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Minimalist Powerlifting Training

I know many lifters use westside or train weaknesses/ muscles involed in the big 3 with hypertrophy work, but what you think about minimalist training?
I lift 3 times a week and each lift twice
A) Squat
B) Squat
C) Deadlift

I have read about Malanichev and other Russian powerlifters and it seems like they dont do assistance.
How many lifters here have good strength results by training only the competition lifts?

I had some of the best results of my life about a decade ago with the Korte program, doing all three lifts three times per week with lots of volume and relatively low percentages.

The weekly setup I use now is:

  1. Squat/Bench/RDL/Chinup
  2. Squat/Bench/Deadlift
  3. Squat/Bench/Press/Row
  4. SSB Squat/Deadlift/Buffalo Bar Bench

The intensities fluctuate throughout the week with this. As you can see, pretty limited exercise menu, just some targeted variations in addition to the powerlifts and some lat work.

This represents an increase in volume and frequency from what I have used in the past, so I do not have competitive results to cite yet, but I can tell you my work capacity and technique have improved a lot, and after a couple weeks of feeling horrible basically all the time, my body seems to have begun to accept this workload.

With respect to what Russian lifters do, I think there is nearly as much variety in training styles and methodologies in Russian powerlifting as there is in American, but their approaches are grounded in the lessons of weightlifting, while ours have until more recently been grounded in bodybuilding, which leads to some of the differences you probably have in mind. Lately, though, our better lifters, at least in the raw/tested camp, have tended to gravitate towards more frequency and specificity. It’s always possible for the pendulum to swing back, but with the results at IPF raw worlds and at the national meet improving so dramatically year-to-year, it looks like the value of just doing the lifts more and more is being borne out.


Look at Malanichev’s thread in the Animal forum, he says that he used to do lots of volume, special exercises, and accessory work. Until you are at his level you shouldn’t try to train the way he does now, you have to consider what he did to get to that level. You can base your training around the competition lifts and close variations, but even Malanichev says he does things like deficit deadlifts and he has one day for slingshot benching. He also does barbell rows and leg curls (I think that is because he tore a hamstring).

What I do is pretty similar to Ramo. Some stronger, older, or bigger lifters can’t handle that amount of volume or frequency, but until you get to that point you should push things fairly close to the limit if you want the best results.


90% of my training is the big 3 only. I rarely do accessory work. My buddy Tyler Butcher rarely does accessory stuff and his numbers are 1030/804/766 at his last meet in single ply. I’m a raw lifter and my numbers are 500/385/515 at my last contest in Aug of this year.

Any accessory work I do is very very light with high reps. Don’t ignore this. It is very helpful in muscle growth and recovery getting a good pump to those muscles. However, it doesn’t have to happen every time.

However, I think variations of the lifts are important. I think paused lifts are very helpful. I think overloading is very helpful in small doses. Pulls from mid shin, using a slingshot on the bench, etc. I wouldn’t worry too much about doing good mornings and floor presses and the like. Try and mimic the competition lift within a range, but don’t change too drastically. You still want to improve technique.

I do think volume is important in the lower percentages the majority of your training. You need a base. That base will help you grow but it takes patience to stay there and trust the training. There will come a time to show it off.

In regards to frequency, you’ll have to play with that. I personally don’t have success training two main lifts the same day. I don’t have the time. Personally, I like to focus on one lift per workout. You might find do what you have written will work for you. In all of this, find what works for you.

The greatest thing about training mostly the big 3 is better recovery, generally improvement in technique and overall muscle and size growth.

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I think what happens is that initially most people do better just focusing on the big three to learn technique, and because a fair bit of volume is possible given the low weights used. Then, after a while, it becomes more useful to do a bunch of assistance work (anywhere between 40:60 to 60:40 main:assistance), because the main progress driver becomes how much muscle you carry in your class. Then comes the final stage, where it almost goes back to the first where main lifts predominate.

Greg Nuckols wrote a good piece on this.

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Ive heard in Russia the elite lifter,s spend equal time on the big three as assistance .Great lifts have been built with big three .
Until you are at a high level in powerlifting, i cant see where some ,rows, fronts squats, scull crusher one assistance exercise for each lift , adding may be 15 minutes to workout would hurt.

You make a very good point, it largely depends on how advanced the lifter is and how much muscle he is carrying. Someone coming from football or bodybuilding would not need to spend as much time on hypertrophy work as a skinny guy who has never touched a bar before. I can recall reading some of Sheiko’s stuff where he says that novice lifters need to spend more time doing variation of the competition lifts and also gradually increase volume to add muscle mass. Once technique becomes more solid then the focus switches to mostly the comp. lifts themselves and higher intensity, past a certain level there is no benefit to adding muscle in a sport that is divided into weight classes.


If I was you I would ask Amit Sapir in his Q&A thread. We have one of the best lifters in the world giving free advice here, don’t pass up the opportunity.

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I think part of why some huge guys focus on just(or almost just) the basics is cause they already have all the mass they need on areas like the back,so they need little work to maintain it

For the majority of lifters that’s not the case

Let’s not forget that a bigger muscle has potentian to produce higher force (hope I’m quoting that right)

I know very few lifters who train ONLY the competition lifts. In fact, Malanichev may be the only one i can think of who has said in an interview that he ONLY squats, benches, and deadlifts. You can get plenty strong training this way but you would have to regulate volume precisely to manage adaptation and fatigue. Also, your weak points would never change. Its so much easier to just address them than ignore them and hope they go away.

I can’t just train the competition lifts. I wish I could, because I would. I’ve made my best progress when training the main lifts DUP style. But I develop overuse injuries every time I try to be specific, then have to take a lot of time off to calm inflammation and heal.

It’s not form either. I’m a form nazi. It’s that the main lifts beat me up.

I do believe I will give it another go at some point, and use a training max with scheduled deloads.

People can do it though, but need to be built with bulletproof joints, optimal limb lengths, and the knowledge to program properly.


I like what IronOne said. That is the drawback of specificity is inflammation and overuse. That is why when you begin to develop some minor issues of overuse, that is when finding a way to train around them is the way to go. Right now I’m dealing with a knee issue and cannot pull from the floor so I have to pull from just below the knee until it goes away. The good thing is, this will give me strength in an area I probably never developed and should help. I also have to either wrap my knees or box squat wide stance to keep my knee from bothering me as I usually have a narrow squat stance.

One thing for certain, doing mostly the main lifts are very beneficial but you can’t do them forever without regulating them somehow with intensity, volume or variation of the lift.

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