There are numerous powerbuilding routines out there, but they all boil down to the same fundamentals. You might be familiar with Jeff Nippard's powerbuilding program or Russel Orhii's powerbuilding program. Both creators are great strength athletes and well-known in the industry, so their material gets a lot of attention.
What I present here is simply what I do, and I certainly don't claim to offer the best powerbuilding program. All I can say is it has worked very well for me over the past decade. Before we get into it, let's back up a bit . . .
What is Powerbuilding?
As the name implies, "powerbuilding" combines the two primary lifting categories that most strength athletes identify with:
- Bodybuilding involves gaining muscle mass while retaining a lean physique.
- Powerlifting is all about peaking your squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Powerbuilding focuses on the three powerlifting movements, but incorporates a bodybuilding training style to better develop muscle groups. The primary purpose of powerbuilding is to gain overall size and strength.
Should You Train as a Powerbuilder?
Powerbuilding is considered one of the best beginner weightlifting programs because it builds a solid foundation. Too often, aspiring powerlifters jump right into optimizing their squat, bench press, and deadlift, but don't have the baseline strength to truly benefit. The same is true of aspiring bodybuilders who immediately cut down to a low bodyfat percentage without having developed much muscle mass.
Powerbuilding is also a great way to train if you're a recreational lifter. This is what I consider myself because my goal is not to compete. I lift because I enjoy it, want to get strong, and want to look good. It's the best of both worlds for me.
My Free Powerbuilding Program
This powerbuilding program is designed as a 6-day training split with an active recovery day (rest day). That said, it can easily be converted into a 3-day or 4-day weightlifting split as a more standard pull, push, legs routine.
If you're serious about lifting, it's important to train each muscle group 1.5 to 2 times per week. If you're a casual lifter, then once per week with a cardio day is more appropriate.
On heavy days, for your main lift, you should be using high weight for low reps. Many choose to use a 5, 3, 1 weightlifting program (i.e., your first week is sets of 5, your second week is sets of 3, and your third week is singles). You can also do pyramid workouts (e.g., 315lb for 5, 335lb for 3, 355lb for 1, 335lb for 3, and 315lb for 5 all in the same day).
On light days, for your main lift, you should be using moderate weight for high reps (usually 8 to 12 reps). I would suggest finding a weight where you feel like you have one or two reps in the tank. You can also perform tempo exercises (i.e., where you bring down the weight over 3 to 5 seconds) or decrease your rest time.
Push Day #1
|Goal: This is equivalent to your classic chest day. Focus on heavy flat bench press and related accessories.
|Bench Press: Your working sets will be heavy for 1 to 5 reps. The focus should be to get good volume on bench at a high level of effort. Aim for weight that you'll almost fail at, but know you can get. After your main working sets, go down to a lower weight and do a couple sets of 8 to 12 reps or full burnout sets.
Accessories: After flat bench, hit a variety of chest, tricep, and shoulder exercises. These can include dumbbells, machines, or whatever else you have access to. This is where personal preference comes into play. Some push day accessories might include:
Leg Day #1
|Goal: This is equivalent to your classic squat day. Alternate between heavy and light squat days and incorporate quad-based accessories.
|Squats: Perform a light or heavy squat day depending on how you structured your week.
Accessories: After squats, perform other leg exercises and primarily focus on your quads. Some squat day accessories might include:
Pull Day #1
|Goal: This is equivalent to your classic back day. The staples of this day are heavy rows and heavy pulldowns.
|Heavy Rows: T-Bar rows and bent-over rows are very popular rows, but I tend to avoid them because of a past back injury. You might try heavy single-arm rows instead.
|Heavy Pulldowns: Based on your available equipment, perform heavy cable or machine pulldowns. I like to use the two-handed seated row grip on a lat-pulldown cable, though I'd recommend using whatever grip engages your lats the most during the exercise.
Accessories: After your heavy sets, hit other exercises targeting your lats, traps, and biceps. Some pull day accessories might include:
Push Day #2
|Goal: Perform a lighter chest day that focuses on incline bench press and low-impact accessories. If you experience shoulder issues from incline bench press, you can go light on flat bench press or another big chest movement.
|Incline Bench Press: Perform a light day focusing on moderate weight in higher rep ranges.
|Accessories: Don't kill your shoulders twice a week because they're a vulnerable area. You can perform most of the same accessories from Push Day #1 or switch them up to keep things interesting. There's no need to "confuse the muscles." Simply find something you enjoy that will keep you engaged on this low-intensity chest day.
Leg Day #2
|Goal: This is your classic deadlift day that focuses on the posterior chain. Whether you pull sumo or conventional deadlift, this will be the primary exercise.
|Deadlifts: Perform a light or heavy deadlift day depending on how you structured your week. Every third, fourth, or fifth week, replace deadlifts with good mornings or Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) to give your body a break.
Accessories: After deadlifts, focus on hammering the hamstrings. This could include:
Pull Day #2
|Goal: Perform a lighter back day to loosen up after your deadlift day.
|Rows and Pulldowns: Start with the same or different rows and pulldowns as from Pull Day #1, but at a lower weight with higher rep ranges.
|Accessories: You can perform most of the same accessories from Pull Day #1 or switch them up to keep things interesting. There's no need to "confuse the muscles." Simply find something you enjoy that will keep you engaged on this low-intensity back day.
Active Recovery Day (Rest Day)
|Goal: Get a good stretch in, move your body, and address any potential injuries (as you should be doing every day).
Suggested Movements: Get outside and do light cardio, such as:
Don't Forget the Fundamentals of Fitness!
Nutrition, proper sleep, and consistent hydration are all critically important components of any workout program, whether you're a high-performance athlete or weekend-warrior type. For proper nutrition, I recommend reading my article on if it fits your macros (IIFYM). The two other areas are common knowledge. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and drink water throughout the day. You can have the best training program in the world, but neglecting these basics will greatly undermine your efforts. Now get after it!