The Big Question
How many days a week should powerlifters train? If you Google around, most coaches will say “3-4 times per week.”
But for beginners? Start by asking yourself. Be honest with yourself first, then let your coach adjust from there.
How Often Is Right For Your Schedule?
Let’s say you’ve got a busy schedule and you feel like 3 days a week is a good number. But then you ask your coach, and they come back with 5 days a week.
Who should you trust? Most people will just listen to their coach. They’re the expert, right? Next thing you know, you’re a few weeks in and you’re already falling short.
It’s much better to trust yourself, especially at the beginning. You want to build consistent habits first before ramping up the frequency.
Then once you’ve been going strong for a while, consider asking your coach if increasing training frequency is right for you.
Understanding Optimal Training Frequency
What Is Your Optimal Training Frequency?
Optimal Training Frequency is different from what we were just talking about. Optimal Training Frequency is the best possible, “in-a-perfect-world” answer to how often you should train each individual movement (squat, bench, or deadlift) in your powerlifting program.
This is where you should listen to your coach.
Once they determine the optimal frequency for each movement, all the other factors like volume, intensity, and order of exercise fall into place.
Factors That Influence Your Optimal Training Frequency
Optimal training frequency is determined by a wide range of factors including strength, size, sex, training experience, age, injury history, technique, nutrition, sleep schedule, stress levels, etc. Essentially what it comes down to is how well you can recover from a workout.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important factors to consider below.
The stronger you get, the less often you can train. If your squat max is 100lbs, you can probably handle a lot more weekly squat sessions than someone maxing 800lbs. That’s why coaches have beginners training each barbell movement multiple times a week, while national-level lifters only train some movements once a week.
In general, taller powerlifters have to work harder per training session than shorter ones. They’re literally moving the bar a greater distance. Weight plays a role too. Heavier lifters have to lift the weight itself plus the weight of their body.
Simply put, the bigger you are, the less frequency you can probably handle in your training program.
Females can handle much more training volume and frequency than males, with many females successfully bench pressing 4 times per week, squatting times per week, and deadlift 2-3 times per week. That same training split that would destroy most males. The difference lies in muscle tissue makeup. Females have more Type I / “Endurance” muscle fibers than males, which allows for more repetitive training.
And honestly? Girls might just want it more than guys do. All I know is if I had to bench 4x a week, I’d find a new sport.
Strength training experience goes hand in hand with size and strength. If you assume that the longer you train, the bigger and stronger you get, then it makes sense that people with more experience can’t train as often as newcomers.
How you lift will greatly affect the frequency that you can sustain as well. A longer ROM may be the best option for you to lift pain-free and with proper control, however, it will also increase fatigue. Additionally, your technique simply may not be sustainable enough for the tissue to handle high frequency training.
For example, I squat and deadlift both with a very wide stance. My hips can only tolerate me going wide about 3 times per week. As such, I have to decide between performing a low bar comp squat twice per week or pulling sumo twice per week.
General Guidelines And Starting Points
These are the rules of thumb we’ll usually start with while we’re getting to know the client better.
- Under 150lbs: Bench 3x/week, Squat 2x/week, Deadlift 1x/week
- 150-275lbs: 2 Bench/week, 2 Squat/week, 1 Dead/week
- 275lbs +: 2 Bench/week, 1 Squat/week, 1 Dead/week
- Under 135 lbs: Bench 3x/week, Squat 2-3x/week, Deadlift 2x/week
- 135-160 lbs: Bench 3x/week, Squat 1-2x/week, Deadlift 2x/week
- 160lbs +: 2 Bench/Week, 2 Squat/week, 1 Dead/Week
We want to individualize frequency as much as possible to optimize training plans to the highest degree. Knowing that, it’s important to understand that these guidelines are simply a starting place and far from a perfect fit for everybody. But feel free to try these frequency guidelines out for yourself! And be sure to let us know how it goes.