Powerbuilding: The Ultimate Guide In 2021

Muscle Gain

#Winter Lockdown Training

Powerbuilding programs have become very popular over the past 10 years or so, largely due to the fact that they allow trainers to pursue multiple goals at once.

We all want to look better, feel better, and still perform like athletes, and powerbuilding programs allow you to do just that.

What Is Powerbuilding?

Powerbuilding takes the benefits of bodybuilding and powerlifting, and merges them into one. It’s a powerful blend of strength AND size.

While powerlifting tends to focus extensively on ‘The Big Three’ (and your physique tends to lag as a result), bodybuilding allows you to bring up weak parts like your arms, upper chest, rear delts etc., that may not be getting enough attention from an aesthetic standpoint.

By designing a program that allows you to get the best of both worlds via:

  • Exercise selection (isolation work in addition to the big three)
  • Accumulation & intensification phases
  • Nutritional periodisation

You give trainers what they want – more muscle, more strength, and less body fat.

The Benefits Of Powerbuilding Programs

I can only talk about my experience with powerbuilding, so I’ll share my findings with you, as someone who wants ‘the best of both worlds’ when it comes to my training.

Your Arms Will Grow

Arms were my weak point for years (and they still are to some extent), but they’ve grown an inch over the past year due to the powerbuilding-style program I follow.

If you have naturally skinnier arms, then you simply won’t look like you lift until you isolate them and hit them with a decent amount of volume, on a regular basis.

Powerbuilding allows you to do this.

You Will Get Jacked

The problem with most powerlifting programs, is that there’s just not enough real volume in there to get huge. They’re written under the pre-assumption that the lifter has already accumulated an enormous amount of muscle mass, and/or is on a lot of gear.

If you’re a natural and you’re not yet heavily muscled, this isn’t going to work – you need to build the foundation. You need higher reps, more sets, and more isolation work. This will enable you to build the foundation – things like broader shoulders, an Apollos Belt, and LooksMaxing over the long run.

Powerbuilding allows you to do this.

You Will Get Strong

Having said this about the volume, you will also get strong with powerbuilding over the long-term.

You won’t be as strong relatively speaking at all times as you would be on a powerlifting program – you might be at 80% of your max strength, as opposed to 90% (I’m just using numbers as an example to illustrate my point).

But who cares?

If you’re not yet big enough to bench 350, and your bench is 250, then 90% of 250 is still only 225. But if you build your base via powerbuilding, up to the point where you can bench 350, then 80% of 350 is WAY more than 225. It’s 280, to be exact.

My point is that for most people, powerbuilding offers a better long-term strength solution than powerlifting.

And it will be far superior for your strength than any variation of a ‘bro’ bodybuilding program.

You Will Never Get Bored

The nature of powerbuilding is that the workouts will always have variety.

Some days you’ll be doing sets of 3-4 on the bench, some days you’ll be doing sets of 10-15 on the close grip bench. Variety is the spice of a training block.

Whereas if you’re ALWAYS focusing on either hypertrophy or power, you tend to get bored much sooner.


Periodisation Of Training In Powerbuilding

Even though you will have ‘hypertrophy days’ and ‘power days’ within each week, it’s not enough to look at training as four workouts per week, with exercises, A, B and C, and then you’re good to go.

Periodisation is necessary in order to build the foundation for a period of time, and then transition into more of a strength focus later on.

This way you optimise both over a multi-month period, and will make far more drastic progress than the guy who doesn’t do this.

Here’s what I would suggest:

  1. Take a training block of 16 weeks.
  2. Split it up into two phases, 8 weeks each.
  3. Maintain enough movement specificity across all 16 weeks, with increased specificity in the latter 8 weeks.
  4. Focus on hypertrophy most of the time in the first 8 weeks, with a gradual transition towards triples, doubles and singles, most of the time in the latter 8 weeks.
  5. Have a strong focus on aesthetic weak points throughout the entire training cycle.

Here’s what this would look like visually:

Accumulation Phase (Weeks 1-8)Intensification Phase (Weeks 9-16)
Decent movement specificityStrong movement specificity
Most movements are 6-20 reps (hypertrophy)Most movements are 1-8 reps (strength/power)
2-3 isolation exercises per workout1-2 isolation exercises per workout
10-20 reps on isolations10-20 reps on isolations

(Although there is a focus during each of the 8 week blocks, there will be undulating periodisation within each week – some days will be ‘hypertrophy days’, others will be ‘power/strength days’.

Periodisation Of Nutrition In Powerbuilding

The reality is that the more food you eat, the more muscle you’ll gain. But there’s some major problems with just eating as much as possible, or the ‘See Food Diet’.

  • If you gain too much body fat, you’re just shortening the amount of time you can spend in a calorie surplus (not smart) – 2 months in a surplus is completely inferior to 8 months, so a smaller surplus will be better over the long-run
  • You will of course look aesthetically worse if you do this – bloated, water-retaining, and puffy
  • It’s not just about eating more food, it needs to be the right food. Macros matter. There’s a huge difference between a KFC meal, and a sirloin steak & eggs

So you DO need a calorie surplus, but you DON’T want to pigging out.

But here’s where you need to periodise things.

The Accumulation Phase

The training volume will be higher during the accumulation phase (weeks 1-8), with more total sets, and higher reps most of the time, so this is where you’re going to want your largest intake of calories. You’ll also need a strong emphasis on carbs during this time.

So my suggestion would be to use an online calorie calculator to get your maintenance calories, and then shoot for a 500 calorie surplus.

You could shoot for a 300 calorie surplus, especially if you’re currently over 15% body fat, but if you’re leaner, I’d really go for that muscle mass with slightly more. You WILL notice the anabolic increase, without body fat being too much of a problem (you can do a mini cut later on).

In regards to carbs, you’ll probably be getting ~50% of your calories from them, so it’s more important at this point that you stay healthy by keeping them ‘clean’ and low sugar. I’ve found white rice to be a great ‘lean bulking’ carb source as it’s not ‘dirty’, yet you can still get a lot of it down you every day without feeling like you’re going to explode.

The timing of your carb intake will be important too – make sure you’re getting plenty both pre and post-workout. This stuff MATTERS when you’re training high volume and relatively high frequency.

The Intensification Phase

Your training volume will start to gradually decline during this phase, so your caloric needs also will decline.

Now you’ve probably gained a little extra muscle from the accumulation phase, and increased your bodyweight, so your caloric baseline will have shifted up from your starting point. You’ll want to find that new baseline, and then put yourself in a very small surplus, or even stay at maintenance, depending on your goals.

Anything from maintenance calories up to a 250 surplus would work very well during this phase of training. You’ll still want enough food to grow any lagging body parts.

Carbs will need to come down a little, and you’ll want to keep the protein nice and high.

(In case you’re looking to get down to 10% body fat, I’ve coached 7,000+ men how to do this with Intermittent Fasting. Check out my 3 FREE guides by entering your email below):

    Powerbuilding Program Example

    I personally like doing an upper/lower split for a lean bulking routine, but you can change it up to suit your schedule if you like.

    Here’s what I personally do during an accumulation phase (remember, specificity isn’t at 100% like it is during the intensification phase). Also remember that arms are my weak point, so feel free to swap exercises to suit your needs:

    Monday (Strength)ExerciseSetsReps
    CG Bench Press46
    T-Bar Rows410
    Barbell Curls515-20
    Lying Tricep Extensions515-20
    Tuesday (Strength)Front Squat46
    Sumo Deadlifts46
    Thursday (Hypertrophy)Incline Bench612-15
    Pull Ups612-15
    DB Hammer Curls515-20
    Tricep Cable Pushdowns515-20
    Friday (Hypertrophy)Leg Press420
    Stiff Legged Deadlifts420
    Calf Raises615-25

    Get To A Jacked 10% Body Fat!

    If your main goal is to become more aesthetic, then I’m here to help. 10% body fat is the level whereby all your hard work is revealed – your muscles look sharper, your vascularity increases, and your facial aesthetics improve too.

    Don’t miss the 3 FREE Intermittent Fasting guides that will show you how to get there without starving, suffering, or feeling deprived:

      Sharing is caring!

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *