US Myprotein Writer
By Billy Galipeault
So you’re six months into liftin and your beginner gains are fading. You figure out through various articles and forums that at around this point your central nervous system has adapted to your training and you will no longer make strength and size gains by doing whatever you feel like in the gym.
One of your bros is an avid bodybuilder and stays in his 8-12 rep range for every workout, endlessly chasing that pump. He mixes up his workouts every week to confuse his muscles and shock them into growing, but yet as he gets bigger he never seems to get stronger. After trying his method for a while you enjoy the pump every workout gives you but the next morning you wake up sore, yet never moving up in weight.
Another one of your friends is a powerlifter, he eats whatever he wants and is much stronger than your bodybuilding bro, yet he is 20 pounds lighter. After trying to do nothing but squat, bench and deadlift for a few months and drinking a gallon of milk a day, you are getting stronger but slowly start to see your vascularity and definition going away.
Which path should you take? The road of awesome abs and arms, but no real strength to back up your size, or the path of superhuman strength and power, but having to deal with people constantly asking “Do you even lift?”, and having to wear t-shirts to the beach? What if I told you there is way you can have the best of both worlds?
The Answer – Powerbuilding Training
The answer as you may have gathered is called powerbuilding or power-bodybuilding.
Popularized by many famous bodybuilders such as Lou Ferrigno, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Ronnie Coleman to name a few, powerbuilding is the art of training for strength and size, but also placing importance on a balanced, aesthetic physique.
What Exactly is Powerbuilding?
Yes I am aware that all the aforementioned individuals I named were on countless cycles of steroids, but that doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of powerlifting on natural lifters.
Although it is much more difficult to gain lean muscle as a natural individual, it is possible with careful programming and nutrition. That being said, almost anybody can benefit from this kind of lifting style. Focusing on heavy compound movements like squat, bench, deadlift at the beginning of an individual workout when you are strongest will yield the most strength gains.
A very good rep scheme for beginners and even intermediate lifters to follow is a 5 x 5 program. Starting every workout with one compound lift done for five sets of five reps will stimulate new growth no matter what your experience level is in the gym. A good way to do this involves starting with 50% of your one rep max on any given lift and adding five pounds to the bar every workout. This strength practice is commonly known as progressive overload and is a tried and true method to help you grow consistently stronger.
Blueprint of a Powerbuilding Training Routine
Of course at the beginning of your program the weight will be very light and you will be tempted to add more weight, but trust me when I say it will pay off to start slow and progress at the same rate every week. You will be doing squat and bench twice a week (and deadlift once, which I will explain), meaning that in one month you will be adding 40 pounds on the bar. Most can’t keep this up more than a few months, but this style of training isn’t meant to keep you progressing indefinitely.
Once you can no longer hit your 5 x 5 on two consecutive sessions (meaning you fail a rep or couldn’t get all five reps for all five sets), your next session you will max out. If you did the program correctly your max could go up by as much as 20% in those few months. The next step is to restart your program, but hopefully with a higher starting weight. As you can see this will be repeated as long as you’d like and as long as you can keep progressing on all your lifts.
Holy Grail: Squat, Bench, Deadlifts
I mentioned earlier that while you’ll be doing squat and bench two times a week, you should only be deadlifting once a week. The reason behind this is that deadlifts are extremely taxing on your body and usually take most of the following week to fully recover from them. In addition to only doing deadlifts once a week, instead of a 5 x 5, only do one set of five, but still doing an additional four and five warm up sets, progressively adding weight till you hit your top set. To make sure all your numbers progress smoothly and evenly, you will add 10 pounds to your deadlift every week, keeping with the 40 pounds a month progression.
So far I have explained the powerlifting portion of the workout, which will take up about half an hour once the weight begins to get more challenging, as you will need to take a few minutes to adequately recover between sets. The second half of the workout is of course, focused more on hypertrophy and growing your muscles in size. Your rep ranges should be around 8-12, for 3-4 sets, and this is where chasing the pump will be beneficial for you.
Working on your weaker areas
Since the three big compound lifts lack adequate posterior deltoid (or the rear delt), bicep, calf, upper chest and ab development, it is important to use isolation exercises to grow lagging muscle groups. Of course to have an athletic physique you don’t need to do incline dumbbell press or barbell curls, but if you want a balanced and pleasing to the eye physique (especially when you lean out for the summer), working out all your major and minor muscles is crucial to prevent over-developed and under-developed muscles.
I won’t go into detail about specific exercises to do, because everybody will have their own weak point that they will focus their hypertrophy work on. But it is equally important to hit all muscle groups evenly. Don’t be that one guy who has 20 inch arms but only 19 inch legs, a balanced physique is a more appealing one 100% of the time. Genetics will also help you decide what muscles you will need to work more often and with more intensity. For example many individuals have naturally big calves, allowing them to skip calf training all together. While others need to do “calves everyday” to get them to grow half an inch. The same can go for traps, upper chest, and overall definition. You will need to find out what works best for you, as bodybuilding is not as cut and dry as powerlifting.
Powerbuilding Training To Be Continued…
Be sure to tune into the second half of this article where I go into how to schedule your program to prevent overtraining and maximize gains. Also in the sequel look forward to proper nutrition while on a powerbuilding program to minimize fat gain as well as make sure you get as strong as you can!