Powerlifters can learn from Bodybuilders

Some of us in the Powerlifting community are guilty of compartmentalizing a bit too much and acting as if our sport is so far removed from the likes of Bodybuilding that there’s no overlap. I’ve certainly been guilty of this myself. I’ve spent periods of time eschewing rows and isolation work because I felt it detracted from my Powerlifting specific programming.

A lot of top Powerlifters do indeed do Bodybuilding style training in addition to the sport specific work. Though, there are some that speak out against it or talk down its carry over to Powerlifting. I know that some of them did much more of it earlier in their career and I have to wonder if that sort of work did indeed contribute much to their meteoric rise in the Powerlifting community but now that they’ve built the base, they don’t need it as much anymore.

It’s probably best that beginners and early intermediates put an emphasis on bodybuilding work so that they can build that initial musculature. Of course, they should practice the competition lifts. But at that stage the practice can stay light and progress at an easy pace. I think the Bodybuilding work can also help with motivation as it will help to provide the more visual gains which can be very motivating to newcomers to the sport.

The fitness community used to be a lot less compartmentalized. Powerlifters and Bodybuilders used to train a lot more like each other. From reading accounts of those that trained at popular gyms in days past it seemed like lifters were willing to try anything to put pounds on their total or inches on their biceps. Maybe it’s just me being nostalgic for a different time but I feel like we’ve lost something from that era.

I think Bodybuilding training can provide a lot of advantages vs. typical Powerlifting training. It’s typically less psychologically taxing, less physically fatiguing. It has a built-in reward mechanism: the pump. It will help you build muscle which can then be utilized by the competition movements. Sure, it’s not specific at all but it has its well defined role in Powerlifting training.

If I could offer some homework: pay more attention to what the bodybuilders do. Pick up a copy of Arnold’s Bodybuilding encyclopedia. Continue performing the competition lifts and their close variants, always. But afterwards throw in a couple sets of arms, back, chest. Hop on the leg extension and leg curl machines. You’ll probably find it does more good than harm.


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