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Beginner Powerlifting Program for Experienced Weightlifter?

Been a long time lurker of T-Nation and just made an account to ask this question. Here’s my situation:

I’m currently a 20 yr old college sophomore weighing about 215-220lbs. After just fnishing a bulk my body fat is probably around 15-18% My current numbers and realistic with near-perfect form are:


My goals for 365 days from now are

Deadlift: 500

I have been lifting full body seriously for at least five years, and benching for probably about eight. The reason my squat is so bad is that 1) I trained for football in high school and squatted like a high school football player with terrible form and 2) I took a full year off of training legs after high school (lol).

Just in about the last 4 months have I really gotten serious about full body training again. My training partner the last 4 months is a competitive power lifter with much more strength, knowledge and experience with me. Thanks to his help I reset my squat weight to much lower than I thought I could do and fixed my form. In these 4 months of training full body again I completed two separate bodybuilding programs, packed on almost 25 pounds of muscle (and fat) and outgrew all my pants. All of my lifting forms are solid and I want to join my buddies power lifting team in hopefully a year from now.

So my question basically is this: Because I have never trained for power lifting before, but have still lifted seriously for 5 years should I still start with a beginner program? I know for sure that my squat would benefit from a beginner program, but I doubt a beginner program would benefit my bench or dead lift. Are there any programs you recommend for my situation? Should I implement different shorter programs over my year long training period, or stick with one 365 day training program? Is a 315 to 405 jump in squat realistic in a year period? Thank you for reading and for helping, <3 T-nation.

TL;DR: I’ve weight trained for 5 years but never specifically for powerlifting. I am looking for a (beginner?) power lifting program that would most benefit me for my situation. My squat is terrible and I want to focus most on improving that.

yes, absolutely. I see that all the time.

I don’t think you need to run a ‘beginner program’. I’d run 5/3/1, or any other program of your choice that includes the big 3.

I’d also start eating better. Those numbers are really not good for your bodyweight, and I imagine you’re fatter than you think you are, unless you’re also very tall.


No, don’t start with a beginner program. Do something that has you squat and bench 2-3x/week, that will help you improve technique faster.

If you want a ready-made program, do 5/3/1 with 5’s progression on the comp. lifts (sets of 5 for all work sets and keep working up in 10% jumps to a heavy set of 5, no AMRAP sets), do 5x5 opposite first set last for squat and deadlift (first “work set” weight for 5x5 deadlifts after your heavy squats and vice versa). I would do close grip bench as the main lift on your 2nd upper body day, figure out a max and you can do AMRAP sets, it’s not a comp. lift so technique is not so important, you can do OHP in the same format after. Don’t overdo assistance work, for upper body you could do flys, dips, and some kind of tricep extension, for lower body I wouldn’t add much more than some ab work at most until you see ho much you can handle. Do some rows and chin ups too.

That’s the program I recommend unless oyu are going to hire a coach, once you stall out you can do triples, doubles, or single for the top set, change assistance work, and so on.

Thank you for the reply. My posted weight is a bit exxagerated as I always weigh myself with shoes on after big meals, but you’re right I’m probably above 15% body fat. Last year around this time I took Adderall everyday and was barely 175, so once I got off that I took eating a bit far with weight gain as my only goal.

I’ve decided I’m going to do a cutting period before starting the 5/3/1 program you recommended; that way I can pack on calories during the strength program and not worry about getting too fat.

What would be the optimal weight and body fat % for a 6’1 male going into a powerlifting/bulking program? I was thinking of making my goal 205lb and maybe 10-12% bodyfat before starting my powerlifting program. Do those numbers sound about right ?

Thanks again


Thanks for the reply. I decided I’m going to cut a bit before the program you and the other reply recommended. I’ve been researching 5/3/1 a bit; how do you think this split looks for 5/3/1?

Day 1: 5/3/1 sqaut, abs, quad + glute work
Day 2: 5/3/1 bench, triceps, shoulders
Day 3: 5/3/1 deadlift, back + biceps, ham and calf work

Any input on this split ?
I would focus mainly on the compound movements you recomended and only implement isolation exercises when needed in order to avoid over training

You can find a whole bunch of articles on 5/3/1, including on this site. The basic upper lower split is day 1 bench, day 2 squat, day off, day 3 2nd upper body day (normally OHP but that doesn’t make sense for PL), day 4 deadlift, then 2 days off.

You can cut while doing this program, there is no reason why you can’t.

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Interesting. I figured if I was to train for strength then eating a large calorie surplus would benefit me. I still plan on doing a small intense cut before the program so I can eat maintnence while on it.

Thanks a lot for the help. I’ll let you know where I’m at in a year from now !:grin:

There is no reasonable way to answer this question. If powerlifting is your goal, you should start a powerlifting/bulking program regardless of your starting point.

Programs do not put on or take off bodyfat. Eating does that, along with simply carrying more muscle mass to affect your overall metabolism. So programming-wise, you should just do what coincides with your goals no matter what.

Diet is really what you should be asking about. Specifically, what bodyfat you should diet down to before you go back into a caloric surplus to support muscular gains.

The answer to this question tends to be in the 10-15% bodyfat range. I carry a lower bodyfat than this year-round, but that’s because I’m able to eat in a caloric surplus and not put on fat. Most people can’t do this. Basically, you want to be lean enough that, when you’re ready to compete in a powerlifting meet, you don’t have to diet down significantly just to have a reasonable total for your weight class. You also don’t want your bodyfat level to interfere with your ability to lift weights in general. Outside of that, it’s mostly at your own discretion. It’s about what you’re willing to/want to carry bodyfat-wise. Everyone has their own standards. To me, ‘as lean as possible without sacrificing strength’ is ideal.

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Usually 5/3/1 looks more like this

Day 1: squat with lower body assistance core

Day 2: bench with lats biceps, triceps, delts

Day3: deads with lower body assist work

Day 4 militarily press with upper assist

Volume varies depending on template used. But you could make adjustments on day 4 to bench that day too maybe with fsl. Chris suggested something that would most likely work for you. Also you can run these template while
Losing weight just set Tm lower focus on form, bar speed and nailing technique. Then after weights push a sled or something for weight loss.

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It will benefit strength gains, but you will get fatter too.

So you can get weaker before you try to get stronger? Just eat to maintain weight and work on getting stronger, or maybe try a slight caloric deficit. You can get stronger if you don’t cut too hard, you’re not that strong to start with anyway.

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Mike Tuchscherer was talking abut this a while back, he was saying that up to around 90kg the top drug tested lifters are around 10-15%bf, more like 15-20 beyond that until you get to 275 and up then they carry more fat. That sounds pretty accurate to me.

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You guys successfully changed my mind. I’m going to start 5/3/1 right away and just eat in defecit for awhile, really get serious about cutting out 100% of junk.

I like this 5/3/1 split that Marc posted:
Day 1: squat with lower body assistance core

Day 2: bench with lats biceps, triceps, delts

Day3: deads with lower body assist work

Day 4 militarily press with upper assist

My only problem with this one is that my shoulders and chest are by far the largest muscles on my body as I have a very wide bench press and usually dedicate one day a week to shoulders. so I feel like the day dedicated to shoulders would be unnecessry for me personally; I really want to focus on my embarrassing squat.

Recommendations on tweaking the prior split so that it focuses more on legs and less on shoulders ?

Yes, you convinced me I was wrong about cutting first. I’m going to just eat defecit for awhile while doing 5/3/1. I think I bought in a little much to the “eat big to get strong” shit my buddies are always throwing around haha


Thanks for the reply. I like the split you posted other than the fact that my shoulders and chest are already oversized for my body and I don’t think I need a day dedicated to shoulders. I want to focus on improving my squat. Any tips on how to tweak the split you posted so there’s no shoulder day or shoulders on chest day so that I can do legs more

Did you not read what I wrote about having close grip bench as the main lift on the 2nd day?

Squat on your deadlift day. And do upper body workouts the day before lower body, otherwise you will be fatigued for bench. The opposite setup is fine for sq/dl because upper body work is so much less tiring.

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Sounds like everything is undersized except your skeleton, and maybe fat deposits.

Yeah bud basically what Chris said is very useful just replace military press with close grip bench

Me personally I like

Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday split just cause it spreads everything out well. Saturday being the last upper body day so it isn’t as heavy so deadlifts on Friday aren’t and issue as much.

For most part I’d lay it out as Chris said there. You can squat on deadlift days and vice versa just run first set last of the opposing lift

So Monday be 5/3/1 squats and supplemental then fsl deadlifts. And then the opposite on deadlift day. That way lots of practice on all the lifts. If you want to get strong on anmovement you have to practice it a lot. Principle of training specificity. Wanna be a good squatter you don’t go rock climbing!!!

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Yeah having massive deltoids is such a bitch😲

your lifts indicate this is not the case

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This sounds good I wanna try this is well just one question. I know about 5 Pros so u are saying just keep running it adding 5/10 pounds upper/ lower each cycle indefinitely until stall hits and not switching to amrap 5/3/1 after 2 cycles like its layed out now in days. so What about deloads would you do it every 2 cycles ?