Strength Sensei Bookshelf

Ten Commandments to Powerlifting

Ernie Frantz’s body of work on achieving lifelong success in powerlifting


Ernie Frantz passed away on January 14, 2021, at 86. He was nicknamed the “Godfather of Powerlifting,” achieved the highest levels of athletic success in the open and senior divisions, and with Larry Pacifico co-founded the American Powerlifting Federation. His training wisdom is passed along to us in the Ten Commitments of Powerlifting: 2nd Edition.

Proving that he was “walked the talk,” Franz won the 1974 IPF World Championships. He won his first Masters World Championships in 1981 and won his last in 2008. He was deadlifting 771 pounds in the 220-pound class in his 50s, squatting 815 at 220 in his 60s, and squatting 611 at 198 in his 70s.

What new lifters will enjoy about the 2013 edition of this book (first edition, 1984) is that it’s well-organized and written for a general audience. It starts with an overview of the basic principles (and many training gems) of performing the squat, bench press, and deadlift. For example, in the deadlift, Frantz addresses the fear that the deadlift will cause severe back pains. He says this is only when the lift is performed improperly, and “the power comes through momentum and leg strength, not through the back muscles.” He also says that one way to develop confidence for the deadlifts, dealing with “mental blocks” (as he calls them) is to perform negatives, lowering weights heavier than you’ve lifted before.

Frantz believed that when performed properly, the deadlift was a safe exercise that could be performed for a lifetime. (Miloš Šarčev photo)

The heart of the book is Frantz’s 10 basic Commandments of Powerlifting to guide a lifter through a lifetime of continued success with minimal risk of injury. Here are three:

Frantz’s 2nd Commandment

“Make sure you warm up properly and listen to your body.”

Frantz’s 5th Commandment

Keep every body part tight during the entire movement.”

Frantz’s 9th Commandment

“Bodybuilding and powerlifting do not mix. Make your choice…Beautiful muscles or raw power.”

From here, Frantz goes into providing guidelines for developing workouts. Frantz begins by setting specific goals and then creates training cycles to achieve these goals. For his training, Frantz likes 9-week cycles. Followed by 2-3 days of rest after the meet. He says the longest he was ever taken off after a training cycle is five days.

Frantz prefers a 4x training cycle that has him usually performing all three powerlifts on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Tuesday is a light squat or deadlift day, but he will bench if he did not bench on Monday. Frantz provides a sample week of training to illustrate how this cycle works, providing every set, rep, weight, and comments about how each lift felt. Here is an example of a Saturday deadlift workout, which he says is the day he usually tries to go “extra” heavy:


245 x 3: I’m warming up.
360 x 1: I’m ready and willing.
480 x 1: Here go the jumps.
580 x 1: At this point I’m ready for more. This pulls easy .
660 x 1: This pulls easy.
720 x 1: This one requires some work.

760 x 1: A nice steady move.
780 x 1: I may use straps.
801 x 1: I really want to feel this one.

The remainder of the book provides useful information (such as how to spot for safety) and misinformation (such as powerlifters are muscle-bound). It finishes with Frantz’s ideas of the future of powerlifting, several interviews he did with male and female powerlifting influencers, and an article by Diane Frantz. Diane Frantz was an elite powerlifter and bodybuilder who worked with her husband at the “Ernie and Diane Frantz Health Studio,” which they opened in 1962.

The following comment summaries Frantz’s love of powerlifting: “Powerlifting is my ‘Fountain of Youth.’ It keeps me young. Every day presents a new challenge to meet and conquer. I learn something new about myself during every workout. I am constantly learning what makes me tick and how to use this information to better my daily life.” To learn more, pick up a copy of Ernie Frantz’sTen Commandments of Powerlifting.

[You can purchase Ernie Frantz’s Ten Commandments of Powerlifting: Second Editionat]

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