Powerbuilding workout programs are nothing new in the world of strength sports. In fact, this style of workout has been used for years, but only recently have they been gaining more popularity (and been branded as such). This type of program combines attributes from two popular styles of strength training: powerlifting and bodybuilding.
The idea of powerbuilding revolves heavily around two key goals the typical gym-goer attends the gym for. First, the desire to develop strength and power in compound movements. Second, the ability to still cater to and work on aesthetics. This type of programming style is a hybrid, and can be catered to match almost every type of athlete’s needs.
What Is Powerbuilding?
First, powerbuilding programs are nothing new. The word “powerbuilding” is often used as way to market a certain workout program structure. Folks understand that powerbuilding programs are tailored towards those who want strength and aesthetics. In my opinion, these programs are ideal for a large majority of the average gym’s population. Folks who want to get stronger and love lifting, but at the same time want to improve their body composition, while not usually caring to compete (that’s not always the case, of course).
These programs entail someone starting a workout with a compound movement, often in the lower rep range with a strength and power focus, then transition into their accessories, which have a bodybuilding focus. Yes, this could be considered a normal workout’s structure. Powerbuilding workouts can be styled as push/pull, upper-lower splits, and many other formats.
[Learn more about the three commonly used types of periodization schemes.]
There are multiple ways to structure this workout style, but what makes a true powerbuilding program is the tailoring of “strength & power” and “building” focused days. These days hit both the powerlifting and bodybuilding ask, yet slightly lean towards one or the other depending on a lifter’s training history, goals, and needs.
Beginner (<6 months of lifting)
A beginner getting into powerbuilding will usually need more attention on their compound movements. They can still train with an aesthetic goal in mind, but the building of a strong foundation will lead to better long-term success. A stronger base will allow a lifter to truly hone in on and cater accessories to their weaknesses (found through compounds), while being able to handle higher amounts of volume and intensity.
Below are a few specs that often make up a beginner powerbuilding program.
- Days per Week: 3
- Compound: Squat, Bench, and Deadlift
- Compound Sets x Reps: 4-6 sets, 6-8 reps
- Accessory Volume: 3-4 movements
- Accessory Sets x Reps: 3 sets, 8-15 reps
- Loading Scheme: Linear
Intermediate (6 months – 2 years of lifting)
The intermediate lifter working with a powerbuilding program will have a lot of variance. Most of their program’s composition will come from their previous experience and goals, as opposed to simply building a foundation. In a lot of cases, the intermediate knows exactly what they want out of a workout program, and will design workout days around their specific weaknesses and asks.
Below are a few specs that often make up a intermediate powerbuilding program.
- Days per Week: 4
- Compound: Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Overhead Press, or a second squat day
- Compound Sets x Reps: 4-5 sets, 4-8 reps
- Accessory Volume: 3-5 movements
- Accessory Sets x Reps: 3-4 sets, 8-12 reps
- Loading Scheme: Linear & Undulated (in some cases)
Advanced (>2 years of lifting)
An advanced lifter will have an easier time manipulating their days around a power, or building focus. This lifter has a good amount of depth in their training history to utilize a powerbuilding program that cycles intensity and volume a little more frequently. The cycling of either can come in forms of undulation, or block programming. Simply put, the advanced powerbuilding program will have multiple variables put in place to match an athlete’s specific needs.
Below are a few specs that often make up a advanced powerbuilding program.
- Days per Week: 4-5
- Compound: Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Overhead Press, and building day
- Compound Sets x Reps: 4-5 sets, 3-6 reps
- Accessory Volume: 3-5 movements
- Accessory Sets x Reps: 3-4 sets, 6-12 reps
- Loading Scheme: Linear, Undulated, or Block
Benefits of Powerbuilding
1. Hybrid: The biggest benefit of powerbuilding program is their ability to fill strength, power, and aesthetic goals. They’re great for someone who wants the best of all worlds, and doesn’t want to fully immerse into one niche, or style of training.
2. Variability: These programs also allow a lifter to incorporate a plethora of exercises, sets, reps, and intensities to match their needs. Unlike some programs that entail a smaller pool of variability, this style program allows a lifter to be as creative as they like depending on their training history, goals, and needs.
3. Easy Tracking: A good powerbuilding program will have a well thought out method for programming compound movements. This will come in one of the forms of periodization, and will allow a lifter to easily track their main movement’s progress, while avoiding burnout. Additionally, if a lifter ever feels out of it, then they can go lighter on accessories, while still giving their all in the compound.
4. Foundation Builder: Done correctly, powerbuilding programs can be a great way to build a lifter’s foundation. They provide someone with a compound movement, then movements that assist and strengthen that main exercise.
5. Well-Rounded: Accessories are useful. These programs allow a coach, or lifter to program accessories accordingly. For example, if one has a hard time out of the whole of the squat, then they can program more glute and hamstring work on their leg day. This fulfills a training weakness, while targeting what’s most likely a bodybuilding weakness as well.
4-Week Powerbuilding Program
Below is 4-week example powerbuilding program designed for the intermediate lifter. I’ve used similar programs to help clients reach strength and aesthetic goals, and use them personally because of their well-rounded nature. The program can be manipulated accordingly to your goals.
My advice, use the rest times as guidelines for breaks between sets, not definitive recommendations. If your goal is completing a set with your maximal intensity per the reps, then sway towards the longer rest-time, or take as much time as needed. If your goal is body composition, then shoot for lower rests, and possibly drop the weight.
When you read “A1. & A2.,” this signifies it’s a superset and one exercise should be performed after another (Seated DB Press, Incline DB Press, Seated DB Press, etc).
Be aware, there’s a slight difference in compound exercise reps from weeks 1-2 and weeks 3-4. DB means dumbbell, BB means barbell, and AMRAP means “as many reps as possible.” Lastly, the numbers that follow the exercise such as “5×5” are SETS x REPS.
|Day 1 – Lower Building||Squat Focus|
|Barbell Back Squat – 2-3 minutes Rest||4 x 6|
|A1. BB Hip Thrust – 1-2 minutes rest||3 x 12|
|B1. DB Split Squat – 60 – 90 seconds rest||3 x 8|
|B2. Plank (10lb plate) – 60 – 90 seconds rest||3 x 45-seconds|
|Day 2 – Upper Building||Bench Focus|
|Barbell Bench Press – 2-3 minutes rest||5 x 6|
|A1. Incline DB Bench Press – 1-2 minutes rest||4 x 8|
|A2. DB Pull-Over – 60 – 90 seconds rest||4 x 12|
|B1. BB Skullcrushers – 60 – 90 seconds rest||5 x 10|
|Day 3 – Lower Power||Deadlift Focus|
|Barbell Deadlift – 3-5 minutes rest||4 x 4|
|A1. Pull-Up – 90 seconds rest||3 x 6|
|A2. Face Pulls – 90 seconds rest||3 x 10|
|B1. Seal Row – 60 – 90 seconds rest||3 x 8|
|B2. Hanging Leg Raises (bent for beginner) – 60 – 90 seconds rest||3 x 10|
|Day 4 – Upper Power||Overhead Press Focus|
|Barbell Overhead Press – 2-4 minutes rest||5 x 3|
|A1. Barbell Decline Bench – 90 seconds – 2 minutes rest||4 x 6|
|A2. Spider Curl – 90 seconds – 2 minutes rest||4 x 10|
|B1. Tricep Push-Down – 60-90 seconds rest||3 x 15|
|B2. Side Plank (10lb DB) – 60-90 seconds rest||3 x 45-seconds|
|Day 1 – Lower Power||Squat Focus|
|Barbell Back Squat – 3-4 minutes Rest||5 x 5|
|A1. BB Hip Thrust – 1-2 minutes rest||3 x 10|
|B1. DB Split Squat – 60 – 90 seconds rest||3 x 10|
|B2. Plank (10lb plate) – 60 – 90 seconds rest||3 x 60-seconds|
|Day 2 – Upper Power||Bench Focus|
|Barbell Bench Press – 2-3 minutes rest||5 x 5|
|A1. Incline DB Bench Press – 1-2 minutes rest||4 x 6|
|A2. DB Pull-Over – 60 – 90 seconds rest||4 x 15|
|B1. BB Skullcrushers – 60 – 90 seconds rest||5 x 8|
|Day 3 – Lower Building||Deadlift Focus|
|Barbell Deadlift (1-sec mid-shin pause) – 3-5 minutes rest||4 x 6|
|A1. Pull-Up – 90 seconds rest||3 x 8|
|A2. Face Pulls – 90 seconds rest||3 x 12|
|B1. Seal Row – 60 – 90 seconds rest||3 x 10|
|B2. Hanging Leg Raises (bent for beginner) – 60 – 90 seconds rest||3 x 15|
|Day 4 – Upper Building||Overhead Press Focus|
|Barbell Overhead Press – 2-4 minutes rest||4 x 5|
|A1. Barbell Decline Bench – 90 seconds – 2 minutes rest||4 x 8|
|A2. Spider Curl – 90 seconds – 2 minutes rest||4 x 12|
|B1. Tricep Push-Down – 60-90 seconds rest||3 x 12|
|B2. Side Plank (10lb DB) – 60-90 seconds rest||3 x 60-seconds|
One of the best parts of “powerbuilding” programs is the consideration of multiple goals an athlete may have at one time. Not every lifter will want to lift specifically in something like a powerlifting style, so these style programs are somewhat the best of all worlds. They’re nothing new, or revolutionary, but are becoming a new way to brand and formulate a certain style of workout.