Bill Kazmaier’s Powerbuilding Routine

Build superhuman strength with this Bill Kazmaier–style chest, shoulder and triceps training routine.
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Bill Kazmaier Opener

Bill Kazmaier is the strongest man to ever walk the face of the earth. “Kaz” won the American powerlifting championship and a Powerlifting Federation (IPF) championship in 1979. He also dominated the World’s Strongest Man competition, winning it three times — 1980, 1981 and 1982.

Kaz was so dominant that he wasn’t invited to compete in the World’s Strongest Man from 1983 to 1987, which forced him to miss the truly golden years of his fabled career. Furthermore, I believe Kaz would have been the first person to bench press 700 pounds, if he hadn’t torn his pec in a strongman contest.

For decades, Kaz held the world-record of the highest powerlifting total of all-time along with being the first human being to bench press 300 KG (661 pounds). This is a feat that less than a dozen men have duplicated since.

Heavy Lifting

Kaz competed as a super heavy weight powerlifter standing at 6’3” and weighing in at a robust 330 pounds. Unlike the typical heavyweight strength athlete who resembles the morning crowd at Dunkin’ Donuts, Kaz resembled a gargantuan Adonis. Some sources have speculated at times, Kaz, even had single-digit body fat measurements.

No bodybuilder of his era packed close to the amount of muscle as Kaz. I think there is no doubt, genetically, Kaz was blessed, but it would be naïve to discount his methodology.

The term powerbuilding may not have been coined yet, but that’s exactly how the great Kaz trained. He thrived on a synergistic blend of high volume and heavy weight. Kazmaier preferred to train bodybuilding style until he got close to a powerlifting meet. This is his chest, shoulder and triceps routine, approximately 3 to 4 months out from a powerlifting contest.

Let’s take a page out of history and honor Bill Kazmaier, the greatest strength athlete of all-time. He had what virtually every Muscle & Performance reader wants, a magnificent physique with reflective strength levels.

The Workout

Bill Kazmaier Powerbuilding

Bench Press

Start: Lie face-up squarely on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Grasp the barbell with a wide, overhand grip, well outside your shoulders.

Movement: Un-rack the bar and slowly lower it to your lower chest. Keep your wrists over your elbows and your elbows pointed out to your sides. When the bar reaches an inch or so away from your chest, forcefully reverse direction without bouncing and press the bar upward, driving it back over your face to full extension without locking out your elbows.

Josh’s Notes: Each rep should be performed as explosively as possible. Perform three-quarter reps and don’t lock them out. Take a two to three minute rest interval between sets.

Wide-Grip Bench Press

Setup:Lie back on a flat bench and hold a loaded barbell over your chest with your arms extended. Your hands should be positioned wider than shoulder width.

Execution: Bend your elbows and let the bar come down to your chest, then extend your arms and use your triceps to press the bar in a straight line back to the start position.

Josh's Notes: Use a grip two inches wider than your strongest grip, pause each rep on your chest for one second. Take a two-minute rest interval between sets. Avoid this movement if you have shoulder issues.

Close-Grip Bench Press

Setup: Lie back on a flat bench and hold a loaded barbell over your chest with your arms extended. Your hands should be positioned narrower than shoulder width.

Execution: Bend your elbows and let the bar come down to your chest, then extend your arms and use your triceps to press the bar in a straight line back to the start position.

Josh’s Notes: Use a grip two inches narrower than your strongest grip. Take a two-minute rest interval between sets.

Front Delt Raise

Setup: Stand holding a dumbbell with one hand across the front of your thigh with an overhand grip. Feet are shoulder-width apart and knees are slightly bent.

Execution: Lift the dumbbell straight up and out in front of your body until your arm is just past parallel with the floor. Pause for a moment at the top before slowly lowering back to the start position.

Josh’s Notes: Moderate cheating on the 3rd and 4th reps is permissible, excessive cheating is not. Use dumbbells in an alternating fashion, one rep on each side counts as one rep. Take a one-minute rest interval between sets.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Setup: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart while holding two dumbbells with a neutral grip at your sides.

Execution: Slowly raise the dumbbells up and out to your sides. Keep your arms straight with a very slight bend in your elbows. When your arms reach just above parallel with the floor, pause before slowly lowering back to the start position.

Josh’s Notes:Moderate cheating on the third and fourth reps is permissible; excessive cheating is not. Raise both arms simultaneously, and keep a 15-degree bend in the elbows. Take a one-minute rest interval between sets.

Seated Overhead Press

Setup: Sit on a low-back bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height. Begin with your palms facing forward and your elbows just below shoulder level and slightly forward.

Execution:Push the weights straight up, stopping just short of locking out your elbows. Lower under control until your upper arms are parallel with the floor or slightly lower.

Josh’s Notes: Each rep should be performed explosively as possible. Perform three-quarter repetitions. Take a two to three minute rest interval between sets.

Triceps Push Down

Setup: With a slight bend in your knees, stand facing a high-pulley cable with a rope attached to it. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Grasp the rope with a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and start at chest level with your elbows tight against your sides.

Execution: Using the triceps, bring the rope down as you bring each side of the rope to the side of your thighs. At the end of the movement the arms are fully extended and perpendicular to the floor. The upper arms should always remain stationary next to your torso and only the forearms should move.

Josh’s Notes: No cheating is permissible Hold the contracted position for approximately half a second. Take a one-minute rest interval between sets.

Final Thoughts

This routine is intense and meant to be performed twice a week. Kaz preferred Monday and Thursday, but the key is separating workouts by 72 to 96 hours.

Day 1 follows the outline instructions. Day 2 simply follow the outline to the tee but with 70 percent of the weight in day one. If you bench pressed 200 pounds day one, for example, use 140 (200 x .7) on day 2. Do this for all your exercises.

Time to hit the pig iron!