| By Big Jeff Pearce |
Have you ever walked into your gym and seen a bodybuilder that looked huge and ripped but could only bench press 225 pounds? A bodybuilder like this is all show and no go. Conversely, have you ever walked into your gym and seen a powerlifter who was lifting heavy ass weight but looked like he spends more time at McDonalds than he does training? If you have spent enough time in the gym, I bet you have. We all have.
What are you going to get out of this article series? Well, I’ll tell you one thing you won’t get: some smug picture of a “know-it-all trainer” with his arms crossed and the picture artistically tilted to give off the image of being “cutting-edge” or “super-awesome” against a white background. At Strong-Athlete.com, we are concerned with the facts and disseminating accurate information so that you, the reader, can go forward and crush your next workout.
The main focus of this article is to break down the best of powerlifting and the best of bodybuilding. This is not a new concept, we did not originate it and it has been covered before. Has it been covered well? Sure, but it hasn’t been covered as extensively as we intend to do it. This series will be your definitive guide to powerbuilding, a lifting philosophy that has built some of the strongest and best looking athletes on the planet.
In this first instalment of our three part series, we are going to outline what powerbuilding is and what exercises/rep schemes are fundamental to the training philosophy. In our second and third instalments, expect to gain insight on how to design your own training, supplementation and nutritional protocols, amongst other information.
I can guarantee you that at no point will you see a smug picture of, me, the author, with his arms crossed
Let’s get started and remember, Ronnie Coleman said it best:
Every wanna be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody wanna lift no heavy ass weight!
What is Powerbuilding?
Powerbuilding is a hybrid training model that transcends the limitations of traditional powerlifting and bodybuilding training models. It does so by combining the most favourable aspects of each training model so that the practitioner can achieve their own version of looking ripped and being strong. In simpler terms, you can cash the strength-cheque that your physique wrote.
Many strength enthusiasts believe that engaging in powerbuilding has to leave out all focus on isolation techniques. Conversely, many bodybuilding enthusiasts believe that powerbuilding should contain heavy isolation movements. Obviously, to design an effective program, one needs to involve big compound movements and isolation movements.
There are many schools of thought on the rep ranges that are most effective for powerbuilding and the exercises that should be utilized within an effective program. Some websites will tell you that you have to squat every three days; others will tell you that you have to bench press every other day. The bottom line is that your workouts need to be tailored to whatever imbalances you currently have with respect to your strength and appearance. To fall into a trap of having to squat every three days when you already have tree trunk sized legs could land you with an even more imbalanced, bottom-heavy physique. The same thing can happen if you bench press too often. Just ask Mr. Incredible.
What exercises should I be doing? How many reps?
When you start structuring your workouts, the first thing you need to do is throw a lot of myths out the window. One of them is that if you are training for over one hour exactly, you are going catabolic. Do you think your body really knows the difference between one hour and one hour and fifteen minutes? Moreover, there are ways to fight catabolism, such as intra-workout supplementation with supplements like Branched Chain Amino Acids. Before I go too crazy here, let’s save that topic for the next instalment.
When you are talking powerbuilding, it obviously necessitates the use of both powerlifting and bodybuilding movements. The exercises you choose for yourself is something you will need to do based on your strength goals and your personal imbalances/physique characteristics. Physique characteristics can be things like having very long arms (great for fighting but not for benching) or having a short torso (great for deadlifts but not for bodybuilding).
Safety is the most important part of going heavy, and if you can’t get the form down, maybe you need to adapt the movement or try something different.
Are there movements that you should avoid? Yes, anything that causes pain (i.e. knee, back, shoulder, or elbow pain) during the movement. Safety is the most important part of going heavy, and if you can’t get the form down, maybe you need to adapt the movement or try something different.
Ideally, when talking rep schemes for working sets, we want to keep the reps below eight. Warm-up sets should be light and utilize high reps to get the blood in the area of focus and to allow for you to mentally remember the movement. From week to week, you will progress and the weight you may have used before to get six reps may be too light. Remember to use progressive resistance.
Here is a basic list of exercises that you can incorporate into your powerbuilding routine (yes, there is a lot of overlap – they are mostly compound exercises. Good for you that you noticed. You must be very smart. 🙂
- Push Press
- Military Press
- Deadlifts (All Variations)
- T-Bar Row
- Barbell Row
- Good Mornings
- Front Squats
- Walking Lunges
- Stiff-Leg Deadlift
- Glute-Ham Extension
- Bench Press (All Varying Angles)
- Band/Chain Bench Press
- Dumbbell Presses (All Varying Angles)
- Weighted Dips
- Standing Barbell Curl
- Close-Grip Bench Press
A Final Note on Exercise Selection:
Remember, we are mixing both powerlifting and bodybuilding with the intent of increasing both strength and size. There are a lot of exercises and practices that are integral to the Strong Athlete. You can’t ignore things like your rotator cuff, hip abductors/adductors, core and grip strength. You especially can’t forget about things like flexibility and mobility. Make sure to incorporate these aspects into your program, it may mean the difference between an injury and staying healthy.
We are mixing both powerlifting and bodybuilding with the intent of increasing both strength and size.
Lastly, isolation movements DO have a place in powerbuilding. Don’t forget to incorporate your isolation exercises into your workouts. There will be more on this in the next part of this series as we get into creating your powerbuilding training plan.
Powerbuilding is a topic that needs to be approached with an open mind. As athletes, we tend to build biases towards certain kinds of training being better than others. It is natural. For example, a lot of bodybuilders think that CrossFit is ridiculous and many CrossFitters think bodybuilders are clowns. When designing a program, the topic that we will be talking about next time, we need to be able to break out of whatever dogma or bias we have created and create an honest plan to our training, supplementation and nutrition. It is our intention at Strong-Athlete.com to give you the most honest and unbiased information possible to help you accomplish your goals.
Big Jeffrey Pearce, is a physical culture writer, editor, personal trainer, and a lifetime natural bodybuilder from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been bodybuilding and strength training since he was 16 years old and remains a dedicated gym rat to this day. Big Jeff is one of the strongest athletes you will ever meet, routinely bench pressing 500lbs and tossing up 150lb dumbbells for reps in a typical workout. An honors graduate from the University of Toronto, Jeff’s brains also match his brawn. Jeff will be joining the Strong-Athlete family as our new editor-in-chief and we look forward to more great work from him in the future.