Powerlifting is a taxing sport, and you’ll often hear lifters say that rest and recovery is key. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great powerlifting-focused workout almost every day and continue to progress.
A 6-Day powerlifting split breaks up the workload of a lifter so they can get the most out of their training each week. By building a program that spreads itself over six days, the lifter can focus each day on a different lift or training method each day to develop their overall strength.
That being said, there are several factors to consider before you decide to revamp your weekly split and take on the 6-day powerlifting split, and that’s exactly what we’ll get into in this article.
The Theory Of The 6-Day Powerlifting Split
The idea behind training six days a week for powerlifting is to not only train the three lifts in powerlifting (squat, bench press, and deadlift), but also to train the three methods of strength training (max effort method, dynamic effort method, and repetition effort method) across each of the powerlifting movements.
You can look at any powerlifting program and it will include all of these elements:
- It will help a lifter develop their ability to exert maximal effort into a heavy rep
- Help them develop force through acceleration
- Include exercises for higher reps to build new muscle and endurance, as well as to engrain proper lifting technique.
In order to get all of this training done in a week (and get it done effectively), you have to break it up, which is why a 6-day powerlifting split can be highly effective.
It can spread out the overall amount of work you need to do across multiple days, rather than having 3 or 4 mega workouts where you’re in the gym for several hours at at time.
Another great reason for the 6-day powerlifting split is the ability to train the three powerlifting movements more than once a week.
By training 6 days a week, we can train each lift at least twice, giving you twice the reps and experience of a lifter who only trains them once a week.
I’ve also advocated for training the squat, bench press, and deadlift 3 times per week, which you can read about in another article.
4 Reasons Not To Do A 6-Day Powerlifting Split
Before getting into the reasons why you might want to do a 6-day powerlifting split, let’s first discuss the cons.
It’s important to remember that every powerlifting split is going to have cons. The key is to figure out whether these cons have more of an impact based on your own individual training circumstances.
The 4 reasons why you may not want to do a 6-day powerlifting split are:
- Time constraints
If you hate it, don’t do it.
I can’t stress this enough – the only program you’ll stick with is the one you actually like doing! It’s very much like a diet. The reason so many diets fail is that nobody likes doing it for very long.
If you enjoy getting some training in every day of the week, or you like the consistency of always having something to train, then this program will be great. If not, find one you can stick with for a while, because you won’t do something for very long if you hate it.
2. Time constraints
If you are pressed for time and you can’t train six days a week, then don’t try to do it.
And definitely don’t try to cram six days of training into three or four.
There are great powerlifting programs that can be done with three or four workouts a week, so don’t make yourself feel like powerlifting is only for those that have the ability to train six days a week.
Getting stronger can be done lots and lots of ways, the 6-day split is not the magic bullet that you have to take or leave as is.
If you find that the 6-day powerlifting split is leaving you exhausted, that’s a great reason not to do it.
Just like hating a program, you won’t stick with one that you can’t keep up with, either.
You may have a few levers you can pull before quitting the 6-day split. For example, maybe your intensity is just too high too many days a week. Maybe your load is too heavy, you’re not eating enough, or not getting enough sleep. You can try adjusting a few things like that before calling it quits on the split.
However, overtraining is a real thing, and if training six days a week is consistently making you feel like you’re overtraining, that’s a great reason to make some adjustments on not use this split.
For most master-aged lifters, I wouldn’t recommend the 6-day split for this reason. If you’d like to learn more about lifting into middle and late years, check out my resources:
- Powerlifting Over 40: How To Start And Get Stronger
- Powerlifting Over 50: How To Start And Get Stronger
- Powerlifting Over 60: How To Start And Get Stronger
If you’re injured, it’s unlikely you’ll get as much value out of training six days a week like you do when you’re totally healthy.
Much of this decision will depend on the nature and severity of your injury. A broken leg will eliminate much of your program, while biceps tendonitis may just force you to make a few adjustments to one or two workouts a week.
Whatever the nature of the injury, consult a physician and be smart about how you approach a 6-day split when you’re nursing an injury back to health.
Check out my complete guide to avoiding a powerlifting injury.
Is a 6-Day Powerlifting Split Right For You? (4 factors)
Using the four reasons above, you can pretty quickly decide if you have a reason to avoid the 6-day split entirely.
But just because you can do the split, doesn’t’ always mean you should.
Here are a few factors to consider when determining if this split is right for you:
- Training Deficiencies
- Novice Lifters
- Free Time
1. Training Deficiencies
The 6-day powerlifting split can help lifters get the extra work they need to overcome weaknesses.
Looking at your most recent 1-rep max lifts, you can start to see where your lifts need work. If you recognize areas that need more work (dynamic work with acceleration, technique work, sticking points, etc), then the 6-day split will be your best shot at addressing those deficiencies.
It’s hard to progress your lifts if you aren’t taking the time to address the specific areas that they need help with. If you can commit to training six days a week, you’ll have a much better shot at breaking through those weaknesses quickly and moving on to the next goal.
For my lifters, I like to have at least one day addressing their lift deficiencies. For ideas on how to structure a workout around lift deficiencies, check out the following resources:
- How To Fix Losing Tension At The Bottom Of The Squat (8 Tips)
- 5 Tips To Improve Your Squat Walkout
- Is Your Bench Press Weak Off The Chest? Try These 6 Things
- Is Your Bench Press Weak In The Middle? Try These 6 Things
- 9 Proven Ways To Strengthen Your Bench Press Lockout
- Is Your Deadlift Weak Off The Floor? Try These 7 Tips
- Is Your Deadlift Weak At The Knees? Try These 5 Tips
- 10 Tips To Improve Your Deadlift Lockout
2. Novice Lifters
If you’re new to the sport, the 6-day split will be a great way to accelerate your technique development.
Let’s face it, it turns out getting good at three lifts takes a bunch of work – a lot more than just doing each lift once a week.
If you’re new to the sport, the 6-day split will break it up for you, allow you to train more consistently each week, and train across the three strength training methods for each lift. Training this way will give you more reps with each lift and help you become much more well-rounded and proficient early on.
As you advance, you can likely focus on aspects of training that need more or less of your time and attention and you can reduce it to fewer workouts a week.
That’s not to say an intermediate or advanced lifter won’t benefit from the 6-day split (it absolutely can), but the benefits will be much greater for a lifter just getting started.
Do you like training more frequently and spending time in the gym? Great, then this can be a great option for you!
Again, f you like the program that you’re on, then you’ll probably stick with it for much longer than if you don’t. The longer you stick to a program, the more gains you’ll get regardless of the split.
For most of us, we lift because it’s fun. Everything else is secondary. If the 6-day split allows you to enjoy it more, have more fun, then it’s a great fit for you.
4. Free Time
If you have enough time to train six days a week, then a 6-day powerlifting split can be a great option.
Time is the biggest excuse people have for not exercising, and it’s a legitimately limited resource for most people.
If you have the time to train six days a week, why not use it to address weak points within your range of motion, practice your technique further, or perform additional accessory movements that will keep you healthier in the long-term.
How To Structure A 6 Day Powerlifting Split
There’s nothing magical about training six days a week if there’s no strategy behind it.
When structuring a 6-day powerlifting split, the goal is to not only train each lift more than once but also to practice different types of training adaptations (strength work, speed work, rep work).
Remember that in powerlifting we train lifts, while in bodybuilding we train muscles. While muscles are a big part of those lifts, it’s not the only aspect of it. This is the core in understanding how to structure a 6-day powerlifting split.
There are three major pieces to incorporate into the week.
You have to make sure you are training each lift at least twice a week.
To start, you would ideally structure your workouts to look like: two squat workouts, two bench workouts, two deadlift workouts.
You have to make sure you’re training different qualities and training adaptations for each lift.
What this means is that throughout the 6 workouts, you want to have some days that are focused on heavy lifting (max effort), some days that are focused on moving the barbell with speed (dynamic effort), and some days that are focused on building muscle (repetition effort).
Max Effort Workouts
Max effort workouts should include sets of 1-4 reps with a heavy load (85%+ of 1RM).
This workout is usually so taxing that there isn’t much in the way of backoff sets or other work after you’re done with the top sets. Although advanced lifters will likely include some form of back off sets.
Your goal is to move heavy weight, train your body’s ability to strain under load, maintain form, and call it a day.
Dynamic Effort Workouts
Dynamic effort workouts are focused on the acceleration of the weight.
These workouts use much lighter weights (40-70% of max) to help the lifter focus on accelerating the weight.
By training acceleration with submaximal weights, the lifter develops a greater force output.
These workouts also allow a lifter to continue training for force output, even when they are too fatigued from their max effort workout to keep training with heavy loads.
Another benefit to these sorts of workouts is that you simply get more practice with the technical elements of each lift, which is great if you are specifically trying to change or improve one aspect of your technique.
Oftentimes, dynamic effort workouts are performed using some form of accomodating resistance. Check out my other articles for more information:
- Do Bands Help Bench Press? (Yes, Here’s Why & How To Use Them)
- Reverse Band Squats: How-To, Benefits, Why Do Them
- The Banded Deadlift: 4 Reasons Why You Should Do Them
Repeated Effort Workouts
Repeated effort workouts are focused on higher reps in order to build muscle, usually 6 or more reps with loads ranging from 60-80% of a lifter’s 1RM.
These workouts are not often their own workout (although they can be). Typically they are included after performing some sort of max-effort or dynamic effort exercise.
Because of the lower intensity of these types of workouts, they can be done even when a lifter is feeling fatigued from their top sets.
Although, if the goal of the overall phase of training is to build muscle, like in an off-season program, then you should ensure you’re relatively fresh for these types of workouts.
Check out my other resources on high rep training:
The final element to work into the structure is the accessory work. Determining which accessory movements to do will be a function of where your lifts need the most work.
For example, if you struggle to keep your chest upright during a squat, you’ll want to select squat accessories that target this area of weakness.
Accessory movements can be incorporated into either heavy or light training days either as the top sets or back off sets.
For example, you can absolutely use a squat variation for your heavy squat day. It does not (and should not) always be your standard, competitive squat form.
You’ll just want to select weights that are appropriate for your abilities with that variation and ensure that the variation is actually targetting a squat weakness that will carry over to your competition lift.
I’ve written extensively on different squat, bench, press, and deadlift variations and why you should do them. Check out the following resources for more:
- 9 Squat Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique
- 10 Bench Press Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique
- 12 Bench Press Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique
Takeaways When Structuring A 6-Day Split
At the end of the day, your 6-day powerlifting split should have you hitting each lift at least two times a week, once for max effort training, once for dynamic effort training, and conclude with repetition work on accessory movements that address weaknesses or areas of improvement in your main lift.
The goal is to train the whole lift. That means breaking it down to train it to lift heavy, to lift it fast, and to train each muscle you rely on in that lift to get bigger and stronger individually.
In order to do that effectively, we break it down into those six workouts and focus each workout on a different lift or different method of training that lift.
Put that all together, and you have an ideal powerlifting program to get you stronger across your whole body.
6-Day Powerlifting Split: Program Sample
We’ve talked through all the theory, it’s time to put it into practice and show you what a 6-day powerlifting split actually looks like.
We’ll break it down day by day to show you exactly what we mean when we describe all these elements of training the lift.
Day 1: Max Effort Bench
- Warm up
- Bench Press – 6 sets of 2 @ 85% of max
- Paused bench press – 5 sets of 3 @ 78% of max
- Close grip bench – 4 sets of 12
- Skull Crushers – 4 sets of 12
Day 2: Max Effort Squat
- Warm up
- Squat – 5 sets of 2 reps @ 87% of max
- SSB Box Squat – 5 sets of 3 reps @ 80% of max
- Leg Press – 4 sets of 10 reps
- Walking Lunges – 4 sets of 12 reps
Day 3: Dynamic Effort Bench
- Warm up
- Bench Press against bands – 8 sets of 3 @ 55% of max plus light bands
- DB Floor press – 4 sets of 10
- Tricep Pushdowns – 4 sets of 10
- Rope pulldowns – 4 sets of 12
Day 4: Max Effort Deadlift
- Warm up
- Deadlift – 5 sets of 2 @ 85% of max
- Paused Deadlift (below knee) – 5 sets of 3 @ 72% of max
- Bent over barbell row – 4 sets of 10
- Seated v-grip row – 4 sets of 12
- Lying hamstring curls – 4 sets of 10
Day 5: Dynamic Effort Squat
- Warm up
- Squats against bands – 8 sets of 2 @ 50% of max against light bands
- Front Squats – 4 sets of 10
- Goblet squats – 4 sets of 12
- Leg extensions – 4 sets of 12
Day 6: Dynamic Effort Deadlift
- Warm up
- Deadlift against bands – 10-12 sets of 1 rep @ 50% of max against light bands
- Alternate Stance Deadlifts* – 4 sets of 6-8
- Stiff leg deadlifts – 4 sets of 8-10
- Good Mornings – 4 sets of 8-10
- Pull-ups – 4 sets to failure
As you can see from this split, each lift gets two workouts a week, and each of those two workouts utilizes either a max effort or dynamic effort training method.
Once the heavy and dynamic work is done, every workout includes accessory exercises using higher reps to continue to train and grow the individual muscles we use in that day’s lift.
By splitting it up this way, we train the lift and the muscles involved in three different ways.
This is not the only way to arrange a 6-day powerlifting split, but this example shows you what should be included to have a comprehensive split across six days with a powerlifting focus.
If you’re curious about the exact frequency of each of your powerlifting movements, then be sure to check out my other resources:
- How Many Times Should You Squat Each Week?
- How Many Times Should You Bench Press Each Week?
- How Many Times Should You Deadlift Each Week?
The 6-day powerlifting split really is the most comprehensive way to train all the elements of powerlifting. By training each lift two times a week, training each of the three strength training methods, and spreading it out over six days, the lifter gets a well-rounded, methodical program to help them reach their goals.
However, it’s not always possible to get this kind of training in when you look at the other demands life places on us. Spoiler alert: I don’t train this way. I’d like to, but I juggle other commitments that make it unreasonable for me to follow this split.
While this split may be the best approach on paper to being the best powerlifter you can be, the very best split is the one you can stick with and that you enjoy doing. As long as you continue to see results and love the process, you shouldn’t beat yourself up if it’s not the 6-day powerlifting split we’ve described here.