Your Intro To Powerbuilding

Aug 22, 2022 | Strength & Conditioning

Strong, muscular man performing the kettlebell swing

Powerlifting focuses on moving the heaviest weight possible for compound lifts, but doesn’t necessarily emphasize isolation exercises. So, maybe you’re strong, but you don’t really “look it” — or if you train using mostly bodybuilding principles, you might have a solid base of muscle, but your overall power and compound strength are lagging. Want to have it all?

Joseph Lucero, owner of Harvesting Strength, is a powerlifter and strongman coach with years of practical S&C experience in high school, collegiate, and professional settings. In this blog, he outlines the basics of powerbuilding — combining powerlifting and bodybuilding into the ultimate strength and physique program. Check out his sample workout!

 

John Fasulo
Joseph lucero

 When Powerlifting & Bodybuilding Join Forces

When I was a kid, I loved professional wrestling. I mean, who didn’t! Big, strong and overwhelming athletes chiseled by the gods (for the most part) who could battle in the squared-circle using a variety of weaponry for a chance at the championship belt!  

During one show, they highlighted a superstar’s workout regiment and I got to see first hand how that athlete lifted. During this segment, I noticed that one of my favorite superstars was bench pressing 315 pounds. To most people, a 315 pound bench press seems strong and a lift of merit. However, at the age of 15 and on the varsity offensive line, my friends and I were easily bench pressing 315 pounds or more. So at that time of the segment, I was puzzled and immediately thought to myself…

“How does he look stronger than me, but lifts just as much as I do?”

I’m well aware my introduction to “powerbuilding” has a narcissistic undertone to it, but that’s not totally the point! The relevance of this story to me is that at the age of 15, I was not an athlete who carried as much muscle tissue as a grown man, let alone a professional athlete. But how was it that this professional athlete looked the part, had a dominating physique, but didn’t have strength that matched the look? This confusion led me into the concept of “powerbuilding”.

Powerbuilding is a blend of the three main powerlifting lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift combined with bodybuilding accessories and volume to evoke more muscle growth and development. 

With powerbuilding, the idea is, “Why not have the strength of an ox AND the physique of a Greek god?”

Big-time athletes and even mainstream bodybuilders like Branch Warren and Ronnie Colemen used these concepts that led to their fame in the S&C industry. Not only will this style of training get you stronger, but it will help you look the part.

You Work too Hard to Not See Progress

Find Your Perfect Training Plan

Options for Every Goal

Training plans from real coaches covering any goal, fitness level, and number of sessions per week.

The Best Coaches

Get coached by the best. Olympians, ex-NFL stars, Titan Games Winners, Sport Scientists and more.

Starting at $1/ day

With many options including a free 7 day trial, you can try out programming before you commit.

Basic Powerbuilding Principles

Powerbuilding’s blend of powerlifting and bodybuilding works to build you some dense musculature along with brute strength to push around some heavy weight. 

To start, you’re prioritizing the main movements of powerlifting which are the squat, bench press and deadlift. Programming these lifts regularly means you’re using multi-joint, compound movements that recruit a ton of your musculature for a greater overall fatiguing effect and power development. 

Imagine going to the gym and doing either barbell squats or leg extensions. Both exercises work your quadricep muscles, but a 10-rep max squat and a 10-rep max leg extension feel totally different. You would be super sore after 10 mex-effort leg extensions, but after 10 max-effort squats, you might want to fall over and die. Veteran lifters who have EVER tried squatting 10 reps in a row know that you’ll be huffing and puffing so hard, it’s like you just ran your first 100 meter dash in a long time. (Hell, we are lifters, what the heck is a 100 meter dash?!) 

The barbell squat’s effect on your anatomy goes far beyond your quads — you’re recruiting movement from the knee joint AND the hip joint, loading weight on your upper back which also engages your core in an isometric contraction. So, you’re working MANY more muscles than you would with an isolated movement like the leg extension. 

Powerbuilding works by prioritizing those multi-joint strength movements that are very fatiguing for your entire system. They’re the foundational strength builders, as the name “powerlifting” suggests. 

But isolation exercises have their place! Once you hit fatigue from your heavy compound lift, then you move onto the bodybuilding portion of the workout. Bodybuilding requires you to further gas your musculature through timed rest intervals, tempo based movement, and varying angular torque to target all your muscle fibers more closely.

You can’t just do regular old dumbbell curls and expect massive growth in your arms from twigs to meat mountains. You want to think about different movements from different angles and at varying tempos. You might start off with dumbbell bicep curls, leading into eccentric loading preacher curls with a different grip, then hanging curls on the incline with a neutral grip. 

The change in grip, the change in tempo, all these things alter your intent with your biceps. The main priority of the bodybuilding portion of your workout is to grow, so adding these training principles alongside your meat-and-potatoes strength work is sure to supercharge your athletic development.

Level Up Your Training

With TrainHeroic’s immersive training app

TrainHeroic does everything you wish your old gym notebook could do.

Take the guesswork out of training with built-in exercise instruction and basic training programs. Compete against yourself and others. Track your performance and readiness. Smash your goals. 

How to Program Powerbuilding

So big picture — how do we embrace the idea of powerbuilding into our routine? Start by using the template below to help guide you on your efforts to iron paradise.

Powerbuilding Concept Conditions Rest Intervals
Powerlifting Movement 2-3 sets of 3-6 reps 2-3 minutes
Powerlifting Modified Movement 2-3 sets of 3-6 reps 2-3 minutes
Bodybuilding Accessory 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps 60 seconds
Bodybuilding Accessory 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps 60 seconds
Bodybuilding Accessory 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps 30-60 seconds

 

Sample Powerbuilding Program: Back Day

Exercise Sets and Reps Rest
Deadlift 2×5 reps 2-3 minutes
2-3” Deficit Deadlifts 3×6 reps at 70% of 5RM 2-3 minutes
Wide Grip Cable Lat Pulldown 3×10 reps 60 seconds
Neutral Grip Seated Cable Row 5×8 reps 60 seconds
DB Standing Shrugs 2×20 reps 30 seconds

 

Remember, the beginning of each workout should be your beef: the heavier powerlifting movement to pre-exhaust your anatomy first while you’re fresh. After your heavier lifts, you’ll aim to decrease the weight, but increase the volume and shorten the rest periods. Pay attention to your rest times!  

You begin with strength, leading into fatigue which puts you into a great position for metabolic exhaustion and elevated spikes in natural growth hormone. Just don’t forget to eat, or your progress goes down the drain. 

Next time you hit the gym with only a vague idea of what you want to do, give this workout a shot. By the end, you’ll feel drained of energy, but you should also have a massive pump going on. 

Powerbuilding principles combine the best of both worlds: strength and physique. Give this style a try to boost your chances of gaining serious size along with raw, animal strength. 

Want Training Tips, Exercise Guides & Knowledge Bombs Sent to Your Inbox?

Sign up for the FitNerd newsletter from TrainHeroic

Related articles

Want to Be a Better Powerlifter? Try These Strongman Moves

Want to Be a Better Powerlifter? Try These Strongman Moves

Hitting plateaus in your big three lifts? Try switching it up with these beefy strongman moves to improve your overall strength and help you hit some deadlift, squat, and bench press PRs. Your new total is waiting for you. Joseph Lucero, owner of Harvesting Strength,...

read more
Using Bodybuilding Methodology for Injury Rehab

Using Bodybuilding Methodology for Injury Rehab

As most athletes know, injuries come with the job description. Working with a physical therapist can make all the difference in the world. But did you know some bodybuilding training concepts make for excellent prehab/rehab principles? Fred is a strength and...

read more
5 Steps for Building a Bigger Bench Press

5 Steps for Building a Bigger Bench Press

Let’s face it: bench press has never felt like your thing. It’s always hard, even “light” weights feel impossible, and you don’t seem to progress on it like you do with other lifts. If you really want to hit a new bench PR, you’ll need to attack it from some different...

read more

Join the community

Sign up for the latest training news and updates from TrainHeroic

Made with love, sweat, protein isolate and hard work in Denver, CO

© 2022 TrainHeroic, Inc. All rights reserved.