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Better Powerlifting by Bodybuilding

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Better Powerlifting by Bodybuilding

So many people will probably skip right over this article because it is suggesting that something besides a “powerlifting routine” will make them a better powerlifter. Welcome to why you suck. Powerlifters have dug themselves into this one-size fits all “trench” of training methods, and they refuse to back off from their beliefs. How do I know? Try getting a geared lifter to go raw for 20 weeks, even if the result could be 100 lbs. on their gear total they won’t do it. Try getting some raw lifters into gear, won’t happen. So, lets start with an idea we all began with most likely anyway.

Bodybuilding was my first love in the iron game. Mainly, because I trained at a great little hardcore gym, with tons of blue collar guys that trained super hard, and were jacked. Really jacked. So in an attempt to look like them I bought “Musclemag”, “Flex”, and “Muscular Development”, and read every article learning as much as I could. My training partner, and best friend, Brad Webb, used to go to the gym and do an all-out assault on our bodies. Every day.  We pushed ourselves hard. And, as a result we both put on a load of muscle, but the best part, without even focusing directly on strength we became very strong. I remember clearly Brad, being 5’5 or 5’6 weighing a little over 200 lbs. doing 405 on the bench with his feet resting on the pad. I happened to enter a powerlifting meet in which I squatted 660 lbs. with a belt, and knee wraps, benched 440 lbs., and pulled 670 lbs. I was 219 lbs., at 19 years old. Those numbers stack up pretty well with some competitive 220’s even today.

But there is some relief. I am not encouraging you to drop your powerlifting routine all together. But rather, blend ideas. At Berea Barbell our philosophy on training is this “train like a strongman, eat like a bodybuilder, and you’ll be a kickass powerlifter.” Well, to us that means we go into the gym, we attack our first exercise (either squat, bench, or deadlift depending on the day), and we train it for the competition platform. After we get done with that we move directly into accessory mode and that’s where the fun begins. Guys too often think the only lift that matters is the main lift, how do you really improve weakpoints in a lift, if you don’t do various other lifts to support it? We each have different weaknesses, but many are the same, so we attack our mutual weaknesses together, then splinter off and hit our own weak point training. Now what do I mean train like a bodybuilder?

Things we do to Train Like  a Bodybuilder

We usually pick 4-5 exercises per day (one of those is always for the lats/back), and if it is a heavy day on our main movement on accessories our weights are lighter with reps in the 10-15 range. On rep days where weight is moderate our accessory weights are moderate with reps in the 8-10 range. On our explosive days when the main movement weight is the lightest our accessory weight is the heaviest in the rep range of 5-8.

1.Use Progressive Overload

This is the most basic and one of the most important principles. Muscles grow bigger and stronger as they adapt to stress. Therefore, you need to progressively overload your muscles each week either by lifting moderately more weight, exerting more force, or performing more repetitions with the same weight. This is why it is so important to record your progress and write down your training goals.

2. Use Compound, Multi-Joint, Free Weight Exercises

Squats, power cleans,  dumbbell press, deadlifts, etc.

3. Use Ground-Based Exercises

Movements that will get you doing full body movement, and you can free stand vs. sitting. Think seated military vs. standing military. The more movements you do on your feet, the more the entire body will be worked.

A High Volume Day, like this one with Brandon Lilly and the crew at Berea Barbell, will help pack on muscle and improve your total…

4. Train Your Core

I’m not telling you to train to look like a bodybuilder, but what do you think keeps you upright in a heavy squat? What pushes out on your belt to get “pop” off the floor in the deadlift. I recommend training without a belt as much as possible, but we do lots of ab work as well.

5. Train With Balance

Don’t spend all your time on things you love, or are good at. I make a rule, for every exercise I do that I’m good at I need to do two that I am bad at.

6. Incorporate Strongman Implement Training

You don’t have to have a lot of equipment, but get moving with weight. Walk with a squat bar, drag a sled, walk long distances with heavy dumbbells. Keep the training fun, varied, and hard, and you will see success.

7. Incorporate Speed & Explosiveness Training

On the Cube we have an explosive day every week for one of our lifts, on the Westside Method developed by Louie Simmons you have a different kind of speed work. The point is, powerlifters need to be powerful, and explosive, so incorporate some of that style into your accessory work.

8. Use A Method Of Periodization

The body will never just improve without needing some variation. We like to blast for 3 weeks on accessory work, then take a week where we up the volume, and reduce the weight. We have a defined purpose in our training, and it is never random.

9. Get Enough Rest

Simple enough. You don’t grow in the gym, you grow when you are sleeping. Dedicate to it, and you will be surprised what happens.

10. Follow A Healthy, Intelligent Nutrition Plan

This should be common sense, but so many guys will train their asses off, take every supplement under the sun, combined with every drug under the sun, but fail to eat properly. Makes no sense to me. Start with whole foods, build a strong plan around meats, vegetables, and healthy fats. Once you do that, then start adding in supplements to fill in any gaps you may have. Nutrition is everything.

11. Flexibility

If your body can’t move what good is it? Take an extra 15 minutes to stretch. Believe me, the time you take to prevent an injury is so much less that the time it will take to repair one. Don’t skimp, do it.

Following these steps, will not “possibly” show you improvement, I guarantee you will see improvement, Not only in your lifts, but in how you feel, and how you look. And after all isn’t looking good, and feeling better why we all started in the first place?

Brandon Lilly is very well traveled, Elite powerlifter. He has trained at Guerrilla Squad Barbell, Westside Barbell, Lexen  Xtreme, and is now home at Berea Barbell. In his strength journey he has competed in bodybuilding, strongman, and powerlifting. Brandon is one of only 19 men to ever total over 2200 raw, having 2204 which ties him for 16th all time (826.5 squat, 573 bench, 804.5 Deadlift). He also amassed a 2612 total in Multi-Ply, and has best lifts of 1008 squat, 832 bench press, and 771 Deadlift. Brandon is the author of The Cube Method and is aiming to create a paradigm shift in the Powerlifting world.

Brandon Lilly

Brandon is a top ranked powerlifter, author of “The Cube Method”, and “365STRONG”, as well as a respected strength coach. Brandon is ranked as one of the strongest powerlifters of All-Time, having world class totals in multiple weight class, raw, and equipped. His efforts as a lifter, and a coach have helped cause a paradigm shift in the sport of powerlifting. His Cube Method has helped over a dozen men total 2,000 lbs or more in raw divisions, and over twenty women total over 1,000 lbs or more.

READ MORE BY Brandon Lilly

7 Responses to “Better Powerlifting by Bodybuilding”

April 27, 2013 at 6:26 pm, Taylor said:

A lot of good info being dropped lately. I bought the Cube and I have been reading it. Now it’s time to put it to work. I like the video of Brandon te other day and how he talked about the barbell being above all the other bullshit. Keep up the great work and looking forward to each article posted in this site.. Life changing..


April 30, 2013 at 2:16 am, Lenard Lieber said:

Dude, I bought your cube method e-book, but am confused. Is it necessary to use bands? If so how do I set these up? Apparently putting the bar where I consider normal is an olympic squat, and you have “olympic” squats following “squats”. Do I have to put the bar lower and then higher? Is there some benefit to having the bar lower, and by benefit I mean getting stronger, not moving more weight. If I can move more weight just because of bar position I’m not stronger. I go to a chain fitness gym, so there aren’t blocks or what have one, so can I assume pulling from the power rack low is an ok substitute. Also, what about spacing between workouts. Sunday for you is bodybuilding day, for me it would be first workout. Right now, I go in and do rep squats on Sunday, and ME on Thurs, with deads. Monday is rep bench and Friday ME bench.


May 02, 2013 at 9:47 pm, Will said:

“by benefit I mean getting stronger, not moving more weight. If I can move more weight just because of bar position I’m not stronger”

Just wanted to point out how retarded this is.


May 06, 2013 at 8:46 pm, Better Powerlifting by Bodybuilding » BiggerBeast.com said:

[…] post Better Powerlifting by Bodybuilding appeared first on Juggernaut Training […]


May 07, 2013 at 3:21 pm, Steve said:

I think you mean, “Eat like a strongman, lift like a bodybuilder”?


May 09, 2013 at 10:04 am, Group Post Part 2: Prep and Recovery | The Miss Fits said:

[…] Our coach used principles from two different methods of training to get us prepared for the competition. For those of us competing for the first time, he used Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 method, which has you working at a certain percentage of your max (depending on what week of training you are in) for 5, 3, or 1 repetitions. Check out some more info on that here: http://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/hardcore-look-at-jim-wendlers-5-3-1-powerlifting-system.html. For those of us who have competed before, he used the principles of the CUBE method, where each lift day is focused on weight, repetitions or speed. Read more about that here: http://jtsstrength.com/articles/2013/04/26/better-powerlifting-by-bodybuilding/. […]


June 10, 2013 at 2:20 am, mark ashtiani said:

I like the philosophy here of gettting back to basics and focus on what really matters, not necessarilly what is hype in the lifting world this week or month. As a bodybuilder myself there is even more bullshit hype to potentially get lost in but be weary of this, lift hard, keep it simple, have the best work ethic in the gym and do your homework. Reap what you sew.


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