A Review of Stephan Korte’s 3 x 3 Powerlifting System

A Review of Stephan Korte’s 3 x 3 Powerlifting System

There are many different methods available to those interested in strength training. Access to the internet has made it possible to see how some of the big names are training and what systems they are doing, whether it is Sheiko or Westside. Stephan Korte’s 3×3 system is perhaps not the best known, but is certainly among the most effective and has many advantages for those looking to get bigger and stronger.

Who is Stephan Korte?

Stephan Korte is a German powerlifter and coach. His program is certainly not as well-known as other Eastern European variants, but has been used to great effect by some top level competitors. IPF junior world champion Ralf Gierz totaled nearly 2200 pounds using this training system and Michael Bruegger benched over 600 pounds without a bench shirt. It is also a system used by many lifters around the world at all different levels.

How Does Stephan Korte’s 3×3 system Work?

The bench press is a good example of how Korte works. When attempting to increase the bench, many people will add in a variety of exercises to work on weak points or increase tricep strength, for example. Korte uses the exact opposite logic. For him, the best way to strengthen the muscles used in benching in the exact way necessary for the bench press is to bench press often. No accessory movements at all are done; simply benching regularly reaps results. In fact, the same is true for the squat and the deadlift. All three movements are trained three times a week, using about 60 percent of maximum. for the first four weeks it breaks down like this.

Day 1:

  • squat: 5-8×5
  • bench: 6-8×6
  • deadlift: 5-8×5

Day 2:

  • squat: 5-8×5
  • bench: 6-8×6
  • deadlift: 5-8×5

Day 3:

  • squat: 5-8×5
  • bench: 6-8×6
  • deadlift: 5-8×5

Obviously, this is a lot of volume but it will create perfect technique. It also tends to build muscle in the legs at a fairly rapid rate, which is a nice side-effect of a strength program. Each week the weight used is increased slightly by about two percent.

In the second four weeks, each lift is built up to a maximum, while the other lifts are maintained on that day with three sets of three repetitions (hence Korte’s 3×3 system). For these four weeks, the plan looks like this.

Day 1:

  • squat: 3×3
  • bench: 5×4
  • deadlift: 1-2×1

Day 2:

  • squat: 3×3
  • bench: 1-2×1
  • deadlift: 3×3

Day 3:

  • squat: 1-2×1
  • bench: 5×4
  • deadlift: 3×3

The three sets of three are relatively light and the heavy singles will increase week by week to hit a new record on the last week. A good way to calculate this is starting from 105 percent of current personal best on week 4 of phase 2 and taking off 5% per week.

Korte’s 3×3 System for Non-powerlifters

Although Korte’s 3×3 system is obviously aimed at competitive powerlifters, the principles behind it can be used for anyone looking to get bigger and stronger. Taking three multi-joint exercises and working them three times a week with a lot of volume is going to increase hypertrophy, build a lot of strength and really hone technique, which will in turn lead to greater gains on any other program which comes next. Following up a cycle or two of Korte with 5×5 training will lead to greater gains in both size and strength from 5×5.

Korte is not the perfect system for everyone. There is no variety in terms of exercises and the volume is hard work for the first week or two until the body adapts. However, for those willing to push through and reap the benefits, increased strength, muscle mass and work capacity await.

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