Powerlifting Programs: 5 Best For Beginners [With Spreadsheets]

by Nader Qudimat
Updated June 11, 2023
Experience Level
Linear periodization
Varies between programs
Best powerlifting programs for beginners
Includes 5 programs that is well suited for novices
Easy to follow 

Bottom Line

As a beginner, you don't want to go with any powerlifting program. 

Depending on where you are as a beginner, whether early or late, you'll want to choose something that'll maximize your time in the gym. 

As a early stage beginner, you'll be progressing from workout to workout.

And as a late stage beginner, this is changed to weekly.

So check out the best powerlifting programs for beginners below...


When you're just starting out, powerlifting can seem quite overwhelming. 

You only have so much time and the pressure adds up when you look at all of these programs. 

With so many choices, there are only a few powerlifting programs that are great for beginners. 

The programs here are selected for having the best exercises which will help novice lifters build solid foundations.

These will also set you on the right path for more advanced programs later on. 

What Level Are You?

It's easy to figure out if you're a complete novice or a novice in the late stage. 

If you're able to add weight to the bar every workout while keeping the sets and reps the same then you're still in the early stages of a novice. 

The two recommended programs for you would be GreySkull LP or Ivysaur 4-4-8. 

These two programs are going to help you make gains quickly while maximizing your workouts. 

However if you can add weight to the bar once a week while keeping the reps and sets the same, then you're in the late stages of a novice. 

The 3 programs that would be the best for you is nSuns, GZCLP and Madcow.

But if you're not able to add weight weekly and you've maximized your diet and recovery, then you'll likely be better off with a intermediate powerlifting program. 

Best Powerlifting Programs for Beginners 

The right beginner program should consist of the 3 main compound lifts, linear progression, enough frequency and easy to follow.

A powerlifting program should be simple especially for beginners.

Here are the best programs:

These programs are focused on the main compound lifts that's used for competition, uses linear progression and has enough frequency for each of the lifts.

There are other programs that are focused on strength but are not made for powerlifting as they don't have frequency for all 3 lifts, or focuses too much on one lift.

Programs like Stronglifts 5x5 and Starting Strength great for beginners but are not suited for powerlifting purposes.

They are fantastic if you want to maximize muscle, fat loss and strength while learning about programming but they are not made for powerlifting.

However any of the powerlifting programs above will help you gain muscle and strength.

That's why powerlifters can switch to bodybuilding quite efficiently and frequently.

Best Programs For Early Beginners

If you're in the early stages of a beginner, then you'll want to choose and use one of the programs below. 

GreySkull LP

Made by John Sheaffer, or Johnny Pain, the GreySkull LP Program is a great beginners program. 

It's also known as GSLP, it uses a 3 days per week with basic linear progression. 

It takes what other traditional strength programs uses but makes it better with linear progression. 

Using AMRAP sets, it allows lifters to add volume by 5 but should be done without breaking form. 

Compared to traditional strength programs like Starting Strength or Strong Lifts, this lets you have more volume.

Ivysaur 4-4-8 Beginner Program

Ivysaur is a powerlifting program made for beginners and shared across Reddit by a user named /u/ivysaur. 

It takes the basics of traditional 5x5 programs but improves by using more volume and frequency for the main competition lifts.

And similar to GreySkull, it uses AMRAP sets to increase volume and to increase difficulty for the lifter. 

By using more volume and maximizing frequency, it makes it a great choice for beginners as they'll tend to replenish and recover quicker between training sessions. 

Both this and GreySkull LP are great programs for early staged beginners. 

You can read more into Ivysaur 4-4-8 here.

Best Programs for Late Beginners

If you've determined that you're in the late stages of a beginner then check out the programs below...

Madcow 5x5

If you're late in the beginner stage than Madcow 5x5 is an excellent choice. 

It's similar to Stronglifts 5x5, but instead of just 5 sets of 5 with the same weight, you'll increase the weight for each set with the final set being your heaviest set of 5. 

And you won't be adding weight for each workout, you'll increase weight on a weekly basis. 

But to make the most out of this program, you should be in the late stage of a beginner or close to being an intermediate. 

nSuns LP

This is the nSuns Linear Progression program.

Using high frequency training, it'll be a great choice for beginners as it uses 4 or 6 workouts per week. 

You can use either the 4 or 6 variation, which are both included in the spreadsheet. 

It works well for beginners because it hits the main compound lifts twice per week, so bench press, deadlift and squats are done twice weekly, including the variations. 

And it allows for flexibility for adding accessories. 

The upper back should be worked as an accessory since the program doesn't include any exercises that hit that area. 


GZCLP is a fantastic program if you're in the late beginner stage. 

GZCL is a similar program, but the difference is that GZCLP uses a linear progression.

You can read more about it here.

It comes in either 3 or 4 day variations which are both included in the spreadsheets below. 

Every workout is focused on the 4 big lifts (bench press, overhead press, deadlift, squats) and also uses 3 types of exercises. 

It also has accessory exercises to reduce imbalances. 

How To Use These Programs

To use these programs, you'll need basic gym equipment, including a barbell, squat rack, bench and firm sole shoes. 

You'll need to follow the instructions in whatever program you choose and perform the exercises to the best of your ability. 


Form is crucial for longevity in training as improper form can increase risk for injury. 

It's something that can be practiced and learned over the years of training. 

Any small changes in form can have a positive or negative impact on your body. 

For example, the wrists and elbow position in squats should be in a certain position. 

There are many YouTube videos that are great for learning form. 

For squats, we recommend this video.

Rest Periods

One of the key differences between lifting for power and hypertrophy is the rest period. 

It's common to take anywhere between 2-5 minutes between sets of compound lifts. 

You can take more if you find it helps you recoup your strength as you're trying to lift as much weight as possible with the best possible form. 

Powerlifting Programs for Beginners FAQs

These programs are the best for beginners when it comes to powerlifting. 

You may have questions and we may have the answers so let's dig into the FAQ's...

How Do I Start Powerlifting Programs

The best way to start these programs is by showing up at the gym and following the program's details. 

After you've decided which program you're going with, the spreadsheet should be clear on how to start.

You may have to put in some numbers in the spreadsheet to calculate your working sets.

If you don't have a gym membership or can't get one, then all you need is a power rack, barbell, bench, and heavy enough weights for your lifts. 

Can I Use Powerlifting To Lose Fat?

Yes you can. 

But you need to tune in your diet so you're not eating beyond your caloric requirements. 

You may have to adjust your diet if you find you're gaining fat after a few weeks. 

Powerlifters have a reputation for carrying bodyfat because of their diets, not because of their programs. 

Does Powerlifting Build Muscle?

Yes they can. 

Because powerlifting has a focus on compound lifts, they are great for muscle building. 

Some programs have more volume which can help further, as well as accessory exercises. 

Which Powerlifting Program Should I Use?

If you're a early stage beginner, then either GreySkull LP or Ivysaur 448 is great to use. 

If you're in the late stages of a beginner, then Madcow 5x5, nSuns LP or GZCLP Linear Progression are best for you. 

After that, you can go with an intermediate program.

Why Are These Programs the Best for Beginners?

These programs were selected based on their reputation and popularity. 

Many people have used this program and have achieved excellent results. 

There's also enough support and community behind each one that you'll likely find your questions or concerned answered. 

Start Powerlifting With The Best Programs

There's no excuse now. 

You have the best programs to choose from and you don't need to wait.

Choose a program above and make a copy through Google Spreadsheets. 

This way you can use it as your own spreadsheet and look back on your past performance so you can plan ahead.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below...

by Nader Qudimat

Forged by iron and cold steel, I'm Nader, a mid-30s natural bodybuilder. Once a 100lb skinny guy, I've transformed into a 200lb muscular athlete with over 15 years of lifting experience. Today, I leverage my transformation and extensive experience to guide countless individuals on their fitness journeys.

Click here to check out my 12 year transformation: Natural 12 Year Transformation

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