Saturday, January 12, 2013


Question: Would you rather look like a ripped bodybuilder or a fat powerlifter?

You know, like this

Or this

Seems obvious, right?  But you want to be strong like a powerlifter, right?

Not like some weak bodybuilder, who is all show and no go, right?

If you follow lifting, you probably already got my point, but for those of you playing along at home.

Photo 1: Kirk Karwoski.  Powerlifter.
Photo 2: Lee Priest.  Bodybuilder.
Photo 3: Ronnie Coleman.  Bodybuilder.
Photo 4: Dave Tate.  Powerlifter.

On the internet, there is a war, and it is between powerlifters and bodybuilders.  You have to pick a side and choose your alliances wisely, for no quarter will be given.  Will you dedicate yourself to a greater total at the cost of never seeing your abs again and having a 50" waist, or will you be some prettyboy bodybuilder, all oiled up in a manthong with bulging, useless muscles.

Like this, but WAY more important man!

Notice, I said this is on the internet.  Why?  Because in the real world, it's total bullshit.  Those with no accomplishments to show in either physique or strength rage at each other from the safety and anonymity afforded behind their screens while the real bodybuilders and powerlifters are out there getting big and strong.

Want a basic description of how to train for powerlifting?  Train something heavy, and then train some lighter stuff to build up size and bring up weak points.  Want to know how to train for bodybuilding?  Train something heavy, and then train some lighter stuff to build up size and bring up weak points.  

You aren't going to become a good bodybuilder without getting stronger.  It just does not happen.  You spend enough time lifting iron and eventually you get good at it, no matter what rep range you are working in.  Your body doesn't care that the 8 rep range is actually the range for sacroplasmic hypertrophy, it just wants to adapt to the stress you are putting it under.  Similarly, if you are lifting heavy shit and eating a lot of food, you WILL put on muscle, even if you occasionally put on a spandex one piece and spend about 18 hours only doing 3 lifts.  Your body doesn't know you're a powerlifter, it just wants to grow.

Look at the old school guys.  Arnold was a capable weightlifter and won a stone lifting contest in Austria as a bodybuilder.  Lou Ferrigno and Franco Columbu were both invited to the first World's Strongest Man competition, and actually did decently well

Well, ok, minus that

Meanwhile, guys like Bill Kazmaier and Ed Coan were jacked.  Why?  Because you can't lift heavy stuff and eat big without getting big, and you can't get big without lifting heavy stuff.

Put down your "rep range tables" and other such nonsense, get away from your notions about how you HAVE to train below 6 reps to get stronger and how anyone training in the 8-12 rep range is just building squishy sacrplasmic filler goo muscles and start busting your ass instead.  Your body will have no other choice but to grow.

People will ask "why is it that everytime I see a powerlifter in a video, they are fat?"  This isn't because powerlifting makes you fat, it's because if you're watching a powerlifter video, you are most likely watching a world record lift.  A powerlifter setting a world record is going to be as heavy as he possibly can be, because weight moves weight.  In this situation, yes, this man will be fat, but he is a representative of the extreme in powerlifting, not the norm.  If you aren't a 308+lb powerlifter, it does you no good to carry excess fat, as this is just moving you up into a higher weight class and killing your coefficient (pound for pound strength essentially).  You're going to see abs on a lot of successful powerlifters in the 242 class and below.  

Additionally, people will talk about how they see bodybuilders moving small weights to gain bigger muscles.  While this may happen (Kai Greene discusses the intent of that exercise here, it is not to say that these people do not still possess incredible strength.  Quite the contrary in fact.  It necessitates a great degree of strength to be able to have such mastery and control over such a weight.  If you do not have said strength, the weights you will use for this method will be even MORE paltry than what Greene utilizes, and were Kai to decide to deviate from this approach and go for maximal pounds on the bar, he'd be able to demonstrate a great level of strength, as seen here

Yes yes, he has a spotter, isn't pausing, etc.  Re-read my post on training lifts.  This is still strong.

This isn't binary.  The only place the extremes exist is on the internet.  Get strong, eat big, and you will get big.  Get big, and you will get strong.  Spend your time worrying about rep ranges and sarcoplasmic vs myofibrillar hypertrophy, and you will do neither.


  1. Replies
    1. You got it. People overthink this stuff.

  2. Awesome post. I just discovered this blog and I look forward to going through it. Reminds me of cnp.

    1. Thanks man. Glad to have you as a reader.

    2. You are right about everything you said,lifting heaviier weights gradually makes you stronger,but i think rep ranges are relevant,low rep ranges challenge your muscles to lift heavier,thus putting a heavier emphasis on getting stronger but lesser emphasis on endurance,but both happen simultaneously,again high rep ranges do things in exact opposite order,but you get both strong and get high endurance,so anyone with a special focus on either strentgh or endurance will save a lotsof time by choosing the right rep range,big pleasure reading this article sorry for the bigass answer.

    3. I've actually written on the subject of rep ranges before, which you can find here

      The notion of training exclusively in any one single rep range is honestly pretty foolish, because it presupposes this notion that rep ranges are the only contributing factor toward outcome, ignoring other factors such as overall programming, rest periods, movement selection, movement priority, training frequency, etc. I can train 3 reps in a set, and can manipulate all the other variables such that those 3 reps are improving my power, improving my strength, improving my muscle mass, or improving my endurance. I don't think it's the rep range a trainee needs to concern themselves with, but the programming.

    4. maybe,i dont think i am learned enough to debate about it,awesome post BTW.I got something to ask,since you are an accomplished powerlifter you should know,i am looking forward to get into powerlifting,because i have grown a strong beleif by reading popular articles in the internet that it is good for athletes and overall bodystrentgh,now tell me,will programs like pendlay 5/5 or stronglifts 5/5 get me jacked within like 1-2 years,i guess i will get strong but some people claim i will get jacked as well,and howlong will it take for a complete beginner like me(my height is 5'11") to achieve your lifting stats(with strong dedication),just give me an approximate idea,i am 17 years old now,and also are programs like stronglifts 5/5 or pendlay 5/5 the most effective programs around.I am looking forward to a answer so pls help me out,thnx in advance.

    5. I can't vouch for either program, having never run them. I grew up on Pavel's 3-5 and Westside Barbell for Skinny Bastards. If you want my idea of how a beginner should train, check out my post "Creating the Next Legend".

      In terms of timeline, it's going to take as long as it takes. If you stick with it and are dedicated for 1-2 years, you will definitely be bigger and stronger than if you didn't. It's a journey, and if you are in it for the long haul, it'll pay off.

    6. Thanks for the reply,guess i will start right away.

    7. Best of luck. Hope you make good progress.

  3. James Reynolds, I deleted your post due to the link it contained. I am unsure if you were just spamming my blog or if it was a legitimate question. If it's the former, I am making no money from this site, and I would appreciate if you did not attempt to profit from my work. If it is the latter, I would be willing to engage in discussion without the links.

  4. I believe that it doesn't have to be "vs", but it's much easier to start with pl and bb will come along ;) It's still incredible how two very similar disciplines can be so different.

    1. You are exactly right in that it doesn't have to be "vs", and that's what I was trying to get at here. That said, I wouldn't start out with powerlifting or bodybuilding, but instead simply start with getting in shape and developing some basic strength and coordination. From there one can diversify into powerlifting, bodybuilding, olympic lifting, strongman, etc.

  5. I have been lifting for years, and i can definitely tell you guys that, rep ranges do not play the most important role in building strength, power or mass. Instead, the way you lift and tempo, will give the best results. As you can see power-lifting bench press, they lower the bar slow and steady, but they push the bar up quick and with explosive motion. On the contrary, if you watch Kai Greene bench press in this video, even though his rep range belongs to low reps group (below 6 reps), but the way he push the bar, his mindset is focusing on squeezing his chest together, and more importantly, he doesn't lock out at the top. This is to keep the tension on his chest. Therefore, personally, i would think the lifting tempo and motion will help you to reach your goal, whether its hypertrophy or muscular strength. Hope this help! :)

    1. Absolutely correct. This is something I've addressed in a few rants as well (Training vs Competition and Form is Overrated). To take your comments even further, how you mention a powerlifting bench press is how he benches in competition, but during times that said powerlifter needs to focus on increasing the size of their chest, they may very well bench just like you mentioned Kai doing. We see Eric Spoto make use of this bench technique in his own training to improve his competition bench. We can learn from all the iron sports.