T Nation

Powerlifting for Clients?


This post is aimed at people who train clients or even friends and family for that matter.

Do you have your clients do powerlifts? I train people at a commercial gym and I look like the oddball trainer. All of my clients were doing powerlifting and my colleagues all have their clients doing isolation/bodybuilding stuff. They were on a chest/tri back/bi ham/quad split.

I thought it was odd to put an overweight mother on a bodybuilding routine. My personal philosophy is that the powerlifts burn the most calories and are the most beneficial for muscle/tendon strength. Am i missing something here? It's not like the fellow trainers are numbnuts, one of them was the Mr. New England for this year. And he trains people like a retard (or so I think).

How do/would you train your clients? Would you base their routine on powerlifts like I do?


My son has recently started training (he's 17 I'm 50) I used to powerlift and use the lifts for his routine.
Started him off With a variety of DB exercises first then introduced MP (BB) the BP then Squat. Finaly introduced DL (he loves them!). The plan is to get him doing something similar to 5/3/1 in a while.


Who do you train? If you train young healthy athletes, they need to do the powerlifts, if you train middle aged women who want to lose weight, they need to do the powerlifts. It really comes down to whatever the client enjoys the most and what they will consistantly do. If you have a 45 year old women that hates lifting weights, then get her ass on a stepper or something.

But, low intensity aerobic exercises is not good for anyone, unless they are a tri-athlete or marathon runner. For the general population, they go to a gym to burn calories and lose weight. During aerobic exercise, calories are only burned during the work out itself. So, in order to keep burning higher and higher amounts of calories, the duration has to keep increasing.

High intensity resistance training initiates EPOC, excess postexercise oxygen consumption, that continues burning calories at a high rate up to 36 hours after the workout is over. Having muscle burns more calories at rest than not having muscle. Thats why fat people get fatter.

As long as your progression into the lifts make sense and the client is comfortable with doing them, everything should work out great and they will actually get results. Or, keep letting them jog for hours and watch their knees slowly crumble to nothing.


You sir are an awesome father. I plan to do the same with my sons (7,5), just not yet.


With my clients, I gauge based on how they do in the warmup. If they can lunge across the room I get them squatting with a bar as soon as I can. If not, then it'll usually be bodyweight squatting to a low box for a lot of reps until they're comfortable with the motion.
Benching shares roughly equal time with pressing, I like to teach the press first since it ties in better with squatting, and do the bench on the second day.
Deads are tough. I've been introducing deads as a rack pull and then gradually lowering the rack height over a couple sessions. Not sure how else to do that (any suggestions are welcome)

I usually only see them once a week so it's a squat/push/pull layout in the strength portion of the workout, and then finish off with something more metabolically challenging, either a circuit or vo2 intervals on the bike...yadda yadda yadda

So, go with exercises that work the most muscle and serve as the best possible analog to a basic movement pattern while being as scalable and safe as possible. Most of those are the powerlifts...surprise surprise.


All of my clients press, deadlift, front squat, and bench press (sometimes floor press if shoulders are dodgy) eventually. Most of them have to work up to it though.


That's funny that you say he loves them, whenever I teach ANYONE how to deadlift, they love it. It's just such a great/fun movement.

I had no idea about EPOC, now I have another reason why I should be building routines around the powerlifts. Thanks Storm.

What if your client is expressedly NOT comfortable with powerlifting. BUT you know their reluctance stems from insecurity and nothing really else. How would you handle this? I have had a couple of these.

Kevin, I had an older lady, about mid 40s, yesterday, who in her entire gym career bench pressed only half way down. This was the same for all of her lifts, completely half ass. She told me her goal was to lift more weight. This was a huge problem for me. Because once I got her doing the full ROM, she wasnt (obviously) doing much less weight. How would you approach this problem where the client is only after higher numbers, but performing the exercises incorrectly?

Are all of your clients athletic?

How in the world would you teach a front squat to someone non-athletic. I am athletic and struggled with it for many months when I first learned.


If you had someone coaching you that knows how to teach a front squat, do you still think you would have struggled with if for many months when you first learned?


No, no. That's not what I meant. I meant that your clients must be young and/or athletic because I don't see how you could be having (and I quote) "all" of your clients front squatting. I can't get this one short and fat guy doing anything but box squats at the moment. What's your secret?

Also, to do a real front squat, one needs some decent shoulder mass to rest the bar on...

I'm just confused. Thanks.


Worst case scenario the people that make the Manta Ray also make something for front squats.

I stated doing front squats at a skinny fat 136lbs, a beginner isnt going to be using much weight and shouldn't have a problem with or withou the Manta Ray things.