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Elite Lifter Programming

Just thought I’d share the programming used by the current #3 all-time SHW single ply powerlifter. Most of us at the gym use this style of programming to a certain degree with minor adjustments here and there and continue getting stronger every year. I train with him every week.

Here is the template:

Normal Training - No meet planned or more than 12 weeks out
Week 1: squat 5 rep / bench 5 rep / deadlift single
Week 2: squat 5 rep / bench single / deadlift 5 rep
Week 3: squat single / bench 5 rep / deadlift 5 rep
Week 4: all lifts 5 rep
Week 5: deload
Week 6: repeat

Normal training is volume mixed with heavy singles just to still feel the weight. The idea behind the 5 is to use a weight you can do anytime you come into the gym. It’s just work - that’s it. It should challenge you. We use a general 80-ish percent give or take a few pounds. The heavy single will typically be around 90 percent just to feel something heavy and move it smooth, fast with no grinding. Try to keep using the same weights until you are manhandling that weight and by manhandling, I mean pausing each rep for a triple or pausing the last rep of a 5 rep set and doing it consistently. Then bump it up 20lbs or so. With this training you’ll hit a single every six weeks in each lift.

Meet Training
Week 1: squat single / bench single / deadlift 5 rep
Week 2: squat 5 rep / bench 5 rep / deadlift single
Week 3: all lifts 5 rep
Week 4: repeat

This is meet prep training. There are no deloads during this. This is used as the meet gets closer. Usually when there’s more than 6-8 weeks out. Keep the work weights the same. The singles can be used to start feeling your way thru where you are currently at.

Meet Training
Week 1: squat single / bench single / deadlift 5 rep
Week 2: squat 5 rep / bench 5 rep / deadlift single
Week 3: repeat

This is generally used 4-8 weeks out. No deloads here either. This is where you want to start cranking up the intensity of the singles but still nothing max. Everything should be smooth.

Obviously this template is subject to change based on how you feel, injuries, etc. It is recommended the most important part of this programming is getting in the work. Getting in those 5’s are what is gonna keep you progressing over the long haul.

I wish long ago I would have been using this instead of wasting my time with all the other programs out there. Time and pressure and consistency are what make progress. It is good to vary some of the main lifts after the meet just to do something different as sort of a deload for a month before getting back to the main work.


Thanks for posting this. My girlfriend has been doing well on your 3/5/2/1 scheme for main lifts, followed by “pump work.”

How did you guys evolve it to this “flatter” plan, using the same weight for awhile? What have you guys been doing after the Big lifts?

The volume seems too low for the vast majority of lifters (elite or otherwise), I could see that working for a SHW though.


Most think using the same weight will create stagnation but it doesn’t. Again, it is a template and subject to change. Many times I will get to my work weight and find I have more in me so I might make a 20-50lb jump and hit a heavy triple. The goal is to have a set working weight that always works for you. Its heavy enough to challenge and able to be attained anytime you walk into the gym.

After lifts varies on energy. Some have extra bodybuilding days thrown in. I personally go on energy level. Still lots of high reps for bodybuilding.

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Depends on the jumps you make to get to your work weight. Its more about intensity than mass amounts of volume at lower percentages. The volume at 80% is pretty significant and effective.

If you’re a 500lb squatter, your warm ups might go 135/225/315/365/405 as a base. If you feel good and wanna go heavier you can. If you want more volume it might look like 135/225/275/315/365/405.

It’s plenty of volume for the intensity being used.


This program doesn’t seem very reasonable. For single ply powerlifters missing in training program variants of fundamental exercises (box squats, board press, rack pull and others). Missing, as has been said, sufficient training volume. The difficulty is very easy. This training program lacks logic.

How far out from a meet would you start using gear with this kind of setup?

What are your numbers again?

Yea I imagine what’s on paper looks good compared to the actual work. The more elaborate the program, the more elaborate or varying of movement must mean it is superior and works wonders.

However, in the real world and in practice, the template works very very well. Again, it is a template. It is not a fixed program.

It’s funny to me how so many lifters think it takes tons of volume to get anywhere. Volume can be adjusted so easily as I said. If you need more volume, add more sets. I personally don’t need all the extra volume.

So I guess a SHW single ply with a 2627 total, a 275 single ply with a 2000lb total, a 165 with a 1300lb total raw, a 275 multiply at 2050 total, a 242 at 1500+ total among others that I can’t remember off hand doesn’t make any sense either…but then again, totals are for powerlifters, not specialists.


Briefs are used the majority of the time but raw work is done sparingly for squat and deadlift. Bench varies on the lifter. I like an even mix of raw and slingshot work.

Full gear is varied based on how much work you need in it. If you have to break in a new piece of equipment, you might be every other week to every third week. Full gear is mostly by feel. Just depends on if you feel ready to go in the gear or not.

I prefer less gear the majority of the time. However, I’m currently breaking in a new squat suit and bench shirt so I’m currently at every other week.

Noob powerlifter checking in.

Is this notation referring to a 3day/week program (Mon: Squat, Wed: Bench, Fri: Dead)?

What type of assistance exercises are some go-to ones for you guys?

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3 days for main lifts. Some of the guys add extra days for assistance stuff. There is still assistance done on main lift days if the energy is there.

Everyone does assistance differently. Personally, I like GHR’s, banded pull downs for abs and varying grips of pulldowns for lats for squat and DL. Upper body work usually consists of a lot of higher rep low weight tricep, bicep, delt, upper back work. I don’t like heavy assistance work. I like pumping blood after lifting heavy in the main lifts so most of my assistance work is light most of the time.

Assistance work IMO should be tailored towards general growth, fitness, blood pump, recovery, injury prevention, etc.

As for building weaknesses I have yet to find something that needs extra work due to consistent failure or hard spots in a lift. Usually if I fail at a lift its a technique issue and not a strength issue. Technique and speed/power in a main lift I’ve always focused on. For example: pause bench with semi-heavy weight or pause squats/pause deads where the lift is difficult for me. I would do block pulls if I struggled with lockout power. I sort of incorporate this during my warm ups to keep myself strong during the most difficult portion of the lift. Pauses/time under tension is a great tool for getting stronger with submax weight.


interesting setup. how would this method be modified for a low level lifter (beginner or less than 1 year experience) bit more volume? higher frequency? more assistance work?

Anyone with less than a year I say still do 5’s but more “work” sets. Focus should be mostly on technique, even tho we all still focus very much on technique. Weights in the beginning aren’t as relevant. Get the technique first before getting concerned with how much weight is on the bar. Less than a year should not be doing singles. Beginners should certainly do more assistance work to build muscle.

Hey man, I just saw your assistance recommendation for bench/dead in another thread. My girl friend really likes your General layout, some I’m going to give her your guidelines. They look smart.

What do you muscle groups/movement patterns do you guys do after squatting?

Everyone is different. I can tell you what I do.

I usually do something for low back/hamstrings first, then mid-back then upper back and last abs.

Might look like this: SLDL, barbell row, face pulls, banded ab pulldowns. Yesterday was reverse hyper, barbell row, lat pulldowns focused on upper back and heavy banded shrugs(gotta build a shelf for the bar on your back).

This would be after a squat day. 3 sets each.

Basically I do everything the same for lower body except on deadlift day I will do a squat variation like a pause squat or wide stance box squat.

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Lots of back, lots of hamstrings, a couple abs. I like it.

Thanks for the info.

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Where is this mystery post you speak of…I looked yesterday through all kinds of stuff and couldn’t find it.

From osu122975 in thread Push Pull 2 Days a Week

Lower day - Deadlift
Assistance low back/hamstrings - back raise, GHR, reverse hyper, SLDL, GM’s (one exercise for 3 sets) You could do box squats with a wide stance for assistance as well
Accessory mid back - rowing (any type) alternate between horizontal and vertical every other week (one exercise for 3 sets)
Accessory upper back - rowing/shrugging - face pulls, band pull aparts, shrugs, etc. (one exercise for 3 sets)

Upper day - Bench press
Upper assistance - any type of pressing variation (overhead, dumbbells, incline, decline, dips, pushups, etc. 3 sets of one exercise)
Upper accessories - biceps, triceps (3 sets of one exercise each)
Upper accessories - delts (2 sets of band work multiple angles high reps and rotator work)

** except for delt work, always make the last set of accessory/assistance work heavy intensity**

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Coming by Gaelic:

" How to total elite at the IPF worlds" - wait for the e-book.

Complexity and diligence of training program often lead to great results.

For me, it goes without saying that a good training program must consist of three blocks - the accumulation, the transmutation and the realization block. The training program should be based on the Prilepin’s table and the wave characteristic in each training day. I also think it is extremely important or valuable if you record total tonnage, number of lifts, average and relative intensity and tonnage average. This is almost a guarantee of quality training.