T Nation

Train Only the Big 3?


Hey Coach! Would you ever recommend to only train squat, bench and deadlift for someone who can only train 3 days a week? If so, how would you program that? Thanks.


Many good powerlifters have trained that way (sometimes throwing in some minor assistance work).

Here’s a good example, of course it’s over 5 days a week but you can understand the concept.

I also wrote a a program using only the big 3 (and assistance work on a 4th day) which was called Canadian Non-Linear Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Training (yeah I know).

Can’t find the complete program anymore (It was written before I started writign for T-nation 18 years ago). I could only find an intro to it, but you can get an idea of the program…

"Basically you will train 4 times every 7 days. You do each of the three competition lifts three times per week (similar to Korte 3 x 3 program) while varying the load, volume and tempo on each of the training days.

The fourth training day is to work on your core strength and on your perceived weaknesses.

There are three types of workout (besides the remedial training day).

Type 1. Speed days where you use 55-60% of your 1RM performed as fast as possible for 8-10 sets of 2 (similar to WBC).

Type 2. Heavy days where you work up to your 3RM (maximum weight you can handle for 3 reps) in 4 to 7 sets.

Type 3. Moderate days where you work up to your 6RM (maximum weight you can handle for 6 reps) in 4 to 5 sets.

At each workout you use a different type of training for each of the lifts. For example day 1 might be a speed day for your bench, a moderate day for your squat and a heavy day for your deadlift. This kind of system has been used for decades in olympic lifting and produced more strength and power than any other training philosophy combined! Give it a try and you’ll see for yourself how effective it is."

You can also look up the Stephan Korten 3x3 program for another example. And you can look up “starting strength” by Rippetoe and “The strongest shall survive” by Bill Starr

If you can only train 3x a week I would add one assistance lift per day (so 4 exercises in the workout). On day 1 you might do a squat assistance, on day 2 a bench assistance and on day 3 a deadlift assistance


@Christian_Thibaudeau EIGHTEEN YEARS?!¿¡ Wow. I feel reeaaalllyyy old. :man_facepalming:t2:


In fact I believe it’s 19 now


I’ve trained only the big 3 for a brief while and found success — it was just boring for me personally. What I did was basically the layer system with a set of pull-ups in between every set of everything else.

Because I think the only major “gap” in the big 3 is upper body pulling. You could do face pulls or pull aparts instead of the pull-ups