T Nation

Best Powerlifting Program Ever?


-In your opinion what program do you believe to be the best for the majority of the world.


The one followed consistently and in which effort is made.


This kind of answer has really become a platitude. Moreover, it has nothing to do with what the guy asked. If you think he asked a stupid question just tell him that.

I think it’s basically a stupid question the way it’s phrased. Still, it’s ok to have and share opinions about programming specifics.

OP, if you mean “program” in the sense of a discrete training cycle or anything, obviously the question doesn’t make sense. If instead you mean general training system of philosophy, the question isn’t as bad. I like systems that emphasize the lifts without a ton of assistance, and that involve some degree of year-round exposure to heavy weights. Powerlifting is a simple sport and the ability to strain with good technique is the most important quality by a very very wide margin. So I think training that skill should be present all the time.

There are lots of systems that fit the bill there. I am lately partial to Surovetsky’s training philosophy due to flexibility, simplicity, and constant focus on development of technique with heavy weight.


I am well aware the context of this question is flawed because there is no “above all” powerlifting program. However, i do think you can find correlations that some programs have an overall positive result that is higher than others. Therefore, i created this discussion to get fellow powerlifters to share their take on truly effective programs/methods like you did with “Surovetsky’s training philosophy”.


That’s fine. My response was made more in irritation to the message above mine, some variation of which is very common now. It is sort of representative of how far the pendulum has lately swung away from the dorks who jerk off about programming models, towards an attitude that programming doesn’t matter much as long as you’re working hard.

You could have put a minute into fleshing your question out a little more though. What are your opinions on training methodology?


5/3/1 for the majority of the world provides size, strength, conditioning and all around well being.

For people wanting to really focus on powerlifting, triphasic really fits the bill for regular lifters and advanced lifters.

That said Conjugate templates and 5th set work really well too.

MarkKO really hit the nail on the head, even if he didn’t expound on it. Programming is important, but it’s less important if you don’t follow and if you’re not making progress.


-Programming is necessary because it is insinuates a structure that is designed for progression
-Programming is also crucial for the mental state of a lifter. If i complete a program that is proven to show results yet i receive none, then i do not need to blame my work ethic (just more so my genetics) because i put in the necessary work that the program requested.
-There will never be one perfect program because everything works better at different times for different people with different goals.
-I think philosophies/methodologies (not templates) should be the focus of more advanced lifters because the idea of the philosophy is to apply its methodology to your own training. This process is difficult for beginners and intermediates like myself because we are not as experienced with ourselves and programming.
-I think all programs work but, at this point in my life i really enjoy the programs available and philosophy of the conjugate method.


Have you personally ran a triphasic program? If so, please inform me which one and how it effected you. Personally, i have been looking into it but have some hesitations.


My friend and gym owner David Allen programs our triphasic.

We’re currently doing a 6 day macro cycle which is roughly 11 calendar days.

Heavy Lower, Heavy Upper, Medium Lower, Medium Upper, Light Lower, Light upper. Heavy days are triples, doubles, singles for each phase.

Medium is a %of our 1 rep max utilizing eccentric, isometric or dynamic concentric focused training

Lower is generally reps for time or a simple higher rep 4x10-15

If you go look up articles on EliteFTS David has some info about how he’s been doing triphasic for us lately.


I got a ton from reading Alpha’s logs -basically build a huuge work capacity over time then alternating between very high volume and very heavy/Westside/conjugate type phases while always keeping a base of conditioning and fitness in the background

Putting out some great content on his youtube channel lately…


Most underrated guy in the fitness industry


This guy is a monster, BAR NONE! Thanks for the link!


I’ve found a few things really help me for my individual physicality and psychology and it’s heavily based on Westside BB concepts.

I find it very important to include the ME effort, DE effort, and RE effort.

ME Effort:
It really helps me to actually strain and keep powering through on lifts with the ME day there. Also, it keeps me interested. I find this day very exciting and also the ability to make a new PR every work is nice. It won’t necessarily be a new 1RM record or even true max effort work but I will be straining with heavy work.

DE Effort:
Yes, I use the box and the wide stance. I find this gives me a ton of power in the hole with my free squat and puts my sticking point at a place where I have a better chance of grinding it out. To make sure I don’t lose my rebound in the hole, I make sure to include plyos
With bench and squat, it really helps teach me to use some momentum through sticking points. This is important for me because my body is more geared like a corvette than a silverado. Granted, I do learn something of straining from ME work.

RE Work:
I’ve found body comp to be important. Even if the muscle built isn’t the fastest hardest contracting muscle, it still gets stretched and gives me something to rebound off of in a seemingly more passive way. Fat doesn’t do that.

I’ve also found it very important to conjugate movements. When I stick with the same movements day and day out, one of two things happen. I have to go so easy on the movements to avoid overuse injury that progress nearly halts, or I just start getting hurt.

By conjugating, I can keep the effort very high without driving myself into the ground.

I also find it important to work all qualities at the same time. Granted, there are times where I emphasize one over the others. But the others will at least be on maintenance.


TFW you have made more progress in 3 years not worrying about the exact programming, going heavy, or the competition specific lifts but, focused solely on effort and enjoying the training.

I hate training heavy and unless I’m close to a meet I’m not doing it. I hate low bar squatting unless close to a meet I’m not doing it. I hate flat benching. Unless close to a meet chances are I’m not doing it and if I am it sure as hell isn’t heavy. I hate deadlifting… I never deadlift… The only thing I agree with Westside on lol.


There is no perfect program because a program that fits somebody may not work for another one.

I guess performing each lift with perfect technique is the first thing to do while starting then you can simply program a linear progression of reps and sets and see the evolution.

Once you get stucked then you can try to do new things to improve your weaknesses and break plateaus.

I think the best tip would be : don’t go TOO heavy too often on the same lifts.

I see too many people testing their 1rm every 3weeks and finally saying "damn still the same"
I think high volume/submaximal training is a key for progress.

The magic template for me is : going for a top heavy set of 1-3, then doing lighter backoff sets on a harder variation.


My training partner has been competing since he turned 52 and has been pulling 6+ and benching 4+ in competition consistently at 234lbs or less for the past 5 years. He never follows programming. Trains entirely by feel. Just likes to workout. Doesn’t really know or understand no matter how much I try to teach him about peaking for a meet. He never maxes. Just does reps. Just enjoys getting in a good workout. He’s incredibly strong for his age and completely drug free.

The point is - just train. Just lift some weight. Go heavy sometimes. Sometimes back off. Just listen to your body and not your ego. A while back 531 originator Jim Wendler said he just wished everyone would get off the internet and go train for 10 years without anything else. I think its an exaggeration but still a lot of truth in it. None of the guys in the early days knew. They just trained and paid attention to what worked for them.

Do yourself a favor an read into how some of the strongest guys in the world (known well and those not known well) trained and see the contrast. They found their path.

Make it work for you.

However, the best program in writing and being sold I’m assuming is what you’re really asking after not answering your question for a couple of paragraphs (sorry)…

IMO - Beyond 531…there is years and years of training in that book. It hits all scopes of training. It is extremely broad. I don’t know if you’d have time to run them all, but it’d be fun trying.


Really nice story, finally I guess programming becomes useless with experience… ok maybe you wanna peak or something but auto regulation seems the best.

It doesn’t mean you do random shit, you know what you’re doing but you’re not writing workout after workouts “ok there I did one extra rep on the bench at x weight etc…”

I’ve just been lifting for two years but I spend SO much time finding great programs etc… while things can be kept really simple.

Just lift the weight, some days you wanna go heavy, singles, triples, other days you may try medium weights, harder variations, more or less assistance work etc…

You don’t become great with just a program, you become great with YEARS of dedication to your sport.


This, and this

Also, I think all the effective programs have similar principles in common, be it Westside or 531 or Triphasic. From what I can tell it the main ones are:

  • leave your ego out of training
  • train for your goals
  • recover properly
  • strengthen your weak points
  • strengthen your strong points
  • be fast as well as strong


We all have different goals and lifestyles that predict which training style is “best.” For example, I work 50 plus hours a week, go to school, and have a family to care for. So my time is minimal at best. So I follow a lot of Brook Kubik’s programs. I have friends who hate Kubik’s programs, because they are too short with little variety. But, it is the best for me. So, look at different programs, figure out your goals, and pick one, because truth be told they all work.


No two people should train alike.

That being said beginners are best served by either Starr’s 5 x 5 or SS. 5/3/1 is too slow for beginners but works better for advance intermediates and up.