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Powerlifting has gained popularity in recent years as more and more people share their progress and accomplishments on social media and show that it’s accessible to anyone with access to a basic gym. However, starting a powerlifting program as a beginner can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to choosing the right program.
The best beginner powerlifting programs focus on building a foundation of strength and technique, gradually increasing volume and intensity over time, and includes a variety of exercises to avoid boredom and prevent injury.
Here are the 5 best powerlifting programs for beginners that adhere to the guidelines above:
- PowerliftingTechnique.com App – Best Overall
- Juggernaut AI – Best Customizable Beginner Powerlifting Program
- Starting Strength – Best for Simplicity
- Kizen Powerlifting Program – Best Four-Day Powerlifting Program for Beginners
- Powerlifting to Win Powerlifting Program – Best for Combining Powerlifting and Cardio
Whether you're a seasoned gym-goer looking to try something new or a complete beginner looking to get into powerlifting, this guide will help you choose the right program to get started on your powerlifting journey.
I’ll dive into my top three picks for the best powerlifting programs for beginners and share what makes them stand out above the sea of options you have online. I’ll also discuss why you should absolutely stick with a beginner program instead of trying to train like your favorite world record-holding powerlifter on social media.
Why Are Beginner Programs Necessary for New Powerlifters?
When it comes to starting a new sport or exercise routine, it can be tempting to dive headfirst into advanced programs and techniques in an attempt to make quick progress. However, when it comes to powerlifting, beginner programs are not only beneficial but necessary for new powerlifters.
Here are the reasons you'll want to seek out the right beginner powerlifting program:
- Foundation of strength and technique
- Prevent injury
- Learn a structured progression plan
- Learn the rules and regulations
Foundation of Strength and Technique
One reason beginner programs are necessary is to build a foundation of strength and technique. Powerlifting requires a high level of technical proficiency to perform the lifts safely and effectively. A powerlifting routine for beginners can provide the opportunity to learn proper form and technique before moving on to heavier lifts.
Additionally, beginner programs can help prevent injury by introducing new exercises and techniques gradually, allowing the body to adapt and adjust to the demands of the sport. By starting with a program designed for beginners, new powerlifters can minimize the risk of injury and ensure long-term progress.
Learn a Structured Progression Plan
Another benefit of beginner programs is that they provide a clear structure and progression plan. Instead of randomly selecting exercises or lifting weights without a plan, a beginner program provides a roadmap for progress and allows lifters to track their progress over time. This can be incredibly motivating and help build confidence in one's abilities as they see the results in their workouts week over week.
Learn Rules and Regulations
Lastly, powerlifting can feel like a complex sport, with specific rules and regulations for lifts in competition. By starting with a beginner program, new lifters can become familiar with the sport and its requirements, allowing them to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for it.
This familiarity can help new lifters set realistic goals and understand what it takes to compete at different levels. This can be motivating and inspiring and help lifters stay committed to their training and achieve their goals over time.
Overall, beginner programs are essential for new powerlifters to build a strong foundation of strength and technique, prevent injury, and provide a clear structure for progress. By starting with a program that aligns with one's experience level and goals, new powerlifters can set themselves up for success and achieve their goals in powerlifting.
Before searching for the best beginner powerlifting program, check out our guide on how to start powerlifting. It covers everything you need to know about the sport, including tips on how to perfect the three powerlifting movements (squat, bench press, and deadlift) and advice from experienced powerlifters.
5 Best Powerlifting Programs for Beginners
|Program||Days Per Week||Workout Duration||Training Frequency of Each Lift||Learn More|
|PowerliftingTechnique.com App||Four to six||60 - 90 minutes||2 to 4 days per week||Learn More|
|Juggernaut AI||Three to six||45 - 90 minutes||Varies from 1 to 5 squat, 2 to 5 bench, and 1 to 4 deadlift sessions per week||Learn More|
|Starting Strength||Three||60 - 90 minutes||Squats and bench presses 3 days per week; deadlifts 2 to 3 days per week||Learn More|
|Kizen||Four||90 minutes (varies with rest times between sets)||Squats, bench presses, and deadlifts 4 days per week||Learn More|
|Powerlifting to Win||Four (3 days lifting, 1 day physical preparedness workout)||60 - 90 minutes||Squats and bench presses 3 days per week; deadlifts 2 to 3 days per week||Learn More|
1. PowerliftingTechnique.com App – Best Overall
|Days Per Week||Four to six|
|Workout Duration||60 – 90 minutes|
|Training Frequency of Each Lift||Two to four days per week, depending on the program|
- Three splits to choose from, depending on whether you can train four, five, or six days a week
- 14 different programs in total to offer variety and improve specific weaknesses
- RPE and weight protocols automatically calculated for you
- Some lifters may not have time to commit to the required training frequency
I can’t miss this opportunity to share that we have our own training programs ready-made for beginners to fall in love with powerlifting and make excellent progress.
What I really love about the app is that it offers ready-made programs you can select and jump into. While other training apps just kind of tell you how to train all the time, the PowerliftingTechnique.com app gives you the flexibility to define exactly what you want to improve by selecting the right program.
From peaking programs for beginners to test their maxes to programs designed to improve your deadlift grip or keep your back straight, there are programs for various needs and improvements you can make in your lifting.
You can choose to train four, five, or six days a week. No matter your schedule or demands on your time, there’s a beginner program for you here!
Across those three splits, there are 14 programs in total, giving you immense variety and specificity in what you want to train and improve while using the app.
And considering most of the programs (if not each one) can be repeated with new maxes entered, you have YEARS of resources here to work through and improve your pursuit of powerlifting excellence.
Another thing I like about the app is that you never have to wonder what weight you should be using or what RPE you should select. Leave all the thinking to the app so you can focus on simply executing the lifts and getting stronger.
That said, there’s no way around it — you have to be a person with enough time to train 4-6 days a week to really get the benefits here.
For lifters who can only lift a few times a week, there won't be a good program for you in this app.
If you’re looking for a powerlifting program that doesn’t require as much time, try a three-day powerlifting split.
2. Juggernaut AI – Best Customizable Beginner Powerlifting Program
|Days Per Week||Three to six|
|Workout Duration||45 – 90 minutes|
|Training Frequency of Each Lift||Varies based on user inputs but can range from one to five squat sessions, two to five bench sessions, and one to four deadlift sessions per week|
- Easy-to-use interface
- Built on fundamental principles
- The founder is well-respected in the powerlifting world
- Lack of coach interaction
*Use the code TECHNIQUE10 when you purchase the app to receive 10% off for each month you’re subscribed.
I’ve reviewed the Juggernaut AI app in detail, but the short version is that with what we are able to do with technology these days, human-managed programs are almost unnecessary for 90% of lifters, and the rest of that 10% doesn’t include you — it includes John Haack and the top 10% of lifters in the world chasing him.
For everyone else, we all just need to follow fundamental principles of progression, and the Juggernaut AI app does exactly that. No emotion, no confusion — just good, legit programming that automatically updates based on data you input, such as your fatigue levels and how good a workout felt based on your sleep the night before. There’s nobody more legit in powerlifting than Chad Wesley Smith, and it’s his app, based on his programming knowledge and experience, so you can trust it.
Anyone can figure this app out. It’s well-designed and easy to use, guiding you through every step of the program setup and your workouts.
There’s nothing gimmicky or dogmatic about the programming styles used in this app — it’s the stuff that gets athletes strong, period.
One drawback is that some people like having a coach to explain and talk through the stages of their program with them. If you prefer that human interaction, you’re better off hiring a coach to program for you.
Also, this app is not a free or cheap program like the ones you can find from your favorite lifter or fitness influencer. You gotta spend some extra money to get quality stuff here.
But in my opinion, anyone who wants to try it and gives it a good effort will see results.
Learn how to set up the Juggernaut AI app based on your individual goals and training preferences in the video below:
3. Starting Strength – Best for Simplicity
|Days Per Week||Three|
|Workout Duration||60 – 90 minutes|
|Training Frequency of Each Lift||Squats and bench presses are training three days per week; deadlifts are trained two to three days per week|
- The training methodology is proven
- Easy to follow
- The book is inexpensive
- Can be dogmatic and boring
I really like Starting Strength, I do. Anyone wanting to cut out the fluff and just focus on building a foundation of strength should absolutely give it a fair shot.
That said, I like giving lifters a variety of exercises and exposure to different ways of getting strong. SS doesn’t offer that as well as some other beginner powerlifting programs I’ve mentioned here.
One thing I like about the program is that it’s not complicated! It consists of five sets of five squats, bench presses or overhead presses, and deadlifts, adding 5-10 lbs each week until you can’t add more weight. That’s it. Anyone can follow this and improve.
I also love that it’s inexpensive. You can get the book on Amazon for very little. The price fluctuates, but it’s not expensive on any budget. You can also search online for a free Google Sheet to use as a template.
In terms of downsides, followers of Starting Strength are, well, disciples in many cases. To them, it’s either the Starting Strength way or no way, but that’s just not true. The principles applied are true, but the method isn’t the only way to apply those principles.
Finally, there’s no getting around it — 5×5’s of the same 3-4 exercises over and over, week after week, with just 5lb incremental changes in the weight gets old pretty fast!
That said, thousands and thousands of people have built their foundation of strength with Mark Rippetoe’s book and program. There is no denying this program will give you a foundation of strength to channel into specific strength sports or other athletics.
4. Kizen Training Powerlifting Program – Best Four-Day Powerlifting Program for Beginners
|Days Per Week||Four|
|Workout Duration||90 minutes (can be shorter or longer depending on rest times between sets)|
|Training Frequency of Each Lift||Squats, bench presses, and deadlifts are all trained four days per week|
- Can adjust to an intermediate program
- Follows conventional principles
- Three rest days per week are automatically built into the program
- Only training frequency available is four days a week
- Combines SBD in the same day
When I reviewed the Kizen program in full, I was generally impressed with its structure.
It offers programming for beginner and intermediate lifters and uses conventional and fundamental principles of periodization, peaking you into a powerlifting competition or testing your new maxes.
The downsides are that it only offers a four-day training split, and it combines squatting, benching, and deadlift exercises on the same days. As a matter of preference, I like splits that keep my lifts dedicated to their own days, and I’ve seen beginners handle that model well, so this is a drawback for me.
I think beginners also need the flexibility to state whether they can train three days a week or up to six and find a program that fits that schedule. This way, they can stay consistent as they get started.
That said, if you don’t mind the combined lifts in a day and training four days a week, this is a good option for beginners.
5. Powerlifting to Win Program – Best for Combining Powerlifting and Cardio
|Days Per Week||Four (three days of lifting, one day of general physical preparedness workouts)|
|Workout Duration||60 – 90 minutes|
|Training Frequency of Each Lift||Squats and bench presses are trained three days per week; deadlifts are trained two to three days per week|
- In-depth and detailed
- Made for beginners
- Includes a GPP training day to add variety and help with conditioning
- Too much information
- Only RPE structured
As with other programs, I’ve reviewed the Powerlifting to Win program in full. But for those who just want the short version, this is a solid program for beginners. It follows fundamental, proven methods of building strength and targets beginners.
The program reads like a textbook, with more information than you may want to know about the program, how it’s set up, and why it’s set up that way.
This is both a positive and a negative. While you’ll learn a lot, the information can be overwhelming. It certainly was for me as I read and reviewed it. Some beginners will benefit from all this information, while others just need to block that out and do the work, so it can be distracting.
Additionally, the whole program is built around recommended RPEs (rate of perceived effort) instead of a recommended weight as a percent of your max, which can be very difficult for beginners to gauge on their own without a coach in person observing them.
But for beginning lifters comfortable with RPE and who want all the details about their programming, it’s a great way to go.
If you want more options for creating a custom powerlifting program with spreadsheets, check out this free Google Sheet to use.
5 Tips to Follow When Starting Powerlifting
Starting a new sport or exercise routine can be daunting, but with the right approach, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Here are some tips to keep in mind when starting powerlifting:
Pick a Good Program
Whether you're looking to build overall strength, improve your technique, start powerlifting to help your performance in CrossFit or another sport, or prepare for a powerlifting competition, make sure the program you choose aligns with your specific goals. This will help keep you motivated and focused on what you want to achieve.
If you’re an older individual who’s trying powerlifting for the first time, you’ll benefit from our guide on how to start powerlifting in your 50s.
Start With the Basics
Before jumping into heavy lifting, make sure you have a good understanding of the foundational movements – the squat, bench press, and deadlift. It's important to develop proper technique early on to avoid injury and ensure long-term progress.
Check out these guides to learn how to squat, bench press, and deadlift correctly: Powerlifting Squat Technique Rules, Powerlifting Rules For Bench Press (Complete Guide), Powerlifting Rules For Deadlift (Complete Guide).
Consistency is key when it comes to building strength and improving technique. Stick to a program for at least 12 weeks before making any changes, and aim to lift at least two to three times per week, depending on your program’s split.
Listen to Your Body
It's normal to experience soreness and fatigue when starting a new program. But if you're experiencing pain or discomfort, it's important to listen to your body and make modifications as needed.
Don't be afraid to ask for help from a coach or experienced lifter if you're unsure about proper form or modifications.
Recovery is just as important as lifting when it comes to building strength and preventing injury. Ensure you get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and incorporate mobility and stretching exercises into your routine.
Set Realistic Goals
Powerlifting is a sport that requires patience and persistence. Set realistic goals and focus on making incremental progress over time. Celebrate small victories and use them as motivation to keep pushing yourself.
By following these tips and choosing the right program for your goals and experience level, you can start your powerlifting journey with confidence and set yourself up for success.
How To Progress a Beginner Powerlifting Program
Once you've selected a novice powerlifting program to follow, it's important to understand how to progress the program to continue making gains in strength and performance.
Here are some tips for progressing a beginner powerlifting program:
Increase Weight Gradually
As you become more comfortable with the movements and your form improves, gradually increase the weight you're lifting.
A good rule of thumb is to increase the weight by no more than 5-10% each week, which will decrease significantly the stronger you get and the longer you progress in strength training.
This criterion is only for beginners who can develop and adapt quickly with what is commonly called “newbie gains.”
Add Volume Strategically
Volume refers to the total amount of weight lifted in a session or week (weight on the barbell x reps you completed at that weight). To progress your program, you can add more sets, reps, or exercises strategically over time.
This can be done in a number of ways, but here’s one example. Say you’ve been doing five sets of five reps with the same weight for three weeks, and it feels very doable now. For the next week, you could simply add a sixth set and leave the reps and weight the same.
Alternatively, you could increase the weight slightly and leave the reps and sets the same.
A third option is to keep the weight and sets the same but add a sixth rep to each set.
Making these increases consistently over time will keep your body adapting to the new challenge of added weight, added reps, and/or added sets!
However, be cautious not to add too much volume too quickly, as this can increase the risk of injury or burnout.
Incorporate Accessory Exercises
Accessory exercises are exercises that target specific muscle groups or movements that support the main lifts. Incorporating accessory exercises can help prevent muscle imbalances, improve technique, and enhance overall strength.
Keeping track of your progress is important to ensure you're making gains and to identify areas where you may need to make adjustments. This can include tracking weights lifted, reps performed, and how you feel during and after workouts.
You can go the old-fashioned route and use a notebook and pen for this, or you can download an app like Hevy to track your progress.
Deload When Needed
Deloading refers to taking a break from heavy lifting to allow your body to recover and prevent injury.
This can be done by reducing the weight lifted, the number of sets and reps performed, or taking a complete break from lifting for a week or two. It's important to listen to your body and deload when you feel fatigued or have been pushing yourself hard for an extended period of time.
By following these tips and progressing your powerlifting program strategically, you can continue to build strength and improve performance over time. Remember to be patient and consistent, and always prioritize proper form and technique to prevent injury and ensure long-term success.
Learn more about deloading and how often you should do it in How Often Should Powerlifters Deload? (Depends on 5 Factors).
When Should You Transition To an Intermediate Program?
Knowing when to transition from a beginner powerlifting program to an intermediate program can be difficult. It's important to keep in mind that progress in powerlifting is not always linear, and everyone's progression timeline is unique.
However, there are some signs to look out for that can indicate it may be time to switch to an intermediate program.
One sign that it may be time to transition is if you are no longer making progress. If you've been following a beginner powerlifting routine for several months and are no longer seeing gains in strength or performance, it may be time to switch to a more advanced program that can provide a new stimulus for your body.
An intermediate program can introduce more advanced techniques and lift variations that can help you continue to make gains in strength and performance.
You’ve Mastered the Basics
Another sign that it may be time to transition is if you've mastered the basics.
A beginning powerlifting program typically focuses on the foundational movements, such as the squat, bench press, and deadlift, and aims to develop proper technique and form.
If you feel confident in your technique and have a solid foundation of strength, it may be time to switch to a program that includes more varied lifts and techniques, such as front squats, sumo deadlifts, or pause bench presses.
If you're preparing for a powerlifting competition, it may also be beneficial to switch to an intermediate program that includes more specific training for the competition lifts. An intermediate program can help you improve your technique, increase your strength in the competition lifts, and prepare you to attempt more weight than you ever have.
You’re Bored or Unmotivated
Lastly, if you're feeling bored or unmotivated with your current program, switching to a more advanced program can help reignite your passion for powerlifting. An intermediate program can provide new challenges and opportunities to push yourself and help you break through plateaus and overcome mental barriers.
You may also just need to change to a different beginner program. Be aware of your current progress and skill and consult more experienced coaches or lifters to get their advice on other programs best suited for your current stage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Beginner Do Powerlifting?
Yes, beginners can do powerlifting! Start with a program that aligns with your experience level and goals, and focus on proper form and technique to prevent injury.
What Is the Best Beginner Powerlifting Routine?
The best powerlifting routine for beginners gradually increases volume and intensity over time, focusing on foundational lifts like the squat, bench press, and deadlift. It should also include a mix of exercises that target the whole body and minimize the risk of injury.
How Often Should a Beginner Lift for Powerlifting?
Beginners should aim to lift for powerlifting at least two to three times per week but can build up to as many as six training days per week when structured properly.
What Should I Eat When Starting a Powerlifting Program?
Eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein to support muscle growth and recovery and a mix of carbohydrates, fats, and protein to fuel workouts and aid recovery. Stay hydrated with water. Eat in a caloric surplus to build muscle or in a caloric deficit to reduce fat while maintaining muscle.
Can Powerlifting Help Me Lose Weight?
Powerlifting can help increase muscle mass and metabolism, which can aid in weight loss. However, weight loss comes down to creating a calorie deficit through diet and exercise, so powerlifting alone may not get you the results you want if you’re eating in a caloric surplus.
Powerlifting can be an incredibly rewarding sport that helps build strength, improve body composition, and challenge oneself both mentally and physically.
Starting powerlifting can be intimidating. However, by following a powerlifting program for beginners like the PowerliftingTechnique.com apps, you can set yourself up for success.
Remember to be patient and consistent in your training, prioritize recovery and injury prevention, and celebrate small victories along the way. As you progress in your training, consider transitioning from a simple powerlifting program for beginners to an intermediate program that can provide new challenges and opportunities to continue making gains in strength and performance.
Above all, enjoy the journey and have fun with it! With the right mindset and approach, you can achieve your goals and become a stronger, more confident version of yourself, even in the early stages of a beginner program.
About The Author
Adam Gardner is a proud resident of Utah, where he lives with his wife and two kids. He has been competing in powerlifting since 2016 in both the USPA and the APF. For the past three years, he and his wife, Merrili, have coached beginning lifters to learn the fundamentals of powerlifting and compete in their first powerlifting competitions.