Write a Powerlifting Program (in 5 Steps)

The simplest way to write your own customized powerlifting training program.

Ever feel overwhelmed when it comes to writing your own powerlifting program?

You’re certainly not alone.

Today’s post is aimed to break things down into a step-by-step process to make designing and adjusting your own program a less daunting task.

Here are the 5 basic steps to designing your own powerlifting program.

  1. Select Your Training Phase
    Your primary focuses for the training block should be determined by how close you are to a competition.

    Working on adding mass in between comps? Now’s a good time to include more variations and add size (if appropriate).

    Below is a general guideline for how to time each phase of training:

    16+ weeks out: hypertrophy or strength
    > 8 weeks out: strength
    < 8 weeks out: weeks out: peaking
  2. Refer Back
    Look back at old training logs to pull data and see how well you do with certain overload frequencies, workout splits, lift variations, etc.
  3. Sets, Reps, Intensity, Overload Frequency, Variations
    The next phase is generally the most involved in programming. You need to determine a few key variables. Below, I’ve created a chart showing you some general guidelines  that will work for MOST powerlifters.

    A key consideration for heavier phases (especially as you get stronger) is looking at how to balance out fatigue from heavier sessions against other lifts. For example, it’s quite common for a heavy deadlift session to leave you fatigued. If done too soon after heavy deadlifts, your next overloading squat session could be compromised. Determining overload frequency (and how those overloading sessions are spaced out) is of utmost importance to make sure you can sufficiently recover in time for the next PR.

    Hypertrophy (for powerlifting) majority of work in the 60-75% of 1RM range, 6-10 reps, more exercise variation, with a weekly heavy (but submaximal) set of 1-5 reps to preserve strength- Base

    Strength: 75-90% 1RM, 3-6 reps, less exercise variation (but still some to prevent staleness), overload sessions ranging from 2/week to once per 2 weeks

    Peaking: 85-100+% of 1RM, 1-3 reps, very specific exercise selection, overload ranging from 1/week to once per month, light (instead of medium) sessions between heavy work.

    For most lifters, programming phases of training in 3-8 week long blocks will be sufficient.
  4. Review
    After you’ve programmed and gone through an initial block of training (ranging from 4-12 weeks), you should review your notes. Pay special attention to:

    – projected max
    – which sessions felt the best and worst
    – any periods where you noticed you felt stronger/weaker than projected
    – if your maxes increased (1RM or projected 1RM, based on how you handled submaximal %s for reps
  5. Adjust
    Too often, I see people get overhwelmed with training because they are trying to somehow make their training “perfect” on the first iteration ignoring the fact that it doesn’t need to be perfect to work.

    In fact, lifters will commonly make their program overly complex and ignore what actually works in search of some sort of silver bullet.

    Changes should be small and progressive. Over several training blocks, you can adjust exercise selection based on what lifts correlate to an increase in 1RM on your Big 3. (Ex. adding 10 lbs to your Close Grip Bench 5-Rep Max translates to a 15 lb increase on your 1RM bench press).

Hopefully that helps you with removing some of the anxiety around designing your own powerlifting training program

PS – Here’s 3 more ways I can help you:

1. Join the Powerlifting Unlimited Community for a free copy of my Powerlifting Competition Tool. 


2. Follow me on Instagram (@strongeryoupt) for free lifting advice, programs and more powerlifting content.


3. Apply to join my “Momentum Program” and become a case study. We’ll work with you 1-on-1 (in-person or online, depending on location) to consistently increase your PRs.

It takes less than 60 seconds to apply HERE in order to find out more information and see if you’d be a good fit.