Choosing the Right Big 3 For You

Often, when guys start training with me and don’t see traditional bench presses, deadlifts, and squats in their program right away, they immediately think that I’m some kind of Richard Simmons type who isn’t about getting them as strong as an ox.

All they’ve known from playing sports in high school and college is the big 3. They’ve been shoved down their throats for years, and for good reason: they’re all great lifts, and a lot of really strong fuckers have utilized them for a long time.



The issue is, not everyone is equipped for these lifts. After we do a functional movement screen, I can see how they move and where their limitations are. This often times tells me that doing the traditional powerlifts is a recipe for disaster. Compensations will occur, and at some point or another, either progress will stop, or worse, injuries will occur.

The concept of basing your strength training around multi joint presses, pulls, knee dominant, and hip dominant lifts is 100% correct. The ones you choose should fit you and your current situation, though, not the opposite.

This might mean you front squat, neutral grip bench, trap bar deadlift, and crush chin ups. Get brutally strong on those lifts and you’ll have a physique that not only looks great, but performs just as well.

Choosing the right lift for the right person at the right time is the key. Below is a list, while not all encompassing, where you can choose one from each category as the bedrocks of your training. Pick some other assistance lifts to go with them and you’re good to go.

Knee Dominant Hip Dominant Upper Body Push Upper Body Pull
Front Squat Trap Bar Deadlift Close Grip Bench Chin Up variations
Safety Bar Squat RDL Dumbbell Bench (flat or any incline) 1 arm Dumbbell rows
Kettlebell Front Squat Single Leg RDL Ring Dips Pendlay Rows
Goblet Squat Hang Clean Military Press Bent Over Row
Rear Foot Elevated Split squat Hang Snatch Overhead Press with Dumbbells or Kettlebells
1 Leg Squat 1 arm DB Snatch

Show me someone who rear foot elevated split squats their bodyweight for 5 reps a side, trap bar deadlifts 450 for reps, presses 100 pound dumbbells for 8-10 and cranks out 15 strict chin ups, and I’ll show you a strong sonofabitch.

Don’t get caught up in the dick swinging contests with idiots on the internet that claim to lift video game numbers on the traditional big 3. Pick the right ones for you, attack them relentlessly, and you’ll be fine.

Remember, the bench, squat, and deadlift are all great lifts if you have the capacity to do them pain free and correctly. Most of us don’t, though, so keep that in mind. Train with the long game in mind. Training is a means to an end, so pick the right tools for the job, and just get better. That’s what it’s really all about. What good is a 405 deadlift if you’re walking around with a sore back for 6 days afterwards anyway?

Training is fluid, and there are no black and whites. Maybe at some point, 1 or more of the powerlifts will fit into your program after you’ve improved your movement capabilities, but if you’re not being tested on them, it doesn’t matter. Reaching your goals is the important thing, the lifts you use to get there are purely arbitrary. Keep that in mind, train hard, train smart, and good things will happen.


2 Comments on “Choosing the Right Big 3 For You”

  1. Pingback: Front Squat-X’s and O’s – Hansen Performance

  2. Pingback: Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Compete Like a Stud: The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Own Training Program – Hansen Performance

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