Powerlifting: The Bodybuilder’s Best Friend
As we all know, strength is the very foundation of our progress in the gym. If we are getting stronger, that means we are progressing. As you get stronger, your muscles get bigger and denser. Defined, strength is the ability to overcome a force or resistance.
When preparing any workout plan, you should start with an emphasis on strength, no matter what the goal. Strength gains will transfer over to your physique as well as your progress.
- If you are an athlete, strength training can make you faster, more agile, and more explosive.
- If you are a dancer, strength training can build the muscles that stabilize you so you have better balance.
- If your daily job requires heavy manual labor, strength training can alleviate the pain or make your job a little easier.
The list goes on and on about the benefits of strength training.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “But, I go to the gym five times per week, I do train for strength.”
The strength training I’m referring to is the kind that makes you light-headed when you finish a single rep. The type of training that causes you to fall asleep thirty minutes afterward. I’m telling you to step into the shoes of a powerlifter for a little while.
Now, before you get all upset and say some bullshit like, “I don’t need to be that strong for bodybuilding,” I’m telling you that you do and I will explain to you why.
The typical template of a bodybuilding workout, depending on the split, consists of specific body part training utilizing a set rep scheme of anywhere between 2-4 sets and about 6-12 reps. This is a good template for the basic needs of a bodybuilder, but it’s terrible if the goal is strength. Granted, you will get stronger if you repeatedly hammer away at the exercises month after month, but there is a much better strategy.
It’s time to live in the 1-5 rep range for a couple of months. Why, you ask? Allow me to explain in the most generic of terms.
When you squat 135 pounds for 10 repetitions (purely for example purposes, I’d hope you could squat this way more than 10 times), your leg muscles may begin to fatigue as the latter reps approach. When the fatigue sets in, although it is a good pump, it’s not so easy to continue reaching these high reps in the subsequent sets. You may only be able to complete 8 repetitions the next set, and 6 reps on the last set, even though the weight never changed. Since your muscles were not able to sustain the exertion of the lift, you failed prior to finishing your rep goal of 10. Not only does this mean your muscles aren’t strong enough to sustain the weight, it also means you are unable to train at the volume you desire with the weight you have selected. As a bodybuilder, you want the most optimal performance from your muscles in order to make them to grow. So you have two options:
-Option 1) Drop the weight.
-Option 2) Get Stronger.
If you chose option one, leave. If you chose option two, keep reading.
Now, rather than lower the weight, you’re going to lower the reps and RAISE the weight. Sounds confusing, but stay with me.
If you could squat 135 pounds for 10 reps, theoretically your one rep max would be 180 pounds. Rather than try for 180, you would put 150-160 on the bar and perform 10 sets of 2 reps. Your legs will not fatigue like they did with the higher repetitions and you will be able to increase your work output and force production. After a month of training like this, you are suddenly able to squat 135 for 10 repetitions every set. Why? Because you got stronger and know your muscles can tolerate the weight as well as the endurance.
How does this relate to bodybuilding?
In every aspect of the sport of bodybuilding, there is the need to continually progress. If your muscle gains come to a stall, strength training can set them up for massive growth. If you increase the total amount of weight you are able to lift per exercise, gradually you will be able to lift heavier weights for more repetitions; your muscles have to work that much harder. If you are lifting more weight every week, you have gotten stronger and your muscles are growing. Once you develop the strength to be able to perform high reps with heavy weights, your body will grow like a weed.
All the previous information aside, you need to know what works best for you and your goals. You need a smart plan and a sound workout template to get the best results.
- Keep the repetitions between 1-5 for the big lifts
- Keep the sets between 6-10 for the big lifts
- Train smaller body parts in the 6-12 rep range for 2-4 sets
- Start each workout with a compound lift.
- Incorporate resistance bands and chains into your training.
- Vary your lifts.
- Utilize an upper/lower split.
- Attempt a new max every month.
I have provided a sample workout for someone wishing to train 4 times per week:
|Barbell RDL's||4||10||Challenging, but not too heavy|
|Single-leg Glute Bridge||3||8/leg||Bodyweight (to start)|
|Planks||3||45 sec. holds||Bodyweight|
|Bench Press||5||5||70-75% 1RM|
|Incline DB Press||4||8||You should be able to get 8 without too much of a struggle|
|Standing Military Press||4||4||Heavy|
|Weighted Chin-Ups||4||8-10||Bodyweight if you can't use weight|
|Sumo Deadlift||8||2||80% 1RM|
|Band Resisted Squat||4||4||70% 1RM|
|Hanging Knee Raise||3||15||Bodyweight|
|Varied Grip Bench Press (close grip, medium grip, wide grip, after every 3 sets)||9||3||75% 1RM|
|Med Ball Push Ups||3||15-20||Bodyweight|
|Seated DB Shoulder Press||4||8||Challenging|
|Lat Pull-down with Pause on Chest||4||10||Moderate|
Before you bodybuilders declare war on me for not incorporating any direct arm work, let me assure you that your bi’s and tri’s will be seeing a ton of action in these workouts. You will also notice that you will get thicker and more dense from heavy strength training, which will give you that massive size you’re always working so hard to achieve. As for abdominal training, less is more. You will already be using your abs heavily to stabilize you during the squats and deadlifts, don’t overdo them.
After investing your time and effort into a powerlifting program for at least 2-3 months, I promise you will return to your bodybuilding ways much bigger, stronger, and more capable of throwing around some heavy weight. Be stronger than your last workout.