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Powerlifting rep range [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Sep 12, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Powerlifting rep range

Powerlifting rep range

The most versatile rep range for powerlifting are sets of five. For best results mix them with other variations in a waved macrocycle. Check out powerlifting I from Juggernaut Training Systems for details. 
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What is your why 

Before we o into the details of which rep range you should work in for powerlifting, let me ask you a couple of questions:
  • Why do you want to powerlift?
  • Why do you want to change your body?
  • What happens when you do?
  • What happens, if you don't?
These questions are crucial for your personal success. Research shows that people who write down and reflect on their goals are more likely to achieve them. When was the last time you did this? Can you even remember? Many people go about their lives like this:
  • What do I want
  • How do I get it 
  • Why do I want it
This is a great way to achieve nothing of importance. What you want changes hundreds of times a day. If you make that the centerpiece of your visions and desires you will be chasing your own tail. Your resources will be spread thin and time scattered between too many activities. Something interesting happens when you flip the running order of these questions on their head:

  • Why do you want something
  • How do you get it 
  • What needs to be done
This way your innermost desires will take center stage. Your thoughts and actions will become more connected and success more likely. If you want to know how this works on a psychological basis, read Daniel Kahneman's thinking fast and slow. Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle will change your life. 

8 - 12 repetitions

8 - 12 repetitions is a range that is seldom used for work sets in powerlifting. You will usually find 8-12 repetitions for accessory work or at the beginning of heavy programs to ease into them. Powerlifting AI and Smolov work with a transition phase of 8 - 12 repetitions per set to prepare for the rest that is to come on these programs. Most likely you will be doing exercises like:
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep extensions
  • Glute Ham Raises
  • Good mornings
  • Lat pulldowns
  • Dumbbell rows  
In this repetition range. You usually won't work with the barbell on such high rep ranges for powerlifting.

6 - 8 repetitions

6-8 repetitions is a solid higher count of repetitions when working with a barbell. Some theory and research show that after performing 6 repetitions with a barbell form breaks down quite considerably. Therefore are these the go-to rep ranges when you want to have hypertrophy and strength development. These are usually the more challenging sets of a program are the phase directly after the transition phase for more sophisticated programs. 

5 repetitions

Sets of fives are the bread and butter in powerlifting. The strike the right balance between intensity and good form to grow and improve your strength. Many beginner programs like Stronglifts 5x5 and Starting Strength work heavily with sets of fives. If I could do only one rep count per set for my entire life, this would be it.

3 repetitions

Three repetitions are great at the start of a peaking block to prepare for a powerlifting meet. You will increase the intensity compared to sets of fives and challenge your body to push heavier weights. The injury risk will slightly increase and you will push your boundaries to grow. However, this will be less sustainable than working with sets of fives. A good mix is key in the long run. A heavy triple is also a good indicator for which opening weight you should for your first attempt at a meet. 

2 repetitions

You find doubles usually further down the line in a peaking block. This is the least risky method to determine what your one-repetition maximum in the competition will be. You should avoid testing your one repetition maximum often, as it is too risky for permanent injury when you fail. Doubles are better to indicate where you will land on competition day.

1 repetition

Your one repetition maximum is the ultimate goal of powerlifting. However, do not lose track of your total. If you get injured in one of the three lifts and don't post a total, you are disqualified. So choose wisely on competition day on how far out you want to push it. One repetition maximums should be tested not more than two times a year depending on your competition cycles. The best powerlifting programs usually work in a 6 months cycle towards a new one repetition maximum. Pretty similar to Marathon Training. 

Powerlifting rep range

If you want to keep it simple stick with fives. However, this can get boring and is also suboptimal training for powerlifting is you do not stimulate in higher intensity ranges for strength gains or higher repetition ranges for muscle growth. A good mix is key and the best to get it is either through a personal coach or the powerlifting AI program by Juggernaut Training Systems.