T Nation

Powerlifting: Which Program First?


Hey T-Nation,

I’m looking for suggestions for which powerlifting program to run first. I have lifted for many years but have always trained for hypertrophy. I’m not a beginner, but this will be my first attempt at a structured powerlifting program (other than running Smolov several years back). I’m not running gear so looking for programs that will be effective natty.

Squat: PR of 405, current 1RM 345
Bench: PR and current 1RM of 295
Deadlift: PR of 500, current 1RM of 445

What program should I run first?


One you can progress on and enjoy doing. Sorry if that’s vague but it’s the best answer I have. If you can’t progress why bother (obvious but often overlooked) and if you don’t like the program chances are you won’t do it very long. Best idea is to have a look at mostly late intermediate programs on the net, pick one you think you would like to stick with, come back and then see what the concensus is. Finding info is fairly easy, I have not read all of them but there is a whole program review series on powerliftingtowin, might be an idea to start there.


Pick One, stick with it, and see what happens
Already said, if you dont like it,move on to something else

My 2 choices are Swedes 5th Set or Jamie Lewis Destroy the Opposition.


If you have a go in and just do work mentality and don’t want to lift at high percentages of your max, then a sheiko variations sounds like it wold be good. I don’t have personally have experience here, but that’s become my understanding of what kind of people do best with it.

If enjoy the intensity of near max to max loads, the excitement of varying your exercises, and a lot of freedom to modify your training program then Westside is a good choice. If you haven’t run it before, I recommend doing Defranco’s westside take since it will give you some more structure which will be like your westside program design training wheels and then transition into full blown Westside if you like it. I make this recommendation because it can be hard if you’re new to the system to figure out what works for you.

Keep in mind that Smolov and the Russian Squat cycle are peaking programs.

5/3/1 can work and there’s a ton of options available including ways to work in heavier working sets if need be.

There’s Mike Zourdos take on DUP. That is, daily undulating periodization. Basically, you split things into hypertrophy, power, and strength with the main lifts and assistance is there just to keep yourself healthy. There’s a volume block, and then a heavy block. Great if you respond well to lots of practice with the main lifts and frequency.

There’s the cube method which is a form of weekly undulating periodization which you means you do each lift once a week and alternate between hypertrophy, power, and strength each week and includes a good bit of assistance work after the main lifts.

Your not a beginner, and I’m assuming you have technical proficiency in the main lifts so I really think it’s just a matter of finding something that you’ll stick with and putting in the work. If a few weeks or months in, you find you hate that program then sure, pick something different. Just be careful not to start program hopping looking for that magic bullet or the newest shiniest thing out there.


Pick one that looks appealing to you. The popular ones generally work.




Pick one you like the look of. I understand that Juggernaut starts out high volume and then tapers off so that could be one option which you may like since the start probably wouldn’t be too different to what you’re used to. Paul Carter’s Base Building looks awesome, but takes a bit of thought to run. Again, I’d say elements of it you’d probably find quite familiar. I’m a big fan of 5/3/1 but you do need to pick the right template and it isn’t exactly a PL program even though it works as such. You could also try Cube.


Seeing as your current squat and deadlift numbers are well below your previous PRs, you could probably make some quick progress with linear progression, like 5x5 or something similar. There are lots of programs to choose from, I would recommend doing something that has you squatting and benching at least twice a week. Less than that is going to result in slower progress (deadlift seems to do well with lower frequency).


Thanks for all of the suggestions–I appreciate it.

I’m looking into Jonnie Candito’s 6 week program. It’s not linear periodization, but it seems to be well thought out. Have any of you tried it (or something similar)?



Last I heard it actually was linear periodization, just a short cycle. What I was talking about is linear progression, which is basically just keeping the same set and rep scheme but adding weight every week. I do something like that for my own programming, but it usually involves adding weight for 3-4 weeks and starting to drop off reps then deloading and starting back with slightly higher numbers.

Anyway, Candito’s program should work just fine. Don’t get carried away with adding all kinds of bodybuilding work like some people, that will add fatigue and can affect the lifts that actually matter.