Over the last few years, powerbuilding training has become one of the most popular training styles for recreational lifters everywhere. The term powerbuilding earns its name because it combines training elements from both powerlifting and bodybuilding programs. Thus, making these programs ideal for any lifter who is looking to gain strength, but also spend a considerable amount of time focusing on their body composition.
The art of training for both strength and aesthetics is nothing new in the world of strength training, but the term powerbuilding has created a brand new subset of training ideologies based around this style of workout. If you search around online, then you’ll notice that information on these programs is a little scarce, so it can be tough deciding if this style program is right for you.
In this article, we’ll quickly cover what powerbuilding programs are, what type of lifter can benefit with them most, and five benefits that come with using powerbuilding programs.
What Is Powerbuilding?
Powerlifting + Bodybuilding = Powerbuilding
In my opinion, the boom in popularity of powerbuilding programs can be attributed to a couple things. First, the growth of social media and influence of big named coaches/services pushing this training approach. Second, the idea of wanting both strength and aesthetics as a primary focus in training without having to settle for one or the other.
To fully understand what powerbuilding programs are, it’s a good idea to first grasp what constitutes your traditional powerlifting and bodybuilding programs.
Powerlifting programs are specific in nature and heavily focus on progressing the big three, or the competition lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift). These programs will typically include accessories, but they will be used sparingly or as tools to play off a main lift’s weaknesses, as opposed to having a full hypertrophy focus.
- Primary Goals: Improve and Strengthen Competition Lifts
- Program Overview: Highly Specific to an Athlete’s Current Lifts and Stength Goals
At the end of the day, it’s important to understand that there is a lot that makes up a great powerlifting program. Besides building out an intensity and volume that works best for an athlete, these programs also need to have a form of autoregulation, periodization, and accountability built in.
Bodybuilding programs will typically have a primary focus on one or a couple body parts each workout. As opposed to focusing workouts on one movement, bodybuilding workouts will place an emphasis on certain muscles and then build movements around those that will scale in intensity, intent, and overall volume.
- Primary Goals: Target Certain Muscle Groups and Increase Lean Muscle Mass
- Program Overview: Specifically Designed to Improve Muscular Hypertrophy With a Heavy Focus On Time Under Tension
Like powerlifting programs, well-constructed bodybuilding programs need to have multiple factors in-line to be successful. Total workload, muscle splits, symmetry, and monitoring time under tension in an acute scope are a few of the largest variables to consider when following pure bodybuilding programs.
Once you understand the bare bone fundamentals of powerlifting and bodybuilding programs, you can begin to gain an understanding of the roots that make up powerbuilding workouts. These programs will be a little less specific in nature and incorporate a training structure tailored to providing multiple goals (strength and increase in lean muscle mass).
- Primary Goals: Improvement of Compound Lifts and Lean Muscle Mass
- Program Overview: Less Specific, But Still Designed to Improve Strength and Lean Muscle Mass
As opposed to building workouts based on a movement or a muscle group, powerbuilding programs will combine both of these factors and structure workouts accordingly. Workouts are typically built around strengthening compound movements, and accessories are then structured to building the muscle groups that assist with that compound.
The main difference between powerbuilding programs and the above two is the intent in which you are lifting. As opposed to fully focusing on one overall goal for a sport, powerbuilding is the culmination of multiple goals into one slightly less specific program.
Author’s Note: Before reading further, it’s important to note that this article is not suggesting that powerbuilding programs are better than powerlifting and bodybuilding when it comes to improving strength and lean muscle mass. In fact, all of these programs can be great at improving these attributes, and it really comes down to one’s overall goals and the context of their current training state.
Who Are Powerbuilding Programs Best For?
So who can benefit best with powerbuilding programs? In reality, and like with most workouts, a lot of demographics could benefit with this program style. One way to assess who these programs will work best for is to first consider what someone’s goals are. If your goal is to compete and excel in either powerlifting or bodybuilding, then following a specific program for that sport will always fair best.
Remember, powerbuilding programs are designed with the idea of strengthening the main powerlifting compounds (overhead press is often added, too) and focusing on body composition. With these two goals in mind, there are a couple athletes that these programs work best with.
- Recreational Lifters
- Casual Competitive Powerlifters
- Strength Training Beginners
- Program Hoppers/Goal Shifters
A lot of times, recreational and casual powerlifters want to get strong, but also want to improve their lean muscle mass, which make them perfect candidates for powerbuilding programs.
Another demographic of lifter that benefits with these programs are those who like to program hop and shift training goals on a whim. Since these programs entail a multi-directional goal approach, I’ve learned that lifters who are hot and cold on a daily basis with their training styles tend to stick to these programs better on a long-term basis.
Benefits of Powerbuilding Programs
1. Multi-Goal Approach
Potentially the biggest benefit that comes along with powerbuilding programs for most is how they combine multiple goals into one program. Obviously, every strength training program will improve strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance, and power to some degree, but powerbuilding programs place a heavy emphasis on multiple goals at once.
This multi-goal approach may not be the fastest way to strictly improve in one training respect like strength, power, or body composition, but if your overall goal is to focus on a few areas at once, then powerbuilding programs can be a great fit for you.
2. Accessories Are What You Make Them
As mentioned above, one of the big differences between a powerlifting program and a powerbuilding program are the accessories and how they are used. If you love and want more accessory work, then powerbuilding programs open up the availability to use as much as you deem fit for your goals.
Since intensity is high and reps are typically lower for the compound movements, accessories can involve as much volume and intensity as you see fit for your needs and energy availability. Typically, powerbuilding programs will shift their focus slightly on an acute basis for how many accessories are used on various body parts depending on an athlete’s goal.
For example, on a pressing day, if an athlete has the goal of building bigger triceps, then the accessories for the workout will reflect that, as opposed to only focusing on the improvement and weaknesses of the compound lift. Obviously, this heavy tricep focus can have carry over to the press, but the intent and overall volume will often be different compared to pure powerlifting programs.
3. Bridge to Finding a Sport
One personal benefit that I’ve seen firsthand with powerbuilding programs is that they serve as a bridge to finding one’s preferred strength sport. Often times, recreational lifters want to get stronger and improve their lean muscle mass, but don’t necessarily have a strong whim to pursue powerlifting or bodybuilding by themselves.
Powerbuilding programs expose lifters to both training styles in a slightly more abbreviated approach. This opens up the door to objectively assessing each sport and one’s potential to succeed in one or the other. A lot of athletes will find that they respond best to a certain form of training, which in powerbuilding’s case, can help push them into pursuing one sport more seriously. This is return helps the sports grow and broadens the talent pool — it’s a win win!
4. Great Introduction to Periodization
This benefit is specifically for beginners because often this is the group that is newer to periodized training styles. Great powerbuilding programs will periodize the main compound movements based one’s goals and needs. Accessories in powerbuilding programs can also be periodized, but for beginners who need to simply perform more work and strengthen movement patterns, then they can be performed with a more self-regulated approach.
This style of training structure can be useful because it takes one major piece of the workout and teaches the concept of periodization, while not overkilling a beginner with complex programming nuances (ex: periodizing every movement for every single workout).
5. Strength and Body Composition
The final — and most controversial — benefit is the concept of becoming strong and lean at the same time. How many times do you hear, “I want to become strong and lose body fat,” as someone’s overall training goal? Now, powerlifting and bodybuilding programs will both get you strong and lean, there’s no denying that, but the full essence of powerbuilding is focused on the topic of gaining strength and building an aesthetic appearance along with that strength.
This makes powerbuilding programs desirable for the athlete that loves to lift heavy, but also ranks aesthetics highly in their overall training goals. In addition, these two goals open up multiple programming doors that can shift strength and body composition to the spotlight in workouts from a a micro point of view. For example, two workouts in a week can have a heavy focus on strength, while two can have a large focus on body composition — the creativity is endless.
Note, while training programs can help improve strength and body composition, they’re nothing without a diet that is also tailored to pursue these goals. If you start a powerbuilding program to get strong and focus on body composition, then your diet also needs to be in check!
Powerbuilding programs have continued to grow in popularity due to the boom of strength sports and social media, and they don’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. If you have overall training goals to improve strength and body composition, then powerbuilding programs could be your best training option.
Remember, before beginning a new workout, it’s important to assess your overall training goals, current strength, and weaknesses to ensure a program is built to tackle your goals and also improve your weaknesses.
Feature image from FrameStockFootages/Shutterstock