Are The Big 3 Lifts All You Really Need To Get Jacked?


In the lifting community there’s some sort of weird rivalry. Like Marvel vs. DC. It’s epic. It pits behemoths against each other. It’s also completely pointless for most people to debate about.

Powerlifters and bodybuilders can’t seem to get along.

Bodybuilders obviously care much more about looking good naked and having symmetry. Powerlifters just care about getting strong as shit, and performing well in their meets. That much is obvious, but they also feel it necessary to bring down the other.

“Bodybuilders are all show, no go.”

“Who the hell thinks a powerlifter looks good?”

One really common complaint among powerlifters is that bodybuilders spend too much time on unnecessary shit.

“Forget hitting your muscles from a million different angles with light weights. Hit the big three, get in some assistance work, and get out.” – Some powerlifter who thinks his way is the only way.

Many a dedicated powerlifter have doled out that sort of advice to people who want to look better naked. It’s kickass advice when it comes to powerlifting. Forget all the unnecessary bullshit. Focus on what will get you better.

How true is that for the average Bro?

Squat, deadlift, and bench are all kickass lifts. In terms of effectiveness, they may be the 3 best lifts anyone could do. And together they can form the basis of a program that can help nearly anyone. Whether that person is a single mother of 3, or a bro who wants to get into single digit body fat.

I know because I incorporate them into programs for many of my clients.

Are they all you need though?

Not to nitpick over semantics here, but what does “need” mean in this case? Getting jacked seems to be an idea most bro’s have, but they never really quantify it. Sure, we have a “look” in mind, but very rarely is there a bodyweight, or number of pounds lifted along with that look.

That’s a big mistake. In order to get to where you want, you need to know where the hell that is to begin with. Getting philosophical as fuck in here.

If jacked to you is a 600lb deadlift, 500lb squat, and 400lb bench, then the big 3 should be where about 85% of your training time is spent. The other 15% should be allocated towards assistance work, and things that help you hit your goal.

If jacked to you is big arms, shoulders, and chest. A narrow waist, athletic legs, and a body type that your lady (or guy) friends dig, and looks awesome in clothes, then spending 85% of your training time on the big 3 like a powerlifter isn’t necessary.

Keep the goal in mind.

The goal, and getting there in the most effective and efficient way possible is what’s important. If you want a strong, lean, and athletic physique, working a variety of training methods into your routine is highly important.

A mix of pure strength, hypertrophy, and cardio is what’s necessary to get athletic and fitness model type looks. Hitting muscles from different angles, working in different rep ranges, doing isolation work, and working your abs are all things that could help immensely.

Sure, the big 3 provide a ton of bang for your buck. They hit nearly every single muscle your body has to offer. They aren’t the end all be all, though.

Why don’t you need the big 3 to get the body you want?

Keep in mind what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about needs, as opposed to wants. If you want to deadlift 3x a week, go right ahead. No one is stopping you.

The big 3 lifts are exhausting, and take a lot out of you. They require a ton of effort, and for quite a few people they can lead to lower intensity throughout the rest of the training session. For those who want to make aesthetic gains, this isn’t always a good thing.

You need to be able to attack your entire training session with high levels of intensity to get the best results. Sometimes removing the big 3 can help make that happen.

If you don’t want to be a powerlifter though, you don’t need to train like one. You can still incorporate the big 3, but they aren’t a need.

If you don’t like to squat because you’re not proficient at it, and don’t want to take the time to learn it, then don’t. Start leg pressing. Leg press is a badass replacement, and it can actually help leg growth thanks to the extra volume you’ll get in.

Don’t like to bench press? Work on dumbbell bench press. Or incline. Or dumbbell incline. Using dumbbells is a fantastic way to work on chest development, and many top bodybuilders swear by the dumbbell bench. So much that they’ve given up on bench together.

Deadlift isn’t your thing? That breaks my heart. I love the deadlift. But you can do Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, leg curls, pull-ups, rows, or any other number of exercises to work those same muscles that get love in the deadlift.

When developing your training program, the most important factor to keep in mind is your goal, and how to get there. Take a page out of a powerlifters book, and remove the unnecessary shit. You may just not need to take the page that has the big 3 lifts on it.