4 Day Powerlifting Routine for Beginners

4 Day Powerlifting Routine for Beginners

This powerlifting routine is designed for the beginner interested in strength training and competing in powerlifting.

Topics covered in this article will include:

  • Nutrition and Tips
  • Supplementation
  • Cardio/Conditioning
  • Powerlifting Routine Schedule
  • The Routine
  • Exercise Substitutions
  • Workout Tips

Powerlifting is all over; chances are you’ve seen a video of someone lifting some heavy ass weight and thought “wow, I’d like to do that.”

Fortunately, powerlifting is a sport anyone can get into. While there can be a lot of competition when you get to the elite levels, powerlifting is mostly a competition against yourself to see how much more you can lift than yesterday.

If you are new to the gym or have been lifting weights for a few months, this routine is going to show you how to get started on your journey to becoming a true powerlifter; including information about competing.

There are only a few requirements of this routine:

  • Passion to get stronger
  • Committing to the routine
  • A Barbell
  • Weights
  • Dumbbells
  • Adjustable bench
  • Squat rack

Optional but recommended:

  • General gym machines

Strength Junkies

Interested in Competing?

If you’re interested in competing, check out this article I wrote about your first powerlifting meet.

Powerlifting Nutrition

Powerlifting is a demanding sport which requires a lot of nervous system recovery to perform optimally. Just because you don’t see someone doing 30 sets of an exercise doesn’t mean they don’t need proper recovery.

This section will go over some of the foods I recommend eating and some of the foods you could cut out. I am not a licensed nutritionist so consult your doctor before taking my advice.

Take a look at what you eat

Regardless of your weight goals, eating healthy is important if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The quality of foods you put into your body reflect the quality of your performance and life. I’m not telling you skip the donuts or pizza, I’m showing you how to enjoy those and get healthy.

But how?

It goes without saying that eating fast food and restaurant meals are not the way to get healthy… you are going to have to learn to cook. There are a lot of recipes that you can cook including this awesome reader submitted recipe: Chili lime chicken with potatoes and green beans.

What else?

I’ve done a few articles about eating healthier which I will link below so you can read them if you’d like.

The first article is once I wrote a long time ago: 11 Cheapest Good Protein Sources and still is relevant today. Find out what types of proteins you should buy and more importantly, how to afford them.

The next article contains the 15 best foods for building muscle and provides a wide variety of foods you can get into your diet to start building strength and muscle.

If you are a bit overweight and want to look at trying a low-carb diet, check out some of the science behind low-carb dieting.

If you are a “hardgainer” and you are having a hard time putting on mass you simply can’t eat enough, check out my skinny to swole guide.

If you have a hard time eating during the day because of work or you have heard about intermittent fasting, I wrote a pocketbook guide you should check out.

One last thing…

Before I go on, the notion of an OCD-like obsession with what you eat, when you eat it, and how you eat is prevalent and I wanted you to be aware of orthorexia and how to avoid it.

If you are already obsessed with every morsel that goes into your mouth or you start developing habits like this, please get in contact with professional help or reach out to someone like myself and I’ll help the best I can.

Now onto the fun stuff…

For those who want to bulk:

Bulking needs to be done with caution because using this as an excuse to eat as much as you possibly can all of the time will add a lot of strength but also a lot of fat as well.

The first thing I recommend when bulking is being able to eat consistently. This will be tough if you regularly overeat or forget to eat one day.

Too many times I see someone go on a “dirty bulk” which means they stuff whatever they can in their mouths to gain strength and weight.

This is effective but you will gain a lot of body fat and possibly develop eating disorders or conditions such as heart disease or diabetes… it’s not worth it.

What I recommend:

If you consistently eat and maintain your weight, I want you to add 300 calories a day to your diet and maintain the same activity levels. This means if you train 3-4 days in the gym, have a job, and have a life; stay doing just that… don’t add in random hour-long cardio sessions daily because you are eating more.

After about 3 weeks you are going to notice you are feeling stronger, weights feel lighter, and you may notice some gains in the mirror. You shouldn’t be gaining too much weight at this point.

This is considered a clean bulk and for those who are looking to gain weight can be run for long amounts of time since you are eating healthy and slowly adding weight.

Tips to adding 300 calories easy:

  • Use whole milk instead of water for your protein shakes
  • Don’t be afraid to use cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Spoonful of peanut butter
  • Sour cream

Adding 300 calories doesn’t take much when you add healthy fats to your diet.

For those needing to lose body fat:

If you read anywhere online or in a magazine, there are articles about how you can’t lose body fat and gain muscle (or strength) at the same time. This generally is true, but for a beginner, you are going to notice fantastic changes to your physique and strength.

They are called beginner gains and you need to take advantage of them while you can. Check out my article on making the most of your beginner gains.

Just like going on a bulk, losing body fat needs to be done slowly and sustainably…otherwise you are going to just gain it back.

What I recommend:

Since everyone has different diets, the first thing I am going to recommend is getting more exercise in. This doesn’t mean you have to trudge through a session on a treadmill, you can get out and walk, bicycle, hike, or play basketball. Whatever you do, choose something you want to do and are willing to do regularly.

Since exercise trumps cutting calories for a variety of reasons, I don’t recommend you cut calories yet unless you are very overweight. For those who need to lose 50 or more pounds, I have some advice for you at the end of this section.

If you enjoy going to the gym and doing cardio then feel free to do so, I’ve noticed better success with clients losing weight if they find something they enjoy outside of the gym. Seriously, try a new sport out.

Onto the food:

If your diet consists of mostly microwave dinners, sodas, and fast food, I’m going to give you some simple ways to gradually change your diet and make a huge difference in your performance in the gym.

Soda: If you drink regular soda, start cutting back and drinking a diet version or try teas or water. I like to use the calorie free sweeteners in my waters and even diet sodas to make them taste better. For example: I will use tropical punch Kool-Aid liquid in my diet mountain dew and it tastes a bit like a red mountain dew.

If you eat breakfast at your favorite fast food restaurant, start making a breakfast in the morning (or the night before) to take with you or eat before you leave.

Breakfast ideas:

  • Hard boiled eggs mixed with sour cream and hot sauce – boil up a dozen of these and use for a few breakfasts.. they are filling and tasty.
  • Peanut butter on your toast with 1 scoop protein in milk – tasty, quick, easy
  • Protein bar and a piece of fruit

Skip the heart burn and mud butt by making a sensible change for breakfast every couple of days. Gradual changes work better than stopping all at once.

General nutrition ideas:

Replacing a meal you eat out with 2 scoops of protein in milk with some chicken and vegetables is an easy way to cut a lot of calories and carbs while getting in more flavor than a crappy McDouble. Try a mediterranean blend steamer bag of veggies, some fajita chicken, some olive oil, salt, pepper, and hot sauce for a filling and tasty meal. All of this stuff is easy to make and can be made in advance.

Losing weight is about moderation. You can enjoy all of the foods you love and get healthier at the same time.

Ever since I started eating healthier and learning how to cook I’ve learned that I enjoy the flavors I create more than the foods I eat out. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat a Wendy’s #8 every once in a while too.

For those who are very overweight:

I’ve created a special section for those who are very overweight because I know what it is like and I want to help.

The first thing you are going to have to do is address why you overeat and what causes you to do so. This might take some quiet time in a secluded area to sit and think about some things you might not want to think about.. but you need to do it.

Don’t start cutting huge things from your diet because you will see it as a restriction and you are going to revert faster than you cut it out. First thing is first, learn to cook.

Once you learn to cook, you are going to see how you can create flavors you enjoy and do so without the added calories.


Depending on your health, you’re going to have to move, and move a lot. This doesn’t mean you need to walk on the treadmill every day for 2 hours, you just have to get active and start seeing how your health increases. You are going to feel better and be able to go do things you want to do without worrying about being sore or becoming tired.


Start by making a log and writing everything down that you eat and drink. With this list, look for things that are needless calories you add.

Sodas, chips/snacks, and sweets are your biggest culprits in excess calories and that’s going to be the first thing you need to start with. Take my advice with the soda like I mentioned above, it really does taste alright. Once you start getting used to drinking more water and other calorie-free drinks you will notice your palate won’t like soda as much anymore.

If you drink soda daily and you cut that out of your diet, that with exercise is going to start shedding weight off of you like you’ve never seen before.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, supplementation can be useless if you do not already have your nutrition and training down pat. I will say that supplements can help and they are worth the money if you have some to spare.


Ever since I tried MTS Nutrition’s protein, I’ll never go back. I’ve had their Vanilla, Cookies n Cream, Key Lime Pie, and Red Velvet Cake and love them all. I haven’t heard a bad word about any of the other flavors. If you would like to try out MTS Nutrition, support the site and use my affiliate link here: MTS Nutrition Whey Protein


Creatine is one of the most studied supplements in the industry. It helps with strength, recovery, and muscle endurance. Creatine Monohydrate is cheap and is something I highly recommend. If you would like to support the site, use my affiliate link: Creatine Monohydrate


BCAAs are intended to be use while you are training but can be had throughout the day as a pretty tasty beverage. Sipping on BCAAs are a way to get extra amino acids into your system and they taste great. Marc Lobliner has his sweetening game on point and I really like hit MTS Machine Fuel BCAA, if you would like to support my site, use my affiliate link: MTS Machine Fuel BCAA


Pre-workout isn’t a must but if you need a little kick in the pants, MTS Clash isn’t bad. It’s my favorite pre-workout and it’s fairly priced. If you would like to support my site, use my affiliate link: MTS Clash


There are other supplements that I take or I enjoy taking when I have them. Most of the MTS line I will use including their Probiotic that are chewable tablets that are chocolate wafer flavored. They really taste like candy. Protein bars are filling, MHP’s protein pudding is alright, and you can’t go wrong with a multi-vitamin.


Doing some form of cardio or conditioning work is important for health and will increase your anaerobic capacity. This means you can lift more weight.

I recommend getting exercise outside of the gym at least 2 to 3 times per week for at least 20 minutes. This means go for a walk, ride a bike, or play some sports with friends.

For those who want to live in a gym or don’t have any interest in doing activities like that, 20-30 minutes on whatever machine you want to do will suffice.


Complete 5-10 minute of exercise to help prime your nervous system for exercise… This shouldn’t strain you at all, just get the blood flowing.


Complete 20-30 minutes of exercise to help promote recovery. HIIT or LISS is fine.

Powerlifting Routine Schedule and Progression

For a 4 day routine I recommend 2 on, 1 off, 2 on, 2 off which would look like this:

  • Sunday: Off
  • Monday: Squat Day
  • Tuesday: Bench Day
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Accessory Day
  • Friday: Deadlift Day
  • Saturday: Off

If you can get your schedule to work with that, feel free to experiment and see what works best for you.


Since this is a routine designed for beginners, you need to use linear progression. In basic terms it means you strive to add 5 pounds to the bar every time you train.

Warming Up

Warming up is critical to your health, prevents injuries, and primes your body to lift heavier weight. Without warming up, you won’t lift as much, and you will probably get hurt. Warming up is different for everyone so I won’t throw out percentages of your lifts and timing; that’s just stupid.

Here’s a sample of a warm up I would have someone do:

You are going to bench 225 for 4 sets of 8.

  • Bar x 20
  • 95 x 10
  • 135 x 10
  • 185 x 8

Same weight for each set

For this routine, you will use the same weight for each of your working sets. So if you are going to be doing 4 sets of 8 on squats at 315, you will leave 315 on the bar for each set.

If you perform the sets and reps at the weight you’re supposed to, increase the weight by 5 pounds for the next time you train.

4 Day Powerlifting Routine for Beginners

Squat Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 12
Barbell Step Ups 2 20
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 4 15
Goblet Squats 4 8
Straight Arm Lat Pull Downs 4 15


Bench Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 3 12
Incline Dumbbell Bench 2 20
Floor Press 4 15
1 Arm Tricep Extensions 4 8
Pec Deck 4 15


Accessory Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press 3 12
Arnold Press 2 20
Cross Body Hammer Curls 4 15
Pull Ups 4 8
Rear Delt Flies 4 15
Bent Over Barbell Rows 6 5


Deadlift Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts 3 12
1 Arm Dumbbell Row 2 20
Dumbbell Shrugs 4 15
Standing Calf Raises 4 8
Leg Extensions 4 15

Exercise Substitutions

While the exercises in this routine are chosen to serve a specific purpose, there are times when exercises need to be substituted in because of an inability to do the exercise correctly, not having the right equipment, or not wanting to wait for the equipment to become available.

Here are a list of suitable exercise substitutions that I would recommend:

  • Barbell Step Ups – Barbell Lunges, Dumbbell Lunges
  • Straight Arm Lat Pull Downs – Wide Grip Pull Downs, Wide Grip Rows, T-Bar Rows
  • Floor Press – Close Grip Bench, Skull Crushers
  • Pec Deck- Dumbbell Flies, Incline Dumbbell Flies, Cable Cross Machine
  • Arnold Press – Alternating Dumbbell Overhead Press, Hammer Strength Overhead Press Machine
  • Pull Ups – Any type of lat pull down or assisted pull up machine
  • Dumbbell Shrugs – Trap Bar Shrugs, Barbell Shrugs
  • Standing Calf Raises – Seated Calf Raises
  • Leg Extensions – Hack Squat Machine, Leg Press

Workout Tips

  • Strive for progression – Increasing the amount you can lift in either reps or weight is going to get you stronger and build muscle
  • Learn proper form – Heavy weights come with time. Learn the form now before you pick up bad habits
  • Deload when you feel sluggish – If your warmup weights are feeling heavy, don’t keep pushing yourself. Take a week and recover; eat more, sleep more, and come back stronger next week.
  • AMAP – As many as possible. Do this until your form starts to break down.

97 thoughts on “4 Day Powerlifting Routine for Beginners”

    1. Building strength is building strength. Beginners and early intermediates do well training higher reps on the major lifts. It helps solidify form, build endurance, and builds a sturdy strength base. I don’t recommend beginners training below 5 reps per set honestly.

      Once you start getting early intermediate to intermediate, training triples and singles are okay with proper programming.


    1. You can linear progress for quite some time. When you start hitting plateaus and you take a deload or two and you just can’t get past a certain point without feeling completely overloaded, that is when you should start looking into possibly using other techniques like periodization. Honestly you can still squeeze more out of linear progression by changing rep scheme so instead of 5x5s you can either lower volume and do 3x5s or you can start doing 4x8s and use a lower weight.

      When you to triples and singles you’re basically “practicing the move” and it’s great if you are going to compete. I’ve had beginners plateau after 2 years and I’ve had some get about a year in before they needed to change up their training styles.

  1. Great article thanks. How do you decide if someone is a beginner or intermediate? I’ve been doing crossfit for 3 years and decided to step away and focus on my strength work. Not sure what category I would fit into and if I should start with a beginner program or not. I’m confident with my form in these lifts but my max lifts aren’t great. I’m used to hitting low rep schemes like 5’s, triples and singles so not sure should I start with a beginner higher rep scheme program or not. Any tips? If it help my details and max lifts are below.

    Height: 5ft 8in
    Weight: 170lbs

    Max Squat: 250lbs
    Max Deadlift: 300lbs
    Max Bench: 165lbs

    Max Snatch: 150lbs
    Max Clean and Jerk: 190

    1. Generally if you’ve been training for a couple of years and you have tried to increase weight weekly but just seem to burn out, you can start to call yourself an intermediate. I would still consider you a beginner solely because you are switching up and starting to work on strength work. While you aren’t “new to the gym” you are new to this type of training.

      This workout would work well – there’s plenty of volume to practice your form and get more confident and having the higher rep scheme will help build up weaker muscles and give your body a chance to adjust to its new routine. I don’t recommend going under 5s for regular gym goers simply because of the stress it puts on your body and how much higher a risk of injury is when working with maximal weights.

      Check out my Build a Bigger Series: Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Military Press, Bent Over Barbell Row for some tips on form. Practice, record and see what’s going on, and practice some more.

  2. Hello…i got a question…isnt this a bit too many reps?? I mean powerlifters are building strenght not condition…whitch means max 8-10 reps not 15 or 20 in some exercise…and what do you recommend..i am into strenght training for years(powerlifting and strongman)…do i need to do all those exercise with those high reps or should i do just max 8-10 reps?? Tnx

    1. You build strength at any rep range. Powerlifters generally train 5s or lower because they are practicing their form and working with maximal numbers.

      Beginners need form practice – they need the practice, they need to build up lagging body parts, and they need to improve their conditioning. This is why this is designed for beginners. If you’ve been lifting as long as you say you have, this routine would still work for you but with the mentality of not wanting to go over a certain amount of reps I would advise against this routine. George Leeman is an advocate of higher reps for powerlifting training as well.


  3. Hi,
    How come there is no percentages of 1RPM or an RPE scale we should work of? Should we just work off how good we’re feeling in the gym or should we include the RPE scale and our 1RPM percentages?
    Thanks! πŸ™‚

    1. I wrote this routine mainly for beginners – meaning someone who is relatively new to lifting in general. I didn’t want to include things like RPE and 1RM percentages because I don’t want someone new to lifting to have to worry about that stuff yet – they haven’t even gotten used to lifting yet.

      I would say for someone with experience to work from a 6-8RPE scale. I generally say “go with what you feel” so if you’re feeling healthy and weights are feeling good definitely pound it out and hold back on days you don’t feel so hot.

      If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!

  4. I have never trained before but had a manual job for 10yrs, last 4 years have been in an office. I started this about 4 weeks ago but after 2 weeks I adjusted the reps and sets. I have been adding weight every week and still progressing.
    At 31yrs old, 5ft8 and 98.5kg I thought it might be a bit late to start, whilst I dont notice any visual difference I have seen my strength rise dramatically.
    Really enjoy deadlifting 4×8 @100kg, squats are only @70kg at the moment.
    Totally surprised at how many people at my gym dont DL or Squat, they all seem to be about arms and chest.
    I have yet to try my 1RM but i have plenty of time.
    Thanks for the routine its got me up and doing something again.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. It’s never too late to start. I am glad to hear that you enjoy deadlifts, they are my favorite. Squats I like when I am healthy, but I seem to pick up strains a bit.

      There’s really not a huge awareness of being overall fit… most people want the pecs, biceps, and shoulders and that is all they do. It’s proof that you don’t need a good routine to make gains. A good routine followed consistently will improve everything from strength and performance, to overall happiness in life. Keep up the work, no need to test 1RM – I only really advise people who compete to test their max at a powerlifting meet… if you don’t compete there’s really no reason to other than saying you can do whatever weight.

      Keep up the work,


    2. Well, Im still lifting, I went from 98kg up to 107kg from uncontrolled eating, but my squat went to 165kg, bench to 112kg, deadlift to 180kg. 8 months ago I started cutting, down to 91kg and now far stronger and with a better physique than at my 98kg weight. Whilst I dont follow this programme anymore it was the programme that got me started, thank you for the time and effort behind the publishing of this.

    3. Hope

      I’m glad to hear that I was able to help you jump start such a great progress train. Keep going and I wish you the best of luck!

  5. I’m wondering if you would recommend this program for female beginner lifters or if this is for men only?

    1. The workouts I make are unisex so if this is something you think you would like to do, then I would suggest trying it. If you would like a few other options that I’d recommend, check out our sister site http://www.TheByrn.com that is written more for women. Lots of great info there as well πŸ™‚

    1. I’ve never had issues with weak abs so do exercises that you personally like. Heavy deadlifts, squats, and barbell rows were my core workout but you could probably hit core 3 times per week as well if you wanted to.

  6. Hey there is some really good info on here but I’m not entirely sure if I’m a beginner or not. My max on bench is 200, squat is 275, and deadlift is 315. Would i need to find a different program or would this work for me?

  7. I have been lifting for a bout a year now
    DL 405lb
    Bench 205lb
    Squat 315lb
    @ 6 foot 5 230LBS

    I think this program is going to be great to pre pair my NS for heavy weights. What % of my 1RM should I be doing on these set?
    Thanks for the great article

  8. Hello cutty . I really enjoyed the article. I am familiar with fitness but recently started working towards more strength and power. Would u recommend this program to me .

    5 foot 10 inches. 200lbs

    Bench 275
    Squat 385
    Deadlift 375

    Thank you.

    1. Cassian, apologies for the long waited reply, I have had some family issues. You would benefit a lot from this routine. Keep up the good work.

  9. Hey cutty.

    So I’m just curious when I should do the AMAP part. I’m just now learning about powerlifting and have learned a lot from this article.

    1. Khrys, I’m glad to hear. I do the AMAP part at the end. This is just another way of saying a burnout set πŸ™‚

  10. Hi Cutty,
    I am fairly strong for a beginner, however I buldged 2 disc and slipped one in my lower back a few months ago, I’ve had a hard time getting into a routine. I want to start powerlifting to see if that makes it better. Will doing DL’s compromise my back or will i be ok if u work up to it starting light. Flat bench hurts my back but incline and decline do not so I have adjusted my workout to compensate for that, how would I do that for deadlifting?
    Thanks for the great article, and the links as well. Jared

    1. I would advise finding a doctor who is familiar with kinesiology or at least one that has a firm grasp of exercise science. I honestly wouldn’t feel comfortable giving any advice since I’ve not dealt with many people with spinal injuries. Do the footwork and find a doctor that understands lifting and gives you tips on how to improve your spinal muscles instead of telling you to “just stop.”

      Good luck Jared, only thing I can recommend is to train around your injuries and work on getting healthier so that you can do all exercises again.

  11. Great article, lots of help! Do you have an intermediate workout routine or should I just alter the beginners workout in some way?

    1. Intermediate work starts getting into periodization and other protocols that should only be used once you get to the point of not being able to linearly progress. Even if you’re getting 5-10 pounds added to your lift every month, that’s a lot of progress.

      I do have a few intermediate workouts, check them out under workouts.

  12. Hello there, great article liked it so much but anyways, i just started hitting the gym again after stopping for almost 1.5-2 years so ive been hitting the gym for few days now and my weights are hell to the ground .. i used to easily lift 20-30kg on a bench press but now i did a 10kg and it was a little bit heavy XD , and im thinking of starting powerlifting but my main goal was to cut down some weight cause ive gained a lot after that break, will powerlifting help me lose weight or should i just stick to what im doing and if it will i am worried about my weights cause im kind of in a bad weight station cant lift that heavy on bp and dl and on sqauts .. what should i do? And sorry for asking so much .

    Much love

    1. Powerlifting is more a training technique more than “you can only bulk” etc. This will help your strength gains and eating a balanced diet will help you lose weight. Add in some conditioning work to help with your cardiovascular health and power output.

      Just keep your nose to the ground and keep working to get back to where you were. Taking a break lets the body get back into a sedentary state, so your strength will come back faster than the first time around.

      Good luck and let me know how you progress!

  13. I’ve just returned to the gym after a multi year layoff and have been back about 5 or 6 months now with size and strength coming back shockingly fast.
    I’ve been training 3 on 1 off, heavy one cycle of 3 days, the next light with more volume and shorter rests. Previously I’ve got over a decade in of serious training with a few years off here and there, but never in powerlifting… though my lifts were reasonably good. Best bench 365×3, squats 455×5 or 6 but never really deadlifted excepting stiff legged for hams. I’m currently back to bench 275 for 3, 315 for 5 or 6 and recently started ding deadlift for the first time which is like a sad 315 for maybe 5 or so on my top set.
    I’m currently 215 at 5′ 10″ and perhaps 15+ % bf at a guess since I can now just see my top set of abs if the lighting is good. Lol
    The thing is I’m 40 now but I’m thinking I’d like to see what I’m capable of. Considering my past where do you think I should start to shift over.
    Thanks for your time. I hope you can suggest something since my position is probably a bit unusual.

    1. Since you are in decent shape I would say work on cleaning up diet and ease back into the gym and start training like a savage. You should get back your strength relatively fast so putting emphasis on lifting heavy weights and getting plenty of recovery should yield some good results.

  14. Julian Fullmer

    Wow Cutty,
    This work out kicked my butt. I started it on Tuesday and barely made it through the step ups much less the stiff legged dead lifts. The second and third day where a little easier for me. I did the dead lift today and nearly passed out but I am happy to say I made it through the entire workout. On Monday I am going to rest more in between my sets to allow me to finish the entire work out. Most days through out the week I am limited to an hour in the gym because of work and school but on Mondays I can take the time needed to finish all my sets just need to wake up earlier. Thank you for this routine I started out back in the gym full time like two weeks ago and needed a program to utilize and I am satisfied with this one. It provides a great foundation for beginners to follow whether its power lifting or body building. Still trying to work in the core work out you had posted and at least 10 minutes of cardio to start with.

    1. Thank you for the kind words.. I have a couple suggestions to try – for the cardio think about warming up as parking down the street and walking to the gym. You could also do a few lunges and some medicine ball work for a warmup, etc.. you have plenty of options, find one that you like.

      As for the training I would recommend possibly starting with a lower weight on everything. While the work is intense, you should be able to make it through the first month or so without struggling too bad on weight. Adding 5 pounds to your lift is adding 20 pounds a month; that’s a lot of weight to jump up once you get more experienced in training. Don’t worry about starting below what you’ve normally been doing, you’re going to go well above and beyond that following this.

      Also you can do core work at home, and again think of cardio and conditioning as things you can do outside of the gym as well. Try walking some trails, hiking, playing basketball… whatever you think you would enjoy. The more you improve your cardio and conditioning, the more work output you’ll be able to do.

  15. Julian Fullmer

    Hi Cutty,
    I have a crazy schedule and I know it’s important to get 7 hours sleep. Right now I am getting like 6-6 1/2 because I usually don’t get home till about 10 at night. I wake up at 4:45 and go straight to the gym. The problem is I am not eating anything till after my work out. I love the program because I feel like I just got done going to battle and my energy level is great. I am adjusting my diet during the day to about 5 meals and stop eating at 5 pm before going to school after work because I heard eating to close to bedtime can hinder your quality of sleep or cause you to gain weight. I wanted to know if not eating prior to work out is going to make me weaker when I weight train. I am trying to lose weight but I also want to gain strength. I am limited to an hour at the most and that doesn’t leave much time for nutrients to enter my blood stream. Will creatine and a banana or a couple slices of wholewheat bread be good to scarf down at like 4:30 Prior to training. Do you know of anything that can help me. Or do you think I will be ok waiting to eat breakfast afterwards. Love this work out by the way.

    1. I prefer training in a fasted state, try to “unplug” and unwind 45 minutes before you can sleep and help prep your body to go into deep sleep faster.

      Quit listening to myths and worrying about eating at night. I run a pretty strict 20 hr non eat and 4 hr eating window for intermittent fasting and I eat usually from 11pm-3am. Metabolism does not work in 24 hr chunks.

      Quit worrying about the small things.. go to the gym, put in the work, and succeed in life and it all comes together.

  16. Brandon Emmons

    Hey Cutty, I enjoyed this article very much. Im hoping it helps me. Im 34 and over weight. im 6’0 and 310lbs. BMI is 40. I plan on using what you have suggested here. I also will be cleaning my diet up quite a bit. Anyhow, im excited to have found this and wanted to say thank you for writing it, as im sure it will be the basis on which I get fit. Thank you agian

    1. Thank you for the kind words Brandon. Start working on cleaning up the diet slowly, breaking habits, and put the work in and you’ll see the results.

  17. Hey Cutty,

    How long should I be on this program? I am small framed but packed a few pounds of muscles, not strong but not weak. Been on and off in the gym. Would like to begin on this program to strengthen myself and discipline myself.

    1. You could (should) run a program until you quit making progress. Jumping programs frequently doesn’t let you get the full effect of the workout. I would run this for at least 12 weeks if you want to see progress.

  18. Ricardo Levine

    Hey Cutty,
    Thanks, I enjoyed the article, I just turned 50, I’m 390lb. 5.9″ starting my life style change, really haven’t did anything since Highschool and College, I want to become healthy, strong. Do you recommend this for me? The old guy!

    1. Yes, this would work well. I would recommend starting healthy habits from the gate and slowly replace bad habits with new ones. May I suggest trying out intermittent fasting.. I have been quite overweight as well and it’s done well for me.

      After a couple of weeks you no longer think about food constantly, and you’ll find yourself almost forgetting to eat. I know it sounds crazy, but it works well for me and others who tend to overeat when they do eat. You can check out some info about IF here.

      Start slow and build up.. you could even start doing bodyweight exercises and just general activity to get the juices flowing while you iron out some diet issues. You really can’t out train a crappy diet, I am proof of that.

      Keep in touch and let me know how things progress!

  19. Hey there! I was wondering what I could do in place of the 3×12 Military Press; I’m unable to go past 7 with a bare 45lb barbell.

    1. If you have the loaded barbells, you could start with a lower weight and work your way up. Try dumbbells or even the shoulder press machine to build some strength in your upper body.

      Good luck!

  20. What is your recommended starting weight? Should we start with weights where we can actually complete all desired sets/ reps or are we”looking to fail”?

    1. You should choose at least initially a weight that you can do relatively easy. You add weight every week so starting lower and getting form down is more important than heavy weights. I would also invite you to check out our sister site The Byrn, an article we wrote about picking a starting weight can be found here.

  21. Awesome article and info just started today my lifts are novice currently but I’m excited about putting the hard work in I’m 5ft 9 158 and I’m using leangains as an estimate for my bulk 450 surplus on training days 100 on rest days so 2600 and then 2200 I also have a history on anorexia/bulimia and I’m a recovering alcoholic I’ve been clean in both the ED and addiction, I could easily eat 8k calories so this is definitely a challenge but anyway I wanted to thank you for writing this program and I hope it helps me overcome my distorted thinking and body image.

    1. If you ever need to talk just message me. I deal with emotional/binge eating so I understand how crucial it is to stay on focus. You may want to look into some intermittent fasting if you feel the need to binge or eat a lot in one sitting. I generally have a 2 to 4 hour eating window I eat my calories in. You get used to the hunger and you feel pretty energized throughout the day. Change your addictions to the weights and start noticing a healthy change in your physique.

      You can read more about IF on my site here.

  22. Hello, Really glad to have found this article. I’m 32 Years old & 5’11. have been working out for 2years in bodybuilder style training (split bodyparts, twice a week). I used to be really overweight & have lost 20kgs in last 1year.
    Powerlifting is something that has always fascinated me more than bodybuilding. Will this program suit me. I intend to lose another 8-10kgs, get rid of the unnecessary fat on tummy & chest (hate it) and get strong in the process. Thank u.

    1. Welcome to the dark side my friend :).

      I would recommend cutting the fat now with your current training. Powerlifting is more central nervous system instead of muscle strength (your nervous system gets more efficient, producing more power) so lifting heavy on calorie deficit is doable but will lead to a plateau fast. If you cut now and then jump onto the program when you can maintain calories or eat a few extra a day, you’ll have a much better time. I train powerlifter style and on a calorie deficit, so honestly either way would work.

  23. Hi Cutty,

    I have been following your routine for about 2 months, until I had surgery at the end of last month. During that time I started jogging because I couldn’t lift. Now I’m getting ready to lift again, but I also enjoyed the jogging. I was jogging 2 miles a day, 5 to 6 days a week. I’m also trying to lose weight, I’ve lost about 50lbs since last April but need to lose a lot more. I also want to get my body ready to go into the Police academy and pass the physical training part, requiring push-ups and running a mile under 11 minutes, amongst other things. My question is, can I follow this routine and keep jogging on my off days or is exercising 7 days a week too much? I also wanted to incorporate planks to strengthen my core.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Your conditioning level is what allows you to do more work. I think since you’ve been jogging steady you can maintain that and lift. If you start noticing being too sluggish or lethargic, maybe either cut down to 3 days training and see how that goes or forfeit a run and see how it affects you. I think you’ll be fine. Good luck with the police academy!

  24. Hi cutty!

    I am just coming back to training after a long break! My form is good so I was sanding after 2/3 weeks perhaps would it be ok for me to do less reps and build my strength?

    Thanks jaimee

    1. Use the weight as an intensity determinate. You could cut the reps and take a couple weeks to get back into the flow of things also.

  25. As an intermediate lifter, should i keep exercises other than major lifts at high reps or bring them down as well? Most of my major lifts are now being done in triplets.

    1. You can build strength in all rep ranges. I would recommend trying to keep the intensity at 5 to 8 reps rather than triples unless you are peaking for a competition. It really taxes your nervous system and I don’t feel you get enough “practice” in regards to overall form.

      Try switching up for 8 to 12 weeks doing 5-8 reps on big lifts and change the weight to reflect that. I think you’ll find the new challenge fun and when you start peaking down into the singles and triples, you’ll notice a huge difference.

  26. I just started this with little powerlifting experience that I taught myself.I had no program no knowledge on what I was doing.just lifting.improper form with squats.learned deadlift and bench.anyways…I’m in my third day with this program.word for word.after doing this for a few weeks…..am I suppose you progress? I don’t quite understand.I started weight that I th ought I needed to in order to complete the days challenge.so..I figured that’swhat was implied since everyone’s amount of weight will be different.but what do I do after a few weeks of this exact layout?thanks and God bless you.

    1. Next week try to add 5 to 10 pounds to your lifts, go up a size in dumbbells, or try to use a heavier setting on a machine. It’s not the starting number that matters, it’s that you’re progressively overloading your lifts.

  27. hey man, great site. thanks for putting it up.

    im 33, 6’3” and about 280. i haven’t lifted seriously in a little over a year, and im going to use your 4-day routine to train for my first powerlifting competition. lol while i have no allusions of grandeur, im still not wanting to look like a chump.

    since the goal (short term) is the competition, i want to be able to get the most out of my training in the time i have to prepare, you know? can you give any insight to how this workout and the time frame im working with might come together to yield the best results on the scoreboard? you mentioned cardio in another message about work output, but im not sure if that’s what i should be doing in this case.

    thanks again for the space to ask these questions.

    1. I’d recommend getting your conditioning up there, powerlifting meets take a long time and you gotta be able to get ready fast.

      I’d recommend putting a week into lifting about 50% of your usual numbers and get back used to the movements. How long until the meet? If you have at least 12 weeks, I’d recommend just getting everything back down pat, don’t worry about weight class, and focus on your form.

      2 weeks before your meet, cut weights down to 60% and work on producing as much power as you can in the lifts. 1 week before you can either take off completely, doing some cardio and other light movements, or work at 40%. This deload is going to allow your nervous system and body to recoup. You’ll come back feeling stronger than ever. Check out my 12 weeks to the platform article if you haven’t yet.

  28. Hi there, before adding 5lbs for progression, do you have a minimum rep first like you have to be able to do atleast 12 reps of current pb before adding weight …does that make sense? Sorry

    1. My best advice is if you hit the reps and sets for that workout, try adding 5 pounds next week. If you hit that again, add another 5 for the week after that. If you increase and you don’t hit your reps, don’t get discouraged, do the same weight next week and you’ll get it.

      There’s no set “you have to do this” for progression, just progress. You can progress by increasing your reps, the weight, or intensity.

      I hope this helps!

  29. Hello, I have been consistent for 2 years and been hitting the gym on what people refer to as bro style without any programming but I was able to reach what I wanted 4 plates DL, 3 plates squat and 225 on bench weighing 185 pounds. I was wondering if you have any excel or programming utilizing 1 rm variation for further progress.? Or any suggestions on a program for 4-5 day thing

  30. The Strength Coach

    This is one of the first sensible powerlifting routines I have seen on the internet. Most promote squatting and deadlifting twice or more a week which would bring a real powerlifting competitor to their knees in two weeks.
    I like it, well done.

    1. Thanks. It’s nice to see someone else that also looks at other routines and wonder how anyone thought it would be a good idea.

  31. Hey Cutty Julian here,
    If I wanted to incorporate dips into my chest work out where would you recommend and what rep range 4 sets of 8 like with the pull ups?

    1. I was just wondering because according to what i know elite powerlifters don’t do alot of cardio. Am i mistaken?

    2. They also die at a young age. If you’re looking for overall health, lift some heavy ass weights, get your cardio in (that’s your heart health and conditioning levels). The higher conditioning levels equal more work output – which equals heavier lifts.

      If you cut your calories by 300 to 500 calories and start the routine, if you consistently cut 300 to 500 calories and you go bust ass in the gym, I guarantee you that you’ll start losing weight and building muscle.

  32. Hi Cutty how are you? Is it ok to include some ab work for this routine? And on what day should i include them and when? Thank you πŸ™‚

    1. Rudolph,

      I’m doing alright, just stressed haha. You could add ab work in after the gym, in the morning, etc. You don’t NEED to but if you’d like to add some in, do them outside of the gym and enjoy some of this nice weather. πŸ™‚

  33. Hi Cutty,
    Program is working out quite well 2.5 weeks in lost almost 7 pounds. I have found some good upper and lower body warm ups to do before my workout and I surprised how much it helps you especially on the final sets. My form on stiff legged deadlifts was pretty bad so I am looking at some videos to correct that along with my squat and dead lift. I have a quick quick question on barbell rows is it better to complete the exercise in a dead lift like stance for example straighten the legs with the bar off the ground and have your back parallel to the floor to complete each rep.?

    1. Julian, that’s great to hear! Warmups are definitely the most beneficial thing you can do. You’re literally priming your body to do the movement.

      For stiff leg deadlifts, if you’re having some issues with form, try to learn romanian deadlifts. For my form, it’s basically like you’re doing reps with deadlifts but you’re stopping the weight before it hits the ground. Think of your hips hinging, not you bending down.

      For barbell rows, deadlift the weight and lock it out, then keep the bar close to your body and hinge at your hips (just like romanian deadlift) and let the bar stop around the top of your shin. Once you get to that position, you can let the bar drift out and do rows. You should feel your hips and posterior chain have tension – not quads or lower back. It takes some practice but once you have a good base, you’ll not have to worry about fatiguing your back.

      Keep me updated!

  34. Cutty – could you lay out what routine you would do for more intermediate lifter? I’ve been plateaud at 285 lb. raw bench for a couple years.

    1. Tom, I will. Nice bench numbers man, I would invite you to check out my Build a Bigger Bench article to get some tips that could help you bust through the plateau.

      You’re definitely going to have to start using periodization. If you’re pushing maximal weights every time, your body simply can’t recover. If you’ve been consistently working out, taking a deload week of either completely out of the gym or literally 50% weight on everything max for a week. If you come back after that week, I would be willing to bet you’ll break that PR.

      I have a few articles on getting through a bench plateau. Record yourself and see where you’re going wrong. Where are you getting out of your groove? Are you dumping a wrist? There’s a lot of little things to look at to improve.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes. I’ll work on an article.

  35. Tried the first two days of the program with adjustments here and there! Loved it. Was curious though as to why you incorporate back exercises into squat day or deadlift day. It shows that there are back exercises three out of the four days. Just wondering your reasoning! Thank you.

    1. A stronger back means a stronger everything. Many people don’t work back enough, causing imbalances. All of the pressing that you do needs to be antagonized by working the opposite muscles to stay balanced.

      Any person I’ve trained that focused hard on a lot of back work always build a bigger bench press, squat, and deadlift. It works your core and helps maintain a better posture.

      I hope this helps! Let me know how it goes!

  36. Hi Cutty, when doing sqwats I am trying to drive from the back of my heels however regardless of how much weight on the bar whether its 45 pound or 185 I tend to lean forward will driving my hips out as I am coming out of break?

    1. Try pausing in the hole and descending slower into it. The reason your hips shoot up is generally a weakness in your glutes or upper back or simply bad form. Record your squats from at least the side and if you can get a front view that would help.

      You may need to simply adjust your foot width or point your toes out a bit more so your hips can hinge and sink down and not try to shoot out.

      Let me know if you tried something that worked!

    1. If this is your first slowdown, you could deload the lifts for a week or two and then ramp back up. So lift at 50 to 60% on those and focus on producing a lot of power, come back in a week or two and you’ll be pressing on. If that doesn’t work, you may have to start periodization.

      Let me know how it goes!

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