T Nation

Powerbuilding Program


Hello T Nation,
Just wanted to say first I have been reading articles and the forums on this site for years and they have helped changed my life so I decided to finally make an account.

Been working out for the past 5 years but the last 2 I have gotten more serious about lifting. I have done some programs on this site like Christian Thibaudeau’s 915 and athlete lean athlete strong. Made some good progress on both. I want to now design my own program with what some people may call it powerbuilding which is a mixture of powerlifting and bodybuilding. I don’t wanna be all show and no go.

I am having trouble knowing when to increase weight, when to test for new maxes or what sort of progression scheme to use, etc. I like to use linear periodization based on percentages. It holds me accountable for the work I have to do for that lift and it takes all the guesswork out of the equation which I also like. I made a layout of a program but dont know how to set up a progression model for the big lifts. I would ideally like to improve my 3rm as that is more important than a 1rm for a non competitive lifter.

So here is the basic layout of what I have made up. For the assisstance exercises I just use a weight thats as heavy as possible with good form and bar speed. The other isolation type movements I would do bodybuilding style keeping constant tension on the muscle and squeezing the shit out of it each rep feeling the contraction.

Bench/chest day

  1. Bench Press
    5x3? or some sort of progression model
  2. Pause Bench Press
    3.Incline Bench Press
    4.Hammer Strength Decline Press
    5.Cable Crossover Flyes
  3. Wide Grip Dips
    2x15-20 1xfailure

Deadlift/Back Day

  1. Deadlift
  2. Deficit Deadlift
  3. Pendlay Row
  4. Dumbell Row
  5. Pull-ups
    6.Dumbell Pull-Over
  6. Shrugs (Might throw these on shoulder day if I’m beat by the time I get to these)

Military/Shoulder Day

  1. Military Press
  2. Push Press
  3. High Incline DB Press OR DB Shoulder Press
  4. Lateral Raises
    5.Plate Raises
  5. Rear Delt Flyes OR Face Pulls
    3x15-20 1xfail

Squat/Legs Day

  1. Squat
  2. Paused Squat
  3. Barbell Split Squat
  4. Romanian DL
    5.Leg Press OR Hack Squat
    6A. Leg Exten. 3x15-20
    6B.Leg Curl 3x8

Arm day
Everyday…kidding but just a basic arm routine, 6 exercises going for a pump nothing crazy heavy.

So any suggestions on a progression model and or how to periodize the lifts? I know coach christian T says to use 3 week blocks in a training cycle and eventually prepare the body to use heavier weights so after 3 weeks I’d change and include some overload movements in my routine but basically I just need to find a progression model cause I do not know how those really work. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading this long ass post.


Everything down to a T…


There’s a lot of redundant exercises in there in my opinion. You could streamline it down a bit.

-drop the pause bench on bench day
-no deficit deads on back day
-no need for Pendlay and dumbell rows in the same workout, in my opinion. I’d go dumbell rows, personally. Save your lower back a bit.
-I happen to think that pull overs suck balls, and would do some sort of straight arm cable pulldown instead.
-no push press or plate raises on shoulder day. Your anterior delts are taking a hammering already.
-do rear delt flyes AND face pulls on back day
-superset your exercises on arms day.
-fuck the pause squats

Those are the changes I would make.


Thank you for this. Looks pretty much like what I wanna do except for the front squat portion.
Think ill take assistance exercises from 915 for the squat.


I see what your saying.

The pause bench could probably be taken out and just use incline as my assistance as my weak point is in the mid range of the lift.

The deficit deads I like because I am weak off the floor when using heavier weight (85%+) and these have helped me in the past.
Your right about the pendlay rows though my low back would be fried after all the DL’s.

No push press as an assistance to military press? I thought for sure that should be kept and maybe take out the high incline press?

And fuck the pause squats as in fuck em they suck (which they do very much so) or fuck em take them out?


If i wanted to be strong, i would do pause squats.

I think the basic structure of this program isnt good. There is over 70 sets of work allocated to stuff you see in the mirror and less than 35 to stuff you dont.

I also think if you want to be big and strong that trying to do both at once will result in mediocre results in both.

Phase your programs to focus primarily on one quality at a time instead of a hodgepodge of stuff mashed together.


I have read different perspectives about that.

Some say that it can be done and some say to phase it like you are. I think that it makes sense but why not train the “mirror” muscles as well? A bigger muscle has the potential to be a stronger muscle no? My theory behind those exercises is for aesthitics and that down the road the bigger muscle will have a higher potential to get stronger.

Thank you for the response I am just trying to learn all that I can.


You are right. That quote makes no sense unless you are training to increase technically complex lifts like olympic cleans.


If you want to increase strength using linear periodization while working on some BB type movements, check this thread out:

I don’t see why you couldn’t sub the PL movements for any other big compound movement.


it’s not like exercises like pause bench, push press or pause squats are bad, you just don’t need to do every exercise every workout.

So after a couple of months when progress slows on your main lifts, switch out military press for push press, squats for paused squats, etc.


lol, you can absolutely train to get big and strong at the same time. We call it “training”.


I think you misunderstood what he is saying. He is pointing out that there is an imbalance in the program’s setup, not that you shouldn’t train the “mirror” muscles just as hard. Too much pushing and not enough pulling. In a bodybuilding style setup, this is almost inevitable to some degree, but pains should be taken to alleviate such a huge gap between the pushing and pulling. My shoulders fell off just reading the above routine! :slight_smile:

I would personally favor a simplified approach, sorta like this oldy but goody from a 7 year old thread by Cephalic Carnage (FWIW, any natural trainee or beginner would do well to search “Cephalic Carnage How do you train” and read up).

This is part of post 236 in that thread:

…here’s a 4-way into which you could incorporate Wendler 5/3/1 (use
the loading parameter table where wave one is 65%, 75%, 85%, don’t
forget to take 10 percent off your max, and always go for extra reps on
the last set except on the deload weeks. When deloading, don’t go to
failure on your assistance work or even use a little less weight or so)

Day 1 - Chest/Back
-Low-Incline Bench 5/3/1
-Flat DB presses or HS machine presses ramped up over 3 sets or so. 6-12 on top-set, or 8-15, whatever you want (7-9?).
Rows 5/3/1 (could do rack pulls or deadlifts here, but you’ll then
pretty much be limited to machine work on leg day if you don’t want too
much low-back overlap) If you do rows here, you pretty much
don’t really row with your biceps or anything. You sort of shrug the
shoulders backwards and retract your scapulae, as if you wanted to get
into PL bench position. That should bring the bar pretty much against
your abs already, unless you have very long arms. It’s important not to
turn this into just a bicep+lat exercise, but actually hit your
backthickness musculature.
-Rack Chins/Pulldowns/Pullups/HS lat work… 3-4 sets, ramped, 8-15 reps on top set

Day 2 - off

Day 3 - Legs
-Back Squats 5/3/1 (or front-squats or whatever)
(could do a leg-press widowmaker here, no warm-ups necessary, normally)
Stiff-legged Deadlifts or reverse hypers or glute-ham-raises or lying
leg curls… 3-4 sets, might want to go a little higher in the reps,
8-15 where you can… Obviously difficult with glute-hams.
-Calf work 3-4 sets, ramped… Either DC calf-protocol or a regular set.

Day 4 - Delts(+Traps if needed)
-Overhead Press variant (Smith High Incline Shoulder Presses or HS or whatever) 5/3/1
-Lateral Raise Machine 3-4 sets, ramped, 8-15
-Reverse Pec Deck 3-4 sets ramped, 8-15
-Shrug Variant (if you want), 3-4 sets ramped, 8-15.

Day 5 - Arms
-Tricep Press variant (In-Human Smith, Wide-RGB Smith
with DC grip, Elbows tucked CGP PL setup, HS Dip Machine, Close-grip
Board Presses elbows tucked…) 4 sets ramped, 6-12 or 8-15, your call.
Alternatively you could even use 5/3/1 here, too.
-Extension and/or
pullover variant (PJR pullover/extensions, Lying EZ extensions from a
dead stop behind the head… Lie either on the floor and don’t use
bigger plates than the 22.5’s or whatever you guys have, or lie on a
bench and let the bar rest on the bench behind your head. Keep upper
arms at an incline…, Rolling DB Extensions, Face-Away/Scott
Extensions) 3-4 sets ramped, 8-15
-Alt. DB Curls, EZ Curls, whatever. 3-4 sets ramped, 6-12 (or 5/3/1 if it’s a bar-curl and you want to try that out
-Pinwheel Curls or Alt. Hammers or whatever, 3-4 sets ramped, 8-15

(you can do some machine curls + pushdowns here if you want)



Ok, this is a fairly basic BB routine, 5/3/1 imo doesn’t work too
well with higher frequencies, but it should be ok to use with this one.
Waves are 1 week, then.


For the life of me, I don’t get this “powerbuilding” thing. It just sounds like lifting weights for people who don’t compete in anything. We used to just call that “lifting weights”, and it got you big and strong.


I don’t think that’s what he meant.

Strength and size are not mutually exclusive. I doubt you need to train in phases to focus on different qualities if 1)you have no intention to compete or a yearly competition schedule, 2)you do not have a good base of muscle and 3)overall strength is the goal rather than specializing in a few competition lifts for a single rep.

CC is a great example. He was/is a really big and strong dude. His influences IIRC were Doggcrapp and Dorian Yates style HIT, which is similar to how many bodybuilders trained in the off season in the 90s. I do not see how one can fail to get big and strong training both qualities at the same time.


really quite insane that this should even need to be pointed out.

I mean, you lift weights, you get stronger and your muscles get bigger. Isn’t that the whole point? Isn’t that why lifting weights is even a thing?

It’s sure as hell the reason I do it…


Ok I have been doing a little more research on the topic and I pretty much found out that the best way for a natural trainee to train for size and strength is a 4 day upper/lower with a focus on increasing my 3rm. Upper:Vertical push/pull, Lower: Legs (squat), Upper:Horizontal push/pull, Lower:Hip-hinge (deadlift/posterior chain) and then maybe an arm day.

Layout should look like:
1.main lift
2.assistance lift (usually compound movement)
3.assistance lift
4. Isolation lift
5.Isolation lift
6.Isolation lift

On the upper days the assistance and isolation exercises would usually be supersetted.

fair analysis?


you sure about that?


I’ll rephrase…a good way too.


You should look up WS4SB Part 2


There have been a lot of good comments down here.

The main thing is, I believe, keep it simple. Like you said: Main lift, assistance lift, isolation lift.

What I would do if I was in your position:
-Head over to Alpha’s website and use his template (n e v e r s a t e . c o m).

Or as a alternative, if you won’t do that:
-Warm up
-Do some explosive shit/hard short conditioning (an idea of Alpha) (throws and/or jumps. Focus on the main muscles used. Make sure you get your CNS alive and kicking)/
-Take a main lift with a progression model (5/3/1, Juggernaut, Power Look, double progression, ramping)
-Analyse what went the worst in the main lift and hammer that weak point. (search CT on it, or someone else, or ask someone here if you don’t know)
-do density work/volume on the main lift
-at last you might do some isolation work, but make it meaningful: do some curls, rotator cuff or shoulder work as injury prevention

Kinda depends on what system you follow. 5/3/1 has some hypertrophy focused variations like ‘building the monolith’ and ‘boring but big’. Juggernaut is by it’s nature fairly high volume (especially early on), so be careful with too much volume. After a ramp, I would do density work.

As an example:

-mobility flow
-5 clap push ups, 10 jump squats, 10 KB swings. 10 minutes EMOM.
-OHP (week 1-4 ramp up to a 8RM in 4 work sets) (week 5-8 ramp up to 5RM in 5 working sets) (week 9-12 ramp up to a 3RM)
-sticking point: pin OHpresses (5x5)
-superset the OHP and Pin presses with pull-ups
-overhead carry. Match the reps and sets to the main lift. 10 yard is 1 rep. don’t ramp.

-mobility flow

  • Hard conditioning, be creative.
    -Deadlift (week 1-4 ramp up to a 6RM in 4 work sets) (week 5-8 ramp up to 4RM in 5 working sets) (week 9-12 ramp up to a 3RM)
    -sticking point: stiff leg deadlifts (5x5)
    -Farmer carry. Match the reps and sets to the main lift. 10 yard is 1 rep. don’t ramp.

-mobility flow
-Hard conditioning, be creative.
-Bench press (week 1-4 ramp up to a 8RM in 4 work sets) (week 5-8 ramp up to 5RM in 5 working sets) (week 9-12 ramp up to a 3RM)
-sticking point: dumbbell pause bench (5x5)
-superset the bench presses dumbbell rows.

  • do a crap load of rotator cuff work. You should do some light work of this every day, but now go harder.

-mobility flow
-Hard conditioning, be creative.
-Squat (week 1-4 ramp up to a 8RM in 4 work sets) (week 5-8 ramp up to 5RM in 5 working sets) (week 9-12 ramp up to a 3RM)
-sticking point: front squat (5x5)
-zercher carry. Match the reps and sets to the main lift. 10 yard is 1 rep. don’t ramp.

Run that. And then switch it up.

But the most important point is, whatever you do, it doesn’t have to be rocket science. Intensity gets you strong, volume gets you big.