There are many different powerlifting exercises, making choosing workouts difficult. Lots of guys want to be big and lift big weights. But you can’t expect to go from 5-pound curls to 50 pounds in a single week. Building strength takes time and determination, and it can take a while to see results.
Many of the main powerlifting exercises have complicated variants, but sometimes it’s best to stay with the simple ones. Things like
- Power Cleans
- Push Ups
- Over Head Press
- Farmers Walk
- Sledgehammer Hits
- Bench Press
- Bent Over Row
Let’s be real; most people think powerlifting is just about bench pressing, deadlifting, and squatting. In reality, while these are the core exercises, there are many more workouts to be done.
There are three main powerlifting workouts, the bench press, squats, and deadlift. This being said, there are many variations of these and add hundreds of other exercises you can perform.
Powerlifting is all about building strength, and you need exercises that will help you do that. Some workouts are designed to build size, and others are meant to build strength.
Along with these workouts, sometimes you need some gear to boost your performance. For example, the ProFitness Lifting Belt (link to Amazon), can be a great way to get a strength boost.
If you’re a powerlifter, you should probably wear a weightlifting belt during some of your lifts. I wrote an article about why you should wear a lifting belt, so check that one out too!
You need to pair these strength-building workouts with a great strategy and I’ll cover this in another article. For now, I’ll go over the best workouts that will make you stronger.
First Off, What Is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting, compared to bodybuilding, is all about building strength, rather than getting bigger. This requires a different routine and strategy than bodybuilding does.
Powerlifting comes down to three lifts, the deadlift, squat, and bench press, usually called “the big three”. In a competition, you’ll be doing these three. However, just because there are only three lifts doesn’t mean that you can’t train with others.
All three of these lifts are compound exercises, which means they work out multiple muscle groups in your body. This means that you can do other lifts to get better at the big three.
While bodybuilders usually workout to look better or get bigger, powerlifting is about competing on how much you can actually lift.
Powerlifting can often be a lot harder than weightlifting or bodybuilding. Since powerlifters use so much more weight, they go to the gym less often and take more time to recover after a workout.
Although powerlifting is difficult, it can be fun and very rewarding. You can always switch to powerlifting if you’re a weightlifter, with some time. Making progress on changing your body and becoming stronger is a great hobby whether you’re a bodybuilder, powerlifter, weightlifter, or anything else.
The farmers walk is a little less common, but it’s one of my favorites for building strength.
Farmers walk is great for building overall strength, but it’s my favorite because of how effective it is in building grip strength, which is very important for powerlifting.
Take deadlifting for example. If you have a very strong back, as well as legs, you should be able to deadlift a lot of weight, right? Not if your arms aren’t strong enough to hold the weight.
You can do the farmers walk by grabbing two dumbbells, and simply walk around with them. Since you’re holding onto the weight for so long, it greatly improves your grip strength.
Along with grip strength, it also builds muscles in the abs, legs, and shoulders, meaning you build strength in your whole body.
The only downside to this is the potential lack of space. If your gym is always crowded, or you have limited space at your house, you’ll find it hard to find enough space to do the farmers walk.
If you have limited space, you’re not out of options, Every workout that you do with your hands will improve your grip strength.
There are also tools, like grip strengtheners, for increasing your grip strength. You can use them anywhere, even at work or at home, and they’re pretty cheap. This is my favorite one, where you can adjust how hard it is to squeeze. Check out the current price on Amazon if you’re interested.
Of course, I had to put squats on this list. As I mentioned earlier, squats are one of the core exercises in powerlifting, and one of the most important.
Squats are going to be one of the major workouts in your routine if you’re a powerlifter. This is because squats are one of the three exercises that you’ll actually be doing in
This exercise is mainly good for your lower body, but it is a compound exercise. That means that it
Like the bench press, squats also belongs to almost every weightlifting program. Maintaining a parallel posture is a must in squats. So don’t hesitate in dropping a
Squats are pretty similar to deadlifts, which are also part of the big three. This being said, there are some key differences which I’ll go over later.
Apart from gaining strength in your glutes, they are excellent for your thigh, back and abs. Squats, obviously, increase your lifting strength. This helps with everyday activities like lifting objects, or if you have to help someone move.
Squats are one of the three most important lifts in powerlifting, and they are essential to your success. They are vital to building core strength and improving your overall strength.
Power cleans are great because they work out your lower body and your upper body. They start out like a deadlift, and then you lift the weight up to your shoulders, all in one fluid movement.
I don’t have enough space here to show you everything you need to know about how to do power cleans, but I can help you gain a little bit of insight. This being said, here’s a great video I found that outlines the right technique.
Power cleans are great for powerlifters, weightlifters and bodybuilders because they’re compound exercises, even more than other lifts. Things like deadlifts are too, but power cleans incorporate legs, back, shoulders, chest, and arms.
This means that you’re working out most of your body with one lift, and building overall strength. As I’ve mentioned, powerlifting is all about strength, so this one is definitely a lift you should do.
If you’re going to do power cleans, make sure you do them safely. Do some research into how to do them, and make sure there’s someone else in the gym when you do.
Because they’re a compound exercise, you’re at higher risk for hurting a muscle or joint. As well as this, you’re lifting the weight in the air, so it could fall onto you and hurt you. Make sure that whatever you do in the gym, you do it safely.
Just like power cleans, pushups are great for anybody in the fitness community, not just powerlifters.
Pushups are definitely not a traditional powerlifting exercise. This being said, they’re great for warming up, as well as getting in a quick workout outside the gym.
Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you can’t get to the gym. This can be devastating to some people, but as long as you have some space on the floor, you can do pushups.
You can do pushups for free in your house, without any equipment at all. This is helpful for people that don’t have a consistent way to get to the gym, or maybe even can’t afford a gym membership.
In powerlifting, you need a lot of chest strength for the bench press. Pushups can be good for warming up your upper body, to get ready for big bench lifts.
Lot’s of people forget to warm up before lifts, including myself. Even though it happens to everyone, it raises your risk of injury to a level that makes it so you really should warm up, or stretch at the very least.
Pushups are relatively easy, and they’re a great way to warm up and avoid injury.
Just like almost everything else on this list, the overhead press is a compound exercise. This one applies less to the main powerlifting workouts, but it’s still a great accessory workout.
The overhead press, or OHP, mostly works your shoulders and chest. This helps you gain overall upper body strength, as well as building strength to improve your bench press.
The OHP is overall pretty easy to do, but there are some mistakes that are easy to do. Check out this video to make sure you’re doing it the right way.
Powerlifting injuries are a lot more common than injuries for bodybuilders or casual weightlifters. This is usually because of how much more weight you’re lifting at once.
Lifts like the overhead press and bench press, where you’re lifting the weight above your body, are even more dangerous. This is because there’s the risk of the weight falling onto you, potentially causing huge injury.
Whenever you’re doing lifts like these, make sure that you have someone to spot you. Some gyms have good
Overhead press is great, but it’s one of the more dangerous ones. Don’t be dumb, and if you don’t have a someone to spot you, at the very least make sure that there’s someone in the gym.
Sledgehammer hits are definitely harder and less common, but they’re just as worthwhile.
Sledgehammer hits are very intensive, but they’re simple. For the best ones, all you need is the hammer and a tire.
Take the hammer over your shoulders, and slam it onto the tire, then repeat.
Sledgehammer hits work out most of your body. You brace yourself with your legs, as well as work out your entire upper body and core muscles when you swing the hammer.
While these exercises are simple to do, they’re very intensive on your body, and most people can’t do them for very long.
Along with training your muscles, they’re also cardio intensive. This means that they’re even better for your body, but also that you won’t be able to do them for as long.
One of the only downsides to sledgehammer hits is the lack of equipment and space. Not very many gyms have the room nor the sledgehammer and tire that you need to do the exercise.
Thankfully, these are things that you can buy at a store like Home Depot if you really want to do them. The tire might be a little more difficult, but it can be done.
Most types of weightlifters, powerlifters,
Bench presses give strength to your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Put a few weight plates on your bar, lie down on the bench flat, and pull the weight up and down vertically.
Push down through your feet which must be touching the ground.
Remember it is vital to keep a perfect posture, even if you have to carry a lighter weight of just one or two plates. There are also many other beneficial powerlifting chest exercises.
Lot’s of people often sacrifice their posture and form in exchange for more weight. It might look cool to lift a bunch of weight, but if you don’t have the form down, you’re probably just hurting yourself.
Multiple studies have found that lifting a lower weight with the right form will bring you more results than more weight with bad form. If you can’t use the right form with your current weight, you need to go down a few pounds.
Bench pressing is considered to be one of the most important lifts within the fitness community. This is in part due to the raw strength that it takes to perform, as well as building multiple muscle groups.
The bench press is the first of the three main powerlifting exercises. While there is a core group of powerlifting workouts, there are thousands of exercises that will build your strength.
Bent Over Row
The bent over row is good for your lats and your upper middle back.
Bent over rows helps you increase the strength for deadlift. It is excellent for core and lumbar strength.
For those who don’t know, the lumbar is the lower back. Strengthening this area is important not just if you’re a powerlifter or weightlifter, but necessary for avoiding injury in everyday life.
Doing exercise is very simple. Start off by bending over and holding the barbell. Next, pull the bar to your chest level and drop it back into the first position.
Maintain a good posture and make a set of 10 to 20, and finish a few sets of that.
One of the cons of bent over rows is that they are more difficult to perform. They are also less widely used by beginner and intermediate lifters, making it harder to find support and advice for them.
While the bent over row isn’t one of the big three lifts, they can still help you out. Getting stronger in other areas is just as important as building muscles with the main powerlifting exercises.
Workouts like the bent over row will supplement your muscles for the big three, as well as hitting muscles that other lifts don’t target.
This exercise is one of the three core exercises of powerlifting. Because of its status in the big three (deadlifting, squatting, bench press), it means that it does have more prevalence in the community, and you’ll see it more often.
If you want to learn more about how to deadlift, check out this article from Strong Lifts on proper deadlift form. Deadlifting may look difficult, but in reality, it’s easy to master.
Deadlifting is more complicated than some other exercises, mostly because of how many variations there are for it. I don’t have enough space here to explain the technique, so head to the link above if you need to learn how.
The deadlift can be scary to some people because of how difficult it is. You’re lifting a huge weight off of the ground with no momentum, and it’s hard.
I get that, and I’ve been there too. This being said, you need to get over that fear if you want to be able to lift a lot. People have the same reaction with lifts like the bench press because it does have some danger to it.
Deadlifting can cause injuries to your back and legs, if you do it wrong. Always make sure you’re lifting safely, have a spotter, or at the very least have someone in the gym with you.
If you’re a powerlifter, you probably didn’t expect to see lunges on this list. Although they’re not a part of the big three, they’re a great way to warm up your muscles.
Lunges work your hams and quads and will stretch your hips out. One of the famous exercises is walking lunges. Lunges are fairly simple to do, and you can read more here on how to do lunges.
One of the downsides of lunges is that if you have bad knees or hips, they may hurt. However, most leg workouts involve bending at the knee or the hip, hurting your chances of finding a comfortable exercise.
Lunges can also be improved by holding weights as you do the workout. This not only increases the amount of weight you’re lifting but can help you grow other muscles at the same time.
By utilizing weights, you can also improve your grip strength. This removes the restrictions set by your bodyweight as well as increasing the muscle groups worked at the same time.
Building your leg muscles is important for powerlifting because 2 out of the 3 main workouts involve leg strength. Having strong legs is beneficial outside the gym too, but some workouts are more limited in their practicality.
While lunges are important for strength, they lack in applications outside of the gym. Leg strength is important, but the muscle groups are so limited that there are few real benefits in everyday life.
The Bottom Line
There are three main powerlifting exercises, but there are hundreds if not thousands of variations and other exercises that will further your powerlifting experience.
The core exercises consist of bench pressing, squatting, and deadlifting. These 3 workouts increase strength across all muscle groups in the body, which is why they’re the most important exercises.
Other workouts, sometimes known as accessories, are great for isolating other muscles as well as warming up for big lifts.
While the big three are important, they’re not sufficient for building strength. You have to supplement them with more workouts that involve other muscle groups.
Because the big three lifts are compound exercises, you use multiple muscle groups for each one of them. To be safe, you need to warm up all of those muscles before you start.
As I’ve mentioned, powerlifting can be dangerous if you don’t do it right. Taking the right precautions and using common sense can’t prevent every injury, but it’ll lower your chances of hurting yourself.
Powerlifting is a great way to build your strength, as well as become a competitive athlete. Keep in mind that just because there are competitions, doesn’t mean you have to compete. Not all powerlifters are competitive, and a lot of them do it just for building their own strength.