Forget what you know about the squat, bench press, and deadlift. There's 3 new big lifts in town to help you transform your body and increase your strength.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

There are many people who follow a bodybuilding style of training that also have other aspirations. One of those is getting stronger like those in the powerlifting community. They want to add on those plates and lift those heavier weights, but they still want to have that impressive physique to go along with it.

Well, that is certainly possible and this eight-week program can be the start of that journey if you’re interested. If you’re reading this, then my guess you would be.

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The New Big 3

In powerlifting, lifters focus on the squat, flat bench press, and the deadlift. For this program, we’re going to focus on three different versions of those exercises while working on the same goal – getting stronger.

Instead of the back squat, this program will focus on the front squat. This exercise places more direct emphasis on the quadriceps which is what will help you develop those larger legs. If for some reason, you simply can’t do the front squat, then do traditional squats with a pause at the bottom.

We will also trade the flat bench press for the incline version. The incline angle works more of the upper chest and front delts, which is what will make that upper body look bigger and more powerful because it will be.

Finally, instead of the deadlift, we need something for that upper back. So the choice here is Pendlay rows. Doing bent-over rows off of the floor will not only help you get stronger but fill out that top half of your back nicely. For those of you who really like deadlifts, stand by. You’ll get them in this program too.

Shirtless male doing incline bench press.

When to Use Lifting Accessories

Let’s address this before moving on with the training. If you need sleeves, wrist wraps, a belt, and straps for this program, go for it. You’re likely not training for a serious meet on this program and the risk of injury isn’t worth going without them if you feel they help you. Just save them for your biggest lifts of the session. You shouldn’t need straps while warming up.

Related: 6 Common Warm Up Mistakes You're Still Making

Determine Your Starting Point

So you have to know where you’re starting at in order to set a challenging, yet realistic goal. So for three days this week, you’re going to max out on the new big three. One lift a day. After warming up, get a spotter and partner and start working your way up to a top weight.

Use proper form on each exercise. That means going down to parallel on the front squat, pausing on the chest for the incline bench, and successfully rowing the bar on the Pendlay row without having to stand up.

The last successful attempt you complete is the number you go with on the next step. Don’t rationalize why you missed one and count it anyway or go down five pounds and call it a day. The more accurate your number is, the more likely you will be to improve.

Keep those numbers handy because they will be the foundation of this program. Every major set you do on those exercises will be a percentage of that max. You may know this as periodization. We will gradually adjust the weights you use on a weekly basis with the end goal being at the end of Week 8, you will make those first numbers look light.

Weekly Training Schedule and Percentages

The workout will focus on four days of training. Day 1 will focus around the front squat, Day 3 will be for the incline, and Day 5 will be for the Pendlay row. Yes, you take the days in between off. Day 6 is for abs and calves. This is about the physique looking better and those are important for those reasons. So Day 2, 4, and 7 are complete rest days. The recovery is as important as the training so make those workouts count so you don’t get tempted to do “a little extra”.

Weekly Schedule

  • Monday: Front Squat
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Incline Bench
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Pendlay Row
  • Saturday: Abs & Calves
  • Sunday: Rest

The percentages for all three lifts will be the same. So when you see “Week 1” and you see that formula next to the lifts, refer to this portion to know what you’re doing. When you see a number like “70%”, that means you will be using 70 percent of your current max.

So let’s say you front squatted 200 pounds. You would take 200 pounds and multiply that by 70 percent or .7. That answer is 140 so you would use 140 pounds for those sets. Got it?

Weekly Percentages

  • Week 1 – 3 sets of 4 with 70% of your max
  • Week 2 – 3 sets of 3 with 80% of your max
  • Week 3 – 3 sets of 2 with 85% of your max
  • Week 4 – 3 sets of 1 with 90% of your max
  • Week 5 – 3 sets of 4 with 75% of your max
  • Week 6 – 3 sets of 3 with 85% of your max
  • Week 7 – 3 sets of 2 with 90% of your max
  • Week 8 – New Max Week

There will be different exercises that serve as accessories for the main lifts of the day. You don’t need to max out on these, but your goal should be to get stronger on those as well. So track what weights you use and try to improve by either five pounds or 1 rep when possible.

Woman in sports bra and leggings doing barbell front squat.

Front Squat (Or Pause Squat) Day

Perform 5-10 minutes of warming up and stretching before each workout. Do whatever it takes for you to feel like you can go after the main lift with maximum focus and ability. After that, get to the squat rack.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Between Sets
Front Squat (Warm-up) 3 4 (light weight) 2 minutes
Front Squat Work Sets 3 Refer to Chart 3 minutes
Deadlift 3 5 2 minutes
Hack Squat or Leg Press 3 8 2 minutes
Single Lying Leg Curl 3 8 2 minutes
Reverse Hyper 3 10 2 minutes

Incline Bench Press Day

Pay extra attention to your shoulders and rotator cuffs when preparing for this session. The shoulders will be heavily involved throughout this entire program so the more effort you give in preparing that area, the better off you will be.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Between Sets
Incline Bench Press (Warm-up) 3 4 (light weight) 2 minutes
Incline Bench Press Work Sets 3 Refer to Chart 3 minutes
Flat Dumbbell Press 3 5 2 minutes
Lateral Raise 3 8 2 minutes
Overhead Dumbbell Extension 3 8 2 minutes
Triceps Rope Pressdown 3 10 2 minutes

Pendlay Row Day

Include reverse hypers or a low back exercise in your warm-up period on this day. Also, stretch out the lats before starting this workout. Don’t forget about your elbows. Some light machine curls could be of help here.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Between Sets
Pendlay Row (Warm-up) 3 4 (light weight) 2 minutes
Pendlay Row Work Sets 3 Refer to Chart 3 minutes
Dumbbell Pullover 3 5 2 minutes
Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown 3 8 2 minutes
Rear Delt Flyes with Pause 3 8 2 minutes
Dumbbell Preacher Curl 3 8 2 minutes
Standing Cable Curl 3 10 2 minutes
Smith Machine Shrugs 3 10  2 minutes

Abs and Calves Day

Remember, all you’re doing is abs, calves, and cardio if you prefer. Keep this day simple and get out of the gym so you can eat and recover.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Between Sets
Hanging Leg Raise 10 2 minutes
Weighted Crunch 3 10 2 minutes
Oblique Crunch 10 per side 2 minutes
Seated Calf Raise 3 8 2 minutes
Calf Press 3 10 2 minutes

The Final Week

The 8th week is your max out week. When you attempt your new maxes, that is all you do in the gym that day. Once you set your new PR (because I’m confident you will), you’re done. Save that energy for the other two lifts so you can be at your best when you go for new highs on those lifts too. Don’t forget to take photos to see how your physique looks while on this program. You should notice a little extra size to go with that strength.

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