It seems lately everybody is coming to the conclusion that if you want to get massive and ripped, you need to lower the weight and perform an insanely high rep scheme. While some people may adapt to this well, many are forgetting the basics of what our muscles are designed to accomplish. The stereotype now is that powerlifters will always have an ugly, non-aesthetic physique from all of the maximal effort sets and bodybuilders will never be that strong. This, however, is very wrong and as stated, the basic principles of training need to be re-evaluated.
What do your muscles do? Why do we have muscles? Why do your muscles grow when they are strained and worked? The same reason our bodies accommodate for everything in life, whether it be the beard you grow to stay warm in the winter or your body holding onto fat instead of leaving you with a chiseled six-pack year round, your body is naturally designed to accommodate for whatever is necessary in your life for every day routine and survival.
While this might seem like foolishness, this definitely has a bigger connection to muscular size and strength than you might think. Your muscles grow when strained, so that they can adapt to whatever strain that brought them to failure before so that the next time, they can accomplish whatever task is necessary that they previously failed at. If your muscles are able to accomplish this task easily, they will not continue to grow unless they are shocked in a different manner in which the muscles cannot complete the task.
This principal is called or can be associated with muscle overload. You need to overload your muscles, in one way or another, for them to respond to the training and grow in result. Power bodybuilding is a great combination to use for both strength and size because this type of training shocks your body constantly for it to grow.
Think about your exercises. Sometime’s a little ‘bro-science’ is needed to see things logically. Thinking like a bodybuilder, you’re going to want to use a lighter weight while concentrating on the contraction. Fact is, if you’re benching 185 for 15 reps every single workout and using similar rep schemes and weight for all of your other exercises, you’re most likely going to stick at that rep scheme as well as the same amount of weight. While you may burn a lot of calories and really draw detail into your muscle, this simply is not overloading your muscles with enough resistance for your muscles to become stronger.
Many times, strength is not associated with muscular size, as you WILL see a lot of bodybuilders that are not very strong and you will see a lot of powerlifters that are not very big, but let’s go back to the bench press. You’re a decent sized guy benching 185 for 15 reps every week. Another guy beside you is benching 315 for 15 reps. Is there any chance in hell, that both of you going to failure on the 15th rep, that this guy is going to be smaller then you? No way! This guy is going to look like a beast! In the end, it is simply impossible not to be very large while being able to press heavy weight.
Respectively, you cannot only max out every single workout either and expect to see gains. Powerlifting incorporated into bodybuilding is great because of the constant shock that you are putting your muscles through. Your body might adapt to the one rep maxes with maximal weight, and shocking it with a higher rep scheme, while similarly overloading the muscles, can shock it back into growth. Regardless of the rep schemes, you’re going to need to be using weight that is going to be hard to move, whether it be for 15 rep sets or 3 rep sets.
That brings us to other variables which may change your size as well as strength. In powerlifting alone, you are focused primarily on moving weight. While most of the training relies on low rep, high weight sets with a lot of rest time in between sets, other adjustments are made in order to move the weight. Squatters may use an extra wide stance to remove the distance needed to complete a ‘good’ lift, and similarly those who are competing on the bench press will use leverage to their advantage by creating an arch in their back.
While this will increase the numbers on your lifts, it is crucial for the bodybuilding side of it to use correct form that will result in the best muscular contraction for whatever exercise you’re going to perform. Using heavy weight for low reps with good form can be very successful to increasing your strength, which in turn, can increase the weight you use for those higher-rep sets.
I know what some of you are thinking. “Well, Jay cutler and blablabla only use high repetitions for all of their workouts.” Fact of the matter is, even stated in a recent issue of MuscularDevelopment magazine, Jay cutler has done some very impressive lifts. He, himself states that it is vital to move heavy weight with good form for as many reps as possible. He even stated that he has squatted 700 pounds for two reps as well as benched 550 pounds for 2 reps. We may think this is impossible, seeing as how he currently won’t be caught dead under the flat bench and rarely even does free weight squats. Most bodybuilders do not train with such extreme weight because of the risks of tearing muscles, but that does not mean that they haven’t pulled, pressed, and squatted some extreme weight to build their physiques into what they are currently.
While you should not point to any particular persons training in relevance to their physique, simply because everybody’s genetics and many other variables are completely different to show that their training regimes will not work for you, it is not a secret that many of the top bodybuilders in the world were very strong people. We’ve seen videos of Ronnie Coleman, 8x Mr. Olympia, deadlifting 800 pounds for two reps as well as doing reps with 500 pounds on the flat bench. There are even pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger, known for his high volume training with high reps, deadlifting more than 700 pounds in a powerlifting competition.
Unfortunately, safety is one of the biggest issues associated with the heavy, strength-side of the bodybuilding sport. Because bodybuilders drain their bodies in order to come in crisp, dry, chissled condition, lifting heavy weight is very risky to tear certain bodyparts, similarly for anybody moving heavy weight year after year. Do the risks outweigh the benefits? Aren’t there risks with everything in life? The most important thing is finding a happy medium between heavy, powerlifting-related training as well as training for safety, volume, etc.