3×3 Powerlifting Routine

Powerlifting routines focus a lot on training a high volume phase and a competition or peaking phase. The 3×3 stands for 3 sets of 3 reps and you will be using some of the heaviest weight on these days.

This is an 8 week cycle that consists of two phases.

The first point of business is to get some numbers so the rest of this workout can be written on a piece of paper; no more trying to guess what to put on the bar on the fly.

Write down your 1 rep max for your squat, bench, and deadlift. Then,

  • Take your squat 1 rep max and add 25 pounds.
  • Take your bench 1 rep max and add 10 pounds.
  • Take your deadlift 1 rep max and add 15 pounds.

These new numbers are going to be your Projected Max.

When calculating for the weights to use each day, multiply the percent by your projected max. So 60% would be (.60 x projected max), 95% would be (.95 x projected max). Always round down your weights unless it is no more than 1 pound difference. Example: if 60% of your projected max is 223lbs, round to 220. If 85% of your projected max lands you at 314, round-up to 315.

For the assistance workouts, choose weights that are challenging but won’t bring you to failure.

Diet and Nutrition Tips

I would recommend going on a slow bulk for this routine to get the most out of it. It is easier to cut some fat afterwards than trying to make strength gains on a calorie deficit.

If you keep your weight consistent and need some tips to add calories into your diet, here are some of the best and healthiest ways to do so:

  • Butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Whole milk
  • Heavy cream
  • Cheese on everything
  • Protein shakes
  • Peanut butter
  • Olive oil
  • Extra dressing

These all add flavor and healthy fats to your diet. Personally, I prefer adding calories through this means instead of going to McDonalds and smashing a couple McDoubles.

You will feel better, have more energy, and your stomach will thank you.

Note: A little bit goes a long way, so be sure to know how many calories you are adding.

Recommended Supplements

Without a good diet, supplementation is mostly a waste of money. I will be the first to tell you to spend money on some good meats than a jug of protein.

For those who have their diets in check, here are the supplements I would use with this routine.

Pre-Workout

MTS Nutrition Clash

I personally like apple mango, but all flavors are good.

This is a great blend without too many stimulants.

Protein

MTS Machine Whey Protein: 5lbs

This is in my opinion the best tasting protein on the market. Period.

Great blend with no secrets, no amino spiking, and it is some of the best in the industry.

So far I’ve had Red Velvet, Cookies and Cream, and Key Lime. All are A+.

BCAA

MTS Nutrition Machine Fuel

Marc Lobliner has his sweetening on point with these supplements.

I’ve used mixed berry and grape and I love them both.

Creatine

Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine

I have a review of Optimum Nutrition’s Creatine and it’s a tried and true supplement. It will help with performance and recovery. I highly recommend this.

Phase 1

This phase is going to work on muscle endurance and conditioning, technique, and build muscle mass.

Week 1

Day 1:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 58%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 58%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 58%

Day 2:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 58%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 58%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 58%

Day 3:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 58%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 58%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 58%

Week 2

Day 1:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 60%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 60%

Day 2:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 60%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 60%

Day 3:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 60%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 60%

Week 3

Day 1:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 62%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 62%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 62%

Day 2:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 62%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 62%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 62%

Day 3:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 62%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 62%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 62%

Week 4

Day 1:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 64%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 64%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 64%

Day 2:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 64%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 64%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 64%

Day 3:

  • Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps at 64%
  • Bench: 6 sets of 6 reps at 64%
  • Deadlift: 8 sets of 5 reps at 64%

Phase 2

Trains the nervous system and puts some heavy weight on the bar. This is going to help you increase strength and work on technique flaws using maximal weights.

Week 1

Day 1:

  • Squats: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 2 sets of 1 rep at 60%
  • Deadlift: 2 sets of 1 rep at 80%

Day 2:

  • Squats: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 2 sets of 1 rep at 80%
  • Deadlift: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%

Day 3:

  • Squats: 2 sets of 1 rep at 80%
  • Bench: 5 sets of 4 reps at 60%
  • Deadlift: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%

Week 2

Day 1:

  • Squats: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 5 sets of 4 reps at 60%
  • Deadlift: 2 sets of 1 rep at 85%

Day 2:

  • Squats: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 2 sets of 1 rep at 85%
  • Deadlift: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%

Day 3:

  • Squats: 2 sets of 1 rep at 85%
  • Bench: 5 sets of 4 reps at 60%
  • Deadlift: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%

Week 3

Day 1:

  • Squats: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 5 sets of 4 reps at 60%
  • Deadlift: 1 set of 1 rep at 90%

Day 2:

  • Squats: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 1 set of 1 rep at 90%
  • Deadlift: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%

Day 3:

  • Squats: 1 set of 1 rep at 90%
  • Bench: 5 sets of 4 reps at 60%
  • Deadlift: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%

Week 4

Day 1:

  • Squats: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 5 sets of 4 reps at 60%
  • Deadlift: 1 set of 1 rep at 95%

Day 2:

  • Squats: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%
  • Bench: 1 set of 1 rep at 95%
  • Deadlift: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%

Day 3:

  • Squats: 1 set of 1 rep at 95%
  • Bench: 5 sets of 4 at 60%
  • Deadlift: 3 sets of 3 reps at 60%

 

If you are running this program, you more than likely don’t need to kill your accessory work, no accessory work in phase 2.

Accessory work could be:

  • Triceps: 3 sets of 12 reps of close grip bench or floor presses.
  • Biceps: 3 sets of 12 reps curls.
  • Back: 3 sets of 10 lat pull downs.
  • Legs: 3 sets of 8 stiff leg deadlifts.
  • Abs: 3 sets of planks until failure

I do not recommend any more accessory work during phase 1 than this.

If you are prepping for a powerlifting meet, timing is everything. Be sure to time this routine to have 1 full week off before the meet to fully recover and be at the strongest you’ve ever been.

 

If you have any comments or questions, leave them below and be sure to sign up to receive an e-mail when a new article is released!

42 thoughts on “3×3 Powerlifting Routine”

  1. Doing my first meet in January and I have been doing 6 day a week training, being a busy mother of three and full time grad student I find myself missing so many training days . I think I am going to give this 3 day a week plan a try!!

    -Liftmamalift

    Reply
    • I think the lower frequency of training matched with a higher intensity training will help a lot then. I think putting some effort into a little more relaxation (when possible) and being sure to fuel up nutrition wise will help.

      I wrote an article years ago about 12 weeks to the platform, check it out. It’s a first-hand experience of my first powerlifting meet.

      Good luck and keep in touch. I don’t use IG much like I should but I’ll follow you on the @cuttystrength account and cheer you on.

  2. Did day one. Do you reccomend always lifting in the same order? I really struggled with my DL sets once I got to them and I am thinking I would like to alternate starting with DL every other lift day so that I can alternate being ‘fresh’ for squats and DL

    Reply
  3. I am curious about the accessory work. Are you suggesting those on off days or mixed in within the 3 days of lifting? And on that note are you suggesting to do the main lifts then go for the accessories or mix them in after each lift? (i.e. Bench then accessory work, squat then accessory work, etc.)

    Sorry for the barrage of questions. I have been lifting for a while and I have decided to make the leap into competing so I am looking for a new program to help grow my lifts and I really like yours so any clarity you can provide would be great.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • I will be going back and rewriting a lot of popular articles. I’ve grown as a writer over the years and I don’t feel that everything is conveyed well in the article.

      Train like you have, picking 1 or two accessory exercises per muscle group worked. So if it is squat day, add in a couple accessory exercises for quads and calves and one for your hamstrings.

      Use the % for the lifts and the accessory work is there just to help with building up lagging areas. If you see sticking points in your lifts, address them by pounding those weaknesses.

      I hope this helps.

  4. I have a question. So currently, for example, if I am able to do 4 x 8 on the squat at 330lbs., but this program based on the percentages, calls me to scale back to 240lbs and work up from there, will I get the necessary stimulus to make gains? I guess when I look at the program, what I see is that for the majority of the time I will be working with weights that are not challenging. On the BP for the first phase I will top out at 215lbs which does not represent a gain. What is interesting however, is that in the heavy phase, by the end, I will be at a BP weight that I’ve never actually attempted (this is because I’m calculating all of the max weights using an equation rather than an actual attempt). I’m thinking that the main factor is the combination of volume and frequency instead of high intensity (at least in the first phase). Can you tell me if I’m am processing this correctly. It is just a little confusing as to how I will gain, if I am lifting weights that are relatively light the majority of the program. Again, maybe doing them 3 days a week will make up for that, so that’s what I am hoping you can explain.

    I am 47 years old, fluctuating between 180-186lbs (trying to stay their but still lose some nagging love handles on the lower back). I am currently doing a simple 2 lift per day (push/pull) 5 days per week, alternating heavy (4×4) and light (4×8) every other week. My current training weights are BP 255, SQT 333, DL 380 on the light days and BP 300, SQT 365, and DL 460 on heavy days.

    Reply
    • When training with sub maximal attempts, the intensity and volume play a huge factor. This is also time to hone in on your form and really start producing power.

      Treating every rep as if you are training maximal will allow your body to start producing the power you’ll need for the near maximal training (which won’t feel near maximal anymore).

      Once you start getting to where your lifts are this heavy (especially double bodyweight) your body can’t keep up with the demand of very heavy weights unless you do minimal volume.

      Trying this routine will allow your body to start healing up and getting stronger. When pushing 6 to 8 sets per main exercise with almost half of what you can lift, you’re going to be able to hammer out the weak points of your lift. The endurance and intensity at this % of your lift should push you without it feeling like you are dying.

      Give the routine a spin, you’ll be able to get a lot of form practice in and you will see by week 3 how much more fresh and crisp you feel doing these lifts. For instance, I can deadlift 605, starting off at 350 doesn’t sound too scary, but when you factor in I’m going to pull as hard as I can and reset every pull, you start to really see the benefits.

      If you’ve ever watched Eric Lilliebridge – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQlO8w6JNcA You see he deadlifts 900 in this video but he is pulling 405 and up with as much intensity as he does the 900. It really does help solidify and build your lift. If you’ve read any other article of mine you see that my routines are built to be run “until they don’t work”. You’re slowly ramping up to do numbers you’ve never been able to do. I couldn’t consistently lift at 80%+ of my 1 rep max consistently, you just can’t do it when you start getting into the heavy heavy weights.

      I hope this clears some stuff up, be sure to ask anything else if you need help!

    • Warm up sets are generally different for everyone. For instance, if I’m going for a 225 working set on bench, my warmup would look something like this: (different days I may need more warming up, learn to listen to your body)

      Bar x 20
      95 x 20
      135 x 12
      155 x 8
      175 x 5
      225 for working sets.

      Like I said, learn to listen to your body. Warm up sets shouldn’t be hard, they shouldn’t tax your body, and you should feel fresh when you start your working weight.

      It’s mostly trial and error; with bench I need more volume than deadlifts, and I need more volume for squats than deadlifts. My lower body is really tight, my chest is really tight (poor posture). I invite you to start logging every rep and every set so you can look back and see what works and what doesn’t.

  5. Cutty, This routine worked well for me. I ran it twice and both times I hit new PRs. I do have a question. If I only had two days a week to lift, but liked the feel and results of this routine, is there a way I could modify it for two days per week?

    Reply
    • Bryan,

      I’m glad to hear you’ve had success with this routine. I think if you were to drop down to 2 days per week, you could do squat and bench in one day, deadlifts the other, and then throw in the accessory work that you like or need.

      Let me know how the workout goes on two days, I’m interested to see how you like it.

    • Since you aren’t lifting at such a high intensity level, you can push yourself to have a lower rest period. Work on maintaining an elevated heart rate.

    • The idea is to have a programmed deload into your workout. If you are a more seasoned lifter, you can add a couple of sets. Incorporate a variation or focus on producing as much power as possible. Perform each rep with explosive and controlled power, completely reset, and repeat.

      Set up as if you’re about to perform the lift in a meet. The workout is a great starting point — you know your body and your fitness levels. Add or modify things to fit your needs.

      Cutty

Leave a Comment