What Is Powerbuilding?

Developing a typical strength training program involves finding an exercise with a weight heavy enough to lift 10 to 12 times in about three sets (via Healthline). Afterward, you might move to another exercise that works out a similar body part. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends doing this at least twice a week to keep the muscles and bones strong.

Bodybuilding goes beyond this recommendation. Rather than focusing on keeping muscles strong, bodybuilders look to change their physique and improve their body's symmetry (via Byrdie). They adhere to a specific diet to ensure the nutrients they receive properly fuel their bodies while they burn fat — it's all about building muscle.

Powerlifters have different goals than bodybuilders. According to Men's Journal, powerlifters are focused on how much weight they can load on the barbell. They focus most of their efforts on three movements: deadlifts, bench presses, and squats. During a workout, powerlifters work their way toward increasing the one-rep maximum weight they can lift. They do this by doing several sets of low-repetition lifts — it's all about building strength.

You can build muscle and gain maximum strength through a hybrid of these two strength training methods — it's called powerbuilding. According to a 2019 article in Sport Science, powerbuilding is about gaining muscle and maximizing strength in the same workout.

What does a powerbuilding workout look like?

According to Bodybuilding.com, a powerbuilding workout will start with one of the three main lifts in powerlifting, such as the barbell deadlift. After a few warm-up sets, you'll do five sets of two reps using a weight heavy enough to lift five times — this is the powerlifting part of your workout. After this exercise, you'll move on to other exercises that recruit the same muscles as your barbell deadlift, such as a Romanian deadlift. This is when you'll take a more bodybuilding-focused approach with three-to-four sets of higher reps.

Muscle & Fitness suggests focusing your workouts on free weights. Rather than doing supersets, which might be in a bodybuilder's repertoire, you'll stick to six-to-eight reps through the entire workout. To reach your one-rep max, adopt the pyramid approach, which involves starting with 10 repetitions with a relatively lighter weight. Then, you can progressively add more weight until you can only do four reps.

What are the benefits of powerbuilding?

According to BarBend, powerbuilding can keep the body from getting bored. Because the body often adapts to your fitness regimen, it's important to mix up the methods. Powerbuilding challenges the body consistently, which results in more muscle gain and strength. Powerbuilding also offers a little more freedom in the types of strength training exercises. Although powerbuilding maintains the core lifts of the bench press, deadlift, and squat, you get to choose the accessory exercises to supplement these lifts.

It is worth noting that powerbuilding isn't only for men. Powerbuilder Stephanie Sanzo chose this method because it focuses less on how her body looks and more on how her body performs. Although she enjoyed bodybuilding, she realized that it sometimes encouraged unhealthy comparisons to others. Powerbuilding made a difference in Sanzo's life, and she hardly does any cardio, aside from walking. She says via Sweat that although it takes some commitment, powerbuilding can also help you build confidence in yourself.