If resistance training is part of your athletic training regimen (and it should be), you know there’s two schools of lifting: those who want to get as strong as possible to lift the heaviest weight, and those who want to grow as much muscle size as they can.

Many athletes are under the impression that strength training and hypertrophy (increasing muscle mass) training must be periodised in separate training phases. However, you can perform these two training modalities concurrently to get the best of both worlds.

This article will explain the training phenomenon of ‘Powerbuilding’; a combination of the bodybuilding and powerlifting styles of weight training. We’ll also give you the best exercises from each school and show you how to combine them for an effective powerbuilding workout.

What is Powerbuilding?

Powerbuilding is a method of resistance training that combines the three powerlifting exercises - the back squat, bench press, and deadlift - with a variety of other compound and isolation exercises favoured by bodybuilders.

The goal of a powerlifting routine is to try to achieve the superior gains in maximal strength of a powerlifting program AND the hypertrophy (excess) gains of a bodybuilder’s lifting regimen at the same time.

Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting

Bodybuilding is a sport involving several competitors on stage, who in the lead up to competition try to gain as much muscle mass as possible in the most aesthetically pleasing proportions. In addition bodybuilders cut down to minuscule levels of body fat to look leaner and score higher with the judges.

Bodybuilding’s primary goal is to achieve muscle hypertrophy (overgrowth). They accomplish this by increasing the number and size of the muscle fibres. While the exercises of powerlifting are used for bodybuilding, the volume and intensity are quite different. Bodybuilding involves a lot more sets and reps, training at sub-maximal loads until complete muscle failure to stimulate a growth response from the muscle.

One look at a powerlifter’s physique, however, and you’ll see that this is a very different sport. Not concerned with the look of the athlete, these lifters have one goal: to lift as much weight as possible. A powerlifting competition involves combining the best one repetition lifts in the squat, bench, and deadlift, combining the maximal lifts for a total score.

Again, while powerlifting utilises bodybuilding methods as accessory lifts to improve weak areas, powerlifting training mainly involves progressive overload of the three main lifts, in a lower rep range of 1-5.

If you’re not involved in either of these sports specifically, you might be wondering what the best option is for you. For more all-round athletes or endurance athletes, it may be best to get some of the benefits of each of these methods, without going to the extremes - which may prove detrimental in your chosen sport.

Benefits of Powerbuilding for Athletes

Powerbuilding is an excellent resistance training method for athletes because it allows you to increase your maximal strength and lean mass. The strength component comes in handy because it will enable your nervous system to recruit more motor units, making the most of the muscle you have to increase your power output.

The bodybuilding side of powerbuilding allows you to isolate different muscle groups, improving weak areas that might be holding back your performance, and adding strength to the smaller, supportive muscles around your working joints to prevent injury. Adding a few pounds of muscle mass also raises your resting metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories and stay lean.

Best Exercises for an Athletic Powerbuilding Program

The following exercises will start with the big three from powerlifting, followed by some great compound and isolation exercises that are a staple of any good bodybuilding program. You then combine these moves in the two example powerbuilding programs for you to try.

The Big 3

Squat

Bench Press

Deadlift

Compound Lifts

Leg Press

Overhead Press

Bent Row


Chin Ups


Dips

Isolation Moves

Leg Extension

Hamstring Curl

Calf Raise

Bicep Curls

Tricep Extension

Lateral Raise

Weighted Crunch

Training Programs for Powerbuilding

The best powerbuilding program for a general athlete will involve combining the following exercises, split over several sessions during the week. You can separate your focus days into two powerlifting sessions and two bodybuilding exercise sessions (example 1), or a two-day, push/pull powerbuilding split (example 2).

We hope this article has inspired you to try adding some powerbuilding training to your routine to become more prominent, healthier, and a better athlete! Let us know your favourite training methods below.