T Nation



Hey Everyone,

I am relatively new to posting on this site, but am no stranger to the site itself.

I am posting for the 2nd time, out of curosity on a certain subject.

I recently came across a thread, where Christian Thibaudeau introduced, to me, an interesting type of training, called "powerbuilding".

Can anyone give me the 411 on this?

The post for Christian is as follows:

Hey there Christian,

I am a long time reader, first time poster.

I was actually recently skimming through saved posts, and found something that sounded interesting.

A while ago, you mentioned to be doing a more "powerbuilding" routine.

I have never heard about this type of training before, and was hoping you would'nt mind enlightening me on this subject.

All that was provided was that you approached this type of training by employing 3 different exercises for each body part, while using 3 separate rep/set schemes.

I had a few questions in this dealing with this type of training

*- What type of split approach would you utilize?

*- Is there a exercise selection significance?

*- How would you periodize this type of training?

*- What is kind of goal is achieved in using this type of "powerbuilding" training?

*- 1) Is this type of training suitable for an athelete?(Rugby Player)

  • 2) If not, how would you ? tailor ? it to fit the needs of those desiring usuable/functional gains.


-The Truth

So feel free to elaborate on this subject. The help from anyone would be appreciated.

-The Truth


There seems to be some split of definitions happening in bodybuilding and powerlifting. For soem reason, bodybuilding is being used to only describe people who aren't concerned with strength at all and are only interested in size gains. You have ridiculous words being overused and thrown all over the place like "functional muscle". The truth is, very few people will ever get very big at all without being some very strong sons of bitches unless they somehow used drugs for every ounce of muscle they have.

Powerbuilding is pretty much how I would describe what I do in the gym. My workouts are based on strength gains because I know this leads to gains in muscle mass. There are exceptions, like higher reps on legs or simply increasing the overall volume in my training (which would mean an extra set without pyramiding up in weight like I usually do on most subsequent sets).

"Powerbuilding" isn't exactly some foreign term. It is a term born out of necessity because you actually have newbies getting into weight lifting who somehow think big muscles make them weak. I blame stupidity and the mass marketing of infomercials that depict some guy in spandex commenting about how negative it is to "bulk up" as he "tones" and "lengthens" his way to a John Basedow physique.


Sounds like what I have been asking about.


Professor X,

It's an honour to hear from you on my very first post!

Haha, Really though, appreciate you dropping by.

I see what your saying Prof X.

But,I recieved an excellent answer from Christian, and would like to share.

thetruth24 wrote:
*- Is there a exercise selection significance?

Yes. Pick exercises that allow you to lift big weights. A squat is better than a leg extension for example. Start with heavy compound movements in the 4-6 reps range (even going as low as 2-5 reps from time to time) and you can finish with assistance exercises for the muscles involved using the 6-8 reps range.

Is this like something you incorporate Prof X? Maybe I could pick your brain for a few tips or ideas? =)

I was thinking for a upperbody vertical day, it might look something like this:

Bench Press 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps
Dumbell Press 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps
Chest Flys Maybe? 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps

I would setup back the same way.

thetruth24 wrote:
*- What is kind of goal is achieved in using this type of "powerbuilding" training?

Building muscle mass (primary focus) by increasing strength (secondary focus). Basically it's bodybuilding with a powerlifting mentality.

I am guessing you could work in the lower rep ranges for the heavy basic compounds, and then work in the functional hypertrophy zone for the supplementary lifts.

He also mentioned this when I asked him how he would periodize this breed of training.

"This would require a whole article! The basic scheme is a 4-weeks block in which the 4th week is an unloading week, where volume is reduced by 50% but intensity maintained. After each 4-weeks block, the exercises and/or methods are changed."

I actually favor block schemes, and fell in love with it after reading his "black book of training secrets"

I am planning on designing my "Accumulation" block scheme based on this "powerbuilding" (defined by CT), then maybe following it up with CW's SFM.

What is your take Prof X?

-The Truth


I agree. Somewhere along the line some ppl got the idea that frat boys, soccer moms and the New Years crowd are bodybuilders because self-proclaimed powerlifters, strongmen, athletes knew that they werent one of them.

Personally I call these type of ppl fitness enthusiasts.

But then again everyone has their own set of definitions to make themselves feel special.


To a degree. There is nothing wrong with leg extensions. I just would never think of doing leg extensions IN PLACE OF leg presses, hack squats or regular squats. There seems to be an attitude from many as if doing isolation movements at all is a bad thing. That couldn't be further from the truth.

I think Chest flyes are the third worst waste of time in the gym...right behind those who stretch for 30 minutes before they ever lift a weight and the upright row.

There is nothing wrong with the bench press, however, I received much better growth from dumbbells than I ever did from the barbell bench press. That doesn't mean erase either one of them. Just understand that your training is a progression. You might see great benefit from them now, however, you may need to drop the barbell for a while once you advance.

I don't train in blocks. I don't think training in the blocks he specified is necessary for growth. That doesn't mean you shouldn't follow his idea. Just understand that simply because one trainers recommends one style, it doesn't mean it is the ONLY way to train.


Gotcha Prof X.

You said that you incorporate something similar.

Would you mind posting an example of your own "creations"? That would be very helpful and appreciated.

Yeah, I plan to rotate and mix around, using barbells and dumbbells for the pressing movement, as I find dumbbells also give me a greater growth response.

Do you have any suggestions, exercise wise, to substitute the last pressing movement in the 8-10 rep ranges?

As for the block scheme, it's basically a load and unload system. I understand you dont train in blocks, but I'm sure you are familar with loading/unloading & Accumulation/Intensification phases. In your opinion, would CW's SFM be an appropiate follow up after such a high volume mesocycle?

Thanks for your time Prof X,

-The Truth


What you need to realize is that the professor is big and strong because he used methods and techniques that worked for him. While his creation is probably a very well rounded lifting program that focuses on compound movements, it doesn't mean that if you do the exact same thing, you will look the exact same way. Even if you mimicked everything from his level of activity to each food he put in his mouth, you still would not achieve the same results.

Prof X does what he does because he has been around the block a few times and has figured out what gives him the best results.

If you realize that, and also realize that your "not being good" at a certain exercise may be because you are A) Weak, B) Unskilled, or C) Inflexible, and know when to work on these things, I think you'll be in pretty good shape.


That's the point. I didn't "create" anything. Bodybuilding is old as hell. There were huge guys lifting in the 50's that were better developed than many of the trainers running around talking about "mesocycles" and block training. Making it overly complicated does not ensure you will get better gains. Very often it is quite the opposite. It isn't like your body will reward you for being overly analytical yet missing the basics. I did bench presses like everyone else. I did 3 sets of 6-10 reps like most people. I lifted with two other guys for about two years whose only objective was to move as much weight as possible.

That helped because the one thing that is most important is learning how to push past your limits. That competition between us opened that up for me. Without that, you can have the largest weight lifting vocabulary around and still look worse than the guy who didn't read shit but busts his ass in the gym 5 times a week.

I wasn't referring to mixing them around. I haven't used a barbell for bench presses in almost 4-5 years. I would probably have to relearn the movement if I ever did it again. You will hear the same from many bodybuilders. The bench press is a great ego exercise...however, the biggest ego boost is people constantly asking you how much you bench when you don't at all. Effectively, you do what works. Changing up periodically is a good thing, but that doesn't mean switching your routine around every training session. If you do that, you won't be able to actually track your strength gains.

It doesn't mean that you shouldn't do the barbell bench either. In fact, I think it is most beneficial to beginners. I simply think dumbbells and even Hammer Strength machines are superior to it in advanced trainers. I think the limitations include the need of a spotter for those who truly lift "heavy".

When I wrote that flyes are useless, I was referring to lying dumbbell flyes. I see nothing wrong with your very last movement being a moderate weight with the goal of getting more blood circulated into the area. Very often that exercise has been the pec deck or cable crossovers. That means your first and second exercises could easily be the barbell bench and then dumbbells. I wouldn't rely on machines too much unless you have already built a solid base of strength and size (implying development of all associated assisting muscle groups).

I'm not even sure you should be worrying about what a mesocycle is.


I understand what you mean Jared. However, when I asked for a sample, my goal was to see how he would set it up, in hoping to 1)pull some ideas for my own, or 2) to have something from his, spark my imagination in the sense, of tweaking my own setup. I am not in any way trying to "mimick" his exact approach.

What you addressed is true. I appreciate your Input.

-The Truth


Great Info.

I gotcha Prof X.

Thanks for your help and insight.