The Big 3 and How They Can Help You

Powerlifting is a competitive weightlifting sport, where competitors execute the “Big 3” -> the Back Squat, the Bench Press and the Deadlift.

The lifts are performed in the following order:

  1. squat,
  2. bench press,
  3. deadlift.

Each lift may be attempted 3 times.

The Squat


The lifter must start in a knees locked out standing position, when the judge calls “squat”, the lifter must bend the knees and lower the body until the top surface of the legs at the hip joint is lower than the top of the knees. Only one descent attempt is allowed per lift.

The attempt is deemed to have commenced when the lifters knees have unlocked.
After the lifter hits depth, they stand back up to lockout.

The Bench


The bench press starts with the arms straight and fully locked at the top of the press. On the judges call of “Start” the bar is lowered to the chest or abdominal area (the bar must not touch the lifters belt) and hold it motionless, after which the referee will call “Press”, the lifter presses the bar back to the locked out position.

When the bar is held motionless at the top of the press, the judge will call “rack” and the bar can be re-racked.

The Deadlift


Using either sumo or conventional deadlift stance, and either safety or conventional grip, the lifter pulls the bar from the ground to the top of the lockout position (legs straight, knees locked out and shoulders behind the bar).

At the referee’s call of “Down” the lifter may lower the bar (with control – don’t drop the bar) to the ground.

With proper form, programming and nutrition, powerlifting can lead to EPIC STRENGTH and that physique you’ve always wanted.

If you’ve never tried it, here’s a couple of reasons you should give Powerlifting a go…

Reason #1 – You Will Get Stronger

While any properly programmed weightlifting regimen will give you increases in strength, a powerlifting program (because of its focus on the Big 3 lifts) will help you to develop an impressive amount of it, and as Coach Mark Rippetoe would say

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and are more useful in general.”

Some may argue that the strongest lifters in the powerlifting community are big and fat. Like any weight class sport, these guys are all in the heavier weight categories eg. 110kg/120kg/120kg+

If you look at powerlifters in the lighter divisions eg. 74kg/83kg/93kg, you will find that they aren’t fat at all but are damn strong and most have a lean, athletic physique.

Reason #2 – It Works ALL Your Muscles

The Big 3 are all compound lifts, and once you start to get into powerlifting, you soon realise that every lift requires effort from your entire body, not just one group of muscles. You won’t find any curls here.

A back squat utilizes the following muscles:

  • Quadriceps
  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Adductor Magnus
  • Soleus
  • Hamstrings
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Erector Spinae
  • Deltoids (Anterior, Lateral)
  • Supraspinatus

A bench press works

  • Pectoralis major as well as supporting chest, arm, and shoulder muscles such as
  • Anterior deltoids
  • Serratus anterior
  • Coracobrachialis
  • Scapulae fixers
  • Trapezii
  • Triceps

And the deadlift is an entire body movement, your arms, your legs, your back, your core, everything will be tested and tried for this almighty lift.

To get the best for each of your lifts, you need to create tension throughout your entire body as in every muscle needs to be firing and ready to go.

Reason #3 – It’s Simple To Get Started

It is super simple to get the ball rolling, you only need to learn your three basic lifts BUT to make sure that you get the most from your lifts it’s a good idea to make sure that you include some accessory work in your program.

Try some of these exercises to increase your base strength levels.


  • Prowler/Sled Runs. With these you need to get down low and go, go, go!! Make sure each sled run is explosive and as fast as you can manage. These will help to develop explosive strength in your legs.
  • Walking Lunges. Either weighted or unweighted, these bad boys will make your glutes rock solid.
  • Box Squats. If you are having trouble getting out of the hole, low box squats will help you to build the strength needed to get out of there.

Bench Press:

  • Dips (weighted/body weight): dips work your upper body like nothing else. They will blow out your arms and chest in no time at all.
  • Dumbell Rows: These suckers will develop your grip strength (which is also useful for your deadlift) and upper back.
  • Incline Bench Press. These will work your upper chest and deltoids.


  • Barbell Glute Bridges: Works the glutes, hammies, and lower back. They’re useful for helping to complete your deadlift and they’ll make your glutes nice and tight.
  • Opposite Deadlifts: So if you pull conventional mix it up and pull sumo, if you pull sumo, change it up too.
  • Block/Rack Pulls: These are adjustable and are used to increase your pulling strength from your weaker positions.

Reason #4 – Anyone Can Do It

People of any age, sex, race, religion, shape or size can get into powerlifting. It is a sport that is completely inclusive so what are you waiting for?

Reason #5 – Competing Is Good For YOU!

Competition promotes growth by getting you out of your comfort zone by putting you up against your peers – testing your metal against theirs. Where would you be if you didn’t have a rival to challenge you or be inspired by?

I don’t think I would be where I am now If I hadn’t used a competitive mindset to push myself closer towards my goals. I find that competition gives me something to strive for.

In my personal experience, whenever I’ve competed, I’ve always walked away from it with my head held high, proud that I’ve done my best and left everything I had, out there on the floor.

It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you walk into a room full of people ready to lift some heavy barbells.

Why I Compete as a Powerlifter

For me, the increase in my strength and the changes to my physique have led to a dramatic increase in my self confidence.

When I lift heavy I feel bullet proof, like nothing can stop me and nothing else matters, because when I lift, there are only two things in my world. Steel and Flesh.

In my opinion there is nothing better than being strong and I perform better in my chosen sport of CrossFit because of powerlifting.

If you’re looking to become the strongest you’ve (n)ever been then I would definitely consider the Big 3 lifts and testing yourself by entering a powerlifting comp.

Actually, speaking of powerlifting comps – we’ve got one coming up on Saturday 28th of May (3 weeks away) – We’re also in the middle of a cycle that incorporates all of the lifts I’ve covered in this post.

If you’d like to find out more and perhaps even get out of your comfort zone and test your metal, you can give me a call on 0262519248 or email me at [email protected]

See you in the gym,



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Josh B

Bearded. Strong. Barista. Josh is the newest addition to the Adapt Team.Josh brings an incredible story of transformation (he was an ex fatty too) and a disciplined mindset towards all aspects of health and fitness. Don’t let the beard scare you – he’s one of the most caring and supportive coaches around.