Powerlifting is a sport that focuses on nothing but strength gains. A prime example of this comes with the way that powerlifters perform the back squat. They put the bar on their rear deltoids, creating a low-bar placement. This allows them to lift the most weight possible – which is the goal of the sport. The amount of weight lifted is very important when trying to put on mass, so the low-bar squat is invaluable.
That’s just one of many different examples where a powerlifting movement is proven to be effective for the purpose of building muscle.
Here are some other exercises that powerlifters love and live by, which may also be used for a great muscle building workout.
There is no doubt about it, the deadlift is king when it comes to building mass in the back. It is a movement that taxes nearly the entire body. It can help build the legs, back, biceps, shoulders, and it even strengthens the core.
The deadlift is performed pretty much the same, whether one is a a powerlifter or a bodybuilder. Many bodybuilders will throw in deadlift variations, whether for a change-up, safety purposes, or just out of preferences. Some examples of this include the stiff legged deadlift and the Romanian deadlift.
The Bench Press
A powerlifter is often pictured as this guy that walks around with a big gut, but an even bigger chest – and a beefy set of forearms of course. The chest mass comes from the bench press. It’s the most widely recognized powerlifting exercise, possibly in the whole world.
The form of the bench press is the same between a powerlifter and a bodybuilder. The only real difference, which applies with all powerlifting exercises, is that there is more focus on lower reps. This allows the lifter to achieve the highest weight amount possible. However, it does not trigger maximum muscle growth (more on that in a minute).
The Differences in Reps and Sets between Powerlifting and Bodybuilding
As you can see, the exercises that a powerlifter will perform are very valuable for a bodybuilder too. In fact, a bodybuilder usually bases their workouts around powerlifting movements and then throws in a few accessory movements to finish off the muscles.
So the difference between the two types of training doesn’t come from the exercises themselves. But why is the physique of a powerlifter versus a bodybuilder so different? Surprisingly, the main contributing factor to this is actually the amount of reps and sets, but mostly reps that the lifter performs.
A powerlifter will focus on performing low amounts of reps. Their sets may include a single rep, three reps, but never more than five reps. On the other hand, a bodybuilder will perform four to six reps while bulking and upwards of eight to 10 reps while cutting.
The difference comes from how the body responds to each style of training. Low reps at heavy weight creates strength gains. Once the exercises gets to around five reps at a moderately heavy weight, the body is showing both strength and muscle gains. As strength is increasing, the amount lifted goes up and even further increase muscle gains – this is the logic behind training while bulking. If reps are too high, it essentially just improves endurance and conditioning; very high rep sets will cross over into a form of cardio training.
Ultimately, bodybuilding borrows a lot from powerlifting. It’s mainly bodybuilding and powerlifting that differentiate from Olympic lifting – movements such as the snatch, clean, and jerk do not contribute too much towards increasing muscle mass. However, if improving muscle mass is the focus, then the movements from a powerlifter are prime as they specialize in maximizing strength gains, not mass increases.