All About Getting into Powerlifting

For someone first getting into powerlifting, there are many ways to start. Regardless of the particulars though, my advice is the same—keep it simple, make a plan, and commit to it from start to finish.


All workouts, meal preparation, sleep count, and water intake should be logged and kept in consideration since all three are factors that affect an athlete’s performance. If you don’t have much time though, I would suggest at least logging your workout.

Moreover, scheduling your training days is an important and vital step to staying committed to your training program. But most importantly for accountability reasons, especially if you have a coach or training partners.

Another helpful way to begin is to keep your program simple by just working on the big 3 (squat, bench, and deadlift). First going through a program this way helps beginners stick to the template and follow through from start to finish.


Most programs for anyone getting into powerlifting start with a conditioning phase—or hypertrophy phase—to prepare the lifter for the heavy weight down the road. By doing this, you’ll build a solid foundation and base to be able to lift that heavier weight, while at the same time working on your technique through all the repeated reps. The key thing here is not going outside of the program.
Stay disciplined.

If you find the weights feeling light though, you can always adjust and go heavier. Athletes can only peak a certain amount of times per year; so for beginners, maxing-out shouldn’t be a priority since it takes time to build muscle, gain strength, and peak in the proper sequence.
You’ll get there. So just raise the weight—naturally—as needed.

In this initial phase, the sets for the big 3 are minimal since the amount of reps and volume here are a lot for someone just getting into powerlifting.

 Sets: 3 – 4
 Reps: 8 –12
 Rest Periods: 2–3 minutes


Anyone first getting into powerlifting should use the accessory work to concentrate on their weaknesses. At the same time, doing this helps build your base even further in preparing for the heavier phases later on.

 Exercises: 2-3
 Sets: 2–4
 Reps: 8–12
 Rest Periods: 1–2 minutes


After progressing through the hypertrophy phase, you should plan to set goals for each max lift during this next phase.

The peaking phase is somewhere between 3 – 4 weeks; depending on size, strength, and athleticism of the lifter.
The rest periods for sets of the big 3 at this phase are now around 3–7 minutes.

To stay committed during this phase, write weekly and even daily goals for each workout. Having targets for each lift keeps you more content with what your progress has been, while also helping you constructively look forward to what you need to accomplish.

 Sets: 3 – 4
 Reps: 1 – 3
 Rest Periods: 3 – 7 minutes


I would still try to keep it at around 1–2 minute rest periods. Unless it’s a heavy compound movement—like the front squat or the leg press—then 3–7 minutes is fine.

 Exercises: 2-3
 Sets: 2-4
 Reps: 6 – 8 reps
 Rest Periods: 1–2 minutes


To help progress forward through each phase, I would recommend a cool down period after each workout. This will help improve the recovery and mobility for anyone first getting into powerlifting.

Stretching, foam rolling, massage, and recovery bathes should be included in your program. If you can’t recover from your workouts, then it’ll be hard to maintain a structured program and make gains needed to progress.

Having the right amount of rest is equally as important. You want 7–8 hours of sleep a night, along with a rest day or two each week to help prevent burnouts.


Having a mentor or a coach is helpful, as well. They will keep you motivated and engaged, providing ongoing advice along the journey, and helping you to stay accountable. This translates to commitment to your training program, and ultimately progress toward your goals.


What also helps beginners to stay committed to their powerlifting program is being part of a team or a community.

At my gym, I have several people that I talk to about powerlifting and they help to assist me or critique me as needed. You should do the same with those you meet at your gym, especially if you don’t have a coach.

Another helpful aid for this, the United States Powerlifting Association (USPA), has a Facebook page in which members share their lift videos and ask each other for advice. The best part about this is that it’s free, with much of the advice coming from experienced lifters, and even USPA referees.


It can’t be said any more plainly than I’ve already put it—keep it simple, make a plan, and commit from start to finish. When you do that, all the rest is just science.

And for some additional references to help with your initial research—
I’d suggest reading The Juggernaut Method 2.0 by Chad Wesley Smith, and the 5/3/1 2nd Edition by Jim Wendler.