You’ve probably heard of both powerlifting and bodybuilding. But have you heard of “power bodybuilding”? Though this hybrid is rarer than its two main components, power bodybuilding intends to give you the best of both worlds. This article will look at what goes into this type of routine, as well as give you a few sample workouts.
Start with the “Big 3”
The only point of powerlifting is to achieve the highest total. In other words, lift as much weight as possible in the bench, squat, and deadlift. This is where any power bodybuilding program should start.
A strength-based bodybuilding program might have you lifting in the 6-8 rep range. A program designed to improve strength as a whole may have you doing sets of 3-5 reps. However, in this instance, you’ll be doing the “big 3” consistently in the 1-3 rep range. This is because increasing your 1RM is your primary goal. If you’re not doing sets of 1-3 reps, then you’ll be progressing down an 8-16 week program that will “peak” you with a new 1RM.
Also like in a powerlifting program, the bench, squat, and deadlift will be your top-tier, most important exercises. Other strength-based compound movements such as overhead presses, rows, and pullups will definitely be utilized, but they take a back seat to the “big 3”.
Strength-Based Bodybuilding Is Next
Once you’ve taken care of the bench, squat, and deadlift, next in the power bodybuilding hierarchy would come other big, compound movements to round out your physique. This would include the aforementioned overhead press, rows, and pullups, as well as leg presses, dips, incline bench, and stiff legged or Romanian deadlifts.
You’ll treat these as strength (but not powerlifting) exercises with moderate volume so as to put on the most amount of muscle possible. For shoulders and back exercises, you’ll want to do at least one compound movement of 3-5 sets of 5-6 reps to maintain “even” strength across the board when compared to the chest and legs. Additional muscle can then be built with another compound exercise for all body parts can be done for 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps
Finish with Isolation Movements
After you’ve taken care of all the strength work and muscle building compound exercises, you can finish off your power bodybuilding routine with one or two isolation movements per bodypart if desired. 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps works well, and this is how you’ll address specific muscles not directly targeted yet, as well as round out your physique as a whole.
Sample Power Bodybuilding Routine
A 3x/week power bodybuilding workout could be setup as below, done on a Mon/Wed/Fri basis:
- squat – 8-16 week progression toward new 1RM
- leg press – 3-4 sets x 6-8 reps
- Romanian deadlifts – 3-4 sets x 6-8 reps
- leg extensions – 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps
- leg curls – 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps
- calves – 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps
- bench press – 8-16 week progression toward new 1RM
- incline press – 3-4 sets x 6-8 reps
- dumbbell overhead press – 3-5 sets x 5-6 reps
- dumbbell incline flies – 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps
- lateral raises – 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps
- curls / pushdowns superset – 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps each
- deadlift – 8-16 week progression toward new 1RM
- weighted pullups – 3-5 sets x 5-6 reps
- barbell rows – 3-4 sets x 6-8 reps
- rear delts – 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps
- shrugs – 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps
The two biggest areas that powerlifting and bodybuilding differ are diet and cardio. Powerlifters often eat as much as possible for the sake of putting on bodyweight and will usually do minimal cardio. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, watch their diets and do sufficient cardio to keep fat loss in check. Power bodybuilding usually falls on the bodybuilding side of this equation.
Eat enough calories (and especially protein) to support muscle gain, but not so much you put on too much fat. Adding 3-4 sessions of 45-60 mins of slow cardio per week can also help keep body fat in check. At the same time, it can improve recovery. Just be sure that you don’t do so much cardio that it hinders your strength improvement or muscle building efforts.
If you were going to boil all of the above down into its most simple form, the easiest way to look at it would be to say power bodybuilding starts with powerlifting training for the bench, squat, and deadlift. Then strength-based bodybuilding picks up after that, working the rest of the body. Do those two combined with a solid diet and a little bit of cardio, and you’ll soon be the best mix of muscular, strong, lean, and will have an impressive powerlifting total.