Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a simple chart you could look at that would provide guidance as to how many reps you should train with and what kind of weight you should use for each competitive lift? You have probably seen Prilepin’s chart – which attempts to do that, but there are 4 big problems with Prilepin’s chart.
- That chart was set up to guide the training of Olympic Weight Lifters, not powerlifters, and those two sports are not the same.
- It gives a decent guideline of what to do in one specific workout, but it doesn’t say how often one should perform that workout.
- It is not specific to what lift it is referring to: Clean and Jerk or the Snatch, and those two lifts are quite similar. In powerlifting the 3 lifts themselves are quite different, you don’t train a deadlift the same way you train the bench.
- It doesn’t take into account your training age. Training will obviously vary if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter.
It is my goal to solve those problems – to provide you – the lifter – with a clear and easy to read chart. This chart was made for powerlifting, this chart will provide a weekly guideline for total volume, and there is a specific chart for each lift (squat, bench, and deadlift). In addition there is a section on each part of the chart based on what your training age and experience are.
How to Read the Chart
You start by classifying where you are with the lift. Don’t let your ego get in the way and use the following guidelines:
- New to the lift (may not be new to lifting however)
- Hasn’t trained the lift consistently for 6+ months
- Must completely learn new form on the lift
- Has not hit a plateau on the lift
- Has trained the lift consistently for at least 6+ months, often up to several years
- Has achieved at least a decent level of performance in the lift (note this can vary significantly)
- Has hit at least one plateau on the lift
- Has been training the lift consistently for 5+ years
- Performance is significantly above initial levels
- Has hit several plateaus on the lift and may be in one now
Once you have your correction classification, you will then find your total weekly volume suggested for the lift. A range is given, generally start at the minimal suggested volume or in the middle, I would not suggest starting with maximal volume as that should be something you work towards over time with your program.
You need to decide how often you want to train the lift each week. For the squat, 2 times a week is the most common recommendation. You can make progress squatting just once a week if you push yourself and others prefer to squat 3 times a week. As you can see from the chart, your level of advance will dictate how frequently you should squat.
Once you have your total weekly volume and your overall frequency, now simply divide that up as you see fit. Of course if you are lifting just once a week, you will hit your suggested volume all in one workout. If you are doing two or more sessions per week for that lift, then divide it up. An even division of the workload works fine but it is not mandatory to do that.
Here are 2 sample workouts using the chart so you can see how this plays out. Our sample lifter is an intermediate level male lifter who can currently squat 465 and hopes to hit 495 in 10 weeks.
In each example he will squat two times a week, for example on Tuesday and Friday.
Program 1 – Change in Training Weight Occurs Every Week
Monday: Workout 1: 305×8 4 sets
Thursday: Workout 2: 305×12 2 sets
Note: 56 reps performed at 65% this week
Monday: Workout 3: 350×5 4 sets
Thursday: Workout 4: 350×8 2 sets
Note: 36 reps performed at 75% this week
Monday: Workout 5: 395×3 4 sets
Thursday: Workout 6: 395×5 2 sets
Note: 22 reps performed at 85% this week
Monday: Workout 7: 430×2 3 sets
Thursday: Workout 8: 430×3 2 sets
Note: 12 reps performed at 92.5% this week
Monday: Workout 9: 465×2 2 sets
Thursday: Workout 10: 485×1-2 2 sets (partial rep or high box squat)
Note: 6-8 reps performed at 100+% (partials included)
After week 5 add 10-20 lbs to all sets and repeat
Program 2 – Change in Training Weight Occurs Every Workout
Monday: Workout 1: 305×8 3 sets
Thursday: Workout 2: 350×5 3 sets
Note: 24 reps at 65% and 15 reps at 75%
Monday: Workout 3: 395×3 4 sets
Thursday: Workout 4: 430×2 3 sets
Note: 12 reps at 85% and 6 reps at 92.5%
Monday: Workout 5: 465×1 2 sets
Workout 6-10: either add 5-10 lbs and repeat OR use the progression listed below
Week 3 cont’
Thursday: Workout 6: 305×12 2 sets
Monday: Workout 7: 350×8 2 sets
Thursday: Workout 8: 395×5 3 sets
Note: 16 reps at 75% and 15 reps at 85%
Monday: Workout 9: 430×3 3 sets
Thursday: Workout 10: 465×2 2 sets
Note: 9 reps at 92.5% and 4 reps at 100% (old 1RM)
In addition to the routine this lifter follows for the squat, they would likely want to include some assistance work. The more traditional squat work you do (the higher your volume is on the chart) the less assistance work you should do and vice versa.
For this lifter I would suggest they include two or three squat/leg related exercises each workout since they are training the squat twice a week (if they were training it 3 times a week they would probably do 1-2 assistance exercises, and if they were only training the squat once a week they would likely do 3-4 assistance exercises). The deadlift can count as a related exercise.
One or two of the exercises would be more squat specific and a compound lift, such as:
Front Squat; Negative Pause Squat; Safety Bar Squat; Box Squat; Leg Press; Hack Squat; etc
How these are programmed are up to you, 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps would be pretty common
One of the exercises would be more muscle specific and it might be an isolation exercise, such as:
Bulgarian Split Squat; Lunges; Step-ups; Goblet Squat; Leg Curl; etc
How these are programmed are up to you, 2-4 sets of 8-20 reps would be pretty common
To see that concept fleshed out, the Squat part of the training program might look like this:
|Squat Plan||Squat Plan|
|Deadlift Plan||Front Squat||4 x 6|
|Lunges||3 x 12||Leg Curl||3 x 15|
If that was part of a larger workout routine this lifter might choose to do a push/pull routine as follows:
|DB Incline||Deadlift||Incline||Front Squat|
|DB Incline Fly||Lunge||Cable Xover||Leg Curl|
|Mil Press||Pull-ups||DB Mil Press||Barbell Row|
|DB Lat Raise||DB Row||DB Rear Delts||Hammer Strength Row|
|Pullover Skullcrusher||EZ Curl||Kneeling Tri Pushdown||DB Curl|
|Overhead Rope Tri||DB Hmr Curl||Bench Dips||Reverse Curl|
The goal in providing the above workout is to serve as a sample that you could follow if you wished to do so, it is not something set in stone by any means. In my opinion, one of the strengths of the Squat Chart is you can apply the guidelines it provides into a program of your own design.
Use the Squat Chart to help program the lift. Classify your level of advancement, find your desired volume for the week, create your program, incorporate progressive overload as you see fit, and enjoy adding plates to the bar.
Sounds like a good program & makes sense. Thanks
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Hey Tim. Great articles on the three charts. I’m about to jump on this program. What set / rep ranges do you recommend for the other exercises in the push/pull routine (tricep, bicep, back and shoulders)?
Hi Ben – thanks for the post. For other program design suggestions I would use this chart. As a broad rule I typically like to do about 8-20 sets per area I want to work per week
Do squat/deadlift variations done as assistance lifts count toward total volume as well just like on the bench chart?
Yes, if you are using a very similar implement (bar) and working the same plane then yes, count that lift. So I would count box squat reps or rack pulls in there, particularly if they were heavy. I would not count leg press, lunges, or leg extensions as part of the total volume.
Loved the article. I always get bicep tendonitis if I do lowbar squats twice a week. Is it ok if I do the lighter workouts highbar?
Bicep tendonitis from low bar is almost always due to having your wrist off center in your grip. I get the same thing, and it’s very painful. Search for Rippetoe’s low bar squat grip article or video.
Great article. Just one question, in program 2 where change in training weight occurs every workout, in day 1 for example, there are only 24 reps at 65%. According to the chart, you advise to do 40-60 reps in the 50-70% range.
On day 2 there are 15 reps at 75%, whereas on the chart you advise 25-50 reps in the 71-80% rep range.
Maybe I overlooked something, but shouldn’t those be at least in the same range then?
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