T Nation

Why Is Everyone Against the Big 3?

Russian lifters train like that this with a lot of success. Could you get away with training like this (especially if you a short and stocky ) I do think they usually chuck in chins and rows energy permitting?

HUH? i dont know allot of people whom are against the big 3 or at least a variation of them as part of their programming on here.


There was another thread here where several people recommend against it.

You misunderstand the criticism. “A guy” told him he should focus “only” on the big 3 “for a month”

Its just an unnecessary and likely not optimal way to train to get “bigger, stronger, and leaner” … and certainly wont do anything major in a month.


Can you name 3 of these Russian lifters?

Not off hand not without looking them up , I used Tsatouline’s stuff previously with some limited success, he uses the Big 3. (spelling edit)

Who has Pavel trained?

And don’t you find it telling that, off hand, you can’t even think of anyone that actually trains this way? Because off hand I could name 2 dozen lifters who DON’T train this way, and they are at the tops of their respective sports.


Don’t recall I know you mean he is not a high level trainer.

Could you name a couple of athletes and how they train (just out of interest). I know Arsenal used Russian method when they went unbeaten for the seasoon

Sometimes the recommendation could be warranted. “A month” we all do understand how short a month is in the grand scheme of things, correct?

Russians fooled us. They told us the Secret was the Russian Twist or swinging kettlebells

The Secret Secret to Russian Strength

Back raises and reverse hypers

In terms of coaches, you have Sheiko for Russian coaches who absolutely doesn’t prescribe only using the big 3, and from there you can look at every athlete he has coached. You have Louie Simmons claim of using Russian methods, and how his folks don’t even use the competition lifts in their programming in some instances. As far as deadlifters, you can look at George Leeman, who may very well be pyschotic, but got the American deadlift record while employing progressive ROM and lots of assistance work. Jerry Pritchett just got the deadlift record at the Arnold by doing more than just using the big 3.

While on the topic of record holders, the statically strongest human to ever live with verifiable lifts, Eddie Hall, didn’t train in this manner. You can see how he trains in his documentary “Eddie” on Netflix, but it’s “like a bodybuilder”. Focus on muscles, train them hard with lots of movements. If we want to talk about the strongest human ever with questionably verifiable lifts (Paul Anderson), he ALSO chose to not train in this style. ROM progression, bodyweight work, assistance exercises, etc.

If I’m talking about dominance, Bill Kazmaier was so goddamn strong he was uninvited to World’s Strongest Man to give the other competitors a chance to win. Watch his training on youtube; lots of assistance work. You can also find his training manuals online. Bill was also one of the greatest powerlifters to walk the planet while being one of the most dominant strongman on earth. Another super dominant strong person is Mariusz Pudzianowski, who still holds the record for WSM wins at 5, and ALSO didn’t train in this style, but instead used a variety of assistance work. And in terms of guys approaching that, you have Brian Shaw holding 4 wins who also just won the Arnold today, and also uses a variety of assistance exercises. You can find out more about how he trains from his book.

This is just off the top of my head. I have only known a handful of PROGRAMS based around only doing the big 3, with Korte’s 3x3 being one of them, and in most cases it was about specializing after a baseline had already been established.


Also add Ed Coan to the list of programming good share of assistance work into his program.

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Oh yeah, how could I forget. Love himself some assistance work.

I honestly cant think of a single program or person that uses only the 3 powerlifts

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Honestly there are a few I can recall back in the day reading about in Powerlifting USA mag. The names escape me but anymore even in powerlifting its a exception today with the norm in training being some form of additional work done at least the majority of the time. With the exception being for some just doing the Big 3 leading into a peaking phase for a meet. Im a self admitted minimalist on exercise selection and I would be hard press on just doing the big 3 only.

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Yeah; I remember Paul Kelso having a routine of JUST the powerlifts in “Powerlifting Basics: Texas Style”, but even then he said you really shouldn’t follow it unless you are a highly trained athlete with a great foundation that is short on time.


uh, Rippetoe, obvs.


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Even Rip doesn’t focus on the Big 3 only.

Saying “he uses the Big 3” is very, very, very different than saying he’s a big advocate of it. Pavel has never, as far as I can remember, said people should only train with the big 3. He uses them, but he certainly doesn’t advocate most people do only the basic powerlifts and nothing else (outside of, possibly, very specific circumstances).

One of his earliest and most popular programs, Power to the People, only called for two exercises - deadlift and side press (an overhead variation). If “just the big 3” was a better approach, he likely would’ve suggest it there.

I’ve heard about this before… I’m a bit confused about where though…