LSUS is one of the most popular weightlifting programmes of the past two decades. This complete LSUS weightlifting program review is going to cover everything you need to know to decide if it’s right for you. We’ll look at:
- Background on Dr Kyle Pierce and the Program
- LSUS Weightlifting Program
- LSUS Workout Explanation
- Looking for An Olympic Weightlifting Programme?
- Modifying LSUS
- LSUS Weightlifting Program: The Pros
- LSUS Weightlifting Program: The Cons
- LSUS Weightlifting Programme Review: Does LSUS work? Is It Good?
- Kendrick Farris and the LSUS Program – Addressing the Topic
- LSUS Frequently Asked Questions
- Next Steps
Let’s jump straight in.
Background on Dr Kyle Pierce and the Program
LSU Shreveport Weightlifting
Lousiana State University Shreveport, or LSUS, is a well-known university with a strong sports pedigree. They’re also one of the very few universities in the USA to offer scholarships for weightlifters.
Heading up the weightlifting program is Dr Kyle Pierce, Professor in the department of Kinesiology & Health Science, and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame inductee. You can find out more about him in this great interview by sports ed.
LSUS Weightlifting Program
The structure of the LSU weightlifting program was born out of joint research between prominent sports physiologist Michael Stone and Dr Kyle Pierce, who together published landmark papers on weightlifting program design.
*Note: The weightlifting variations in block 1 are for 5’s not 10’s, in block 2 are for 3’s not 5’s, and in block 3 are for singles instead of 3s.
LSUS Weightlifting Program Spreadsheet
The best collection of LSUS weightlifting program spreadsheets I can find is over here…
There’s the original LSUS, plus a modified ‘intermediate’ LSUS and a ‘time constraints’ variation.
LSUS Workout Explanation
The LSUS weightlifting program is a classic linear periodisation model, which means that it starts with really high volumes and lower intensity (lots of reps at lower weights) and ends with much lower volumes but much higher intensity (fewer reps at heavier weights).
Hence you get the 10’s phase, 5’s phase and 3’s phase followed by a ‘peak’.
Within the week:
- Days 1 and 3 are your ‘push’ days, in which you perform squats and upper body pushing movements.
- Days 2 and 4 are your ‘pull’ days in which you perform lots of deadlift variations and upper body pulling movements.
- Day 5 is your weightlifting focus day
LSUS Programme Progression
LSUS works on a 12-week programme, the 10’s, 5’s and 3’s phases are each 3 weeks long, the taper is 2 weeks long, and then there’s an optional 1-week peak in which you get to test your maxes at the end.
After the programme, you should rest for a week, and then use your new maxes to recalculate your second run through the programme.
Looking for An Olympic Weightlifting Programme?
I’ve put together a 13-week classic weightlifting programme.
It utilises the best evidence-based practice and focuses on the exercises, sets and reps proven to work, whilst cutting out the fluff and filler.
It also comes with full instructions, Q&A access, and a guide to auto-regulation/individualisation.
You can learn more about the programme by clicking right here.
4-Day LSUS Program
With the 4-day LSU weightlifting program, we take the general feel and principles of the main programme but condense it down.
Days 1 and 3 remain the same
Days 2 and 4 remain mostly the same, except that you now split your weightlifting volume between variations and classic lifts.
So if a workout in the 5-day programme had 3 to 5 sets of high hang power snatch, you would now do 2 sets of high hang power snatch, plus 2 sets of snatch from the floor.
Essentially, you’re taking a little bit of day 5 and blending it into day 2 and day 4.
Lower Volume LSUS (A.k.a ‘Sensible’ LSUS)
There’s no official lower volume version of the LSUS weightlifting programme, so these two options are drawn from a combination of my own coaching experience, plus some Reddit and weightlifting forum threads.
Option 1: Run the 5-day LSUS as normal, but only do 1 or 2 sets of each exercise instead of 3 sets.
Option 2: Run the 5-day LSUS program, but drop 1 or 2 exercises per day.
LSUS for Powerlifting
LSUS can work fantastically well as a powerlifting programme with only a few small tweaks.
- You should take out all the olympic weightlifting exercises
- You should take out almost all the extra overhead work
What you end up with is:
Day 1: Squat, Bench, military press 3×10 / 3×5 / 3×3 (depending on block)
Day 2: Deadlift, RDL, Shrug, Row, Pull-Ups 3×10 / 3×5 / 3×3 (depending on block)
Day 3: Squat, Bench, lunge 3×10 / 3×5 / 3×3 (depending on block)
Day 4: Deadlift Variation, RDL, Shrug, Row, Pull-Ups 3×10 / 3×5 / 3×3 (depending on block)
*With days 3 and 4 performed at 90% of day 1 and 2’s weights.
LSUS Weightlifting Program: The Pros
Alright so now that we’ve covered the LSUS weightlifting program in detail, plus some possible variations, here’s what I like:
- A solid, evidence-based structure
The heart of LSUS is classic linear periodization. 10’s then 5’s then 3’s. It’s a time-proven recipe for strength progress, with plenty of good literature to back it up.
- LSUS Programme has plenty of conversation around it
Since the LSUS weightlifting program is fairly popular, plenty of people have tried it and discussed it, which means that all you need to do is google:
– “LSUS reddit”
– “LSUS program results”
LSUS Weightlifting Program: The Cons
- WAY too much volume for most people
The LSUS programme has 75 working sets per week. Compare that to strength programmes like the texas method which has 33, or the last week of the catalyst athletics starter programme which has 52. More work is NOT always better, and for many people is a recipe for burnout.
- WAY too many Rep Max lifts
Look, I love a good max-out day just like anyone else, but the LSUS program has you maxing out every single lift on days 1 and 2. That’s 11 exercises all taken to a maximum!
The problem with this is that it creates LOADS of extra physical and mental fatigue for no real additional benefit. This is confirmed in systematic reviews by Davies (2016) and Grgic (2022) who each found that training to failure offered no benefits compared to training with 1-3 reps in reserve.
- Weightlifting movements aren’t practised enough
One of the biggest weightlifting programming mistakes that I’ve written about is failing to provide enough frequency of practice for the weightlifting movements.
For optimal performance, you need to be performing close variations of the snatch and clean and jerk multiple times per week, ideally 3 or more times. But on the LSUS weightlifting program, you only snatch and clean from the floor 1-2 times per week. Plus, when variations are used, they’re often not very close variations.
- The weekly structure (microcycle) is poor for recovery
A well-designed weekly training schedule allows for stress followed by recovery. Typically a heavy day is followed by a light day. With LSUS, however, you end up with 5 moderate to heavy days, each involving axial (spinal) loading, where at least 3 of which have to be performed consecutively. This is a recipe for poor recovery and increased injury risk.
LSUS Weightlifting Programme Review: Does LSUS work? Is It Good?
Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend LSUS to most people. The volumes are too high, there are too many rep maxes, there’s not enough practice of weightlifting movements and the weekly schedule is poor for recovery.
Sure, you could make a bunch of adjustments, but at that point, you might as well just design yourself a better programme from scratch.
And yes, some people have gotten really strong on the programme, but they could also have gotten strong using the texas method and had to do literally half the work.
In my mind, LSUS works because of the training environment. I also imagine there are a lot of daily coach-led and lifter-led changes to weights and sets, which you won’t get just looking at the programme.
Kendrick Farris and the LSUS Program – Addressing the Topic
Kendrick Farris was often considered one of America’s best weightlifters, placing 8th and 10th in the 2008 and 2012 olympics respectively, as well as being Pan American champion. In 2016 he broke the US clean and jerk record with a lift of 209kg.
Since Kendrick was coached by Dr Kyle Pierce, and ran the variations of the LSUS program throughout his career, you might conclude that the LSUS program helped to create one of the US’ best lifters.
However, and I don’t mean any offence or disrespect by this, but:
“I would bet good money that strict adherence to the LSUS programme actually hampered Kendrick’s progress, potentially squandering his true potential.”
Here’s why I think that was the case:
- Kendrick famously had amazing strength in the 10 and 5 rep schemes, but his heavy singles and doubles were always lacking in comparison. This is likely because he spent far too much training time in higher rep schemes.
- Kendrick’s raw strength exceeded his snatch and clean & jerk numbers significantly, meaning that he wasn’t very efficient at his two competition lifts. This is likely a direct result of simply not practising his competition lifts frequently enough, or at a high enough intensity.
Imagine if Kendrick had trained with (or in a system like) Dave Spitz at Cal Strength, or Greg and Amy Everett at Catalyst Athletics, or Spencer Arnold at Power and Grace Performance. There’s almost zero doubt in my mind that he would have lifted significantly more, potentially even medalling on the world and olympic stage.
LSUS Frequently Asked Questions
Is LSUS good for beginners?
Definitely not. LSUS is a very poor choice for beginners. Instead, beginners should focus on regular practice of very light technique drills, alongside simple strength progressions.
Can you use LSUS as a masters olympic weightlifting program?
LSUS has far too much volume and intensity to work as a masters olympic weightlifting program. It’s built for 18-21-year-old college students with ideal recovery situations. As a masters lifter, you’ll just run yourself into the ground. Perhaps try this programme instead.
Can You Use LSUS for Powerlifting?
Absolutely, LSUS can be made into a powerlifting program pretty easily. You just need to remove the weightlifting exercises and remove most of the overhead work.
LSUS program when to max out?
Technically LSUS has you maxing out multiple times per week. Days 1 and 2 have you hitting 10, 5 and 3 rep maxes for every exercise. If you want to max your snatch and clean and jerk, I recommend adding a 1-week’ taper’ at the end of the peaking block and then maxing at the end.
Is there other LSUS-like Programming?
LSUS can be best described as a linear periodised, strength-emphasis weightlifting program. I think a lot of Travis Mash’s programmes are built in similar ways, as is my classic weightlifting programme. The main difference is that these programmes also have more frequent weightlifting practice too.
Is LSUS good for muscle building?
Both yes and no. The sheer volume of work on the LSUS programme will get most people building muscle. However, it will also get most people building loads of fatigue. If hypertrophy is your goal, there are better and smarter ways to do it, such as my weightlifting + bodybuilding programme.
Alright, that’s enough reading for today, time to lift some stuff.
1) If LSUS sounds like a good programme for you and you’re a sucker for punishment, get in the gym and start working through it. If not, pick something else that suits you better.
2) If you want more training tips, workouts and programmes, feel free to join my mailing list.
‘Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc, BA
Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.
His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.
Davies, T., Orr, R., Halaki, M., & Hackett, D. (2016). Effect of Training Leading to Repetition Failure on Muscular Strength: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 46(4), 487–502. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-015-0451-3
Grgic, J., Schoenfeld, B. J., Orazem, J., & Sabol, F. (2022). Effects of resistance training performed to repetition failure or non-failure on muscular strength and hypertrophy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sport and health science, 11(2), 202–211. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2021.01.007