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Where to Start with Powerlifting?

I have been bodybuilding for the past three years and gained massive interest in powerlifting for a while now and want to start but don’t know where to start. I also want to compete one day in a meet!
I’m 104KG and 19 years old
My S/B/D 1RMs are 180KG/140KG/200KG
I have never done a powerlifting program but want to start one. Thanks!

Since you’ve been body building, that is a great base for starting a PL program.

I personally like 531. I would highly recommend the newer 6 week cycle version before deload than the old 3 week and then deload. I also love the theory of the Joker sets as well. You can’t go wrong with it. Keep the bodybuilding stuff in after the main work. Get the “Beyond 531” book. There is years and years of training in there.


5/3/1 is a great program to move to. Wendler makes it very simple. I’ve trained conjugate for about 8 months now and have seen good results from that (Google Westside method). It’s a method and not a program, so it’s more about you knowing yourself and how to troubleshoot your weak points (and what they are- basically the complete opposite of Wendler in terms of simplicity). I’m thinking about running a cycle of Brandon Lilly’s Cube Method to change things up a bit. Chad Wesley Smith has the Juggernaut Method which has produced some good results as well. Ed Coan did his own linear periodization that he’s talked about on several occasions.

In the end, if you’re seasoned at bb you already know this, but it’s less about the program than it is hard work in the right direction. Pick any one of those and put in the work and you’ll get good results.

Chad Wesley Smith actually does an overview of several programs on YouTube that you might want to check out.


Thanks for the help I will definately look into all these and will make an update on how I get on! Thanks again!

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My recommendation afetr 35 years of under the bar experience:

  1. Start with linear progression - Study Ed Coan’s programs. This is the basis and will teach you about your body’s capabilities and provide a good base strength level. Stay with this for a year or more.

  2. For an intermediate program try Juggernaut if you like volume and 5/3/1 if you like varibility and slower progression.

  3. Finally conjugate or cube (an evolution from conjugate). A warning however regarding conjugate/westside: If your form is not close to 100% dialed in it will confuse your motor patterns. Most people need at least 3-5 years before their form is good enough to train westside. And yes it works for raw lifters.

  4. Stay the fuck away from bulgarian, smolov, sheiko and such. Those programs are designed for selected specimen athletes and are not applicable to 99.9% of the lifting population.

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What’s wrong with Sheiko? His programs might be higher volume than what a lot of people are used to, but the intensity is also low and you stay far from failure. I haven’t used any of his sample programs because they are meant for lower level lifters but most people who use them get good results.

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I tried the 5/3/1 today with barbell bench press being first today.

I did 3 sets of 5 with 85kg,95kg and 110kg.
I also did some incline dumbbell and pec deck flyes but only 3 sets of 10 reps.
I then did 3 exercises for triceps also 3 sets for 10 reps each.

Would this be Ed Coan’s Program ?

Basically yes, but it gets a bit more involved than just sets and reps. To get the whole thing expllained you need to get Marty Gallagher’s book - “Ed Coan, The Man the Myth, The Method”.

One takeaway is he said that when he was younger he did more sets of major movements and they redced as he got stronger. So a beginner could go 3 or 4 sets, an intermediate 2-3, and an advanced lifter (Elite and up) 1-2 sets.

The key to making it work is accurately picking your projected max that all poundages are based on. If you pick a projected weight that is too heavy, you will miss weights in week 9-12. Its a good routine to teach discipline but it can get somewhat boring and mentally draining. A beginner would start with a projection for example 400 and subtract 10 lbs per week up to 12 weeks out not counting the taper week. You would do 2 weeks of 10’s, 2 weeks of 8’s, 4 weeks of 5’s, 2 weeks of 3’s and 2 weeks of 2’s. Each rep drops seems easier than the week before because by adding ten lbs, but dropping reps, it feels like a slight deload.

This is a quick summary so you should get the book if you’re interested in it. Plenty of guys have gotten strong on this method. I can’t do it due to age hampered recovery ability. The heavy Squatting and Deadlifting a few days apart are tough for older lifters. Believe it or not I recover better on Westside style programming.

I put a young (25 yr old soccer player) on it and he went from 305 to an easy 365 in one cycle, but of course your mileage may vary.

jbackos, could you elaborate on conjugate confusing your motor patterns?

I started with conjugate pretty early on b/c that’s the standard programming at my facility. I did find that if a lifter went at conjugate/westside before building up a base level of strength, then it doesn’t work well as the percentages used don’t work well, and speed work, well, just isn’t speed work.

But I’m curious about your statement.

Congrats on 35 years under the bar. Dang, that’s awesome.


If you follow westside to the letter and do box squats, and deadlift and bench variations and never do the comp. lifts until the meet. You will be all over the place. Your body need to have memorized the motor pattern akin to riding a bike.

It takes thousands of CORRECTLY performed IDENTICAL lifts for the body to ingrain the pattern. Things get further complicated when you factor in the gear (if you use it). I don’t even like beginners to perform more than one style of squat until the first one is mastered. For example your progression could go: front squat - hi bar - lo bar. Or it could go: goblet squat - hi bar - lo bar.

How do you know if your Squat is ingrained? Take a broomstick in position on your back with your feet 6 inches apart. Now close your eyes and mimic your squat setup. If its the same every time your almost there. Next, Still with the broomstick and your eyes closed drop into your squat position and rise up. Have someone film you. When you are just below parallel that need to be a position where you are jammed in and cannnot go lower. When you can do this with some weight on your back you are feeling the groove and not looking in space.

Then you would be ready IMO for full bore westside training. I tried it when I was younger and that was my issue with it. You need to be able to step away from a comp. lift for weeks or months and when you do it again it looks like you’ve been doing it all along.

Good luck.

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Ahh, makes sense.

My coach was doing the programming and all three comp lifts were part of it.

Squats: 60% box, balance free but mostly leading up to a competition

Bench: A million variations with illegal wides, narrow, bands, chains, rep schemes, but the basic, competition grip, straight weight bench was still very prominent in training.

Deads: A lot of straight weight full range of motion deads, with speed days usually with bands. Did not like banded deads at all.

I’ve been at it now for 3.5 years and still have yet to master form on any of the lifts. LOL. Despite an elite deadlift I still feel like a novice pulling, let alone squatting (sometimes I’m dialed in) and bench (ack).

Understand that dialed in form doesn’t mean perfect. It just means consistently reproducible.

BTW banded deads are hot.