Muscle Building Workouts

Powerbuilding, the Muscle and Brawn Way

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What is powerbuilding?

Powerbuilding. Powerbuilding is a combination of bodybuilding and powerlifting, in which the goal is to get as big and strong as possible. Powerbuilding meshes hypertrophy and strength training, by focusing on heavy compound movements and weight progression.

Many lifters have no intention of competing in a bodybuilding or powerlifting contest. Powerbuilding allows you to train for size and strength goals, weeding out unnecessary training theories and practices from these niche sports.

Differences. What are some of the key differences that separate a powerbuilding routine from a bodybuilding or powerlifting workout?

  • Ripped. It is not necessarily a goal of powerbuilding to get ripped. Rather, the goal of powerbuilding is to look like a mountain of muscle, and to have the strength to match. Powerbuilding does pack on mass, so it’s there if you chose to shave off all your body hair, oil up your physique, and parade around in skimpy tights.
  • Max Singles. Despite a focus on training for strength, powerbuilding does not focus on lower rep sets and max singles. The rep range tends to stay on the lower end of the spectrum, rarely calling for more than 8 reps per set.
  • Isolation. Muscle and Brawn’s powerbuilding routine avoids all isolation exercises like pec deck flyes, lateral delt raises, and cable work. The emphasis in powerbuilding is on using compound movements and heavy weight to stimulate the body to grow bigger and stronger. Smaller muscle groups grow larger by the overall work load placed upon them.
  • Squats. Powerbuilding focuses on squats, and has you perform them every 4 days. By squatting often, you will put your body in an anabolic state, forcing it to adapt and grow bigger and stronger. Squats are the king of all mass building exercises.
  • The Big 3. Powerbuilding helps you achieve big numbers for squats, deadlifting and bench press. These lifts are known as the big 3. With powerbuilding, you will be able to lift big at the gym, or lift big on the powerlifting platform.
  • Diet. Powerbuilding does not push a super-strict bodybuilding diet. A powerbuilding diet is healthy, but by no means revolves around chicken breasts and broccoli. A powerbuilding diet is a healthy diet that you can live with.
  • Workouts. Powerbuilding diets are short and sweet. You hit the gym, lift big, and get out. Generally, a powerbuilding workout has no more than 10-12 sets, and you are out of the gym in 45 minutes to an hour. Powerbuilding workouts are efficient and effective.

Workouts. Powerbuilding workouts are simple, quick and straightforward. Here are the principles you need to remember and utilize…

  1. Heavy Compound Movements. You need to stick with heavy compound movements. Check out the article 7 (Plus 7) Core Bodybuilding Exercises.
  2. Progression. You must always try to do more than you’re previous workout. If you bench pressed 205 pound for 3 sets of 6 reps, try to do at least 1 more rep during the next workout. And when your reps for a particular exercise all hit 8-10 reps, add more weight.
  3. 1 Hour. Keep your workouts under one hour. Anything over 1 hour tends to be catabolic, which means counter-productive and muscle destroying.
  4. No Failure. Do not train to failure. There is no need. Powerbuilding relies upon increased volume (more weight over time) to spur you to greater muscle and strength. Learn to stop about one rep shy of positive failure.
  5. Rep Range. Try to keep your rep range between 6-10. It is up to you to determine what rep ceiling is best for a given lift. I recommend sticking with 6 reps for heavy lifts, and 8-10 reps for other compound lifts.

Diet. A powerbuilding diet is healthy, but not overly restrictive. The goal is to get strong, and to gain muscle. There is no need to eat chicken breasts and broccoli every meal.

  1. Meals. Try to eat at least 5 times a day, spread apart every 2.5 to 3 hours. A constant stream of protein, carbs and nutrients will help your body run at maximum efficiency.
  2. Protein. You want to eat at least 25 grams of protein during each meal. There is no need to eat over 300 grams of protein, as recommended by some bodybuilding diet programs. Muscle will grow, and strength will increase with an above average protein intake.
  3. Milk. Try to drink at least 3 glasses of milk each day. If you have problems gaining weight, drink one gallon of whole milk each day. And do not drink reduced fat milk, if possible. The body needs healthy fat sources to function.
  4. Eggs. Eggs are an amazing source of nutrients and protein. Try to eat at least 4 eggs each day, in one form or another.
  5. Junk Carbs. Junk carbs are chips, cookies, white bread, candy, etc. Try to limit your intake of junk carbs. It’s a good idea to splurge a couple of times a week. Doing so helps you keep your sanity. But try nor to overdo it by eating an entire bag of chips.
  6. Veggies. Get at least 4-5 servings of veggies a day. If you eat on the run, V-8’s vegetable juice has 2 servings of veggies per can.
  7. Fruit. Try to eat a couple of servings of fruit each day. I like to eat a banana and a protein drink one hour before working out, and to munch on apples if I get hungry after dinner.

Sample Routine. Now that we know what to eat, which exercises to use, and what the goals of powerbuilding are, let’s look at a sample routine.

  • Muscle and Brawn Full Body Workout 1. This is a great full body workout for beginner and intermediate lifters. It is simple, growth-inducing, and allows you to push around a lot of weight.
  • Muscle and Brawn Split Program. If you like to hit the gym more frequently, then this routine is for you. The workouts are quick, but heavy.
  • Muscle and Brawn Powerbuilding Routine. This routine is detailed below. It should only be performed by those who have at least 6 months experience with squats and deadlift. The intensity of this program can lead to overtraining. Overtraining is not to be feared. More on this subject is detailed below.

Muscle and Brawn Powerlifting Routine. The routine is a 12 day arc, with a 4 day squat/deadlift cycle and a 6 day back/chest/shoulder cycle running concurrent.

  • Squat/Deadlift 4 Day Cycle. Basically, every 4 days you will be training with a variety of heavy compound lifts that will catapult you into huge weight increases for your deadlift and squat. By maximizing these lift totals, your body will have no choice but to get as big as possible, as fast as possible to compensate.
  • Back/Chest/Shoulder 6 Day Cycle. Every 6 days, you will train heavy compound exercises for these bodyparts. This aspect of the routine looks very similar to a bodybuilding routine – but there are notable difference. Workouts are quick, focused on progression, are not trained to failure, and generally have rep ranges of 6-8 for most exercises.

Rep Ceilings. Keep in mind, the rep ranges given for the routine are rep ceilings. A rep ceiling is the maximum amount of reps performed per set. Here is how a rep ceiling (of 6 reps) works for the bench press…today you lifted 4 sets @ 205 pounds for the following reps…6, 6, 4, 4. During the first two sets, you may have felt like you could have performed an additional rep or two. Don’t. Our goal in powerbuilding is to increase overall volume, so keep it simple. On your next workout, try 205 pounds for 6, 6, 6 and 6 reps. If you hit that goal, bump up the weight by 5 pounds during your next workout.

Never go above the rep ceiling. A rep ceiling provides a mini-intensity cycle. This allows you to prolong your training as long as possible before requiring a de-load period.

Volume. Muscle and Brawn’s powerbuilding relies upon increased training volume to spur you to greater strength and mass. Here’s how volume works…Let’s use the bench press example above. During the first workout, we lifted 205 pounds for a total of 20 reps (over 4 sets). 205 pounds multiplied by 20 reps equals a total volume of 4,100 pounds.

On the next training day, 205 pounds was lifted for a total of 24 reps (over 4 sets). This gives us a total volume of 205 pounds multiplied by 24 reps, which equals 4,920 pounds. This is a 820 pound volume increase from your previous workout.

Please do not feel compelled to add more sets to your workouts, so that your overall volume is increased. This routine has you in the gym 3 out of every 4 days performing very heavy movements. You want to keep your workouts to about 45 minutes. Stick with the given sets, and focus on increasing weight. The squat/deadlift days alone are butt-kicking. Save your strength for the long haul, trying to delay the need for a de-load as long as possible.

De-load Periods. While performing this routine, you probably will wake up one day and feel blah, tired, un-motivated, and with some minor joint aches and pains. This state is called over-reaching. Over-reaching is not overtraining. But, if you continue to train hard at this point, you will be overtrained.

When you know for certain that your body needs a rest, it is time for a week or two of de-loading. During a de-loading period, you still go to the gym. But instead of training with the same volume, you can do one of two things…

  1. Train the same number of sets, but with 30-40% less weight.
  2. Train with the same weight, but perform 40% fewer reps.

Because this routine is a twelve day cycle, a de-loading phase should be at minimum a 12 day period. During this time you continue to follow the same workout structure, but adjust your weight reps as mentioned above.

The 12 Day Cycle. Please do not tinker with this layout. Frequent squatting is the key to fast gains in mass and strength. When a rep range is give, you are allowed to choose what your rep ceiling will be.

Day 1. (Squat/Deadlift Day)

  • Deadlifts. 5 sets of 3 reps. Higher rep sets with heavy deadlifts are not recommended. The more reps you do, the worse your form becomes. Stick with 3 reps per set.
  • Front Squats. 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Heavy ABs or Side Bends. 3 sets. Alternate between Ab work and side bends every 4 days. Rep range for Abs can be between 10-20, and rep range for side bends is 8-10.

Day 2. (Shoulders/Biceps)

  • Seated DB or Barbell Press. 4 sets x 6-8 reps. You can stick with one of these movements, or alternate between them. Make sure you are pressing with solid back support.
  • Upright Rows. 3 sets x 8 reps.
  • DB Curls, Barbell Curls, or Preacher Curls. 3 sets x 8-10. Stick with one exercise, or alternate between workouts.

Day 3. Rest Day

Day 4. (Back/Traps)

  • DB or BB Rows. 4 sets x 8 reps. Stick with one exercise, or alternate every workout.
  • Pullups, T-bars Rows, or Heavy Low Pulley Rows. 4 sets x 8 reps. Stick with one exercise, or alternate every workout.
  • Power Shrugs. 2 sets x 6-8 reps

Day 5. (Squat/Deadlift Day)

  • Squats. 4 sets x 6-8 reps
  • Romanian Deadlifts. 3 sets x 6-8 reps.
  • Heavy ABs or Side Bends. 3 sets. Alternate between Ab work and side bends every 4 days. Rep range for Abs can be between 10-20, and rep range for side bends is 8-10.

Day 6. (Chest/Triceps)

  • Bench Press. 4 sets x 6 reps
  • DB Bench or Slight Incline Barbell Bench. 3 sets x 8 reps. Stick with one exercise, or alternate every workout.
  • Dips, Seated Overhead Tricep Extensions (DB or BB), Skullcrushers, or Closegrip Bench Presses. 3 sets x 8 reps. Stick with one exercise, or alternate every workout.

Day 7. Rest Day

Day 8. (Shoulders/Biceps)

  • Seated DB or Barbell Press. 4 sets x 6-8 reps. You can stick with one of these movements, or alternate between them. Make sure you are pressing with solid back support.
  • Upright Rows. 3 sets x 8 reps.
  • DB Curls, Barbell Curls, or Preacher Curls. 3 sets x 8-10. Stick with one exercise, or alternate between workouts.

Day 9. (Squat/Deadlift Day)

  • Box Squats. 4 sets x 6-8 reps
  • Good Mornings. 3 sets x 6-8 reps
  • Heavy ABs or Side Bends. 3 sets. Alternate between Ab work and side bends every 4 days. Rep range for Abs can be between 10-20, and rep range for side bends is 8-10.

Day 10. (Back/Traps)

  • DB or BB Rows. 4 sets x 8 reps. Stick with one exercise, or alternate every workout.
  • Pullups, T-bars Rows, or Heavy Low Pulley Rows. 4 sets x 8 reps. Stick with one exercise, or alternate every workout.
  • Power Shrugs. 2 sets x 6-8 reps

Day 11. Rest Day

Day 12. (Chest/Triceps)

  • Bench Press. 4 sets x 6 reps
  • DB Bench or Slight Incline Barbell Bench. 3 sets x 8 reps. Stick with one exercise, or alternate every workout.
  • Dips, Seated Overhead Tricep Extensions (DB or BB), Skullcrushers, or Closegrip Bench Presses. 3 sets x 8 reps. Stick with one exercise, or alternate every workout.

Heavier Volume Addendum. If after several 12 day cycles you feel that your body is handling the routine, you can up the volume slightly by a couple of sets. Under no circumstances do I recommend training for more than 1 hour. A maximum of 12 sets per workout is enough. If you want to add more sets, on chest, shoulder and back day, add another heavy compound movement. Do not add more shrug sets on back day, as your traps get hammered enough during this routine. A good additional shoulder exercises is DB Arnold presses.

On squat day, add a couple more sets of squats or Romanian deadlifts. Glute/ham raises are also recommended if you have access to that piece of equipment.

Conclusion. It is easy to get confused in the vast sea of powerlifting and bodybuilding routines. A powerbuilding simplifies your training, allowing you to train more efficiently, more effectively, and with a quicker pace. Powerbuilding also helps you achieve your goals of looking muscular and strong without having to weigh chicken breasts every evening.

Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw is the primary content manager for Muscle and Brawn.

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