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What’s the Best Powerlifting Program for Me?


I’ve been powerlifting for a bit over a year. I’ve basically been going up 5lbs on 5 reps, 4 reps or 6 reps each session the whole time. I usually do a decent amount of accessory work after my main lifts. Making progress like this has slowed down recently and there have been multiple weeks in a row where I can’t move up in weight. It’s definitely time for me to follow a real program. What would be optimal for me? I’d really like to optimize my progress, this is obviously much much more easily said than done, but I’m sure you guys could give me your 2 cents and help me out.

I was thinking of 5/3/1, but I’ve heard some people getting no progress for 2 months, get real progress for 2 months, then stall on upper body lifts while still making progress with the squat and deadlift.

Another program I’ve looked at is Smolov jr. for bench and then doing t for squat at some point. I know, I know, it’s meant for more advanced lifters than me but wouldn’t it be less taxing for a lifter that can make faster gains? I would think that my body could adapt to the crazy volume at heavy weight faster than someone who advances slowly.

The last program I was looking at was the Texas method. It’s been recommended on powerliftingtowin, and Alan thrall claimed it did wonders for his squat, but didn’t do much for his bench ohp or deadlift. I’ve heard about that squat only progress a few other times. I worry a little about how low volume the Texas method is. It’s definitly much lower volume than what I’ve been doing up until now. Also it seems like more lower body volume than upper body volume is unnecessary.

Any other tips for programs would be great. Thanks

By the way I’m 15, 5’7, 155lbs, 12-15%bf
Bench: 175
Squat: around 285
Deadlift: around 300

What Program Should I Use?

Do 5/3/1.

Your young enough that you will make solid progress on it for some time to come. Its a solid program to teach you the in’s and outs of lifting, how to structure your programming, and what works for you specifically. It also has a lot of variation in it so you can customize it just about however you want. I say buy all Jim Wendler’s books but if you are going to get just one buy his latest one 5/3/1 Forever. Its great.

If you are going to follow 5/3/1 give it at least 6 months to a year. I garuntee you if you follow the program properly you will make solid progress. Its the kind of program that rewards consistency for continued long term progress, definitely not for your if your looking to “add 60 lbs to your bench in 6 weeks”.


What kind of accessory work and modifications would you recommend?


If your just starting out you really don’t need much accessory work or to modify the program much.

Try following the basic, original 5/3/1 program. If you can you should purchase 5/3/1 Second Edition and read it. Pick on of the basic templates like the Triumvirate to start, and get to work.

When its all said and done you really should read up on the programs so you have a good idea how they work.


I’ll definitely give it a read. I’ve been doing a fair amount of accessory work after my main movements so far. Usually 2 exercises around RPE 7 for lower body and about 2 or 3 at RPE 7 or 8 for upper body and then 2 easy supersets. The supersets are usually just something like skullcrusher w hammer curls and face pull w barbell curls (I know biceps are completely pointless for strength but I figure some RPE 6 biceps curls won’t mess with my recovery and I’m a teenager who wants to look good and be strong at the same time even though I’m mainly focused on strength). What all that basically means is 5/3/1 is seems pretty low on accessory volume compared to what I’m currently doing and I wonder if cutting all of this accessory volume would slow progression.


I’ll be honest here, I have been lifting weights for 12 years and have never used an RPE system. Have I used my instincts and body awareness during training…absolutely, but it has never been necessary for me to monitor volume that closely to make progress.

At your age and training stage you really probably don’t even know what an “RPE 8” actually even feels like since your haven’t really had to push that hard for the barbell lifts let alone bicep curls. Keep a journal of your training but don’t get bogged down in minutia or worrying how much intensity your tricep pushdowns are at.

My main advice to you, if you choose 5/3/1, is to read the programs and follow them as written, or within the parameters and principles of the methodology.

It won’t.

They aren’t, your body functions as a unit, and each part has to be strong. Your only as strong as your weakest link. Strong arms are good to have. There might not be a need to blow your biceps out every time your walk in the gym, but sure don’t neglect them either.


Thanks. I was just giving approximate RPE values to give you a general sense how how hard I push myself on accessory work


I think you should do 5/3/1, 5’s progression, and opposite first set last except for your bench day - do something like close grip bench or dumbbell bench instead since OHP is just an assistance lift.


After a year of training, find a weight (approx 75-80% of max) that you can do for a set of 5 every time you walk into the gym. Work up to that weight each session. Looks like this:

Week 1 - one top set of 5
Week 2 - one top set of 5
Week 3 - one top set of 5 lighter than previous week
Week 4 - work up to a heavy single (not a max, smooth and under control, not a grinder)

Consistency is the key. You don’t have to nor should you be jumping all over with different weights and rep schemes.

As the 5 gets easier, challenge yourself a little longer with that weight by doing pause triples with it or pausing the last rep of the 5. Once that gets easy, add 20lbs to your working weight.

It’s all about putting in the work, using proper form and consistency.


I clearly don’t know enough about 5/3/1. I’m only farmiliar with the base program. What do you mean by 5’s progression and opposite first set last? Also for the day replacing my ohp day when I’ll likley be doing close grip bench, should I be pushing it as hard as I was on the first bench day? Thanks.


5’s progression means that you do sets of 5 for all work sets on the main lifts and work up in 10% jumps (10% of your training max) for sets of 5 depending on how you feel. If everything feels easy then add 10% and do another set, if the last one was hard then stop, and if you do a couple reps and you can’t maintain proper technique then stop the set because you just fucked up. Doing rep maxes is not a good way for beginners to learn proper technique, I did 5/3/1 when I started to think about PL and my squat technique ended up being complete shit as a result, deadlift wasn’t much better. You want volume, but it has to be quality volume.

I should have said 5x5 opposite first set last, what this means is that after you work up to your top set of 5 for the day you do the opposite lift (5’s on squat then 5x5 deadlift) with the weight for your FIRST work set that week. Maybe just do this for squat and deadlift since you want to do close grip bench instead of OHP, that’s actually a good idea but you can still do OHP.

Here is what I would recommend for you:
Monday: Bench - 5’s progression, bench 5x5 first set last (not opposite, just bench), dips 4-5 sets of 8-12, chin ups 4-5 sets - you can do these with an underhand grip to build your biceps, they are just as good as curls.

Tuesday: squat -5’s progression, deadlift 5x5, leg press or hack squat for 4-5 sets of 8-15, some ab work if you want

Thursday: close grip bench - 5/3/1 sets and reps - you can go for a rep max here just don’t fail or get hurt- then OHP - same thing - skull crushers, then face pulls and curls

Friday: deadlift 5’s progression, squat 5x5 fsl, barbell row, abs.

If it seems too easy after 6 weeks then let me know and I will give you some ideas. You don’t want to do the maximum possible in each workout, that is a good way to burn yourself out and go nowhere, better to start with less and adjust as you go.


And don’t go to failure on anything, nothing past RPE 8.


Thanks so much. How heavy should my first set be for 5’s progression and fsl?

Also a quick side note, I’ve learned to love grinding one or 2 sets per week, especially in the lower rep ranges (1-3). It also is more specific to powerlifting. I 100% understand that doing this too often isn’t optimal. Do you think that there would be any way to fit in one heavy set on each movement every 4 weeks or so? I don’t actually think it’s a good idea because of form breakdown, but I still have a lot to learn. Do you think there would be any way to incorporate this?


You follow the 5/3/1 progression but do 5’s for every set and after the 3rd set you can make 10% jumps (10% of your training max) for additional sets of 5 if you feel good and confident. FSL is the weight from the first work set, like the 5/3/1+ week you would use the weight that you at supposed to do 5 with.


There is no point in doing that on a regular basis, you want to train like you are peaking for a meet. Think long term progress vs. PRs right now. I try to avoid grinding anything if I can.


Ok thanks!


If I was you, I would do exactly this for 6 weeks (2 3-week cycles then 1 week deload) and if it feels too easy and you are well recovered then come back and ask for some advice, I will tell you to add a bit of volume here and there. After two 6 week blocks you can consider changing some of the assistance exercises. Right now you just need to learn to do the lifts properly and build some muscle, you haven’t been training long so you don’t need much variation at all.

Post some videos for form check. Not max attempts, don’t even think about that for now. You want to build strength (and muscle) not test it.


Also, for the assistance exercises aim to either add a couple reps each week or 5lbs. while staying in the rep ranges I mentioned. Face pulls can be 15-25 reps, you don’t go heavy on those. If you just lift the same weights for the same reps every week you won’t go anywhere, stay away from failure but add reps and when you can’t add reps then up the weight.


The people who don’t make progress on 531 almost always run the program in an improper fashion. It’s usually using a training max that’s too high, but a lot also set up their assistance work and/or conditioning completely wrong.


I made a google doc for the program. Is this all correct? you can leave comments on it if there is anything I misunderstood. @chris_ottawa