upper chest workout incline bench press

by Jason Stallworth

April 10, 2019

Let’s be honest…if you’re strong, you want to look strong. And if you look strong, you want to actually be strong. Right?

Often times we’ll focus on one or the other. But what if you want both?

I’m going to show you how to get bigger and stronger with powerbuilding workouts

What Is Powerbuilding?

In short, powerbuilding is a combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding techniques performed in the same workout. 

The ultimate goal of powerlifting is to simply lift heavy weights, as much weight as possible. Powerlifters aren’t too concerned with how they look, muscle definition, or getting a pump. It’s all about pure strength. 

Bodybuilding is all about muscle size, shape, and symmetry. This doesn’t necessarily mean bodybuilders shy away from lifting heavyweights. But the focus is on forcing the muscles to lift the weights over how much weight is lifted. 

With powerbuilding, you’re going to start your workouts focusing on strength gains and merge into more concentrated movements and exercises that will promote size and shape. You’re really getting the best of both worlds. 

Benefits of Powerbuilding Workouts

powerbuilding workouts

If you’re like me, you’re sometimes on the fence of whether you want to focus on training for strength or building muscle size. So you’re caught between bodybuilding vs. powerlifting.

Here are some benefits of powerbuilding workouts to consider:

  • You’ll look strong, and be strong
  • You won’t have the tendency to carry the body fat that you see many powerlifters have
  • Whereas your diet maybe a little more lenient (in consuming more calories for strength), your mixed focus on bodybuilding will keep you from getting out of control
  • It’s a natural way to increase your testosterone, with the combination of heavyweights and training volume for size (if you’re interested in boosting your testosterone, read about my recommended test booster here)

While most that compete at a professional level do focus on one or the other, there’s one great example of someone who’s been successful at both, at the pro level in the early to mid-2000s.

IFBB pro bodybuilder Johnnie Jackson has won both bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions and has been considered pound for pound the strongest bodybuilder (Johnnie goes more in-depth with his training style in his interview with David Robson on bodybuilding.com)

Why You Should Consider Powerbuilding Workouts

What you’ll find with the mass monsters of professional bodybuilding is that most of them built their dense muscle mass from powerlifting in their early days. This allowed them to build more size later by being able to lift heavier weights with more reps and volume. 

Some bodybuilders will compete in powerlifting from time to time. However, you won’t find many powerlifters that compete in bodybuilding. The required calorie restrictions when prepping for a bodybuilding contest would compromise their strength and power.

Most recreational gym rats (myself included) aspire to be big and muscular. However, we don’t want layers of fat covering up our hard-earned muscle. 

Blatantly, we want more muscle definition than what the average powerlifter has, and a little stronger than the typical bodybuilder (or at least be in the elite in your gym).  

I’ve personally never had any interest in competing in bodybuilding or powerlifting. So if you’re the same as me, then powerbuilding is perfect for you

Powerbuilding Workouts

powerbuilding for strength and mass gains

You’re actually going to get 3 powerbuilding workouts below (I can never give you just 1!).  

The main reason I want you to have several workout choices is that each workout is based on different powerlifting techniques. You’ll also find slightly different bodybuilding methods in each workout. 

A few notes to be aware of about my workouts below…

  • You will only be doing specific parts of the powerlifting methods that the workouts are based on. In other words, these workouts are not a true modified version of the powerlifting programs they’re based on.  
  • Unlike the powerlifting methods, you will only be doing your core compound lifts once, no more than twice a week(this is to leave more room for other exercises that will promote muscle size and definition).
  • You will be starting each workout with a compound exercise, using the associated powerlifting method. The bulk (no pun intended!) of your workouts will be based on hypertrophy, aka bodybuilding. 
  • These workouts may be a bit more exhausting than what you’re used to because of the heavy lifting combined with more training volume.
  • Each powerbuilding workout is a 4-day week program.

Now let’s get to the actual powerbuilding workouts!

Powerbuilding Workout 1: 5-3-1

The 5-3-1 workout method was founded by Jim Wendler, who created this training style (actually called Beyond 5-3-1) because he was tired of being a fat powerlifter. The program is based on ending your final week of doing sets of 5, 3, then 1 max rep set. 

There are some variations of that in the weeks leading up to that final week. But I won’t get into that because I want to focus on the powerbuilding workout below.

**If you want to read the details of the original 5-3-1 workout program, you can read it on powerliftingtowin.com

The powerbuilding workout I’m giving you below uses just the core part of the 5-3-1 workout. Essentially, you’ll do this with your compound exercises, which will be at the beginning of your workout.

After the heavy lifting, you’re going to go right into a bodybuilding style of training. 

Here’s your training split (you can modify this to cater to your schedule):

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout 3
  • Friday: Workout 4
  • Saturday & Sunday: Rest

Workout 1: Back and Biceps

ExercisesSets x Reps
Deadlifts3 x 5, 3, 1
Barbell Rows3 x 5, 3, 1
Seated Rows4 x 8
Lat Pulldowns4 x 10**
Barbell Curls3 x 8
Dumbbell Hammer Curls3 x 10**

**Do a drop set on the final set – this will be done for all workouts where you see **

Workout 2: Chest and Triceps

ExercisesSets x Reps
Bench Press3 x 5, 3, 1
Incline Bench Press4 x 8
Dumbbell Flyes4 x 10
Cable Flyes4 x 10**
Skull Crushers3 x 8
Rope Pressdowns3 x 10**

Workout 3: Legs

ExercisesSets x Reps
Squats3 x 5, 3, 1
Deadlifts3 x 5, 3, 1
Leg Press5 x 12
Leg Extensions4 x 12**
Leg Curls4 x 12**
Seated Calve Raises4 x 12**

Workout 4: Shoulders and Light Back

ExercisesSets x Reps
Overhead Barbell Press3 x 5, 3, 1
Seated Dumbbell Press4 x 8
Lateral Raises4 x 10**
Bent-over Raises4 x 10**
Reverse Grip Barbell Row3 x 15
Pull-ups3 x 15

Powerbuilding Workout 2: 3×3

The typical 3×3 workout program is based on working agonist and antagonist muscles together. For example, if you did a set of bench press you would do a set of barbell rows after that.

These aren’t necessarily supersets, as the recommended rest is 90 seconds between all sets, per elitefts.com, which goes into further detail. 

In the powerbuilding workout below, you’re going to start out with the 3 x 3 strength training method. You’ll do this for two exercises in the beginning of your workout followed by hypertrophy training. 

**For your squats and deadlifts, you’ll be going to an abdominal exercise (you’ll obviously do more than 3 reps for those ab exercises!). 

Here’s what your workout schedule will look like (similar to the 5-3-1 powerbuilding workout)

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout 3
  • Friday: Workout 4
  • Saturday & Sunday: Rest

Workout 1: Lower Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Squats3 x 3
Leg Raises3 x 12
Deadlifts3 x 3
Crunches3 x 12
Leg Press4 x 12
Stiff-Leg Deadlifts4 x 12
Seated Calve Raises5 x 15

Workout 2: Upper Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Barbell Rows3 x 3
Bench Press3 x 3
Seated Rows4 x 10
Incline Bench Press4 x 10
Barbell Curls3 x 10
Cable Pressdowns3 x 10

Workout 3: Lower Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Squats3 x 3
Leg Raises3 x 12
Deadlifts3 x 3
Crunches3 x 12
Leg Extensions4 x 12
Leg Curls4 x 12
Standing Calve Raises5 x 15

Workout 4: Upper Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Barbell Rows3 x 3
Overhead Barbell Press3 x 3
Lat Pulldowns4 x 10
Seated Dumbbell Press4 x 10
Pull-ups3 x 10
Dips3 x 10

**For similar workouts, check out my post called 9 Bodybuilding Workouts for Mass Gains

Powerbuilding Workout 3: 5×5

One of my personal favorite strength training methods is 5 x 5. The beauty of 5×5 is you don’t need a lot more than what it is. 

In doing 5 sets of 5 reps, you’re getting a decent amount of volume. So you will not be doing as many bodybuilding exercises after doing the 5 x 5 for your compound movements.

The typical 5×5 workout is a 3-day a week program, and like the other powerlifting methods used so far, the focus is on the core compound exercises:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Barbell Rows
  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Barbell Press

The true 5×5 has an A and B workout, which are alternated.

Of course, this powerbuilding 5×5 workout will be different. But out of the 3 powerbuilding workouts here, this one has more heavy lifting involved. 

To be consistent with the other powerbuilding workouts above, this one’s also a 4-day a week training schedule:

  • Monday: Workout 1
  • Tuesday: Workout 2
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout 3
  • Friday: Workout 4
  • Saturday & Sunday: Rest

Workout 1: Back and Chest

ExercisesSets x Reps
Barbell Rows5 x 5
Bench Press5 x 5
Dumbbell Rows4 x 8
Incline Dumbbell Press4 x 8

Workout 2: Lower Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Squats5 x 5
Deadlifts5 x 5
Leg Extensions3 x 12
Leg Curls3 x 12
Standing Calve Raises5 x 15

Workout 3: Back, Shoulders, and Arms

ExercisesSets x Reps
Barbell Rows5 x 5
Overhead Barbell Press5 x 5
Barbel Curls4 x 12
Close-grip Bench Press4 x 12

Workout 4: Lower Body

ExercisesSets x Reps
Deadlifts5 x 5
Front Squats5 x 5
Leg Extensions4 x 12
Leg Curls4 x 12
Seated Calve Raises5 x 12

Powerbuilding: Fastest Way to Gain More Size and Strength

So, is powerbuilding workouts the fastest way to gain more muscle size and strength

The truth is there’s no magic formula to making gains. Yes, some workout programs are better than others. But if you put max effort into any program, you can expect some sort of results.

However, I do believe that these powerbuilding workouts do stand out among normal bodybuilding workout programs. 


Because both have missing elements to them…

  • Powerlifting = strength gains, but doesn’t promote muscle size or definition
  • Bodybuilding = lean mass and ripped muscle, but runs the risk of making you ‘all show, no go’

Powerbuilding workouts take the best of both programs and give you both strength gains and ripped muscle mass. 

I strongly (pun intended) encourage you to try one of my powerbuilding workout programs for at least 3 weeks.

**If you’re ready to commit to a full 12-week muscle-building system then check out my premium programs below:

Hardcore Muscle Building Program
Lean Muscle Building Program

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