Not every program is going to work for every lifter. And while there’s a lot of things we like about Izzy Narvaez’s Powerlifting to Win program, there are a few types of lifters and personalities we are confident won’t like his program.
Why Powerlifting to Win May Not Be For You
After doing a full review of the program, we’ve decided this program is not suited for the following lifters:
- The plug and play lifter
- “I hate RPE lifters”
- Combined-lift-day haters
- Lifters who hate textbooks
I will discuss who the program would be good for, but let’s take a look at these use cases first.
The Plug And Play Lifter
This is not a program to download, enter your maxes, and go. This program has a Novice and an Intermediate program with three or four levels of each, so just knowing which one to jump into requires reading Izzy’s ebook to know which one is right for you.
While that information may be very useful and a benefit to some, if you are the type of lifter that doesn’t care to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and you just want the gains and the new PR’s, you will hate this program.
“I Hate RPE Lifters”
This whole program throws out the “percentage of max” scale and puts RPE front and center. There are no prescribed weights, just prescribed RPE’s for each set.
If you hate training off RPE’s, this is not the program for you. The program does provide charts to determine the weights you should use as you convert it from a percentage of max, but Izzy has a whole section about throwing away the percentages.
It’s a topic of debate for a separate article whether RPE is better or worse, but there’s no question that if you don’t like training with RPE’s or don’t know how to do so effectively, this is not the program for you.
Combined Lift Day Haters
If you like having a dedicated day to squat, a dedicated day to bench, and a dedicated day to deadlift, I’d look for a new program.
Not only does Powerlifting to Win include blended lift days, nearly every workout has you perform two of the three power lifts. Squat and Bench days, Bench and Deadlift days, Deadlift and accessory days.
Again, we won’t debate whether that’s good or bad, but if you don’t like that split, I’d keep moving and find a different program.
People Who Hate Textbooks
I’m not shy about this one – this program reads like a textbook and I hated every second of reviewing it solely because I had to read it to review it.
I like reading and learning, I really do. But I hated reading this, and so will you if you don’t like reading textbooks.
There’s a ton of info here – good info that will get you stronger if applied effectively. But there’s also lots of great info in a Kinesiology or a Calculus textbook that I don’t care to read. If you’re in that boat, move on right now, cause this program comes with required reading.
Another Program Option To Consider
Before diving into the full review of the Powerlifting To Win 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 Powerlifting to Win program!
Overview of the Powerlifting to Win program
About The Creator
Izzy Narvaez is an avid powerlifter who’s been lifting and competing for seven years (at the time he published his program in 2014). While he doesn’t share any details about holding records or any impressive accolades, Izzy does share that his novice clients consistently see results.
As a formerly certified Starting Strength coach, Izzy knows the fundamentals of strength training for beginners. He boasts that of the over three dozen novice males he’s worked with (who didn’t quit early on), all of them have achieved a 315 squat in the first 3 months of training, and only one failed to hit a 405 squat in the first 6 months of training with him.
Who The Program Was Intended For?
In his own words, Izzy says the Powerlifting to Win program is a resource that “targets athletes who are doing their best to compete and win.”
With that background, Izzy elaborates that this program and ebook are designed to give lifters competing in any federation the tools, practices, and strategies to increase your chances to be the best athlete you can be.
He offers programs in this ebook for true novices up to “fully regulated intermediate” lifters that can be followed for the first three-five years of strength training.
Goals of The Program
As stated above, the goal of the program is to make a lifter the best athlete they can be in strength sports. It provides not just a template to follow blindly, but resources to educate and inform the lifter about what they are doing and why they are doing it.
Each workout incorporates several sets with the squat, bench, and/or deadlift in its competitive form, followed by variations of those lifts and accessory movements to support the muscles incorporated into those lifts.
Depending on the program you are following (Novice, Intermediate, or Advanced Intermediate), the program ranges from 3-4 workouts a week of all three compound lifts, to 6 workouts a week with conditioning days included.
The workouts themselves are not overly long or complicated, and should be completed in about 60 minutes on average. Any of the programs in this ebook will get the lifter into the gym frequently, provide the ideal level of intensity/load based off the RPE scale, and call for the exact reps and sets to be performed on each exercise.
The bulk of the exercises are the squat, bench press, and deadlift, with a few variations and accessory exercises.
Check out our guides on powerlifting accessories:
- 9 Squat Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique
- 10 Bench Press Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique
- 12 Deadlift Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique
Do You Need Any Prerequisites Before Starting This Program?
Narvaez has programs from true novices, and that seems to be his expertise, so this program is certainly targeted at true beginners.
While there is a wealth of information (100 pages worth) accompanying the program to inform a lifter about how it is to be followed and executed, I would say you need a working knowledge of powerlifting and strength training, the exercises involved, correct form/technique of the squat, bench press, and deadlift, and/or some background in bodybuilding training to really understand this program.
Without that knowledge of the lingo and technique, I’m afraid this program will read like a mechanical handbook for a jet engine to some.
Powerlifting to Win Program Variables: What To Expect
The periodization approach varies greatly between the Novice program and the intermediate program, as the novice program provides no periodization at all. Let’s break down the differences between the two programs.
In the novice program, there are simply three phases of the program, designed to be repeated until the lifter is ready for the next phase. Therefore, this program does not rely on set weeks of periodization.
For example, in the novice program, phase one, the lifter does the same workout every day, all three lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift) and is expected to hit a new PR with almost every workout. Once a lifter is showing they are no longer setting a PR with their sets of 3-6 reps every time they show up to train, they move to the second phase of the novice program and so on.
The intermediate program follows more of the conventions you would expect with a lifting program, while still providing two phases of training similar to the novice programs (no periodization, simply rinse and repeat until the lifter progresses to the next level).
Once you move into the Advanced-Intermediate program you find a standard breakdown of a 4-week “hypertrophy” block, a 4-week “balanced” block, and a 4-week “strength” block, supplemented with a 1-week peak protocol to be done the week before maxing or competing.
Both the novice and intermediate programs are entirely built around the goal of competing “early and often,” so the specificity is excellent for the lifter wanting to max out their squat, bench press, and deadlift in sanctioned meets or on their own.
In each program, the emphasis is on the squat, bench press, and deadlift as the main working sets of the program. More specifically in the intermediate program, the program begins to specify when to do a “competition squat,” “competition bench,” and “competition deadlift” versus any of their variations (which are also specifically called for in different stages of the program).
While the late-stage novice program and the intermediate programs include two accessory days or light days, the inclusion of these workouts are truly supplemental to and supportive of the main workouts based around the three main lifts.
Again, there are some major differences between the novice program and the intermediate program.
In broad strokes, the novice program offers way less volume, as a new lifter does not need a ton of volume to start to see impressive results and hit PR’s every day. In fact, too much volume adds to the recovery time needed for the lifter, which would then impede their ability to show up three times a week fully recovered and ready to PR again. To that end, the novice program limits volume.
In the intermediate programs, the volume throughout the week is good and high, but very manageable workout to workout.
Even during the hypertrophy block, where you would expect volume to be higher, you certainly hit some good volume with 3-4 sets of 8-9 reps of squat, bench, or deadlift, but only need to perform six more sets of accessories (two supplemental exercises, three sets of each).
In this sense, the program does a great job of providing the required volume while making it manageable for the lifter to get it all done effectively.
As the program moves into the “balanced” and “strength” blocks, the volume breakdown is similar, though of course the sets and rep ranges are varied to meet the desired goals of building strength rather than new muscle.
Perhaps clearest of all in this program is the desired intensity, as it is based around the RPE scale (Rate of Perceived Effort).
The RPE scale and how to use it is a whole topic of its own, so without getting too sidetracked, suffice it to say that RPE is a guide to how intense the set should feel based on how hard you had to work to move the weight.
Given that this program’s intensity is based around the RPE scale, you will always have a clear guide while following the Powerlifting to Win program on how intense each set and each workout should feel.
This makes it easy for each lifter to individually adjust the weight you’re using for each rep as you progress and need more weight, or as you struggle with the weight week after week and need to adjust down.
If you are entirely new to RPE, there is a resource provided in the e-book for calculating your RPE based off percentage of max and vice versa, as well as examples for how to calculate the ideal weight for each workout.
Finally, Izzy includes a stalling protocol for how to adjust your weights down when you don’t hit the weight the program calls for.
Start to finish, you’ll never have a question of how your workouts should feel in terms of intensity with this program.
You can check out our own guides on what to do when you hit a plateau:
This program adjusts its overload protocol depending on the program you are following, from the Novice, to the Transitioning Intermediate, to the Fully Regulated immediate.
Put simply, the novice lifter will see much more consistent use of overload, as novice lifters will continually break through their previous records as they build their starting strength. As they are focused on hitting a PR of some kind in nearly every workout, they will constantly be using a weight a little over 100% of their 1RM, or RPE 9 to accomplish that.
The Transitioning Intermediate program actually calls for several lifts at RPE 9 in the final week of the program, emphasizing the point that these lifters will still benefit from a little higher intensity and can reach a little bit more.
The Fully Regulated Intermediate program only calls for an RPE 9 once per block, in your final bench press workout of each block. It’s well established that intermediate/advanced lifters don’t benefit as much from training at that intensity often, and can make significant progress training with slightly lower levels of intensity, and this program reflects that nicely.
Each of these programs is built with recovery and fatigue in mind. For example, we’ve established that the Novice program is designed to have the lifter hit a PR of some kind every workout, every week, until they can’t sustain it any longer.
As the lifter progresses through the programs, they find additional light weight, active recovery days to spread out the days of high intensity, starting with one such day in the Novice program and working up to the Intermediate program which incorporates a lighter accessory day and two conditioning/cardio days.
Overall, not only does the program plan for fatigue and spread out the days calling for intensity, but it also provides stalling protocols to accommodate lifters showing signs of fatigue unexpectedly so you can adjust on the fly, if necessary.
The individuality of this program is mostly demonstrated in the ability to select which program level you want to follow. From the true Novice program and its levels, all the way through the Transitioning Intermediate and the Fully Integrated Intermediate, a large gamut of lifters will find a program here that fits their current abilities and needs.
The second area of flexibility is the ability to select your own weights based on your own abilities using the RPE scale of intensity. By using the included charts and knowing at least the weight you performed the previous workout, any lifter can adjust this program to their current abilities.
The greatest weakness in the individuality of this program is that there’s not much flexibility at all in the accessories or lift variations. While a knowledgeable lifter might be able to recognize where they can replace an exercise the program calls for with a variation that will address a key need, that won’t be clear to a new lifter diving into this program.
Sure, there are a few generic calls for the lifter to select a “curl exercise” or a “pulldown/rowing exercise” in some areas of the program, but a lifter needing to improve a specific area of their technique, a sticking point, or other issue will not easily be able to determine where to fit that in with this program.
5 Benefits of the Powerlifting to Win Program
- It’s thorough and detailed
- Anyone can use it
- It follows proven methods
- You can grow with it
- It’s free of fluff
It’s Thorough and Detailed
If you want to know more than you ever thought you wanted to know about powerlifting programming, this is the program for you. Between the nearly 100 pages of ebook content, the tables, the charts, the anecdotes and opinions of the author, you will love this program.
Even if you skip over much of the content, the program itself pays attention to all the key factors of lifting – load, intensity, frequency, duration, rep/set ranges, periodization, stalling and progression protocols, etc. No detail was too small for Izzy in composing this program.
Anyone Can Use It
With the range of levels provided here, a lifter of any level will get value out of this program. From the true novice to the intermediate lifter going at it for several years, you can plug your numbers into this program and absolutely make progress over the weeks that you follow it.
While we have our complaints about not being able to easily adjust which variations or accessories are incorporated, this is a pretty flexible program for the majority of lifters out there.
It Follows Proven Methods
The practices and methods utilized in this program are proven and sound. Izzy’s background with Starting Strength and competitive powerlifting give him a broad view of strength training, both in general terms, as well as in terms specific to the sport of powerlifting.
There’s nothing experimental or laced with marketing spin here, following any level of these programs is purely focused on established methods of getting people stronger.
You Can Grow with It
This is my favorite part of the program – you don’t just have to punch new maxes into a spreadsheet when you complete it to start over again! You can actually move to higher levels of the program that introduce different ways to train as you progress.
I can honestly imagine a true novice following a program like this for well over a year, from the novice program all the way to the intermediate programs, and making great progress.
If you are the type of lifter that likes to follow proven methods and not try to reinvent the wheel, this is a great program to follow, as it will change with your abilities to keep things interesting without making you just rinse and repeat the same 12-week spreadsheet.
It’s Free of Fluff
There is no fluff in this program, it is truly focused on the squat, bench press, and deadlift as a means to make you stronger all around.
As I look through the program week over week, block over block, Izzy really has put together a program that will help lifters improve in strength, ability, and hypertrophy all at once without distraction or unnecessary supplementation to the program.
6 Cons of the Powerlifting to Win Program
- It’s too much information to digest
- It’s a little disorganized
- It lacks flexibility
- It reads like a textbook
- It’s not intuitive to follow
- It almost requires a coach
It’s Too Much Information to Digest
If I’m being honest, this is a ton of information for the average person to read. The program charts don’t even come until page 49 of the ebook.
Maybe you’re the type of person that likes all that information, but it’s extremely overwhelming to open this download and see how much is here. Even as I scroll through the first 48 pages to get to the Novice program, I’m worn out and have a hard time reading through what the program is calling for and expecting of me.
Sure, there’s lots of good information here, but for most lifters, there is way more here than anyone needs, and if that overwhelms you, then the program is no good, because you couldn’t get into it in the first place.
It’s a Little Disorganized
Although I’d almost call the amount of information in the ebook encyclopedic in its detail, it’s not super organized.
Topics are discussed in several areas of the ebook rather than organized under the same sections. For example, he discusses RPE in its own section early in the ebook, but then references it again with different information while discussing the intermediate program.
So if you’re looking for a quick refresh on RPE, you’ll find half the information on page 29 and the other half on page 74.
That may not seem like a big deal, but since so much of the program depends on the supplemental reading, it’s really not functional, making it a huge impediment to effectively following the program.
It Lacks Flexibility
This program inherently assumes the lifter will not need specific areas addressed in their technique or form, because there is no flexibility in the variations that it calls for.
I’ve seen too many lifters unable to progress because their squat looks like a good morning and needs lower back attention. I’ve seen lifters unable to progress their bench because their triceps are weak. I’ve seen deadlifts stuck on plateaus because their upper back is unrestrained and can’t hold tight during the pull.
If a lifter is struggling with any similar breakdowns, there’s no direction in this program to address it. And while the fundamentals in the program are sound for helping lifters get stronger, that assumes that the lifter’s technique is always sound and progressing equally across all muscles incorporated in the lift.
But in reality, our bodies never progress equally. Our quads might improve faster than our glutes, or our pecs faster than our triceps, or our lower back faster than our upper back. Then just as you get your glutes caught up to your quads, you find a new weakness.
This is the reality of lifting and progressing, but this program offers nothing to address those specific needs or deficits.
It Reads like a Textbook
Sorry to be so casual, but man, this ebook is painful to read. While I would not recommend this program to every lifter, I’d certainly prescribe to anyone as a great solution for insomnia, cause it’ll put you right to sleep if you give it a chance.
Take it for what it’s worth, but since the program is not “plug and play,” you have to read at least some of the ebook material to know what it’s calling for, the writing becomes a big issue for me.
Either make the program easier to jump into, or make the required reading easier to get through, cause I can’t get stronger if I can’t start the program because I’m staring at the back of my eyelids.
It’s Not Intuitive to Follow
I touched on this lightly in the last section, but the programs aren’t super intuitive. There are a bunch of new acronyms, abbreviations, protocols, scales, recommendations, and assumed knowledge that you really can’t just skip to the program pages and effectively follow it.
Because of that, it means you have to either read the whole thing, or jump around to get the information spread throughout the ebook to get what you need, and that just makes it clunky to execute on the program.
If you want a program you can download and dive into quickly, this ain’t it.
It Almost Requires a Coach
I’ve said before I really like several things about this program, but I don’t like that this program requires the lifter to know all of it.
Sure, there’s fundamental, sound information here. It definitely follows proven methods. But a human doesn’t need to know that water is made of a chemical compound of two hydrogen molecules and an oxygen molecule to drink it and benefit from it. The same goes for a lifter knowing about the details of mesocycles or the rate of adaptation.
There are so many pieces of this program scattered throughout the book, I really feel like this program is best when a coach is administering it, rather than following it independently. And since most lifters downloading a program are doing that as an alternative to having a coach, it’s a huge downside to this program.
Who Is the Powerlifting to Win Program For?
All that said, I think there are a few personalities and lifters that will really like this program and benefit from it.
The Lifting Aficionado
If you are really into learning about training and programming methodologies, Izzy has compiled here his entire working knowledge of lifting for you to dig through and enjoy.
Not only does he give you the programs to follow, he explains in great detail each piece of it and why it matters.
If you read this entire ebook and follow the program, you will be well versed in the why and how of strength training and programming.
If you enjoy those benefits along with the strength gains, you’ll love this program.
People Who like to Read
Maybe you enjoy reading when you aren’t lifting, and this ebook will give you plenty to read while you’re recovering from your sets.
All jokes aside, this program does require you to read the supplemental info provided to really follow the program well, so if you like that, jump in and you’ll love Powerlifting to Win.
People Who Want to Know More about Programming
I personally like to know why I am doing the training I am doing, so this program scratches that itch. There’s a lot more here than I want, but it still serves to tell me why I am doing what I am doing and not just provided a spreadsheet for me to blindly follow each week.
If you like knowing why the program changes, why the novice will perform reps at RPE 9 week after week and the Intermediate/Advanced lifter will hang around RPE 7-8, you’ll get all that info by following this program and reading the ebook.
At the end of the day, knowing the why behind all of it can give you the flexibility to adapt this program even closer to your needs as you can go “off script” by following the principles and programming something for yourself outside of what’s provided.
People Who Want to Coach Themselves
As I said before, this program seems like it would be best administered by a coach. However, if you want to be your own coach, this is a great way to wear both hats.
The ebook and supplemental info will inform you about how to program yourself and when to progress from one level to the next, while you can also show up in the gym and do the necessary work to meet those benchmarks and performance standards to move on.
There’s a lot to be learned from a reading standpoint and from an experience standpoint and this program and ebook can definitely help you get some of both if that’s what you’re into.
Overall, I give this program a 2/5. While the subject matter and the methodology is sound and proven, free of fluff, and will certainly make a lifter stronger when applied, the format is just too overwhelming for most lifters to accurately follow it.
At the end of the day, if it’s too complicated to understand where to start, most won’t start at all, and then it doesn’t matter what the program does or doesn’t do.
If you’re looking for a program alternative, definitely check out our training app HERE.
Program Review Resources
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