T Nation

Transitioning from Strength Focus to Bodybuilding


Been lifting for four years now with a strength-focused mindset,and both my strength and physique improvements have seemed to stall. Im leaning out right now, gone from 5’7 200 pounds ans maybe 18% to 184 at probably 12%. Once I get under 10% Im interested in trying a training cycle solely focused on hypertrophy. My lifting,program right now looks like this,based on thibadeau’s “how I added 100 pounds…” article:

Squat 8-12 emom doubles with 85% or so
2 squat variations to bring up weak,points (pause and box)
Pull ups
Chinese rows

Klokov press emom triples for 8-12 minutes
Military press 4x6-8
Incline bb 4x8

High pull triples 8-12 emoms
Deadlift doubles 8-12 emoms
BB rows 4x6
Chins 4x8
Cable curls

Bench triples 8-12 emoms
2 bench variarions to,bring,up weak,points (close grip, floor,press, etc) for 4x6-8 each
DB incline

I love the emom (every minute on the minute) training and plan to,stick to,this,until Ive finished leaning out. Any recommendations for a hypertrophy routine after that? I particularly want to bring,up my arms and delts, my aens have always lagged ans my delts,are decent but I’ve always craved that cannonball shoulder look. Sorry for all the damn typos, Im trying to post this on my sh.tty work tablet


Well…the obvious question is what is your current strength level at right now? In other words,how far as your strength focus propelled you?


About two years ago I made a similar transition for the same reason, from mostly focusing on compound movements with little isolation to a more bodybuilding style to improve my physique. Now, I start each workout with a compound movement in a lower rep range (low for bodybuilding style, 5-8), but then transition to more into isolation movements and focus on using a weight that allows me to maximize tension in the working muscle, and less focus on how much weight I’m using. This article https://www.t-nation.com/training/why-bodybuilders-are-more-jacked-than-powerlifters, peaked my interest and got me more into bodybuilding, ultimately to the point of competing.

This article by Clay Hyght is a perfect bodybuilding template. While there are always an option of splits and training methods and such, I firmly believe that this template should be the “foundation” or “meat and potatoes” of your bodybuilding training for at least a year. Consistently training this way for a while will really improve your physique, as well as strength, and after you’ve had some time with this program you can decide how you want to proceed. https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/tried-and-true-bodybuilding-program-template

Looking at your training, your arms and delts are lagging because they’re not being prioritized. Obviously your focus is more on strength and powerlifting, but that doesn’t mean bodybuilding style training doesn’t increase strength, it absolutely does. Shoulders and arms should have their own day if you want them to grow.


My back squat’s sitting around 400 right now, my bench press is only maybe 260 but I’ve hit 285 at a higher bodyweight, my push press is 200 and my deadlift is 440. My strength has been more or less constant for the past year or two


Thanks, that makes sense, and I like the look of that template. Do you think there’s any use adding an arm specific day when I’m in a deficit, or should I wait until I’m in a surplus again?

On a side note, I’ve been following your contest prep thread for quite a while now. You’re looking pretty big, man! Honored to get input from both you and Aragorn


Absolutely! You’ll put on more mass obviously in a surplus but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train a certain muscle group just because you’re in a deficit; if you want a body part to grow, it must be prioritized. If you look at bodybuilders, obviously in a prep we’re always in a deficit, but still training split style to make sure all muscles are hit accordingly to the individual, but all body parts will most certainly be hit at least once. As an example, last year sometimes I would group shoulders in with another muscle group during a training session. Right now I’m trying to bring my shoulders and arms up for next season, so now they each have their own sessions and I hit them both twice a week. Eventually I’ll go back to once a week, but shoulders and arms will still have their own sessions respectively.

Wow man thank you very much, I appreciate you taking the time to read and follow along! @Aragorn is no doubt one of the most knowledgeable guys on here, I take notes every time he posts.


Thanks very much @robstein! I’ve just had time to make every mistake in the book as well as read all the books…one of the very few advantages to being in circumstances you had to teach yourself everything on your own when going through the training journey at the start lol. I learned a lot early on from this place and continue to try to give back as well as continue to learn. My nerdiness now plays to my advantage at this point haha.

buttwink, rob is very correct in both his posts! I wouldn’t necessarily go crazy with volume and gut busting intensity techniques for arms in a calorie deficit, but if you want them to grow you need to train them. I’d still put most of my training into the big compounds and such, as muscle mass utilized means calories burned, and no matter how big ones arms are they’re still smaller than one’s legs or back so arm workouts are both less draining and less efficient at burning massive calories in a cut. Well…if you’re at all proportional or intelligent about training anyway!

A competitive bodybuilder should definitely keep arms working during a cut, because he is judged on his appearance specifically. It’s less important for a general strength/muscle building trainee to need specific arm work, but if you want to grow them you gotta work them!

Without suggesting a reorganization of your current training plan, I’d suggest that you take a fifth day immediately after your last primary training day for arms/shoulders volume stuff. Focus on arms and then some shoulder pump work. This would be the time to do more bodybuilding style work and constant tension/isolation stuff. Don’t do anything big and draining to save your nervous system for your primary workouts. I’d put the focus mostly on constant tension and short rest periods/pump, putting a premium on mind-muscle connection. It looks like you’re mostly doing heavier weight stuff in your primary sessions.

If you can’t feel it working, you can’t activate it. If you can’t activate it, you can’t grow it.


Totally forgot–as for hypertrophy once you’ve finished leaning out, I am really loving mountain dog style training and push-pull-leg splits. I am biased of course. The benefit to MD style training is jumping straight into a body part split and seeing how it feels and how it works. The links rob put up are all good and useful. Basically just pick one and go for it. You won’t know what you like or what works well until you try them and give them some time.


Wow, thank you. As I said–can’t believe how lucky I am to be getting input from guys like you and Rob. These kinds of posts are exactly why I love this website. No ego, no pissing contests, just experts sharing their expertise. I’ll be incorporating a pump-style arms/shoulders session this week, and I’ll start looking into the MD stuff for later as well.


Regarding @Aragorn’s suggestion of Mountain Dog and P/P/L training for bodybuilding, I suggest googling “Shelby Starnes 3-Way Hypertrophy Split.” It’s a great hypertrophy program that utilizes a lot of Mountain Dog style exercise sequencing and techniques, and applies them to a P/P/L split. Obviously you wouldn’t go wrong following @robstein’s advice either, but from my perspective that 3-way split would make the transition from pure strength training to pure hypertrophy training easier, and you’d learn a ton about the differences between those two styles of training along the way.


In for similar goals in the near future.

That is the worst.

Also your name is my nemesis :smiley:


Pretty much my reason for recommending it lol…it makes it much easier for strength guys to start to wrap their heads around bodybuilding style training after having done movement based splits for so long. But really, can’t go wrong.


shots FIRED!!! LOL and am now rereading for relevance


Hah!!! Truth! But I’ve been one of those guys for years so I really saw this firsthand with myself. It helped me lol