Kizen Training Powerlifting Program Review: Does It Work?

the kizen training 12-week powerlifting program

Without spoiling too much and getting ahead of ourselves, we are very impressed with the Kizen Training 12-week Powerlifting program. 

But as much as we love it, we found there are definitely some personalities that will not like this program as much as others. 

So before you go drop some money and subscribe to the program sight unseen, we’ve boiled it down for you.  

Why Kizen Training Program May Not Be For You

There are three types of lifters that may not mesh with this program:

  • The RPE Lifter
  • The “Hypertrophy Block Fanatic”
  • The “Lift Every Day” Lifter 

1  The RPE lifter

This program’s progression scale is based off percentage of max. The only mention of RPE’s is in the supplemental PDF, and it mostly just explains what RPE’s are rather than giving a specific guide for how intense each set should be. 

We aren’t saying RPE’s or percentages are better or worse, but if you are the type of lifter who lives and dies by the RPE scale, you’re gonna hate this program, no matter how much we like the rest of the details about it. 

2.  The Hypertrophy Block Fanatic

This program does not include the conventional 4-week hypertrophy block to start the 12-week program. I know some lifters really enjoy that (me included). The four weeks of high reps to start a new block really can provide a great mental break and change of pace and intensity for the lifter before getting into an adaptation phase and peaking phase. 

This program does include sets and reps that will trigger hypertrophy in a caloric surplus, but it’s more spread throughout the workouts each week rather than focused and compiled up front. 

If you cherish that first hypertrophy phase of the training block, then you need to keep looking, cause you won’t find it here. 

3.  The “Lift Every Day” Lifter

This program is pretty rigidly set for four days a week. While this may be a huge upside to some, others prefer to have something to train and do every day. 

If you like to lift every day (or just more frequently), you will have a hard time splitting up these workouts across six or seven days. They are very focused and not terribly long, so you won’t have as much to do each day if you spread it out beyond the four days the authors have recommended. 

Another Program Option To Consider

Before diving into the full review of the candito powerlifting program, I want to share that…

We’ve created a training app with dozens of powerlifting programs that suits different goals.  

You can find programs based on: 

  • Ability level (beginner to advanced)
  • Weak point training (programs focused on lockout of the deadlift, the bottom of the squat, etc.)
  • Age-based training (junior to master aged programs)
  • Unique training splits (everything from 3-6 day training splits)
  •  Competition readiness (peaking programs for a powerlifting)  

You can check out our programs HERE

Once you join our membership and download the app, you gain full access to all programs.  

Not only that, you get access to a private community of lifters, all training with the same programs, where you can ask questions, post training videos, and get feedback & support.


Let’s now dive into the full review of the Kizen Training Powerlifting Program!

Overview of Kizen Training Program

About The Creator

The Kizen Training 12-week Powerlifting Program is authored by Omar Isuf, Bart Kwan, and “Silent Mike” Farr. 

Not only do these three have their own big PR’s to brag about, but they each have tenured careers in various aspects of strength and powerlifting. 

Silent Mike is a Reebok sponsored athlete with a YouTube following exceeding 100k subscribers. Bart owns Barbell Brigade gym and an apparel brand of the same name, and Omar has been a personal trainer to over 500 clients in the past 10 years. 

If you have any questions about who they are and what they bring to the program, they each include a video bio about themselves as part of the program resources. 

Who The Program Was Intended For?

This program is designed for lifters who want to set a PR in the next 16 weeks.

While the program doesn’t explicitly state what level of lifter it was designed for, it clearly accommodates any lifter with goals to lift more than they have before over the course of time it takes to complete and repeat this program, whether they’re experienced or new.

In my opinion, most beginner and intermediate strength athletes should be able to see a PR within the 16-week timeframe in at least one of the main powerlifts (squat, bench press, or deadlift), if not all three.  

However, I have my doubt that advanced powerlifters (5+ years of consistent training) would be able to see such success in only 16-weeks.  

Goals of The Program

In their own words, the authors of the program state “We have one goal with this program and that is to get stronger. Sure, in a caloric surplus, you WILL build muscle but that isn’t the main focus. The primary goal with this program is make you stronger than you have ever been.”

This particular resource offers two programs to reach that stated goal. The first is the Building Strength program – an off-season program to build strength and muscle over four-week cycles at a time. The second is called Testing Strength, a 12-week peaking program to prepare the lifter to test their maxes or compete. 

Workout Details

The program calls for four workouts a week, and that stays consistent week to week – it never changes. While you can choose which days of the week and in which order you do those workouts, Kizen does provide you with the recommended split in the layout of their program. 

  • The split of the days calls for some mixed training days, starting with an SBD day (includes high rep squats, moderate bench press, and heavy deadlifts in a single workout, plus accessories). 
  • The next two workouts are a blended heavy bench press/moderate squat day, and a heavy squat/deadlift variation day. 
  • The only workout that focuses on a single lift is the last day of the week, which is a bench press day for high reps. 

While the program has you doing squat and bench workouts three times in the week, you only deadlift once a week, with an additional day to do a deadlift variation, like a stiff leg deadlift. 

The workouts themselves are not lengthy, and can be done in 60-90 minutes each, depending on your warm-ups and rest time between sets. 

The Building Strength program runs for four weeks, and automatically updates after completing it so that you can run it perpetually until you are ready to move into the 12-week Testing Strength program. 

In my opinion, I wouldn’t run the “Building Strength program more than twice in a row before moving into the Testing Strength program.  

Do You Need Any Prerequisites Before Starting This Program?

With the video technique guides and a full video library of accessory movements included in the course materials, a true novice would likely be able to run this program successfully on their own, so you don’t need any prerequisites.

While a working knowledge of the gym, the equipment to use, and proper form will always go a long way with anyone following an online program on their own, this program is designed for beginners and intermediate lifters alike to get stronger than they are today, whatever that starting point may be.

With all three of the program authors being YouTubers, I would definitely expect to have some video components in this program.  So I’m happy they delivered on this, unlike the Jonnie Candito Powerlifting Program, which is just simply an excel spreadsheet.

Kizen Training Program Variables: What To Expect

what to expect on kizen training program variables

Before you dive into the program, we’ve broken down what we consider to be the most important aspects of a program to consider so you can decide if you like it before you try it.

Periodization

The training cycle is split into two programs – the 4-week Building Strength program and the 12-week Testing Strength program.  

There’s a clear application of periodization just in the fact that there are two programs for two different stages of training. 

In the Building Strength 4-week program, each workout calls for three sets of five reps on the main lift (squat, bench, or deadlift), following by one set of AMRAP (as many reps as possible), 

Each lift has its own day, plus an additional upper body day focused on the overhead press as the main lift. 

Once you move into the Testing Strength program, the spreadsheet displays the expected total sets over the course of the program in some useful graphs:

the spreadsheet displays the expected total sets over the course of the program in some useful graphs

As you can see, the volume and total sets stay very consistent weeks 1-7 before starting a steady decline in weeks 8-11, with a major decrease in weeks 12 and 13 (the week of competition or strength testing).

The biggest standout to me is that there’s not a dedicated hypertrophy block in the first four weeks like we see in most 12-week programs. 

That’s not a critique so much as an observation, as this program has a high-rep squat, bench, or deadlift element baked into the workouts throughout the week, rather than at the front of the whole program. 

As such, this follows more of a Daily Undulating Periodization model vs a Linear Periodization Model, where you get a “Strength”, “Power”, and “Hypertrophy” movement all within the same week of training, rather than split out into monthly blocks.

For that reason, the volume stays consistent for 7-8 weeks, instead of showing some change from weeks 4-5 as a different program might shift from a hypertrophy focus with higher volume to a strength adaptation focus with slightly lower volume. 

Specificity

The Kizen authors speak to this specifically in the supplemental welcome materials to the program. 

There’s a whole section explaining that the path to strength is through “…specificity and frequency. If you want to become better at something you should practice it often and practice as you play. This is why our program is largely centred around the big 3: the squat, bench and deadlift.”

In the program itself, they certainly back this up as each workout is built around the big three lifts, making this program very specific to powerlifting and free of fluff. 

Volume

The program provides a graph at the top of the spreadsheet to show you what kind of volume to expect throughout the Testing Strength program.

the program provides a graph at the top of the spreadsheet to show you what kind of volume to expect throughout the testing strength program

At first glance, this chart might appear to call for very consistent volume throughout the duration of the program, but I think that’s just because there’s a lot of info in this chart between the four compound lifts it’s showing. 

If you look at just the squat, you’ll notice 3 distinct 4-week swings in the program. Weeks 1-4 has your volume swell in the middle before diminishing back down. Then weeks 5-7 ramp up quickly to even higher volume before diminishing again. Even though weeks 9-13 are lower in volume than the first two periods, you can see a similar swell in the middle. 

Overall, the volume starts moderate, builds to its highest point mid program, then moves the lifter into a diminished level of volume to allow for recovery in order to prepare for strength testing. 

I really like this approach, as the lifter has a consistent opportunity (and demand) to push the intensity with added volume in each block, but it offers some reprieve before moving into the next block, without letting off the gas entirely. 

Intensity

Looking at the provided graphs of the total sets and volume over the course of the program, combined with the recommended percentages of max called for in each workout, this program starts with a good, high intensity and doesn’t let off the gas much. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the weekly split calls for three rest days, so the lifter can perform each workout to the fullest, without compounding too much fatigue day to day. 

Overload

The overload progression is not strictly linear, but steadily increases in a manageable way over the 12 weeks. 

For example, if you glance at the percentages in week one, you’ll see the program calls for ten sets of two reps at 72.5% of max, and by week 11-12 performing three of five sets of two reps at 90% of max. 

Again, the progression is not perfectly linear (but pretty close), so when averaged out, the load increases by about 2.5% each week over the next 12 weeks. 

Fatigue Management

Baked into the program are three rest days. 

While the authors of the program emphasize that you can choose which days you train and which days you rest, the program calls for rest days at certain points, making fatigue very manageable. 

For example, a rest day is recommended the day before and the day after the first workout of the week.  That first workout incorporates all three compound lifts, making it the hardest of the week for many lifters, so following the rest day recommendations will make recovery and performance much better for the next workout. 

Individual Differences

This is one of the standout features of this program to me, is that it comes with technique guides to help lifters struggling with various aspects of their form and lift execution.

When we look at a downloadable templated program, much of what we are able to adapt is the load and intensity, which can often be done with the RPE scale or adjusting the percentage of max in a spreadsheet and updating all the formulas. 

What many programs aren’t able to do in this downloadable format is address individual technique challenges as they arise while completing the program.


The Kizen program excels in this area as they provide tutorial videos on the most common technique challenges with the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Not only do they explain the ideal form, they point out areas to avoid, things you will see break down or become issues later, and how to fix them. 

This feature alone makes this program much more flexible for the user, as they have the resources to identify not only how to adjust the load and intensity, but their form. 

Additionally, there is a full library of exercise videos for all the exercises in this program, allowing the lifter to learn whatever they need to complete the program successfully.

6 Benefits of Kizen Training Program

7 benefits of kizen training program

After our full assessment of the Kizen Training program, we’ve boiled down the biggest benefits to these seven factors: 

  • It’s conventional and proven
  • It’s organized
  • It has videos
  • It has 2 program options
  • Variations and accessories can be incorporated
  • It’s part of a larger library of programs

1. It’s Conventional and Proven

There’s no fluff in this program, and it will get you stronger if you follow it. The guys at Kizen have stated that many popular programs are popular because their author is popular, not because the technique or fundamentals are sound. This program does an excellent job of not trying to “sell the sizzle” and instead gives you the actual meat.

From a 4-week off-season program to build strength, to a steady overload schema in the 12-week program, and focusing on the squat, bench press, and deadlift as the foundation of strength, this program really does stick to the proven methods of building strength and testing strength. The programs demonstrate that they know the differences between the two so that you can follow the programs and get the best results possible. 

2. It’s Organized

My favorite part of the program is that it’s organized and easy to follow! Of all the programs we’ve reviewed here at powerliftingtechnique.com, this one really stands out as a well-organized, easy-to-navigate resource for lifters of any level. 

Programs are administered through an online course software, with embedded videos and the downloadable spreadsheets for the programs themselves. 

None of the course sections are gated by completed previous sections, so you can easily jump to the pieces you want or need without being forced through a linear path first. 

Not only is it easy to navigate, but the look and feel of the spreadsheet programs themselves are clean and organized, making it easy and delightful to enter your information in with each workout and monitor your progress. 

3. It Has Videos

Many of the programs we review operate off the assumption that you know the technique for the squat, bench press, and deadlift and all their variations and accessories. Kizen takes it a step beyond and provides a full video library of each lift and accessory so there’s no guesswork or Google searching for the lifter. 

This may seem like an unnecessary addition, but these inclusions make this program truly accessible for the absolute beginner lifter, while other programs that claim to be for beginners offer to such resources. 

4. It Has 2 Program Options

Whatever stage of lifting you are in, this program offers two different options for you – the off-season Building Strength program and the 12-week Testing Strength program to effectively max out or compete. 

While many providers would offer these as two separate charges and two separate resources, Kizen bundles them together so you can benefit from whatever program will address your immediate (and even long term) needs.

5. Variations and Accessories Can Be Incorporated

This is a big complaint I have about many templatized programs that Kizen seems to address really well – incorporating variations and accessories effectively. 

While most programs can be customized based off your percentage of max or RPE to adjust for load and intensity, this program allows the lifter to enter in a lift variation to train and progress over the four-week Building Strength program. 

The reason this is so important is that every lifter will run into plateaus based off technique deficits or breakdowns, not just intensity and load adaptations. By creating a program that allows a lifter to incorporate deficit deadlifts, or block pulls, or paused squats, or board bench presses, the program is one you can keep using to address those needs. 

Any program that fails to address this is only going to add value as long as the lifter can maintain technique as the load increases. 

6. It’s Part of a Larger Library of Programs

The Kizen Training site offers 20+ training courses similar to this one you can choose from, giving lifters a great resource to keep progressing after utilizing this program. 

From Fat Loss guides, to Ultimate Hypertrophy programs, many specific areas of training and nutrition are offered on the site. 

For those who appreciate the layout and format of this program, it’s great to have the confidence you can keep getting more information in the same way from the same minds, rather than having to go hunting for more good resources on a different topic. 

3 Cons of Kizen Training Program

For all the glowing positives we found from this program, there are always a few downsides to any templatized program. The biggest cons we found are the following: 

  1. It combines squat, bench, and deadlift days
  2. It’s 4 days a week
  3. It’s based off percentages

It Combines Squat, Bench, and Deadlift Days

If you’ve read any of our other program reviews, you know I’m not a fan of squatting, benching, and deadlifting on the same day unless it’s a competition phase of training. So it should be no surprise that I really don’t like the split of this program, in that it combines the three lifts consistently throughout the program.

Only one day a week focuses on a single lift, and that’s the last workout of the week, which is a high-rep bench press day and upper body accessories. All other days are squat/bench/deadlift, squat/bench, squat/deadlift. 

To be fair, this program does attack each lift differently each day (high-rep days vs heavy days, etc), but I’m generally never a fan of combining days if you don’t have to. 

It’s 4 Days a Week

Some of us like training more consistently and always having a reason to be in the gym, even if it’s for a lighter, active-rest day. This program is only 4 days a week, so it leaves you with three days to find something else to do with your gym time. 

In another lens, this could be a huge benefit to get some great, concentrated training done without hitting the gym 6-7 days a week. But if you prefer spreading out your work, focusing on something more specific with each workout, this program may not be for you. 

It’s Based off Percentages

There’s very little use of the RPE scale in this program, so if that’s what you’re used to and that’s what you like, this will be a huge con for you. 

Personally, I feel that percentages and RPE’s are equally effective as long as you are following them intelligently and intuitively, but if you’re not familiar with one or the other, it can definitely leave you with less effective workouts than if you had a clear understanding of what load to choose. 

For that reason, if you are and RPE lifter, this will be a more frustrating program to follow.

Who Is Kizen Training Program For?

who is kizen training program for

At the end of the day, the Kizen Program really does provide a great solution for beginning and intermediate lifters wanting to get stronger than they are today, making it a fairly universal program.

That being said, our assessment is that this program is best suited for independent lifters with a powerlifting focus who like to lift four days a week without spending a ton of time on each workout. It’s best if you have some working knowledge of powerlifting and have even tested your maxes previously. 

Ideally, you would have a need to test your strength a few times throughout the year and spend the rest of your time building strength so your next peaking cycle has even more to draw from. 

As with any templatized program, the greatest weakness will be its rigidity, where a live coach will always be able to help you adapt and address specific needs beyond what any spreadsheet can do for you. 

FInal Thoughts

Overall, I give this program 4.2/5 rating. 

The approach is sound and fundamental, it’s focused on powerlifting movements, offers both an off season and a peaking program, and is very well organized and easy to follow. 

The only piece that leaves us really wanting more is the ability to adjust the workout splits and how many days a week the lifter can train, like you can with a fully custom program.

If you’re looking for a program alternative, definitely check out our training app HERE

Program Review Resources

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