement, you won't believe your strength gains.


What Is A Good Example Of A Daily Powerlifter Diet? Be As Descriptive As Possible.

Carrying fat isn't so much of an issue for powerlifters as it is for bodybuilders. The role of a bodybuilder is to look aesthetical, and the role of a powerlifter is strength, so it makes sense that each of their diets adhere to their aims. This means powerlifters can eat more calories without having to monitor their intake as strictly.

Of these calories, protein is the most vital. It will help maintain, and build strength, and repair muscle breakdown and aid recovery, which are all in the cycle of strength development. To ensure they are getting enough protein, supplementation through powder and amino acids are necessary, and also provide a more quick digesting form which can be particularly useful after training.

Carbohydrates also shouldn't be ignored. There importance to a powerlifter isn't anywhere near that of protein, but a moderate-high intake is required. The glycogen will give them that much needed fuel during their constant short bursts of power they need during a workout.

That's where the power of a supplement called creatine is so useful - it is a substance found naturally in the body that provides the body with quick, explosive bursts of power and energy that are used during sports like powerlifting, sprinting and football. Overall, the diet should be high in both protein and slow-digesting carbohydrates with moderate fats.

The diet also shouldn't ignore the need for balance and generally healthy foods. A lot of powerlifters, even some bodybuilders, think if they get their protein then that's enough - but a healthy, balanced diet will give you all the micronutrients in a less processed form so your training at your maximum.