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Train Like a Powerlifter and Still Look Good Naked

This is the place to ask how to incorporate powerlifting training while having great body composition gains. You can post training programs if you need specific changes (I wont build you a program lol but I’m happy to give direction on what to change to impact body comp), diet.supplement questions for powerlifters who want to improve body comp look, etc.

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Awesome - I recently committed to taking my nutrition more seriously and cleaning up my body composition so that I can be more competitive going forward. Generally speaking, do you think a lifter’s height and frame should govern their ideal weight class? What indicators do you look for in a client who wants to lift and be competitive in terms of body composition and weight class selection? Is there an ideal bodyfat level for someone to continually train to get as strong as possible within a weight class?

EDIT: I’m 5’6" with a stocky frame, have done meets at 220 and 242 and am currently @234, 11 lbs down from my heaviest of 245. Aiming for 200-205 to give myself an honest assessment of my ideal weight class, which I’m imagining will be 198 or 220.

21 days difference with Amit. Obviously most is diet influenced but he is doing every aspect of my training, diet, recover possible right now. Just listen to him.


So what are the differences between dieting when leaning out for a bodybuilder and a powerlifter trying to look good/lean out to increase competitiveness?

Do you suggest training changes from traditional powerlifting training to do things like aesthetically balance body parts?


Hi Amit,

This is basically my goal, how would you generally structure your training to achieve this?

I usually plan like so:


Oly Technique
1 O-lift for 3 sets of 3 reps. Weight is kept light

1-2 Powerlifts for 3-5 set of 2-5 reps at 70%-95% of Training Max

2-4 compound exercise for 3-5 set of 5-8 reps.

1-3 body part specific/isolated exercises for 3-5 sets of 8+ reps.

Is that a good general approach or is there room for improvement?

I like to train 4 days a week, but recently have been doing 3.


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At what point in a training cycle do you recommend cutting weight? I mean body fat, not cutting water right before a meet. Mike Israetel recommends cutting during a hypertrophy phase because training volume will be much higher so you are less likely to lose muscle, does that sound right to you?

“CUTTING during a HYPERTROPHY phase”…


Mind blown…

Maybe hypertrophy phase is the wrong term because there won’t be a whole lot of hypertrophy going on, but that’s how he explains things. He says that you should actually train as though you are trying to build more muscle (high volume and high reps) when you are cutting because that will lessen the chances of losing muscle, when you are done cutting you can keep the same sort of training and just increase calories to bulk up again before moving onto heavier strength work.

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Nah I get you, just odd phrasing. I’ve always believed in using heavier strength work during a cut to preserve muscle and minimize training volume / stress, but I’d be interested to hear Amit’s thoughts for sure.

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I’m sure that Mike Israetel’s way works, but it’s not the only way and maybe not the best either. I’m interested in Amit’s opinion because he’s a professional bodybuilder who now competes in PL and he also said in his squat thread that he always trains the comp. lifts at 80%+ so he obviously has a different approach to things.

Generally speaking there should be some consideration to your height but not a large amount - I’m a good example, being 5’4" and competing anywhere from 181-220 comfortably and have pushed up to 242…beyond that would be possible but not healthy for me (the heaviest I’ve been is 244 but I had problems breathing, walking, fu*king…even if height is just a health consideration, it’s still a consideration - but one that still allows more than one class option).
The main consideration when picking a class is your muscle mass - the more muscle you have, the heavier you’ll be. I generally suggest that male athletes ride a body fat of no more than 10% (some will claim 12, but my experience is 10)…when you are over this body fat, your body has a lesser ability to gain muscle…you will tend to gain fat more readily than muscle. As a powerlifter, you still want a lot of muscle and so walking at this body fat is ideal in a lot of ways if you put the work in to build muscle. Also being in a relatively low body fat (I never walk around more than 8%) helps you stay in the weight class and be as strong as possible. I see a lot of people gaining weight to get stronger and yes in theory it gives you better leverages, but you are not actually getting stronger - you’re just gaining those leverages. To gain real strength you need to gain muscle and improve your neural efficiency.
If you are 5’6", look at how much muscle you actually have if you were around 10% body fat and that will decide your class in my opinion. (at a real 10% you will see a visible six pack for most people so don’t fool yourself)…Dan Green is a great example of a powerlifter living by these suggestions.
Does this answer your question? Let me know if I can clarify anything further.


You know how proud I am of you…strong and now sexy too ooooo la la.

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First of all in terms of dieting, there isn’t much difference other than the fact that a body building diet for a show is much more extreme, as the goal is very different. In terms of restrictions, there’s no need to be as extreme for powerlifting, but the food choices, adequate amounts of protein, carbs, and healthy fat will for sure improve performance as opposed to eating oreos. I’ve seen it over and over again (Reed who is on this thread is a great example) that the second a powerlifter changes to a sensible diet, the numbers almost always jump up, they get healthier, and they gain body composition benefits.
As for training - most traditional power lifting training is lacking volume and hypertrophy work. I would add this to most traditional programs. I’m not saying go crazy on the bicep curls, but balanced physique (aesthetically also) will help you avoid injury, build overall muscle which in turn helps strength (example - rear delts you can do a few specific exercises and not only look better, but it helps grip your squat bar, helps with bench, etc…technically body building work but sure helps powerlifting)


This is very good - you’re basically on point.
A few minor suggestions:
Instead of stand alone exercises for the body building section, try supersets or even circuits.
For body composition you will want the opposite of the heavy work you did prior to this part…shorter rest intervals, more time under tension, and different angles for the part you’re focusing on will all give your body a nice “shock” at the end of the heavy workout. …this will
encourage more growth than just stand alone (keep the rep ranges in BB part in the 12-15 range and the last set 20 or to failure)
Keep the first part of the powerlifing section to 1-3 rep range and your strength/hypertrophy the first 1-2 exercises do 4-5 reps and the remainder, do 8-10
In the end if body comp is also a goal, 4 days per week is a minimum but a 5th day of just bodybuidling/weakness work with relatively light weights (mostly cable/machines - leave the free weights out for the day but still do the work - this session shouldn’t take more than 45) can go a long way toward recovery and body comp

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I assume from the above questions that you are referring to a powerlifting training cycle? Meaning 12-16 weeks going in to a meet…if thats the case I disagree with the statement. If, however, you are talking about dieting leading to a body building show then I think you still need to train heavy and hard while you’re dieting to preserve muscle…these are two very different goals. If body comp is the only goal then you train hard regardless, but if performance is a factor then you would want to diet while there is the least volume in your program. I will answer the question assuming you mean powerlifting… Here is the thing - the lower the volume, the less food you need to perform. Your body doesn’t use a large amount of carbs to work in a 1-3 rep rage, especially when it comes to heavy weight and resting 10- 20 minutes between sets. As the training cycle gets closer to the meet, that is the time that is ideal to diet…when you’re training less and have lower volume, it is less likely to hurt performace from dieting. Most of your training at this point is to train neural efficiency and the activity isn’t catabolic enough to cause any significant muscle loss. At this point, I would lower my calories (higher carbs on the days i train) and diet “hard” on the days I’m not training, or have lighter training. Dieting during hypertrophy leg…you’re trying to build muscle, but not eating for it?? When you diet you willl lost a little muscle - no matter when. You may as well do it in a phase in a training cycle - may as well do it at a time you’re body is demanding less food. From my end the equation is simple: less training days, less volume and more time needed for neural recovery between sessions (this is what happens when we peak for a meet…lower volume as intensity rises) means your body doesnt need as much food to perform and we are also not actively trying to build muscle at that point (as opposed to a hypertrophy phase. why not take advantage of this phase as your body wont need as many calories and lose the fat. This will not impact performace - mostly we are focusing on neural efficiency at the end of the training cycle - this is when i would diet.
Saying that I also recommend walking around 8-10 percent body fat year round and then this wont be an issue whatsoever.

This phrase doesn’t work for me either lol

This maybe I am an extremely example but it is amazing what keeping the exact same number of calories but, adjusting the macros and where the calories come from how fast I recomp. I went from bloat, no vascularity and 228. 4 weeks later I have an veins every where. Your diet is everything. Whether powerlifting or bodybuilding. You can out eat a shitty program but you can’t out train or out drug a shitty diet.

Working with Amit for the first time on training the past few months I have learned that my previous 3 years I wasn’t putting in nearly enough work to grow to my full potential. My powerlifting training was fine but I had virtually no volume and my frequency especially as of late was bare minimum. This is the reason I’m my opinion that I am fairly damn strong and often times don’t even consider myself “looking like I lift”. Technically speaking and neural efficiency I am damn good. But I have slowly approached a level where if I want to continue to grow stronger I have to finally focus on growing bigger as well. Not just fat weight for the sake of the scale but actual muscle.


Thanks, Amit! I really appreciate the insight!

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Hi Amit,

What are your thoughts on how frequent a trainee should train a lift and/or a body part? Lately and really for the first time, I’ve been training the Squat & Overhead Press 2-3 times a week and hitting Back, Bi’s, Tri’s, and Chest 2-3 times a week. I like how my body has responded so far (especially my upper body), but I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to structure a higher frequency plan for 4-5 days a week especially while hitting the powerlifts with heavy work.

Any thought/suggestions?

Do you prefer more traditional bodybuilding splits?


This is the plan I’ve come up with:

I’m still working on a 5th bodybuilding day. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to machines (home gym).

If you have the time, I’d really appreciate any thought or suggestions? Like I said, I’m digging high-frequency training, but I’ve got not idea how to really program for it…

Thanks, Amit!

Note: I’ve borrowed quite a bit of this from Wendler’s beach body challenge.

I should have specified, I was asking about cutting weight for powerlifting. Just for the record, how would you do it for bodybuilding? Is volume more important than maintaining weight on the bar in that case?

It’s funny, you and Israetel have complete opposite ways of doing things. With his approach the drawback is that you will end up getting weaker during the hypertrophy/cutting phase (which I agree is a misnomer), with the way you do it my concern would be losing too much muscle before the meet but again you recommend keeping body fat very low so there shouldn’t be too much to cut in the first place.