Powerbuilding | What Is It & How Do I Do It?

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Have you ever wanted to be insanely strong, while still staying true to building your physique and getting bigger? Well, here is your answer; Powerbuilding. It combines both powerlifting and bodybuilding into one program. It has been around for some time now, however it has become extremely popular through a former American Gladiator; Mike O’Hearn. He has advocated training this way for the most optimal results. And judging by how strong and jacked he is, I wouldn’t argue.

What Are Your Goals?

To understand how to properly do this, you must first figure out what your goals are. Do you want to become strong in the big lifts (squat, bench , and deadlift) or exercises like overhead press, rows, pull ups, or any other exercise? Well based on that answer will determine how you begin to develop a powerbuilding program for it. This program incorporates principles from powerlifting as well as bodybuilding. The main key is to do the powerlifting portion first in your workout. So if today was a bench day, you would do bench press , or what ever variation you desire, and do anywhere from 5-8 sets of 3-5 reps. The percentages vary depending on your strength, goals, and skill level. A good rule of thumb is to start off with a light weight you know you can easily complete the day’s workload, and gradually increase the weight each workout. This will help prevent you from stalling on your lifts prematurely.

Weak Areas      


Next thing to figure out is what are your weak points, and what you want to develop. This will be your fluff, or bodybuilding, portion of the workout. Your options for bodybuilding exercises can vary tremendously depending on your own goals. For example, if you want a strong bench but notice your triceps strength and size is lacking, incorporate dips or close grip bench, or even push-downs for sets of 6-12 reps to help bring up your lagging body part. The same can be said for any body part you feel needs work. The beauty of this style of training is that it is built for you, and you can make it however you enjoy .

Training Schedule

Now that all that has been addressed , lets talk about what the options of the training schedule are. This gets very individual, however here are a few examples. It can be set up as a legs/push/pull/ off split, where you hit every body part twice a week for the most part. In which, you would do a power exercise for each day followed by accessory (bodybuilding) work. You can  also continue with that split, however do a strength and power day each workout for the initial three days, then when the routine repeats, do bodybuilding style for the next three days.

It can also be set up as a traditional one body part a day split. where the same principles apply. However through personal experience, there is too many days off in between to constantly get better at the powerlifting portions of each workout. It does work, but not as effectively as some other ways. The last example, is upper/ lower / off splits. This would be where you’d do an upper body workout , then a lower body workout the next day, and repeat it. This split alone can turn into many variations to make a great powerbuilding program.

You can do an upper body powerlifting day followed by a bodybuilding lower body day, and vice versa focusing on a big lift for each workout day. You can also do , the more common way of powerbuilding workouts,  and do a strengthening bench workout with bodybuilding movements for one upper body day, then focus on a overhead press strengthening day. Whatever training schedule you prefer, will yield the most results, since that is what you’ll enjoy and stick to the most.


The main take home points are this:

Always start each workout with a heavy compound movements and do anywhere from 5-8 sets of 3-5 reps (70-80% of your one rep max is a good place to start)

If you do not complete all the sets and reps desired, do not increase the weight the following workout on the main lifts

After your main lift is completed, use whatever bodybuilding exercises you would like, however be sure that some of them add carryover to your main lift , and improve your weak points

Be sure to not overdo each workout and go to absolute failure. This will result in not recovering properly and not getting bigger or stronger. Always use a weight that is challenging but do not over exert yourself workout after workout , or you will burn out very fast.

Do not over do the bodybuilding exercises with a crazy amount of sets or exercises. Do the exercises you think you need to do to balance out your physique and address weak points, but do not overdo the sets or reps.

No matter what split you choose, just be sure to be consistent and enjoy each workout, because if you’re not enjoying it, you will eventually give up on it.

Powerbuilding Routine

Here is a simple powerbuilding routine:

Day 1 – Chest

Bench press – 6 sets of 4 reps with 70%

Dumbbell chest press – 4 sets of 8-12 reps

Dips – 3 sets of 10 reps

Tricep pushdowns – 4 sets of 12-15

Tricep extensions – 4 sets of 12 reps

Day 2 – Legs

Squat – 6 sets of 4 reps with 70%

Leg press – 4 sets of 15 reps

Leg extensions – 4 sets of 20 reps

Hamstring curl – 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps

Calf raises – 5 sets of 10-20 reps

Day 3 – Shoulders

Overhead press – 6 sets of 4 reps with 70%

Incline bench press – 4 sets of 8-10 reps

Machine press – 3 sets of 6-10 reps

Side raises – 4 sets of 12-15 reps

Day 4 – Back/Biceps

Deadlifts – 7 sets of 3 reps with 75%

Dumbbell rows –  4 sets of 10-15 reps

Lat pulldowns – 4 sets of 10-15 reps

Shrugs – 3 sets of 15-20 reps

Bicep curls – 5 sets of 8 reps

Day 5 – Rest

Repeat (increase weight for exercises the following workout)

This isn’t a beginners’ program, but it is a start for someone who has never tried this style of training before. Once you get accustomed to it and figure out where you lack strength and size , and need work on it, adjust the program to your own needs. Give it a try, tell me what you think, and most importantly. Get huge and strong.



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