Build a Base

Build a Base
If you’re small and weak and have no muscle powerlifting is about the dumbest endeavor you could undertake. You need to have some meat on your bones. When I first wrote the article I would’ve said you have to be at least 250lbs to finally be big enough. But, in my ripe old age, I’ve mellowed. My new answer is, when you stop wondering or asking if you’re big enough/muscular enough then you’re ready to powerlift. If you’re still wondering, keep packing on the lbs with some awesome high volume training.

If you really want to powerlift and become good at it you need to pack on 30-40lbs more than the weight class you want to be in. That’s just an arbitrary number. What I really mean is, get huge! Spend your time packing on muscle and gaining obscene amounts of weight. Try to keep it relatively lean, but if you really want to get strong, embrace some fat gain. After all, it’s not permanent. It’s one step towards your ultimate goal.

Needless to say, you have to stuff your face. There are a ton of good articles out there on gaining weight. Bottom line: Eat your face off.

Training Style
I guess the best way to describe this would be to become a « power builder. » This is basically what I do now. I wish I had spent more time doing this when I was in the heat of my powerlifting days.

If I could do it over again, I would do 12 week cycles. Twelve weeks of power building followed by 12 weeks of meet prep. Compete, repeat.

The idea of the 12 week power building is to address imbalances, work on weak points and to build overall body size and strength. Then, use the 12 week meet prep cycle focus on the squat, bench and deadlift.

Meet training cycles can be set up however you want and I don’t plan on going into this because there are so many ways to train. But, I will go into the power building/building a base training that I think is very necessary for overall body development, long-term progress and longevity.

4 Day
1. Squat – follow plan
2a. BB Reverse Lunge 4×3-6 each leg
2b. GHR or Back Extension 3×10
3a. RDL 4×10
3b. Step-ups 3×3-6 each leg
4. Ab Rollouts (Ab Wheel) 3×10

1. Bench – follow plan
2a. Incline Bench 10, 8, 6, 4
2b. Pull-ups 50 total reps
3a. DB Press (any angle) 3×10
3b. DB Rows 5×10
4a. BB Curls 3×10-15
4b. Pushdowns 3×10-15
5. Abs – 100 reps

1. Deadlift, Trap Bar DL – follow plan
2. Front Squat 10, 8, 6, 4
3a. RDL or variation 3×10
3b. Goblet Reverse Lunges 3×3-6 each leg
4a. Leg Curls 3×20
4b. Leg Extensions 3×20
5. Hanging Leg Raise 3×10

1. Close-grip Bench 10, 8, 6, 4
2a. Overhead Press 4×10
2b. Pull-ups 50 total reps
3a. DB Rows (row variation) 5×10
3b. Side Raises 4×15
3c. Shrugs 3×20
4a. Biceps 100 total reps
4b. Triceps 100 total reps
5. Abs – 100 reps

3 Day
1. Squat – follow plan
2a. Incline Bench 10, 8, 6, 4
2b. RDL 4×10
3a. Pull-ups 50 total reps
3b. Step-ups 3×3-6 each leg
4a. DB Rows 4×10
4b. Shrugs 3×20
4c. Leg Curls 3×20
5. Ab Rollouts 3×10

1. Deadlift or Squat 5×5
2. Bench – follow plan
3a. BB Reverse Lunge 3×3-6 each leg
3b. DB Rows 5×10
4a. RDL or variation 3×10
4b. Pull-ups 50 total reps
5. Hanging Leg Raises 3×10

1. Deadlift – follow plan
2a. Overhead Press 10, 8, 6, 4
2b. RDL or variation 3×10
3a. Pull-ups 50 total reps
3b. BB Step-ups 3×3-6 each leg
4a. Shoulder 21’s (3-way raises) 3x
4b. Leg Extensions 3×20
5. Weighted Sit-ups 3×10

I would also do at least one set of Biceps/Triceps on each day. Your choice of movements.

Where it says « follow plan » you could use this progression:

Week 1 – 5×5
Week 2 – 5×4
Week 3 – 5×3
Week 4 – 5×2


Week 1 – 5×6
Week 2 – 5×5
Week 3 – 5×4
Week 4 – 5×3
Week 5 – 5×2

or use 5/3/1 for the main movements.

The goal of this is to build the body to withstand the rigors of a powerlifting meet training cycle. This is also a great time to address weaknesses. Don’t neglect anything, but prioritize weaknesses. Basically, do them earlier in training.

This basic template should give you an idea of how you can structure it. Or, you can simply follow this for an entire cycle then make changes as you see fit based on what you want/need to work on.

Hopefully, this will give you some ideas.


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