11 Things Bodybuilders Can Learn From Powerlifters
Powerlifters and bodybuilders have long been at odds. I believe it stems from bodybuilders being angry that powerlifters can eat pizza and drink beer and still win a lifting-based event, but I digress.
It has also been said that the main difference between powerlifters and bodybuilders is diet, and for that we can point to those who compete in both like Johnny Jackson and Stan Efferding and realize that it might hold water. But regardless of why people compete or focus on one or the other, both camps can learn from one another.
There appears to be a current trend of bodybuilders avoiding the three main powerlifts for fear of injury, getting a “thick waist” or simply a fear of hard work. But that is the worst thing one can do!
In this article I will go over 11 lessons bodybuilders can learn from their powerlifting counterparts. These will 100% lead to more gains!
Marc Lobliner 405lb Bench Press with Mark Bell | Big Chest with the SlingShot
Bodybuilders vs. Powerlifters
#1 – Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is perhaps the single most important variable in making lean mass gains. Increasing your weight or reps over time will force the muscles to adapt. How do muscles adapt? They grow!
Powerlifters are obviously going to progressively overload since they want to get bigger lifts. I see a lot of bodybuilders simply do the “bro-lifts” and hit 3 sets of 10-12 reps with no thought to increase the weight or reps from workout to workout.
By incorporating progressive overload into at least one of your exercises per muscle group, preferably the “Big 3” (more on that later), the gains will come fast, furious and consistently!
#2 – Periodization
Powerlifters have different phases focusing on recovery, strength, and other phases. By doing this they prevent overuse injuries and are also able to “peak” closer to their meet. This is something bodybuilders lack.
Bodybuilders go into the gym with the sole intention to “Crush It” with reckless abandon and no concern for burnout, recovery or injury. If one does this too long, this will lead to overreaching where recovery will be impaired and you might exhibit some overtraining symptoms like increased reaction time, sleep issues and more.
This is why periodizing, or blocking off training by frequency, volume and intensity will lead to more gains and less risk.
#3 – Use Gear!
Not that gear, the good kind of supportive gear. A good belt, Slingshot and knee wraps will go a long way. When I didn’t use gear, I would always strain a pec when I would start to press over 405lbs.
Now that I use my Slingshot, I am hitting PR’s weekly and not getting injured. This helps me overload the muscle without injury (see point 1) and avoid injury.
#4 – Do the BIG THREE
You cannot get much better than this:
- Bench Press: Chest, Arms, Stabilizers
- Squat: Legs, ENTIRE BODY
- Deadlift: Back, Hip-Dominant Legs, ENTIRE BODY
And I would throw in…
- Standing Overhead Shoulder Press: Shoulders, Arms, ENTIRE BODY
If you do these, I can assure you that you have training every single muscle on your body, hard. These are also “Primal Movements” and you are supposed to do these as a human being—so do them!
#5 – Eat Big to Get Big
Powerlifters like food, and a lot of it. I never hear the elite powerlifting guys complaining about gaining weight, yet I always hear bodybuilders complaining about this. They eat big, they get big.
Some people might think they eat a lot, but there is no such thing (unless you have a metabolic disorder) as someone who cannot gain weight. With proper caloriic intake you will gain!
#6 – Don’t Use Mirrors When Training
I know they allow you to admire your epic pump and Vasky™-induced veins, but they are HORRIBLE for form. It is all about spine neutrality, and if looking at yourself, you cannot be neutral!
For example, on deadlifts you want to look at an imaginary object on the floor about 10 feet in front of you. When gawking at your epic delt veins, you cannot do this!
Most of the renown training facilities have no mirrors, and there is a darn good reason for that.
#7 – Low Reps Have a Place
Overload is overload and muscles cannot count. But, that isn’t what I will reference here. When doing multi-joint, compound movements, once one gets fatigued, form might break down.
One small slip or twerk on a deadlift or squat and snap city here you come! Thus, for lifts like deadlifts and squats, I like doing sets of 3-5 with impeccable form. Get in, get out, stay healthy!
#8 – Focus on Each Rep
Powerlifters set a deadlift down, pause, then lift it. They squat low, come up, reset, squat again. Bench Presses are paused prior to lifting off of the chest.
Each set is deliberate. Each rep is meticulous. By doing this you can ensure maximal muscle recruitment for maximum gains!
#9 – Get In, Get Out, Don’t Get Injured
Don’t tempt fate.
If you got your volume in, and the workout is finished, and you can still walk, live to lift another day. Grab your Machine Whey and Machine Carb 10 shake and end it. There comes a point of diminishing returns.
#10 – Progress is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Powerlifters hit is daily, aiming for every pound to their total. Avoiding injury. Constant, linear progress.
Like they won’t go from a 1,000 pound total to a 2,000 pound total in one month; you won’t gain 10 pounds oof muscle in two weeks. Be patient, be consistent, and make linear gains!
#11 – Tights Are Sexy
Powerlifters were rocking tights, singlets and leotards long before Ronnie Coleman donned his epic tights. Despite the abundance of bodyfat, powerlifters are sexy, and they know it.
Incorporate these principles into your lifts and be on your way to more strength and size gainz while minimizing the risk of injury. And when asked how much ya’ bench, now you can answer it with pride! Because being big, ripped sexy and strong… That’s not a game!