How and When to Use Bodybuilding Training to Become a Better Powerlifter

I can remember when I first made the transition to powerlifting from men’s physique 3 years ago, being told that powerlifting training and bodybuilding training are two completely different things, and that I would have to abandon one training style completely to improve at the other. However, I am of the belief that when used correctly, bodybuilding style training, (otherwise known as hypertrophy training), absolutely has its place in a powerlifter’s workout regimen and will always hold a special place in mine. And let’s be clear, by training like a bodybuilder I do not mean training with light weights. I mean training with heavy sets of 8-20 quality reps, getting a great pump and taking advantage of the resulting hypertrophy from this style of training that will without a doubt have carryover into your competition lifts. Here are three ways to take advantage of bodybuilding style training to enhance your powerlifting results.

#1.) To increase work capacity:

Work capacity can be defined as the amount of “work” you are able to do and still recover optimally between workouts. Through my experience, the more work capacity I have built up in my offseason training, the more potential I have for maximum strength gains when training for a meet. I have regularly used golden era bodybuilding style workouts to build up my work capacity in between powerlifting meets and have seen great benefits from it. High volume hypertrophy training accomplishes this by allowing you to work at a quicker pace while working in higher rep ranges (6-20 reps), which is fantastic for building the base necessary to be able to thrive in a high-volume training session, or be able to perform at your best at the end of a 12 hour long powerlifting meet. For this reason, I have used bodybuilding training strategically to set my body up to be able to handle the grueling volume that comes along with training for a powerlifting competition.  

#2.) To Attack Weak Muscle Groups:

If you are looking to facilitate progress in a weak muscle group, taking advantage of the isolation movements typically found in bodybuilding routines might be your best bet. For those who may not know, the three main lifts in powerlifting (Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift) are all compound movements, which take advantage of multiple muscle groups at the same time. For this reason, isolation movements may be used to add balance to your physique and build up the muscle groups that may become neglected if only performing the competition movements in the even that a more dominant muscle group takes over. Rear deltoids, biceps and hamstrings are only a few examples of muscles that I have found respond very well to single joint isolation movements. If you can build mass and better develop these individual muscles, you will have created more potential for strength gain in the future, as you have now created a more solid foundation for your body to work from.

#3). As Part of Planned Deloads from Heavy Training:

I have never been a fan of taking full deloads, aside from meet week. But I do understand that every once in a while, the body’s central nervous system can use a break from pushing near maximal weights daily. I personally like to use bodybuilding rep schemes in my training for 2-4 weeks before and 2-4 weeks after a competition training cycle to give my body a much needed break from the wear and tear of lifting near maximal weights while still being able to train hard. My solution comes from understanding that since hypertrophy training requires using submaximal weights (usually 60-80% of your one rep max) for a higher number of reps, it is far less taxing on the central nervous system compared to training for pure strength in which you will often be training at intensities above 80%.

Please note that if you plan on using some form of bodybuilding training in the weeks after a meet, be very careful not to overload yourself with volume too quickly. Start slow, pay close attention to how your body is feeling and build from there!

There you have it, three ways to utilize bodybuilding training methods in your powerlifting workouts. Give these a try and I am confident you will become a stronger powerlifter and see aesthetic improvements as well!

Thanks for reading.

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