Fitness is not immune to prevailing trends, as with any other industry.  CrossFit is as much of a trend as male jogger pants.  Humans are progressively trendy beings.  We get tired of one thing and move on to the next.  Some trends die, and others live on long enough to no longer be considered a trend.

Powerbuilding is the next (if not already) big thing in the world of fitness.  People want to get big AND strong.  Gone are the days of pump sets and light weight training… I am kidding obviously; those things will never go away.  Nevertheless, powerbuilding is increasingly growing in popularity; and for good reason.

Powerbuilding is combining bodybuilding principles with powerlifting principles.  The idea behind this type of philosophy is a strong muscle is in turn a big muscle.  There is a lot of truth to this statement. 

As any newbie starts in the gym, they almost instantly want to start lifting heavy weights; a novel concept for someone who has never trained.  But, somewhere along the way most of us shy away from this idea as we progress.  The more muscle we attain, the more we could care less about how strong we are (I am speaking in generalities obviously, not everyone thinks this way).

This type of training approach typically uses a combination of heavy and moderately heavy weights.  Early on in the training session you train heavy with a compound movement.  As the session progresses you back off slightly from the extreme heavy sets and move to a more traditional hypertrophy approach.  The goal is to aim for the heaviest weights in compounds movements and back off for accessory or isolation movements.  To build a big and strong physique progression and progressive overload must be at the forefront of programming.  You must progress your lifts to get stronger, and as such you must to progress your physique as well.  Even those that are not lifting heavier weights to get bigger, they typically increase volume and their overall workload.

Heavy lifting tends to elicit myofibrillar hypertrophy, the type of muscle mass powerlifters tend to gain.  This type of hypertrophy leads to an increase in size and number of muscle fibers.  This in turn makes for a very strong muscle fiber.  This type of hypertrophy leads to the greatest amount of mass.  Not everyone desires to look like a powerlifter, but if you want to pack on the greatest amount of muscle mass this is the best way to approach it.

Moderate lifting produces sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, the kind typically seem in bodybuilders and physique athletes.  Sarcoplasmic fluid around the muscle increases making the muscle appear larger. This type of hypertrophy does not lead to an increase in muscular strength, but increases size alone.

The best way to implement a powerbuilding approach is to structure the program with the heavy loading done early in the session.  This is when the body is freshest, but it also leads to post activation potentiation.  Think of a baseball player using a batting donut in the batter’s box.  Once they remove the donut the bat feels lighter and they are able to swing quicker and more efficiently.  This is what happens when you go from heavy weights to lighter weights.  The lighter weights will feel even lighter, causing an increase in muscular efficiency.  You will get even more out of the moderate weights than if you went straight to these sets when you walked in the gym.  Essentially you get the best of both worlds: heavy lifting and a solid pump as well.

A powerbuilding program cannot have nearly the amount of volume that a traditional training split would.  When we lift with very heavy weights it is much harder on our central nervous system.  This is a good thing and a bad thing.  Over time CNS fatigue can wreak havoc on our bodies.  A good way to revamp a powerbuilding program from a typical high-volume approach to one that is better suited to decrease CNS fatigue is to increase frequency.  This is another approach gaining popularity, especially with the growing prominence of coaches like Jordan Peters and Dr. Scott Stevenson. 

Not only is a higher frequency approach easier on your CNS, but it could also induce the greatest amount of muscular growth.  Adaptations from training typically stops 48 hours after training, so with an increase in training frequency the body is forced into a more adaptive state more often.

On paper powerbuilding sounds like an easy way to put on some serious muscle mass.  And it is, but it’s far from easy.  Lifting heavy weights frequently requires the mental fortitude to know that you are going to destroy yourself every day when you walk into the gym.  Powerbuilding is not a powerlifting program and is better suited for bodybuilders and those wanting to put on muscle by using components of powerlifting in their training.  So, with that being said, we still want to ensure we are getting the best pump and energy we can in the gym.  Agmatine Sulfate will ensure that you get the best vasodilation when training.  Agmatine expands the blood vessels and allows nutrients to quickly flow throughout the body. Intra-Elite is an intra-workout drink with highly branched cyclic dextrin, a fast acting carbohydrate that feeds the muscle cells during intense sessions for optimal energy levels and muscle pumps. 

Beta Alanine has been shown to increase muscular endurance while decreasing muscular fatigue.  This is very important when training with heavy weights, especially trying to push past fatigue.  One of it’s primary functions is to buffer lactic acid allowing you to push longer and harder.

Powerbuilding might be the program you are looking for to push your physique goals to the next level.  Who doesn’t want to walk the walk AND talk the talk?  As with any training program, keeping up your consistency is the key component to improving and reaching your goals. Whether it is powerlifting, powerbuilding, bodybuilding, or another training program, you must be willing to put in the time and effort to reach new levels of success. Get big and show the world that you can be strong too. 

 - Daniel Henigsmith

  • Oct 20
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  • Alex Osherow
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