How Powerlifting Can Improve Your Bodybuilding

How Powerlifting Can Improve Your Bodybuilding

And how anyone can compete in powerlifting.

Every now and then we alter our training programs or approaches to avoid stalling and plateauing as our bodies get used to the current training. Sometimes new programs are designed to improve a specific goal such as conditioning, fat loss or strength gains.

Increasing your strength can have a drastic impact on the results of your bodybuilding training by allowing more weight to be used in volume training. Incorporating powerlifting into your program rotation is a great way to add strength while giving your body a new form of training to respond to.

Related: Powerlifting vs. Bodybuilding: 11 Things Bodybuilders Can Learn

The following article offers a succession of three programs that will allow lifters a clear path to transition the body from the traditional bodybuilding style of training to a powerlifting method, concluding with a powerlifting meet if desired.

There are a lot of short-term training programs designed to increase your strength in a bodybuilding approach but there are huge benefits to committing to a powerlifting format and then returning to bodybuilding. Powerlifting involves fewer reps per set than bodybuilding training while increasing the amount of weight used closer to your one rep max.

Switching styles of training forces the body to respond quickly to the new style and your strength will increase quite rapidly when you initially switch to powerlifting. When you return to a bodybuilding program you will be able to use a considerably higher amount of weight with your volume training and you will again receive the benefits of completely altering your training style as your body acclimates.

Often strength programs are designed to last anywhere from eight to sixteen weeks.

Committing to a powerlifting approach for seven months can make an enormous improvement that can last throughout your lifting career. Why seven months? Because the three suggested programs listed below require 30 weeks to perform and culminate with a great opportunity to test your strength limits.

This powerlifting strategy will allow you to significantly increase overall strength and form on three great mass building compound exercises - squats, bench press, and deadlifts. Increasing your overall strength will strengthen all the muscles utilized in isolation exercises. Individual strength programs can be effective but this 30-week plan is a comprehensive approach that allows you to keep and increase your gains as you transition through the various training styles.

This strategy also allows you to pick a powerlifting meet, train the previous 30 weeks and test your new strength in a competitive atmosphere. Simply choose a federation and a meet you want to compete in, perform the three programs and reward yourself by pushing yourself to your limits in a competitive environment.

Three Excellent Programs

#1 - Steve Shaw's Strength Training Cycle

The first program in this powerlifting strategy is the 16 Week Strength Training Cycle developed by Steve Shaw and is available here.

This program is divided into two eight-week phases consisting of a power building stage and a peaking cycle. This is an excellent program to use as you transition from one style of training to another.

The power-building phase utilizes rep ranges that are familiar to bodybuilders and includes more volume than traditional powerlifting programs. The peaking cycle increases your strength with careful attention to squats, bench press, and deadlifts while including numerous accessory and assistance exercises with every workout.

This strength training cycle is a solid program to increase strength and an outstanding way to introduce your muscles to the powerlifting style of training. It prepares you for an outstanding periodization program.

#2 - Candito's 6 Week Strength Program

The second program is the 6 Week Strength Program written by Johnny Candito and it is available on this page:

Scroll down to the Intermediate programs and you will find an Adobe link that explains the program and a link to an Excel program where you enter your current one rep max for your lift. The Excel program will provide your workout, complete with weights to be used. This program is a periodization program and you will perform a different workout every week as the volume decreases and the weight used increases.

The program is a six-week program but you will only be performing the first five weeks. You will use the week five estimates on each lift as your current maximums for the peaking program. There are several accessory and optional exercises in addition to the conventional squat, bench and deadlift only powerlifting programs that allows you to work as many of your muscles as desired.


#3 - Steve Shaw's 9 Week Powerlifting Peaking Program

The third program is the 9-week Powerlifting Periodization Peaking Workout designed by Steve Shaw and it can be found here.

This peaking program was developed to allow the user to reach their peak strength for squats, bench, and deadlift at the end of the nine weeks, especially if you want to test your strength at a powerlifting meet. The program is divided into two four-week programs followed by a week off before the meet.

The first four-week program is Ramping Volume Training where you perform three sets of each exercise Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the weights increasing and the reps decreasing as the program progresses.

The second four-week program is Ramping Heavy Training where you have one heavy and two light days for each of the three lifts as you move closer and closer to using your one rep max. The program lists some optional accessory exercises for the first four-week program and advises against accessory work the last four weeks as you near the competition.

Meet week program

The peaking program suggests taking the entire week off but it is a good idea to have one last workout the Monday before your meet. This is a light workout that simply involves warming up to a single with your anticipated opening lift for squats, bench press, and deadlifts. You don't want to overexert yourself but this is a great way to prepare for the meet.

You don't have to go to a powerlifting meet to determine your one rep max but it would be a great opportunity to test yourself. Feel free to grab a few spotters and find your numbers in the gym at the end of the peaking program. Powerlifting meets offer a competitive and friendly atmosphere. You can learn about the meet experience, including the weigh in, equipment check and commands for each of the three lifts in the following article.

Tips For a Successful Meet

Choosing a Powerlifting Federation and Meet

There are numerous powerlifting federations that host meets across the United States; some are local while others are nation or worldwide. My suggestion would be to check the United States Powerlifting Association's (USPA) website,, to see if they offer any meets close to where you live. The USPA is not the only quality federation but I suggest this federation for the following reasons:

The USPA offers meets across the country that varies from open meets that anyone may compete into National or World meets that require qualification. The USPA rulebook is 48 pages and covers every aspect of the meet, equipment, lift requirements, commands, referee information and it provides several visual examples to ensure the rules are clear and uniformly enforced.

There is no debate or confusion concerning squat depth, bench press execution, lift requirements, meet procedure and referee expectations because everything is clearly laid out in the rulebook. The organization offers meets that are hosted in a professional manner, spotters are provided for safety purposes, the referees are well trained, numerous medals and awards are offered at each meet, a national database of state and national records is available on the USPA website and certificates are awarded to those that set records.

Anyone with a federation membership can sign up for the open meets and there is a USPA National Meet in Las Vegas if your numbers qualify. Additionally, USPA lifters can compete at International Powerlifting League (IPL) World Meets if their numbers are high enough to qualify.

The three workout programs are a great way for anyone to increase their strength and prepare for a powerlifting meet. You don't have to compete in a powerlifting meet to reap the benefits of powerlifting training but a meet is a great way to challenge and reward yourself after this 30-week training approach.

Powerlifting is a growing sport and you might discover you want to powerlift long term. It is rewarding to push yourself to lift as much weight as you possibly can and powerlifting training is intense. Should you decide to go back to bodybuilding, the strength you gain will help you as you increase your volume.

Returning to the higher volume style of bodybuilding training will shock your body into growth once again, with a significantly higher weight. Utilize these three powerlifting programs to drastically increase your strength and you will improve your progress with whatever training style you utilize next.
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