Powerbuilding: The Ultimate Guide!


Powerbuilding

I love seeing bodybuilders throw around heavy weights in the gym and powerlifters who have a great physique to match their super-human strength. There’s just something about someone who is big AND strong that commands respect.

If you want to train for size and strength at the same time then you have to try a powerbuilding program!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Hybrid Strength / Size Workouts
  • Part 2: High Intensity Bodybuilding Training
  • Part 3: High Volume Powerlifting Training
  • Part 4: Daily Undulating Periodization
  • Part 5: Accumulation / Intensification Training

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you 5 of the most effective powerbuilding style training programs for building size and strength at the same time.

Powerbuilding is a training style where you use techniques from bodybuilding and powerlifting to build size and strength at the same time. Powerbuilding is for anyone who wants the muscular physique of a bodybuilder and the raw strength of a powerlifter.

One of the simplest ways to design a powerbuilding style workout is to train heavy on 1 or 2 compound exercises early in your workout, then perform more high-volume bodybuilding style work later in your workout. This lets you train for size and strength within the same workout.

This strategy is a favorite of Justin Harris, a national level bodybuilder / powerlifter and world-class nutritionist. Here is Justin describing his powerbuilding training style:

Here is a template for how Justin designs his powerbuilding workouts:

  • Exercise #1: Work up to 1-3 heavy sets of 4-8 reps
  • Exercises #2-5: Perform multiple sets of 8-15 reps

Justin’s training style is very effective. However, it is not the only way to design a powerbuilding workout.

Many of the world’s best athletes and coaches including Larry Wheels, Dorian Yates, Louie Simmons, Dr. Scott Stevenson and Charles Poliquin use powerbuilding programs to blast through size and strength plateaus. You can think of this article as an “all-you-can-eat-buffet” of some of the best powerbuilding programs ever invented!

Note: if you have trouble reading the training routines in this article then check out this guide on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Hybrid Strength / Size Workouts

Power building is all about training to get bigger and stronger at the same time. One of the simplest ways to do this is to use low and high rep ranges in the same workout. Sets in the 4-8 rep range are great for building strength and functional hypertrophy while sets in the 8-20 rep range are ideal for building maximum muscle mass and giving your muscles that full, bodybuilding look.

One of the simplest ways to organize a powerbuilding workout is to train heavy on one major compound exercise at the beginning of your workout, then perform a bunch of higher-rep bodybuilding style work towards the end of your workout. This is the exact strategy that the professional powerlifter / bodybuilder Larry Wheels uses in his own training.

When Larry isn’t training for his next powerlifting meet he loves to use powerbuilding style workouts with one “heavy” exercise per workout. Here is one of Larry’s power building back workouts. Check it out:

Larry Wheel’s Bodybuilding Back Workout #1

  • A1: Barbell row (bounce on floor), 3 sets of 5 reps
  • B1: Lat pulldown (wide / overhand grip), 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • C1: Pull ups (narrow / neutral grip), 3 sets of AMRAP**
  • D1: Hammer strength low row, 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

The barbell row is Larry’s primary exercise for this workout. Larry is extremely strong and rows an unbelievable 585 pounds for 5 reps – WOW!

For the rest of the workout Larry sticks with higher reps and just tries to get a huge pump. This type of workout gives Larry the size and strength gains he is after when he is in his powerlifting offseason or preparing for a bodybuilding competition.

Actually this is the exact approach that Justin Harris uses in his own workouts: he trains balls-to-the-walls heavy on one major exercise and then performs a bunch of higher-rep assistance work. Here is one of Justin’s typical back workouts. Check it out:

Justin Harris Powerbuilding Back Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 set of 6-8 reps
  • B1: Chest supported row, 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • C1: Bent over kettlebell row, 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • D1: Dante row, 3 sets of 15-20 reps

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is another typical powerbuilding style workout. The heavy set of deadlifts performed at the beginning of the workout is enough to stimulate decent strength gains while the high-volume bodybuilding work performed at the end of the workout is great for building size.

If you are more of a bodybuilder at heart but still want to train with heavy weights then you may want to try some of John Meadows powerbuilding style workouts. He uses heavy barbell exercises like deadlifts in his program. However, he likes to put them more towards the end of his workouts after you have already pre-fatigued your back.

Here is a sample Mountain Dog Training power building back workout that you may want to try. Check it out:

Mountain Dog Advanced Back Workout

  • A1: Machine pulldown (wide / pronated grip), 3 x 15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated cable row (v-handle), 4 x 8, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Bilateral bent-over kettle bell row, 4 x 8, 1/0/1/1, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Rack deadlift (just below knees), 3 x 5, 1/1/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: Reverse hyperextension, 2 x 15, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this workout John has his athletes perform rack deadlifts towards the end of the workout after they pre-fatigued their back with different types of pulldowns and rows. This forces you to use slightly less weight and engage your upper back musculature more during the rack deadlifts which is exactly what an advanced bodybuilder wants.

The bottom line is using a combination of low and high rep ranges in a single workout is a great way to design a powerbuilding workout. However, it is not the only way! Let’s take a look at some of the other options.

Part 2: High Intensity Bodybuilding Training

One of the best ways to build size and strength at the same time is with high-intensity bodybuilding workouts. High-intensity training is all about training to failure on a small number of sets per body part.

The basic idea is that training to failure produces an enormous amount of muscular fatigue which is great for stimulating hypertrophy gains. However, training to failure also stimulates adaptations within your central nervous system which helps you get stronger.

If you do not like training with very low reps (i.e. the 1-5 rep range) then training to failure is one of the best ways to get super strong.

In my opinion there are 2 high-intensity bodybuilding programs that you should consider: Dorian Yates’ “Blood And Guts” Training and Dante Trudel’s DC Training program. Let’s start with Dorian’s program.

Dorian Yates is a 6 time Mr. Olympia winner and one of the best bodybuilders of all time. However, Dorian wasn’t just a great bodybuilder: he was also one of the strongest human beings on planet Earth. In his prime Dorian could overhead press the 160 pound dumbbells and perform strict barbell rows with over 400 pounds for reps. Talk about strong!

Dorian’s training program is all about performing 1 all-out working set to failure per exercise. Dorian focused on the 5-8 rep range for all of his sets and performed an extra 1-3 forced reps at the end of his set whenever it was safe to do so. This moderate rep range is absolutely perfect for building a nice blend of size and strength gains.

Here was Dorian’s go-to chest routine. Check it out:

Dorian Yates Chest Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press, 1 working set of 5-8 reps to failure
  • B1: Flat machine press, 1 working set of 5-8 reps to failure**
  • C1: 30 degree incline DB fly, 1 working set of 5-8 reps to failure**
  • D1: Standing cable crossover, 1 working set of 5-8 reps to failure**

Here is the training video for this workout:

For each exercise Dorian performed plenty of warm up sets followed by 1 all-out working set to failure. Dorian also performed forced reps at the end of his sets whenever it was safe to do so.

A forced rep is where your training partner helps lift the weight through the concentric range and then you lower the weight back down on your own. Forced reps are actually a form of eccentric training and are one of the best training methods for building size and strength at the same time.

Another one of the best high-intensity powerbuilding programs is called “DC Training.” DC Training is a low-volume, high-intensity training program focused around rapid strength gains on key bodybuilding style exercises.

Here is what a typical lower body DC Training session might look like:

DC Training Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Standing alternating DB curl (supinating grip), 1 x 11-20 RP
  • B1: Standing alternating pinwheel curl, 1 x 8-12 SS
  • C1: Seated machine calf raise, 1 x 7-10 SS
  • D1: Machine hack squat, 2 x 6, 20****
  • E1: Romanian deadlift, 2 x 6-12

****Performed as a 20-rep breathing squat. Perform 10 reps with your 10-rep max. Then lock out your knees, take several deep breaths and perform 1-3 more reps. Continue until you have performed 20 total reps with your 10-rep max.

Here is the training video for this workout:

One of the things that makes DC Training unique from other powerbuilding workouts is that you MUST use a training logbook every time you workout. Your job is to beat your previous best on every single exercise ever time you train. Don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds.

With DC Training you actually rotate through three different workouts per body part. For example for quadriceps you might perform the back squat on your 1st workout, the 45 degree leg press for your 2nd workout and the machine hack squat for your 3rd workout.

This 3-way exercise rotation is very helpful for managing central nervous system fatigue and preventing you from burning out for longer.

If you want to learn more about DC Training then check out any of the following three articles:

Everything you could ever want to know about the DC Training program is in these articles.

Part 3: High Volume Powerlifting Training

One of the best ways to set up a powerbuilding style program is to train like a powerlifter. No, I am not kidding! Many powerlifters such as Larry Wheels and Ben Pollack have built impressive bodybuilding physiques just by doing their powerlifting workouts.

The key to getting jacked with a powerlifting style training program is to include a reasonable amount of higher-rep assistance work in addition to your heavy, low-rep sets. The Westside Barbell training program is actually designed from the ground up as a powerbuilding style program.

The Westside program has you perform lower-rep sets on the squat, bench press or deadlift at the start of the workout to build maximal strength. However, the rest of the workouts consist of higher-rep assistance work to build muscle mass and develop weak points.

Many of the Westside Barbell athletes have upper back and triceps development that would make a professional bodybuilder jealous!

Here is what a higher-volume Westside Barbell upper body workout might look like. Check it out:

Westside Barbell Max Effort Upper Body Workout

  • A1: Bench press (wide grip), 3 x 1, 1/0/X/0, 2-3 minutes rest
  • B1: Decline DB press, 2 x 15-20**, 1/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: JM press, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 1 minute rest
  • D1: Barbell dead stop row, 3 x 8-12, 1/1/X/0, 1 minute rest
  • E1: DB power cleans (prone 30 degree bench), 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/0, 1 minute rest
  • F1: Rope cable pushdown with band tension, 3 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 1 minute rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

The athletes in this video work up to a 1-rep max on the bench press followed by tons of assistance work for their entire upper body. This gives you the best of both worlds: rapid strength gains as well as good hypertrophy gains.

Of course there are many different ways to design a powerlifting program. One of the simplest programs is Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program. 5/3/1 is a powerbuilding style training program that is designed to get you as strong as possible on the squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press. Each workout you perform 3 heavy sets on one of these 4 exercises followed by your choice of assistance exercises.

Jim has an assistance work template called “boring but big” that he uses with anyone looking to muscular hypertrophy. The basic idea is to perform 5 sets of 10 reps on two key assistance exercises per workout.

The 5 sets of 10 reps scheme is very simple but also very effective. Here is what a 5/3/1 deadlift workout might look like:

5/3/1 Boring But Big Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 3 x 5**, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Back squat, 5 x 10****, 1/0/1/1, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Glute ham raise, 5 x 10, 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed at 65%, 75% and 85% of your 1-rep max.

****Performed with 50% of your 1-rep max.

Here is Jim Wendler showing you what your last set of deadlifts should look like:

So far we’ve looked at powerlifting programs that use lots of high-rep accessory work to give you a nice blend of size and strength gains. This is a great training strategy but there is always more than one way to skin a cat.

The strength coach Josh Bryant takes a completely different approach with his clients. Josh Bryant has his powerlifters perform TONS of volume on the squat, bench press and deadlift to build size and strength at the same time.

In fact Josh has many of his clients performing 10-15 sets on the competition lifts in a single workout! This approach worked like a charm for Jonathon Irizarry, one of Josh’s most recent training clients.

Jonathan is a professional bodybuilder and wanted to put up a 500 pound bench press while keeping his hard-earned muscle mass. Josh put together a high-volume bench press program that made him bigger, stronger and more explosive all at the same time.

Here is one of Jonathon’s workouts from his 8-week bench press program. Check it out:

Josh Bryant Style Bench Press Workout

  • A1: Bench press (competition grip), 1 x 2, 1/1/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Speed bench press (competition grip), 6 x 3, 1/1/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: 30 degree incline chest supported DB row, 6 x 6, 1/0/X/1, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Bench press full-range functional isometrics (competition grip)**, 2 x 5, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C2: Bench press with bands (competition grip), 2 x 1, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 2 x 15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • E1: DB floor fly, 3 x 8-12, 1/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • F1: Unilateral cable pushdown (underhand grip), 3 x 8-12, 1/0/X/1, 60 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about a high-volume workout! Many of Josh’s powerlifting clients report building slabs of new muscle mass even though that is not one of their main goals.

If you are a powerlifter but still want to build muscle mass like a powerbuilder then you have to give Josh Bryant’s programming a shot. It is easily one of the best ways for a powerbuilder to train.

Part 4: Daily Undulating Periodization

Daily Undulating Periodization is one of the most popular training methods for bodybuilders and powerlifters. The basic idea is to perform different types of workouts throughout the week for each body part or exercise.

Many athletes use higher-rep workouts to build size and lower-rep workouts to build strength all in the same week. The theory is that you can prevent your body from getting bored by your workouts by changing the training stimulus from workout to workout. Daily undulating periodization can give a powerbuilder the blend of size and strength gains that he is after.

One of the most popular powerbuilding programs to use daily undulating periodization is called Fortitude Training. Fortitude Training was invented by Dr. Scott Stevenson, a national level bodybuilder and world-class bodybuilding coach.

Scott wanted to design a program that used several different types of workouts for each body part throughout the week. Here is what a typical Fortitude Training workout split looks like:

The Fortitude Training Body Part Split

  • Monday: 
    • Upper body loading sets
    • Lower body pump sets
  • Tuesday
    • Lower body loading sets
    • Upper body pump sets
  • Thursday
    • Upper body muscle rounds
    • Lower body pump sets
  • Friday
    • Lower body muscle rounds
    • Upper body pump sets

As you can see Fortitude Training uses 3 main types of sets: loading sets, muscle rounds and pump sets. Loading sets are heavy sets performed to failure or just shy of failure in the 6-12 rep range. Dr. Scott Stevenson uses loading sets to build maximal strength as well as myofibrillar hypertrophy.

Muscle rounds are a type of hypertrophy-specific cluster sets. The goal is to perform 6 sets of 4 reps on an exercise with a weight you can lift 10-15 times. Here is a perfect video demonstration by Dr. Scott Stevenson:

Muscle rounds are more geared towards gains in muscle mass.

Finally the pump sets are light sets of 20-30 reps performed close to failure. Scott uses pump sets as a means of increasing the training frequency on each body part without burning out your central nervous system. Scott also uses pump sets for increasing sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

With fortitude training each body part has 4 different workouts per week: 1 loading set workout, 1 muscle round workout and 2 pump set workouts. This type of program allows you to build size and strength during the same week although the type of training stimulus varies widely from one workout to the next.

This is very different from something like a Justin Harris style powerbuilding workout where all possible rep ranges are performed within a single workout.

Here are some sample Fortitude Training workouts you may want to try:

Lower Body Loading Day

  • A1: Thigh (loading set), 2 x 6-12**, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: Quads (loading set), 2 x 6-12**, 2 minutes rest
  • B2: Hamstrings (loading set), 2 x 6-12**, 2 minutes rest
  • C1: Adductors (loading set), 2 x 6-12**, 2 minutes rest
  • D1: Calves (loading set), 2 x 6-12**, 2 minutes rest

**Perform the 1st set 1 rep shy of failure, the 2nd set all the way to failure

Lower Body Muscle Round Day

  • A1: Thighs (muscle round), 6 x 4**, 10 seconds rest
  • B1: Quads (muscle round), 6 x 4**, 10 seconds rest
  • C1: Hamstrings (muscle round), 6 x 4**, 10 seconds rest
  • D1: Calves (muscle round), 6 x 4**, 10 seconds rest

**Performed as a “muscle round” as described above. Perform 6 sets of 4 reps with 10 seconds rest in between sets. On the 6th set perform as many reps as you can.

Keep in mind that Dr. Scott Stevenson wants you to perform both upper body and lower body exercises in the same workout. To learn more about Fortitude Training you can check out the following article:

Fortitude Training: The Ultimate Guide!

Rotating through different types of workouts for each body part during a single week can be a very effective way to use undulating periodization. However, it is not the only way. The strength coach Charles Poliquin popularized a form of undulating periodization for powerbuilders where you cycle through 4 different workouts over the course of 2-4 weeks. For example:

Cycle #1

  • Week 1: Workout A
  • Week 2: Workout B
  • Week 3: Workout C
  • Week 4: Workout D

Cycle #2

  • Week 5: Workout A
  • Week 6: Workout B
  • Week 7: Workout C
  • Week 8: Workout D

And so on. These 4 workouts would use completely different rep ranges. Workout A would use high reps, workouts B and C would use moderate reps and workout D would use low reps. This undulating periodization model is perfect for powerbuilding because it lets you build size and strength over the course of a 4 week training block.

Every time you repeat a specific workout your goal is to beat your personal best on each exercise. Remember, powerbuilding is all about getting stronger over time on key exercises! If you aren’t getting stronger then you aren’t powerbuilding!

Here is a sample undulating periodization training cycle that the Olympic gold medalist Adam Nelson used to boost his strength on the incline bench press as well as his overall upper body size. Check it out:

Adam Nelson’s 4-Way Workout Rotation

  • Workouts 1 / 5 / 9 / 13: Routine “A”
  • Workouts 2 / 6 / 10 / 14: Routine “B”
  • Workouts 3 / 7 / 11 / 15: Routine “C”
  • Workouts 4 / 8 / 12 / 16: Routine “D”

Adam Nelson Incline Press Workout “A”

  • 30 degree incline dumbbell press, 5 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 2 minutes rest

Adam Nelson Incline Press Workout “B”

  • 30 degree incline pin press (starting from bottom), 5 x 4-6, 2/2/1/0, 2 minutes rest

Adam Nelson Incline Press Workout “C”

  • 30 degree incline bench press with chains, 7 x (2,2,2,4,4,6,6), 3/0/1/1, 2 minutes rest

Adam Nelson Incline Press Workout “D”

  • 30 degree incline bench press (3-inch thick bar), 9 x (3,2,1,3,2,1,3,2,1), 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: workout A, workout B, workout C, workout D.

This routine was provided by Charles Poliquin who was personally coaching Adam Nelson at the time. Adam also performed various types of pull ups and some chest / back accessory work during these workouts.

If you are someone who gets bored from doing the same-old, same-old workout all the time then undulating periodization has your name all over it! It is easily one of the best powerbuilding training strategies that you can use to build size and strength.

Part 5: Accumulation / Intensification Training

The accumulation / intensification model of periodization was popularized by Charles Poliquin. The basic idea is to alternate back and forth between hypertrophy programs and strength programs every 2-4 weeks.

In other words you would spend 2-4 weeks using accumulation-style workouts to build muscle mass and then you would spend 2-4 weeks using intensification-style workouts to build maximal strength. This periodization model is perfect for power builders because you get to build size and strength simultaneously.

I know some of you are reading this and saying “C’mon Mike! Name one top bodybuilder or powerlifter who trains like that! That’s right – you can’t!” To that I say, what the hell are you talking about!? Many of the biggest and strongest men in the world train using the accumulation / intensification periodization model.

For example the world’s strongest bodybuilder Stan Efferding used this periodization model extensively in his bodybuilding and powerlifting careers. Stan Efferding’s favorite training strategy is to perform bodybuilding style workouts for 8 weeks and then powerlifting style workouts for 8 weeks.

This is the exact strategy that Stan uses with many of his world-class athletes.

When Stan trains for bodybuilding he likes to use a 6 days per week, twice per day training split. Check it out:

Stan Efferding’s Bodybuilding Training Split

  • Monday
    • AM: Chest
    • PM: Shoulders
  • Tuesday
    • AM: Back
    • PM: Biceps / Triceps
  • Wednesday
    • AM: Quads
    • PM: Hamstrings
  • Thursday
    • AM: Chest
    • PM: Shoulders
  • Friday
    • AM: Back
    • PM: Biceps / Triceps
  • Saturday
    • AM: Quads
    • PM: Hamstrings

Talk about a high-volume training split! Stan believes that these 2-a-day sessions are absolutely essential for building maximum muscle mass. Just listen to the “White Rhino” himself:

“I prefer to do 2 a day training. That way we get the benefit of both of those stimuli for all of the hormones and all of the water and glycogen and sodium in the muscles. And all of that stuff together is what stimulates hypertrophy. It’s not just the loading, it’s the whole environment.”

Here is the exact quadriceps workout that Stan used while working with IFBB legend Flex Wheeler. Check it out:

Stan Efferding’s Bodybuilding Quad Workout

  • A1: Single-leg leg extension, 2 x 20, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Leg press, 2 x 20, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Machine hack squat, 2 x 20, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Walking DB lunge, 2 x 20, 1/0/1/0, 120 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

As you can see Stan picks about 4 different exercises and performs 2 sets to failure per exercise. Stan calls these sets “growth sets” because they are the ones that actually stimulate muscle growth.

Now let’s look at one of Stan’s bodybuilding back workouts. Check it out:

Stan Efferding Bodybuilding Back Workout

  • A1: Cable pulldown (wide / overhand grip)**, 2 x 10-12, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Pull up (narrow / neutral grip), 2 x 12-16, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Barbell bent over row****, 2 x 6-8, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Machine pullover, 2 x 14-16, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

Once again Stan picks about 4 different exercises and performs 2 sets to failure per exercise. This is a ton of volume and would overtrain most people. Don’t worry, Stan has you covered. After 8 weeks of high-volume bodybuilding training you switch over to a low-volume powerlifting program for 8 weeks.

Here is the exact training split that Stan used during his powerlifting career:

Stan Efferding’s Powerlifting Training Split

  • Monday: Bench Press
  • Saturday: Squat or Deadlift

That’s right – Stan only train 2 days per week when he broke the all-time powerlifting world record in the 275 pound weight class!

Here’s the beauty of the accumulation / intensification model of training: the high-volume bodybuilding workouts dramatically increase your work capacity and recovery ability. Then when you switch over to these low-volume powerlifting workouts your strength shoots through the roof!

Stan calls it the “rebound effect” when you return to the heavy barbell exercises after 8 weeks of bodybuilding workouts. Here is what Stan’s powerlifting squat workouts looked like:

Stan Efferding Powerlifting Leg / Squat Workout

  • A1: Back squat (competition stance), 1 x 1-3, 2/0/X/0, 300 seconds rest
  • C1: 45 degree leg press (with bands), 2 x 10-15, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Barbell bent over row, 2 x 10-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here is a great video of Stan squatting 905 pounds in training:

As you can see Stan kept his powerlifting squat workouts nice and simple. He performs some heavy sets of squats and 1 or 2 assistance exercises and that’s it. He has plenty of muscle mass built up from his previous bodybuilding phase of training so there’s no need to worry about that here: the powerlifting phase is all about lifting maximum weight!

Here is what Stan’s powerlifting deadlift workouts looked like:

Stan Efferding Powerlifting Back / Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift, 1 x 1-3, X/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: 45 degree leg press (with bands), 2 x 10-15, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • C1: Cable pulldowns (wide / overhand grip), 2 x 10-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • D1: Seated cable rows (v-handle), 2 x 10-15, 1/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest

Here is a great video of Stan deadlifting:

Once again Stan keeps things incredibly simple. He performs one heavy set of deadlifts and a couple of key accessory exercises and goes home. Stan is proof that the accumulation / intensification model is one of the best powerbuilding training programs you can use.

Of course it would be impossible to talk about the accumulation / intensification model of periodization without talking about Charles Poliquin. Charles used the accumulation / intensification model with the majority of his Olympic athletes.

Charles liked to change phases every 2-3 weeks rather than every 8 weeks like Stan Efferding. Charles believed that this increased variation produced faster results for size and strength gains.

Here is a Charles Poliquin inspired accumulation workout that you may want to perform for 2-3 weeks. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Accumulation Chest / Back Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline DB press, 4 x (8, 8, 10, 12), 4/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • A2: Lat pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 4 x (8, 8, 10, 12), 4/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B1: Flat DB press, 3 x 10-12, 3/1/2/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Flat Poliquin DB fly, 3 x 12-15, 2/1/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Machine pec dec, 3 x 15-20, 2/0/2/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B4: Seated cable row (v-handle), 3 x 10-12, 3/0/1/2, 10 seconds rest
  • B5: Seated cable rope face pull, 3 x 12-15, 2/0/2/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B6: Lying DB pullover, 3 x 15-20, 2/0/2/0, 120 seconds rest

This workout uses a variety of exercises, rep ranges and training methods to build as much muscle mass as possible. The omni-rep tri-sets performed at the end of the workout are especially hard. After 2-3 weeks of this routine you will be ready for a lower-rep strength routine for a few workouts. The following Charles Poliquin inspired intensification routine will work perfect. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Intensification Chest / Back Workout

  • A1: 45 degree incline bench press (medium grip), 4-5 x 5-7, 5/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • A2: Pull ups (wide / pronated grip), 4-5 x 5-7, 5/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 4-5 x 5-7, 5/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Machine chest supported row, 4-5 x 5-7, 5/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • C1: Chain fly, 3-4 x 5-7, 5/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • C2: Smith machine dead stop row (mid-shin height), 4-5 x 3-4, 5/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest

This workout is fantastic for building maximal strength and functional hypertrophy. Just make sure you use a true 5-second lowering phase on each exercise. The tempos are written this way for a reason!

Conclusion

Powerbuilding

Powerbuilding is all about training to build an incredible physique AND throwing around heavy slag iron in the gym. To me that is what it’s all about – being big AND strong! If you are a powerbuilder at heart then you have to start training like one.

In this guide I gave you five of the most effective ways to design a powerbuilding style workout:

  • Strategy #1: Hybrid Strength / Size Workouts
  • Strategy #2: High Intensity Bodybuilding Training
  • Strategy #3: High Volume Powerlifting Training
  • Strategy #4: Daily Undulating Periodization
  • Strategy #5: Accumulation / Intensification Training

All five of these strategies have been used by some of the biggest and strongest men in the world including Dorian Yates, Adam Nelson, Justin Harris and Stan Efferding.

Remember, a powerlifter is not a bad person if he gets jacked and tan and neither is a bodybuilder who throws around heavy slag iron in the gym.

So what are you waiting for? Get back in the gym and start powerbuilding like you mean it!

“If you have a very clear vision of where you want to go, then the rest of it is much easier. It’s not like oh my God I have to do another 200 sit-ups, it’s more kind of like I can’t wait to do another 200 sit-ups because that will get me one step closer to the abs that I need to win the Mr. Universe. And that’s my goal.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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