Top 5 Powerlifting Programs for Beginners

Written by the Boostcamp staff
May 7,2024|24 min| 4410

Get Strong: Top 5 Powerlifting Programs for Newbies

What are the top 5 powerlifting programs?

So you've decided to start powerlifting and are eager to begin your journey towards building a strong foundation and maximizing your strength on those big lifts. With so many beginner powerlifting workout programs out there, it's crucial to choose the right one for you. Luckily, the team at Boostcamp has come up with a tried and tested list of the top 5 powerlifting programs for beginners, including a variety of recommended exercises, both compounds and accessories, so you don't have to go through the trouble of searching on your own for a good workout program.

Each beginner powerlifting program that we have selected has its own unique approach and focuses on building strength in different ways. It's important to find the program that suits your goals and abilities.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover five top powerlifting programs for beginners:

1) TSA Beginner Approach

2) GZCL Program

3) 5/3/1 for Beginners

4) Phrak's Greyskull LP

5) Starting Strength

These Poograms are Carefully Selected Based on the Following Criteria:

1) Created by renowned powerlifting coaches who have competed and been in the sport for a long time (they are not just social media influencers)

2) Proven success with thousands of beginner powerlifters

3) Free and accessible for everyone

The Top 5 Best Powerlifting Programs

You can find all these powerlifting programs for free on the Boostcamp App, the lasting lifting app you'll ever need. On Boostcamp, you can run these programs with automated weight progressions, exercise video guidance, easy workout logging, and training analytics. Boostcamp offers advanced programs for those looking to take their powerlifting training to the next level, including the intermediate powerlifting program from PRs on the Platform, and choose the right program to catapult your powerlifting progress to new heights.

Without further ado, here are the list of the best free beginner powerlifting programs on the internet.

TSA Beginner Approach

The Strength Athlete (TSA) Beginner Approach is a popular powerlifting program designed specifically for those who are new to the sport of powerlifting. It's an excellent choice if you're just starting out in the sport and are looking for a structured, easy-to-follow program that focuses on building a strong foundation.

The TSA Beginner Approach is a four-day-per-week program, with each day focusing on at least one of the main powerlifting compound movements of squat, bench press, and deadlift. The program incorporates accessory exercises to target specific muscle groups and improve your overall strength. Each week, you'll perform the main lifts with varying intensity and volume to stimulate muscle growth and adaptation. The program also includes many accessory exercises to help you develop a balanced physique to ensure long-term progress.

Key features of the TSA Beginner Approach:

  • 4 workouts per week

  • Each week has 2 squat sessions, 2 deadlift sessions, 3 bench sessions

  • Full-body training every workouts

  • Each week increases in intensity over 9 weeks

  • Many exercise variations and set schemes

Why do the TSA Beginner Approach?

  • Wave progression: The TSA Beginner Approach introduces the concept of wave progression, which is a form of progressive overload that is more advanced than linear progression. Wave progression involves weekly changes in intensity and volume before peaking in week 9. This type of progression is generally "smarter" than linear progression (same workouts every week) and is more fun for a lifter.

The program is scheduled as follows:

  • Week 1: Intro/Acclimation

  • Week 2-4: Progression

  • Week 5: Deload

  • Week 6-8: Intensification

  • Week 9: 3 Rep Max Testing

  • Repeat program

Key Features of TSA

Accessory exercises: The program includes targeted accessory exercises to help you develop a well-rounded strength base. These exercises focus on muscle groups that are crucial for powerlifting success, such as the upper back, the hamstrings, and triceps. The program prevents newer lifters from specializing too early and developing an imbalanced physique.

Made by Bryce Lewis and TSA: The Strength Athlete (TSA) is a highly-regarded online powerlifting coaching team that has produced many elite-level powerlifters around the world. TSA was founded by Bryce Lewis, who is a competitive drug-free elite powerlifter in the 83-105kg weight classes. He holds records in both the USA Powerlifting federation (USAPL) and International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), and strives to promote the comprehension and love of powerlifting training throughout the world.

How to start TSA Beginner Program

You can run the full TSA Beginner Approach for free on Boostcamp App, the last lifting app you'll ever need. Find tons of free and proven programs on Boostcamp, or create your own custom programs and track your progress.


GZCL Program

GZCL Program (GZCLP) is a famous linear progression program. GZCL Program, created by powerlifter Cody Lefever (aka GZCL), is a flexible and customizable powerlifting program that can be easily adapted for beginners. It follows a simple yet effective framework based on a tier system, which allows you to prioritize your main lifts while still incorporating accessory work to build both strength and muscle. The program has gained a cult following on popular fitness communities like Reddit's r/fitness, r/weightroom, and r/gzcl, with many users praising its effectiveness and providing positive reviews.

As a beginner, you'll typically follow 3-4 different days of training per week, with each day focusing on one of the main powerlifting lifts: squat, bench press, last lift, and overhead press. Your T1 exercises will consist of the main lifts, performed at a high intensity (85-100% of your 1RM) for low reps (1-3). T2 exercises will be variations of the main lifts or other compound exercises, performed at a lower intensity (65-85% of 1RM) for higher reps (6-10). Finally, T3 exercises will target specific muscle groups and are performed at an even lower intensity (40-65% of 1RM) for higher reps (10-15). The program also utilizes RPE (rate of perceived exertion) to calculate load and ends with attempting to set a new one rep max.

The GZCL Program is ideal for powerlifting beginners who want a customizable approach to strength building. You can choose the number of training sessions per week and adjust the exercise selection to suit your needs. The progression in the GZCL Program is based on your performance, ensuring you only progress when you're ready. This structure promotes consistency, accountability, and long-term progress.

Key features of GZCL Program:

  • 3-4 day per week variations available

  • Build both strength (squat, bench, deadlift) and muscle

  • Each week is the same format (linear progression)

  • Highly customization program with T1, T2, T3 exercises

  • Can run this program for months and months

Each workout can be broken down into 3 different tiers of exercises:

  • Tier 1 (T1): a primary compound lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, or overhead press), done for 5 sets of 3 reps at the heaviest weight

  • Tier 2 (T2): a secondary compound lift, done for 3 sets of 10 reps at a lighter weight

  • Tier 3 (T3): accessory exercises (like curls, abs, and pulls), done for 3 sets of 15+ reps at the lightest weight

Why use GZCL Program?

  • Personalized Progression: The GZCL program features an auto-regulation system that enables you to progress at your own pace. If you're able to complete all your sets and reps for a given exercise, you'll increase the weight by a small increment (typically 5 lbs. for upper body lifts and 10 lbs. for lower body lifts) the following week.

  • Customization: The GZCL program's flexibility and customizable nature make it ideal for beginners. It allows you to address weaknesses, build muscle mass, and develop proper technique while steadily increasing your strength. Furthermore, its auto-regulation system ensures that you're always working within your capabilities, reducing the risk of injury and helping you progress at a sustainable pace.

  • Simple to follow: The GZCL program's flexibility and customizable nature make it ideal for beginners. It allows you to address weaknesses, build muscle mass, and develop proper technique while steadily increasing your strength. Furthermore, its auto-regulation system ensures that you're always working within your capabilities, reducing the risk of injury and helping you progress at a sustainable pace.

How to Start GZCLP

You can run the full GZCL Program for free on Boostcamp App, the last lifting app you'll ever need. Find tons of free and proven programs on Boostcamp, or create your own custom programs and track your progress.


5/3/1 for Beginners

Created by powerlifting coach and author Jim Wendler, 5/3/1 for Beginners is a popular strength-building program that is designed to be simple, yet effective. Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 is a well-known powerlifting training philosophy that has been successfully used by hundreds of thousands of beginners, intermediates, to advanced lifters alike. 5/3/1 for Beginners is the version adapted for beginners that focuses on slow and steady progress, making it perfect for those who want a long-term, sustainable approach to increasing your four primary compound lifts: the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and competition lifts, and finding the right training program and templates.

The 5/3/1 for Beginners program follows a four-week cycle with three training days per week. Each training day focuses on two primary lifts, and you'll use a percentage-based training method to determine your working weights. The workout programs are designed to gradually increase your training volume over time, allowing for consistent progress without overwhelming your body.

Key features of 5/3/1 for Beginners:

  • Duration: 4 weeks cycles (to be run over and over)

  • Training frequency: 3 times per week

  • Primary lifts: Squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press

5/3/1 Workout Schedule

The 5/3/1 for Beginners program is based on linear periodization, meaning that each week, you'll work with different percentages of your one-rep max (1RM) for each lift. The program is structured as follows:

  • Week 1: 3 sets of 5 reps at 65%, 75%, and 85% of your 1RM

  • Week 2: 3 sets of 3 reps at 70%, 80%, and 90% of your 1RM

  • Week 3: 3 sets of 5, 3, and 1 rep(s) at 75%, 85%, and 95% of your 1RM

  • Week 4: Deload week (3 sets of 5 reps at 40%, 50%, and 60% of your 1RM)

After completing the four-week cycle, you can repeat the program, increasing your 1RM by 5-10 pounds for the upper body lifts (bench press and overhead press) and 10-20 pounds for the lower body lifts (squat and deadlift).

Why use 5/3/1 for Beginners?

  • Simple and effective progression: 5/3/1 for beginners follows a straightforward structure, making it easy for newcomers to understand and execute. The program's progression is based on gradually increasing weights and percentages, which helps to build strength progressively without overwhelming the trainee.

  • Focus on the fundamentals: The 5/3/1 program emphasizes the four main powerlifting exercises – the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. This focus on the fundamentals helps beginners build a strong foundation in powerlifting and ensures they develop proper form and technique from the outset.

  • Long-term approach to strength building: 5/3/1 for beginners is designed to promote consistent, long-term strength gains. The program uses a four-week cycle, where trainees increase the weight gradually each week before resetting to a slightly higher weight in the next cycle. This encourages sustainable progress and helps avoid plateaus.

How to start 5/3/1 for Beginners

You can run the full 5/3/1 for Beginners for free on Boostcamp App, the last lifting app you'll ever need. Find tons of free and proven programs on Boostcamp, or create your own custom programs and track your progress.


Phrak's Greyskull

Phrak's Greyskull LP is a popular variation of the original Greyskull Linear Progression (LP) program, developed by John Sheaffer (also known as Johnny Pain). Phrak's version is designed for beginners who want to build strength, muscle mass, and develop proper lifting technique. It is a simple, easy-to-follow program based on linear progression, making it ideal for novice lifters.

The program revolves around three primary compound lifts – the squat, bench press, and deadlift – along with other key exercises, such as the overhead press and row. Phrak's Greyskull LP is a full-body workout routine that is typically performed three times per week with at least one day of rest between workouts. When it comes to maximizing muscle hypertrophy, the deadlift is not the best movement for high volume. However, the Romanian deadlift tends to be a much better option for muscular hypertrophy due to its range of motion, increased muscle tension, and ability to perform higher volumes.

Key features of Phrak's Greyskull:

  • Simplicity: Phrak's Greyskull LP is easy to follow, with a straightforward workout structure and alternating full-body workouts that focus on key compound lifts.

  • Linear progression: The program is built on the concept of linear progression, enabling beginners to consistently add weight to their lifts and build strength over time.

  • AMRAP sets: The last set of each exercise is an "As Many Reps As Possible" set, encouraging lifters to push themselves while maintaining proper form.

  • Balanced approach: Phrak's Greyskull LP emphasizes both upper and lower body exercises, ensuring a well-rounded strength-building routine for beginners.

Phrak's Greyskull LP consists of alternating Workout A and Workout B:

Workout A:

  • Bench Press or Overhead Press (alternate each workout) - 3 sets x 5 reps

  • Barbell Row - 3 sets x 5 reps

  • Squat - 3 sets x 5 reps

Workout B:

  • Bench Press or Overhead Press (alternate each workout) - 3 sets x 5 reps

  • Barbell Row - 3 sets x 5 reps

  • Deadlift - 1 set x 5 reps

The last set of each exercise is performed as an "AMRAP" set, which stands for "As Many Reps As Possible." This set challenges lifters to perform as many reps as they can with proper form, getting close to muscular failure but still leaving a rep or two "in the tank".

Why use Phraks Greyskull LP?

  • Beginner-friendly: Phrak's Greyskull LP is designed specifically for beginners, offering a clear, easy-to-follow structure that helps novice lifters build a solid foundation in powerlifting and develop proper lifting techniques.

  • Steady gains: The program's linear progression approach ensures continuous progress in strength and muscle growth, allowing lifters to see tangible results and stay motivated throughout their fitness journey.

  • Efficient and time-saving: With just three full-body workouts per week, Phrak's Greyskull LP is an efficient and time-effective program that can easily fit into busy schedules while still providing the benefits of consistent strength training.

How to start Greyskull

You can run the full Phrak’s Greyskull for free on Boostcamp App, the last lifting app you'll ever need. Find tons of free and proven programs on Boostcamp, or create your own custom programs and track your progress.


Starting Strength

No list of strength training programs is complete without mentioning the OG of linear progression programs: Starting Strength. While there are many new advances on trianing methodologies like TSA, 5/3/1, and GZCLP, Starting Strength is still an immensely popular old school program.

Starting Strength was developed by Mark Rippetoe, a renowned strength coach and author, with the aim of providing a simple and effective program for novice lifters. The program's principles are rooted in focusing on compound lifts, linear progression, and prioritizing technique. Starting Strength has gained popularity due to its success in helping beginners make rapid progress in strength and muscle development. One of the key benefits of Starting Strength is its emphasis on injury prevention, ensuring that beginners can safely build their strength without the risk of getting injured.

Key features of Starting Strength:

  • Simple and easy to follow: The straightforward structure of Starting Strength makes it an ideal choice for beginners. The program is easy to understand, and the focus on compound exercises allows for a streamlined approach to strength training.

  • Rapid progression: Starting Strength's linear progression model enables lifters to experience rapid strength and muscle gains in the initial stages of their fitness journey. This fast progress can be highly motivating and help to build confidence in your abilities.

  • Emphasis on technique: The program's focus on compound lifts and the importance of proper form ensures that beginners learn the correct techniques for each exercise. This focus on technique minimizes the risk of injury and lays the foundation for long-term success in powerlifting.

Starting Strength Workout Structure:

  • Squat - 3 sets x 5 reps

  • Bench Press - 3 sets x 5 reps

  • Deadlift - 1 set x 5 reps

  • Squat - 3 sets x 5 reps

  • Overhead Press - 3 sets x 5 reps

  • Power Clean - 5 sets x 3 reps

The Starting Strength routine follows a linear progression model, meaning you will add weight to each exercise in every workout session. As a beginner, you will typically add 5 lbs (2.3 kg) for upper body exercises and 10 lbs (4.5 kg) for lower body exercises. As you progress, these increments may decrease to ensure continued progress without overexertion or injury.

How to start Starting Strength

You can run the full Starting Strength for free on Boostcamp App, the last lifting app you'll ever need. Find tons of free and proven programs on Boostcamp, or create your own custom programs and track your progress.

More Workout Programs

If this list of the top 5 beginner powerlifting programs is not for you and you want to build a bigger, stronger physique, then check out more programs on the Boostcamp App! There are over 50 free programs with several variations of some of the most popular splits, such as the push/pull/legs and the upper/lower splits. But aside from that, you can create the perfect workout program for you, catered specifically to your liking. 

Best Powerlifting Programs for Beginners Wrap Up

Overall, finding the best powerlifting programs for beginners is something that you have to invest some time into to see what is right for you. If your goal is building muscle, maybe look at bodybuilding programs instead. You need to find out your goals, then see what each program entails and if it fits your goals and schedule. Luckily, with the Boostcamp App, you can find over 50 free programs, including the latest programs, as well as create your own, and track your progress.

Let us know your favorite program! And be sure to follow Boostcamp on Instagram and subscribe on YouTube!