Powering Up Muscle Hypertrophy With the Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press

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Before we jump into discussing why you need to start implementing the powerlifting movements into your workout routine, let’s examine the common ‘gym bro’.

You’ve seen him. We all have. He’s bench pressing and dumbbell curling for the 5th day in a row because every day is chest and biceps day. He thinks the squat racks are only for barbell curls and the Smith machine is the real way you should be doing squats. If you asked him if he deadlifts he’d say,

Nah man, never heard of that band.

I’ll admit, when I first started lifting I fell into this gym bro category. My bench press workout would consist of only 3 sets of 10 reps every time with the same weight. This was a weight I felt comfortable lifting, and nothing too challenging.

My chest strength and chest size weren’t increasing at all. I would never deadlift. I’d only squat if somebody said something about my chicken legs and I’d remember, Oh yea, there’s a lower half of my body I need to train. Unfortunately, many of us get stuck in that typical gym-bro rut and can never make our way out.

I eventually grew out of these habits and learned how to properly train. I started incorporating powerlifting movements such as heavy bench press, deadlifts, and squats into my routine, which completely changed my body and mindset for the better.

I was more determined and focused when I walked into the gym every day. More than I had ever been before. I wanted to lift some heavy weight. And, if I couldn’t lift it I was okay with failing because I wanted to push myself to limits I never had before. Revamping my lifting split with powerlifting movements helped me get stronger and put on mass, and it will do the same for you.

Deadlifts

All three of these lifts are compound movements, which are crucial for building both a foundation for your body and helping you put on some serious mass.

Maximize Muscle Hypertrophy With the Big 3 Lifts

This is an announcement for all you gym-bros. This is the light at the end of the tunnel that will finally lead you out of that rut. Ditch the Smith machine, ditch your all too frequent chest and biceps lifting routine and start powerlifting.

Putting a focus on the bench press, squat, and deadlift will help strengthen your chest, your legs, and your back. But, that’s not where the benefits end.

All three of these lifts are compound movements, which are crucial for building both a foundation for your body and helping you put on some serious mass. Compound movements utilize multiple joints, meaning maximal muscle recruitment and more of a stimulus for growth.

Think of these compound movements as the foundation of a home and all other exercises as the materials that flesh out your home. You wouldn’t start building the roof of the home before you have built the foundation would you? Building a foundation for your body is the key to building a better body.

By building your foundation through these lifts you will also learn how to perform other lifts with proper form. Learning how to deadlift properly will also teach you how to properly position your body when performing bent over barbell rows. You will be keeping your back flat and your core tight.

Back SquatsIf you learn how to back squat correctly then you will understand where to put your feet and how low you should drop your body when performing other squat variations such as front squats or hack squats. Learning proper bench form is going to teach you how wide or narrow your arms should be when performing dumbbell chest presses.

By performing these powerlifting movements you aren’t just mastering 3 lifts, you are setting yourself up to become stronger across all of your lifts.

I know you’re starting to get restless already, but rest easy, gym-bro. I know what you’re thinking:

I’m not one of those World’s Strongest Man giants, nor am I competing in the Olympics. Why should I powerlift? I just want to get big and stay lean.

Well, your hypertrophy training doesn’t have to disappear. If you’re looking to build that lean mass it’s important to keep some high rep, isolation training in the picture. Isolation exercises are the walls, doors, windows, and roof needed to complete your house.

Whether you are a gym-bro who needs to re evaluate his lifting routine or someone who is looking to insert more heavy powerlifting into your routine, this is a program that I’ve used to reach new one rep max lifts (1RM) across all my power lifts, while still building lean muscle. This program incorporates powerlifting movements along with hypertrophy training to help you build that raw strength and give your muscles that intense pump at the same time.

The Powertrophy Workout Routine

Here’s a sample schedule:

  • Day 1 – Chest and Back Squats
  • Day 2 – Back, Deadlifts and Abs
  • Day 3 – Active Rest
  • Day 4 – Biceps and Triceps
  • Day 5 – Legs
  • Day 6 – Shoulders and Abs
  • Day 7 – Active Rest
Day 1
Chest and Squats
Exercise Sets Reps
Back Squats – 75-80% of 1RM  5  5
Flat Bench Barbell Press – 65-70% of 1RM  3  5
Flat Bench Barbell Press – 75-80% of 1RM  3  3
Incline Dumbbell Press – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Dumbbell or Cable Flyes – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Dips  3  Failure
Day 2
Back, Deadlift and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts – 75-80% of 1RM  5  5
Bent Over Barbell Rows – 65-70% of 1RM  1  10
Bent Over Barbell Rows – 80% of 1RM  5  5
Wide Grip Cable Pull Downs – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Cable Rows or Single Arm Dumbbells Rows – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Pull-Ups  3  Failure
Abs – Your choice. 100 reps total. 50 targeting upper/lower abs. 50 targeting obliques.

Arm Day

Day 4
Biceps and Triceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell or EZ Bar Bicep Curl – 80-85% of 1RM *  4  6-8
Incline Bench Dumbbell Curl (Alternating Arms) – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Preacher Curls – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Close Grip Bench Press – 80-85% of 1RM  4  6-8
Rope Pushdowns – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Triceps Kickbacks (Dumbbells or Cable Machine) – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10

* Finish with triple drop set, each set to failure

Day 5
Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
Front Squats or Hack Squats – 75-80% of 1RM  5  5
Leg Press – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Leg Extensions – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Standing Calf Raises – 55-60% of 1RM  5  15-20
Day 6
Shoulders and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press or Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 80-85% of 1RM  4  6-8
Side Lateral Raises – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Rope Face Pulls – 75-80% of 1RM  5  8-10
Dumbbell Shrugs – 75-80% of 1RM  5  Failure
Abs – Your choice. 100 reps total. 50 targeting upper/lower abs. 50 targeting obliques.

On your active rest days go for a hike, take a bike ride, do 20-30 minutes of moderate cardio, or a 15 minute HIIT session. Do something to keep your body active.

Testing For a New One Rep Max

At the end of 4 weeks you will try a hit a new one rep max on all three of your lifts. So you’ll be trying to hit a new one rep max once a month. Think of this day as your own personal competition day.

Bench Press:
  • 10 Reps, 60% 1RM (Warm Up Set)
  • 6 Reps, 75% 1RM (Warm Up Set)
  • Attempt new one rep max
Back Squat:
  • 5 Reps, 60% 1RM (Warm Up Set)
  • 3 Reps, 75% 1RM (Warm Up Set)
  • Attempt new one rep max

Deadlift:

  • 5 Reps, 60% 1RM (Warm Up Set)
  • 3 Reps, 75% 1RM (Warm Up Set)
  • Attempt new one rep max

This program is based on a 5 day split. You can adjust the program accordingly based on your workout times and schedule. Incorporating the heavy power sets with longer rest period is going to build that mass and savage strength you are looking for while the higher rep, shorter rest hypertrophy sets will shape and define the muscle.

They key is to stay committed and consistent with your powerlifts because they will make your overall lifts stronger and make you feel like a beast when you’ve finally hit that deadlift with 4 or 5 plates on each side. While being a gym-bro may be a game, powerlifting is not.

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Name: Brently Rousset

Bio: Born, raised, and currently residing in beautiful San Diego, CA, I've been around some form of fitness almost my entire life. My mom was an aerobics teacher at the local gym when I was in elementary school through middle school. My dad had a full home gym in the garage and raced mountain bikes professionally through my high school years. My parents engrained the importance of health and fitness into me from a young age. I started playing soccer in my elementary days only to leave it behind for my true loves of basketball and surfing.