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Back Workouts


Powerlifting or bodybuilding? You need both elements in your training protocol for back size and strength.


Reg Park, bodybuilding pioneer and perennial Mr. Universe, was not just a mirage of muscle; Park was one of the first men in the world to bench press 500 pounds. Reg was able to hold his own in any elite lifting circle of his heyday.

In the early years of bodybuilding contests, the participant had to do lifting events along with a posing routine. One had to look the part and have the strength to back it up.

Eight-time Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman, was also one of the strongest men in the world and to this day not a human being has come close to achieving his level of muscular development. Arnold Schwarzenegger started off as a powerlifter and Dorian Yates got his start in weightlifting behind bars in England performing basic power movements.

The list goes on.

Science Weighs In

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research entitled “Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men” compared a high-volume bodybuilding training regimen to a powerlifting training regimen. The subjects were 17 well-trained young men.

The bodybuilding group trained performing three sets of 10 reps with 90-second rest intervals, contrasted with the powerlifting group that performed seven sets of three reps with a three-minute rest interval. Over the seven weeks of training, the powerlifting group made greater strength increases but there were no significant differences in the increase of muscle over the same period of time. The study concluded that both bodybuilding and powerlifting-type training promote similar increases in muscular size, but powerlifting-type training is superior for enhancing maximal strength.<

The bottom line is the strongest men of all-time—guys like Bill Kazmaier, Ed Coan and Doug Young—all had significant bodybuilding elements to their training.

The most-muscular men of all-time, prior to bodybuilding “chemical warfare,” all had a significant power element to their training.

The answer is not pure bodybuilding methodology or powerlifting methodology—it’s a hybrid I call powerbuilding. I feel so strongly about this I wrote a best-selling book, Metroflex Gym Powerbuilding Basics on the subject.

Strength is your base. Lifting heavy develops large, dense muscles. Keep in mind “pump” training is also important. Heavy weight and low reps develop myofibrillar hypertrophy, or the contractile component of muscle. This is why bodybuilders who train heavy with core lifts have that dense, grainy look. Higher reps develop sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, the non-contractile part of the muscle that gives the pumped look.

To maximally develop a muscle, you need to develop both types of hypertrophy, so a holistic approach is required. A variety of exercises, sets, reps and tempos will be utilized but at the nucleus of the workout, the athlete is striving to get stronger.

I’d like to call attention to the elephant in the room: Your waist isn’t going get bigger by training squats and deadlifts. Those protruding waistlines on bodybuilders are from possible PED abuse, not from heavy lifting.

The Powerbuilding Workout

In the words of the immortal Bill Kazmaier, “Strong back equals strong man.” Bodybuilding contests, many times, are won from the back.


Powebuilding Training with former NFL Star and amateur Bodybuilding Champion Matt Lehr

Time to hit the pig iron!