Are you looking for different, perhaps more effective way to achieve the body you want? It’s time you considered power-building, a simple yet effective approach to weight training that combines powerlifting and bodybuilding.
The predominant lifts in powerlifting include the bench press, squat and deadlift, which are usually performed in the 3-6 rep range, while a traditional bodybuilding approach isolates muscle groups using a combination of volume and intensity in a general rep range of 8-15, to build muscle and shed fat.
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Strength builds muscle
Power-building, or power bodybuilding is an effective way to build functional strength while also achieving your physique-related goals.
This approach is rooted in the idea that a strong physique athlete is a muscular athlete.
The principles of progressive overload and periodisation applied to power-building programmes are also essential to develop strength and ensure adequate active recovery, which are concepts ignored by many bodybuilders – it’s normally all or nothing, every day.
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As with any popular trend, there variants often emerge as experts try to corner the market. A power-building variant worth considering is Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training (PHAT).
Developed by Dr. Layne Norton, a pro natural bodybuilder and accomplished record-breaking powerlifter, the PHAT protocol combines powerlifting and bodybuilding moves with the aim of working each muscle group twice a week.
The first two days of the week are divided into upper and lower body power days where you lift heavy weights for low reps. This is followed by a day off and then three days of traditional hypertrophy-orientated bodybuilding training where you train with lighter loads aiming for 10-12 reps.
The theory behind this approach is that a combination of heavy weights for low reps, and light weight with higher reps will increase your muscle growth potential over the long term.
A typical PHAT workout split includes:
- Monday: Upper body power
- Tuesday: Lower body power
- Wednesday: Off
- Thursday: Back and shoulders hypertrophy
- Friday: Lower body hypertrophy
- Saturday: Chest and arms hypertrophy
- Sunday: Off
Power days: On the first two days of the week, focus on a combination of classic powerlifting movements and similar exercises for your upper body and lower body. These typically include bench presses, rows and weighted pull-ups for the upper body, and squats and deadlifts for the lower body. The idea is to stay in the 3-5 rep range for 3-5 working sets with adequate rest between sets, with the goal of moving the maximum amount of weight on the powerlifting exercises. Auxiliary exercises can for smaller body parts include calves, arms, hamstrings and shoulders.
Hypertrophy days: On these days, speed work (6-8 sets of 3 reps) is done with 65-70% of your 3-5 rep max on the power exercises used earlier in the week. Rest is no longer than 90 seconds between sets. The goal during these workouts is to move the weight through the concentric phase of the exercise as quickly as possible. If you are not able to move the weight explosively, it is too heavy. After completing the speed work, train by using traditional bodybuilding exercises with a rep range of 10-12, with rest periods of 1-2 minutes between sets.
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Periodising your training
The final important element to ensure you get the most from your power-building programme is periodisation.
According to the PHAT protocol, for the first 2-4 weeks you should not train to failure, stopping 1-2 reps shy so that your body can become accustomed to the high volume and frequency. Go to absolute failure only on the last 1-2 sets of each exercise when you have adapted to the routine.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.
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