Training

This Comprehensive Powerbuilding Guide Will Help You Develop Strength & Size

By Jacob Ladon Generation Iron

Training To Break Through Any Plateau

There is no doubt that strength training can prove to be a real challenge at times. Initially, adding mass and strength will have been fairly straightforward – providing effort was put in and training was consistent.

Over time, however, progress begins to slow and suddenly the weight lifted and one’s bodyweight fail to increase as previous. Instead, training becomes a battle and a fight for small incremental gains in training and size. Now, this should not be a cause for concern. In fact, this is a very normal adaptation that is to be expected when progressing from a novice to an intermediate or advanced stage.

When an individual reaches this point where progress has become stunted, a change of training emphasis is often required (1). Generally, the advice is to switch the focus to either building strength or size. However, by following a “powerbuilding” program it is possible to continue building strength and size simultaneously.

In the health and fitness industry, the term “powerbuilding” has developed a number of different definitions. The following program was designed specifically to develop raw power in professional football players. The purpose of it was to physically ready these athletes to deal with high-impact nature of the sport and also allow them to build maximal power for executing their tackles.

While the goal was predominantly power-based, the athletes who initially ran this program put on a substantial amount of muscle size, became well defined while also developing their overall power output. So, for those who are serious about adding strength and size, it is certainly worth considering the following powerbuilding program.

What Is Powerbuilding?

Powerbuilding, as the name suggests, is the combination of two training styles – powerlifting and bodybuilding.

Powerlifting typically revolves around maximal strength exercises and one’s powerlifting capabilities are judged through their performance of 3 specific exercises – the deadlift, squat and bench press. The goal in all powerlifting-style training is to put in work that will facilitate a greater performance across these 3 lifts and push strength levels to new heights.

Bodybuilding, on the other hand, is much less about strength but more about adding size and definition – it’s all about aesthetics. Unlike powerlifting where extremely heavy loads are being lifted, bodybuilding focuses more on moderate weight and a higher rep range to promote maximal muscle growth. Most bodybuilders will go through periods of adding mass and leaning down – therefore, optimizing nutrition is key for the bodybuilder.

Combining Bodybuilding and Powerlifting

Often, combining two training styles is greeted with much scepticism due to the fact that the methods of training are often widely different and therefore conflict with each other and stunt  overall progress.

Additionally, in years gone by, the understanding was that both low and high rep exercises where incompatible and should not both be present within a single block of training. However, heavy, low rep exercise creates the perfect environment for building muscle and therefore, performing lighter, high rep exercise in combination can assist in accelerating the rate of hypertrophy.

Recent research has indicated that it can be advantageous to combine both high and low reps for building strength and size (2).

Typically, lifters will block out their training to initially focus on building max strength before transitioning into a hypertrophy-based block of training. While this is a tried and tested method, and is effective, intermediate and advanced lifters may struggle to maintain strength levels after transitioning into a hypertrophy phase. The powerbuilding program, however, will help to simultaneously build strength and size and allow it to be maintained all year round.

The Powerbuilding Program

The program will run for 8 weeks in total but is divided into two distinct phases. Both phases run for a total of 4 weeks and both have a specific focus. During phase 1 the focus is purely on strength building. Once the foundations have been laid through phase 1, the focus shifts to true powerbuilding workouts in phase 2. With both phases, there are 4 workouts to complete per week.

It is important to note that the program has been designed for intermediate to advanced lifters – remember, it was initially designed for athletes. The program uses advanced training methods, such as cluster sets and supersets, and therefore, this program may not be suitable for those who are new to lifting or have limited experience in the gym.

With the program, there are no prescribed warm-ups or warm-up sets. However, this is not to say that warm-ups should be avoided. In order to reduce the risk of injury and facilitate greater performance in the gym, a gradual, progressive warm-up should be performed (3). Do be careful not to work the muscles to absolute failure in the warm-up.

Advanced Training Methods

Supersets involves performing two exercises back to back, with no rest in between. Adding supersets is a great way to dramatically increase overall training volume which can have a positive impact on muscle hypertrophy (4).

A cluster set, on the other hand, involves using a heavy load and breaking down the number of reps into different stages. For the cluster sets, a 20 second rest is taken after every 2 reps. This method allows the body to partially recover between reps and therefore, it is possible to lift heavier loads for a greater number of reps. This method has been found to apply a greater amount of stress to the muscle thus causing a larger adaptation (5).

Finally, rest – pause reps are fairly similar in principle to cluster sets. The idea is to push the muscles to the max, this time by completing as many reps as possible (without reaching absolute muscular failure), resting for 20 seconds and resuming exercise once again. This process is repeated until 40 reps have been achieved.

Phase 1 – Prioritizing Strength 
(Weeks 1-4)

Phase 1 Notes:

When it comes to strength building, there are two highly important factors that must be taken into consideration – training intensity and overall volume. For optimal changes to occur in strength, the body must be exposed to a training stimulus which is powerful enough to cause adaptation (6).

As will become apparent, this first phase is high in intensity and volume in order to increase strength levels. In the same way that both phases have a specific orientation, each workout also has a particular focus in mind – either a high intensity workout or a high volume workout. Additionally, there is a focus on either the upper or lower body with each workout. There are 2 upper workouts and 2 lower workouts to complete each week.

In order to complete both cluster sets and rest – pause reps, it is crucial to assess one’s 5 and 15 rep max respectively. These tests involve performing maximal reps for both 5 and 15 repetitions. It is very important that the correct weights are being prescribed for the program and therefore, it is essential to reach absolute muscular failure when performing these assessments.

With the high volume workouts (day 3 and 4), it is possible to substitute out the cluster sets and rest – pause reps and replace them with an alternative high volume method, if preferred. For example, a descending or ascending pyramid scheme (12, 10, 10, 8 reps) would be an appropriate change that could be made.

Workout 1 – High Intensity, Lower Body

ExerciseSets x RepsRest
Barbell Deadlift5 x 23 minutes
Rack Pulls4 x 3 – 43 minutes
Romanian Deadlift3 x 5 – 62 minutes
Good Morning3 x 62 minutes

Workout 2 – High Intensity, Upper Body

ExerciseSets x RepsRest
Superset 1
1. Barbell Bench Press2. Face Pull
 5 x 2
5 x 12
 3 minutes
Superset 2
1. Floor Press2. Dumbbell Incline Row
 4 x 3 – 4
3 x 5 – 6
 2 minutes

Workout 3 – High Volume, Lower Body

ExerciseSets x RepsRest
Superset 1
1. Barbell Squat2. Ab Rollout
 4 x 8 (cluster set)
4 x 8 – 10
 2 minutes
Front Barbell Squat3 x 12 – 152 minutes
Goblet Squat1 x 40
(rest – pause reps)
Dumbbell Walking Lunges3 x 12 – 151 minute

Workout 4 – High Volume, Upper Body

ExerciseSets x RepsRest
Superset 1
1. Barbell Bench Press2. Face Pull
 4 x 8 (cluster set)
4 x 12 – 15
 2 minutes
Superset 2
1. Standing Military Press2. Band Pull Aparts
 4 x 8 (cluster set)
4 x 12 – 15
 2 minutes
Dumbbell Bench Press1 x 40
(rest – pause reps)
Incline Bench Pull4 x 151 minute
Standing Dumbbell Press1 x 40
(rest – pause reps)
Wide Grip Lat Pulldown4 x 151 minute
Dumbbell Bicep Curl3 x 12 – 151 minute

Phase 2 – Combined Powerbuilding Workouts
(Weeks 5 – 8)

Phase 2 Notes:

As we move into the second phase, the focus shifts from prioritizing strength to combined powerbuilding workouts. As with the previous phase, it is still required to complete 4 sessions per week, however, each workout now has a different focus which revolves around 4 exercises  – bench, squat, military press, and deadlift.

Many of the supersets combine one heavy, low rep exercise (similar to powerlifting training), and one lighter, high rep exercises (similar to bodybuilding training) – this is powerbuilding training at it’s finest. At this stage, it’s interesting to note that there are no cluster sets or rest – pause reps – only supersets.

As with phase 1, there is the option to change out some of the high volume work for an alternative scheme – should this be required. The program itself is open to alterations and does not have to be followed to a tee.

Workout 1 – Upper Body (Bench Press Focus)

ExerciseSets x RepsRest
Superset 1
1. Barbell Bench Press2. Face Pull
 5 x 3
5 x 12 – 15
 3 minutes
Superset 2
1. Barbell Incline Bench Press2. Band Pull Aparts
 3 x 5
3 x 12 – 15
 2 minutes
Superset 3
1. Dumbbell Bench Press2. Incline Bench Pull
 4 x 12, 10, 10, 8
4 x 15
 1 minute
Superset 4
1. Standing Dumbbell Press2. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
 4 x 12, 10, 10, 8
4 x 15
 1 minute
Dumbbell Bicep Curl3 x 12 – 151 minute

Workout 2 – Lower Body (Squat Focus)

ExerciseSets x RepsRest
Barbell Squat5 x 33 minutes
Front Barbell Squat3 x 53 minutes
Superset 1
1. Goblet Squat2. Barbell Ab Rollout
 4 x 12, 10, 10, 8
4 x 15
 1 minute
One Leg Barbell Squat4 x 12, 10, 10, 81 minute
Hanging Leg Raise4 x 8 – 101 minute
Dumbbell Walking Lunge3 x 12 – 151 minute

Workout 3 – Upper Body (Military Press Focus)

ExerciseSets x RepsRest
Superset 1
1. Standing Military Press2. Face Pull
 5 x 3
5 x 12 – 15
 3 minutes
Superset 2
1. Seated Dumbbell Press2. Band Pull Aparts
 3 x 5
3 x 12 – 15
 2 minutes
Superset 3
1. Standing Dumbbell Press2. Incline Bench Pull
 4 x 12, 10, 10, 8
4 x 15
 1 minute
Superset 4
1. Dumbbell Bench Press2. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
 4 x 12, 10, 10, 8
4 x 15
 1 minute
Dumbbell Bicep Curl3 x 12 – 151 minute

Workout 4 – Lower Body (Deadlift Focus)

ExerciseSets x RepsRest
Barbell Deadlift5 x 33 minutes
Rack Pulls3 x 53 minutes
Superset 1
1. Romanian Deadlift2. Hanging Leg Raise
 4 x 12, 10, 10, 8
4 x 8 – 10
 1 minute
Pull Through4 x 12, 10, 10, 81 minute
Reverse Crunch4 x 8 – 101 minute
Lying Leg Curls3 x 12 – 151 minute

Final Word

In the past, if it has been a challenge to develop and maintain strength and size, it may be worthwhile considering a powerbuilding program. By reflecting on recent research and by assessing the gains made by top-level athletes, there is no doubt that powerbuilding programs are extremely effective.

For more news and updates, follow Generation Iron on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

References:

1- Lorenz, Daniel S.; Reiman, Michael P.; Walker, John C. (2010-11). “Periodization”. Sports Health. 2 (6): 509–518. doi:10.1177/1941738110375910. ISSN 1941-7381. PMC 3438871. PMID 23015982.

2- THOMAS, MICHAEL H.; BURNS, STEVE P. (April 1, 2016). “Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training”. International Journal of Exercise Science. 9 (2): 159–167. ISSN 1939-795X. PMC 4836564. PMID 27182422.

3- Shellock, F. G.; Prentice, W. E. (1985-7). “Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries”. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 2 (4): 267–278. doi:10.2165/00007256-198502040-00004. ISSN 0112-1642. PMID 3849057.

4- Weakley, Jonathon J. S.; Till, Kevin; Read, Dale B.; Roe, Gregory A. B.; Darrall-Jones, Joshua; Phibbs, Padraic J.; Jones, Ben (2017). “The effects of traditional, superset, and tri-set resistance training structures on perceived intensity and physiological responses”. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 117 (9): 1877–1889. doi:10.1007/s00421-017-3680-3. ISSN 1439-6319. PMC 5556132. PMID 28698987.

5- Tufano, James J.; Conlon, Jenny A.; Nimphius, Sophia; Brown, Lee E.; Banyard, Harry G.; Williamson, Bryce D.; Bishop, Leslie G.; Hopper, Amanda J.; Haff, G. Gregory (2017-4). “Cluster Sets: Permitting Greater Mechanical Stress Without Decreasing Relative Velocity”. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 12 (4): 463–469. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2015-0738. ISSN 1555-0273. PMID 27617387.

6- Colquhoun, Ryan J.; Gai, Christopher M.; Aguilar, Danielle; Bove, Daniel; Dolan, Jeffrey; Vargas, Andres; Couvillion, Kaylee; Jenkins, Nathaniel D. M.; Campbell, Bill I. (2018-5). “Training Volume, Not Frequency, Indicative of Maximal Strength Adaptations to Resistance Training”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 32 (5): 1207–1213. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002414. ISSN 1533-4287. PMID 29324578.

Source: https://generationiron.com/this-comprehensive-powerbuilding-guide-will-help-you-develop-strength-size/