If you are reading this article, that means you want to get big fast!
This article will only take you 8 minutes to read! Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!
Powerbuilding is a great way of building muscle. I have written another similar article on how to get big FAST – where I was talking about many factors which you should care about to get big quickly.
Powerbodybuilding was one of the factors highlighted in that article – to reach this goal of building a massive physique quickly. In this article, I actually go in depth about how powerbuilding works.
I really want to point out what I’ve seen work looking at the best natural bodybuilders out there, even if it goes against the public opinion. Most bodybuilders focus on too little things which sometimes turn out to be a waste of time. Most of the big natural bodybuilders stick to the basics and push hard.
Powerbuilding sticks to that philosophy.
What is ”powerbuilding or “power bodybuilding”?
First of all, this word has pretty much been invented to describe people doing powerlifting and bodybuilding together. We often hear about powerlifting vs bodybuilding. Here instead of comparing and separating these two terms, we are combining them together.
These are basically lifters who will try to build muscle as much as they will try to get stronger. It’s not like the word power bodybuilding isn’t right, but realistically, this word “shouldn’t” really exist.
Why do I say that?
Because any goal for a bodybuilder once you understand how to build muscle is to get stronger with the weights he uses and perform enough volume with these weights to hit hypertrophy and generate muscle growth.
Any good bodybuilder is actually a powerbuilder by definition. We could say a real bodybuilder is a powerbuilder. One famous person in the fitness industry who popularised power bodybuilding is Mike O’ Hearn. While his natural status is clearly questionable, it does not mean we can’t give credit for this man’s hard work and dedication and way of training his body.
The titan Mike O’hearn practices powerbuilding. He goes heavy, gains strength, and then performs a lot of volume and more hypetrophy orientated sessions to build muscle. Even if not natural, we can clearly see that his physique is incredible. What’s funny is that a good majority of people doing “bodybuilding” are actually powerbodybuilders, indirectly. Most bodybuilders do strength and hypertrophy training together.
I am talking about the best naturals! All good natural bodybuilders will generally lift heavy weights and respect the principles of progressive overload by not forgetting to perform enough volume and hypertrophy training. When I say the word powerbuilding should not exist, I basically mean and think that in the modern industry, there are a lot of false ideas circulating around social media saying that you can build muscle by lifting light weights without seeking to get stronger. Which is not true. The word bodybuilding is then associated with lifting light weights and doing pump sessions only…
Quick recap of what powerlifting is:
When you are powerlifting, your first goal is to build strength. You’re not very concerned about building muscle. Your main movements will be the squat, benchpress and deadlift. These are the movements you are trying to get better at because these are the ones you will then compete with in a powerlifting competition.
Powerlifters train repetitively on these movements, but they don’t go for the hypertrophy type of training which involves higher rep ranges. They really work on their technique and on low rep ranges to go on and build strength. Powerlifting is also more about nervous system adaptation.
Quick recap of what bodybuilding is:
Bodybuilding is supposedly going for the hypertrophy style type of training which happens on a higher rep-range scheme. Not only your goal is to build muscle by practicing enough volume, but you also want to look good on stage. You want to have the best symmetry and work on both your strong and weak parts so you stand out the day of your competition. It means you go into details on how your physique looks and you work every single muscle possible. Your biceps peak are not to ignore, unlike in powerlifting!
Main benefits of powerbuilding
There are so many benefits to powerbuilding.
First, you are simply doing what’s best to build muscle by understanding it is pointless to only do high volume type of training if the weight load does not increase overtime.
By doing powerbuilding, you also teach yourself on how to do the right movements. Not that bodybuilders don’t do the right movements… but by definition, if you are doing power bodybuilding, you are going to practice squat, deadlift and benchpress just like powerlifters do.
You will then want to at least make sure you are following the minimal good practices on how to place yourself on a bench, deadlift, or squat position. This does not mean you need to arch your back like crazy as you also actually want to build muscle and target chest. But the minimum of a good form is required.
By starting with powerbuilding from the get-go in your bodybuilding journey, you are setting yourself to get great gains in one of the fastest ways possible.
Who is power bodybuilding for?
Anyone getting started with the gym should actually practice powerbuilding. Now there are a few things to look at. Everyone is different and even though it is likely true you will improve faster by mixing strength and volume training, it does not mean you cannot improve by only doing high repetitions.
See, if you have been injured in the past and going just a bit heavier hurts you, then you have to find new alternatives to training. High repetitions can be very interesting. If you follow the right steps when it comes to eating enough, recovering enough, then you should be fine improving by only staying at a high rep scheme. Serge Nubret was a good example of doing high reps. Even though Nubret was not natural, there is still a lot to learn from him in our article.
What kind of body shape will you get by practicing power-building?
We can always hear in the gyms that people who lift heavy and are bulky would not look good if they cut down. They’re just “massive lifters” with a belly. That’s quite annoying because in most cases if they cut down they will just look great.
That’s because we often have inexperienced lifters coming and associating you as a powerlifter because you are strong but you are actually just a powerbuilder or bodybuilder doing his bulk.
Once you cut down you will look aesthetically pleasing and BIG with good definition. Of course powerlifters might not look the best when they cut down because they are not working on their arms much, as an example.
But even for the vast majority, they will look good. If you were scared powerbuilding would not make you look good, you now know this won’t be the case. Even though Mike O hearn has high chances of being enhanced, can we say powerbuilding does not give him aesthetic proportions?
Not at all, and he is a powerbuilder. Most of the top competitive powerlifters participate in are also on gear and it’s true that they surely aren’t as aesthetic as bodybuilders or powerbuilders as they don’t focus on details. They also stay bulky most of the time to be efficient with their lifts, you never really see them cut down.
How to perform powerbuilding?
I have taken time to explain in depth how to build muscle in the article “how many repetitions to build muscle”. What’s very important to understand is that there is no such thing as low weight/high-reps and heavy-weight/low reps.
If someone is performing 5x70kg on the bench and it is his 5RM, does it mean it is heavy weights? No, but yes that’s heavy for him.
Oppositely, that’s very light for someone who can perform 5x150kg on the bench-press.
Therefore, there should not be such sentences as “low weight high reps” or “heavy weight low reps”, because the truth is, if you improve, what used to be heavy is now light.
If you still struggle to understand powerbuilding, we will just say that instead of performing 3×10 you will want to do 10×3. You are actually doing strength and volume at the same time.
What’s great is that you can actually still build muscle by only doing 3 reps, because you do 10 sets. Surely most people will say that time under tension is important, and it is. But doing that many sets ends up having its benefits in terms of volume and hypertrophy.
There are also many ways you could go on with practicing powerbuilding.
Start heavy at the start of your session and do more volume at the end. You could also lift heavy weights on the weekends and the rest of the week do the volume part.
Powerbuilding Natural Flex style
This article might be slightly different than most of the articles out there about powerbuilding because most of them will mostly advise mixing strict powerlifting with bodybuilding.
By that I mean that the advice might just be to do the classic: compound powerlifting movements and then volume on the isolation movements.
And that is right.
But to push the world power bodybuilding a bit further, here we want to say that you can force it a bit more and in every aspect, even on isolation movements.
Powerbuilding is also going heavier on your isolation movements (if you wish to)
Take this with a pinch of salt! I don’t want to risk you injuries. But let’s be honest, people are always going after the stereotypes of Mr perfect form and Mr Isolation = high reps.
For sure isolation movements will usually not involve much muscles at the same time like compound movements, therefore you have to be careful on how much load you put there. They might also be very stretchy. It is also good to remember that in the case you are young, you’ve got to remember you are not invincible and you might regret all these heavy lifts practiced with bad form when you get older.
But let’s break some rules without taking too much risk.
If you are used to only doing 15-20 reps on exercises like chest flies or preacher curls, try to go for 6-8 reps. This requires of course a serious warm-up and following what we explained in the article on warming-up.
You can definitely practice these inclined curls with a 6-8 reps range for a couple of sets and then practice them with a 15-20 rep range for another couple of sets.
If you are a warm-up freak, you won’t face many risks. During the warm up process, you visualise yourself going pretty heavy on these inclined curls. You are ready for it and you have done a few sets already. It is rare that in that case you will injure yourself.
This lower rep range on isolation exercises can be very rewarding. You are doing a good amount of volume by doing 5-10 reps with pretty heavy weights.
Are there cases where you should not practice powerbuilding?
The question is not really whether you should practice powerbuilding or not. You should! But it does not mean you have to follow the exact rule of powerlifting and bodybuilding mixed at the same time. If you at least respect the idea that you should mix strength and volume together, then that’s fine.
If we wanted to respect perfectly the principles of powerbuilding you’d have to perform squat, deadlift and benchpress from the powerlifting side. What if you have a tight hamstring and injured yourself which does not allow you to perform squats and deadlift? Well that’s fine.
You don’t have to perform those exercises to get bigger legs or back. There are many alternatives where you can still go heavy. I talked in another article about seal rows and how you can still build a great back and which reminds you deadlift is not an indispensable exercise!
Example of a powerbuilding program:
In this powerbuilding program, I will take the example of someone who mixes strength and volume in the same session. I will also try and show you how I intentionally decide to specialise with good exercise selection to only focus on specific movements instead of trying to do too many exercises which is pointless.
Dips: 4×6 / 1×10-15
Upper chest flies: 2×6-8 / 2×10-15
Overhead press: 4×6-8 / 1×10-15
Lateral raises: 5×15-20
Keeping it simple, yet effective!
Preacher curls: 4×6 / 1×10-12
Hammer grip pull-ups: 4×6-8
Inclined curls: 3×6-8 / 1×12-20
Skull crushes: 4×8-12/1×12-15
Triceps extensions: 3×15-20
Heavy crunches: 8×6-8
Lateral crunches: 4×15-20
Bench-press: 8×3 / 1×10-15
Cable flies: 3×20-25
Seal rows: 3×8-10 / 1×15
Pull-ups pronated: 3×6-8
Overhead press: 5×5
Rear delts raises: 3x 20-25
Squat 6×3 / 2×10-15
Bulgarian split squats: 3×10-12 / 1×15-20
Romanian deadlifts: 3×10-15
Calve raises on the smith machine: 3×10-12 / 2x 25-30
Note that this program could be for the intermediate lifter.
Adjust it to your current level. If you are a beginner, simply do less volume. If you are advanced, you can do a bit more if this sounds too easy!
If you have any questions, we can help you with your routine.
Let us know in the comment section!