The Workout: 8 Weeks to Strong


By Jennifer Blake |

Powerbuilding combines the strength-building focus of powerlifting — a sport that focuses on squatting, benching, and deadlifting maximal weight — with the muscle-sculpting principles of bodybuilding, which emphasizes accessory lifts to strengthen and shape even the smallest muscles.

This twist on traditional hyper­trophy, or muscle-building, training delivers results that appeal to off-season athletes and everyday exercisers alike: a body that is strong and balanced inside and out.

“Combining the total-body strengthening potential of the squat, bench press, and deadlift with the set-and-rep scheme typical to bodybuilding movements allows you to see strength gains while simultaneously building a balanced physique,” says Marisa Inda, world-record-holding powerlifter and Juggernaut Training Systems strength coach.

Powerbuilding workouts begin with compound, multijoint lifts, such as the squat, bench press, or deadlift. These are followed by simpler, less-taxing exercises that target the same muscle groups.

In these workouts, you won’t be aiming to lift the most weight possible; instead, you’ll hoist lighter weights for more reps, with less rest time than you might be used to, explains Inda. In other words, “you can complete more total work in the same or less time of your typical workout,” she says.

When you overload your muscles in this way, your body will work hard to adapt to the workouts — and that adaptation is what creates significant, visible changes in your strength and physique.

The Program

This eight-week power­building program is broken into two four-week phases. You will be training three days each week, with each session lasting about an hour.

Each training day begins with a main lift: squat, bench press, or deadlift. This will be followed by accessory exercises that target the same muscle groups.

Choose challenging weights that you can lift with good form for the prescribed number of sets and reps. Increase weight as often as possible, without compromising these standards.

Phase I: Weeks 1-4

Perform each numbered day once per week, for a total of three workouts each week.

Exercise A: Perform as a straight set for three sets of eight to 10 reps. Rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets.

Exercises B1, B2, B3: Perform as a circuit for three sets of 10 to 12 reps. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

Day 1: Squat Day

A: Barbell Back Squat

  1. Return to the starting position and repeat.

For additional form tips, check out “Break It Down: The Squat.”

B1: Dumbbell Reverse Lunge

  1. Complete all repetitions on one side before moving on to the other.

For additional form tips, check out “Break It Down: The Lunge.”

B2: Dumbbell Single-Leg Calf Raise

  1. Slowly lower your heel back down to the ground, and repeat.

For additional form tips, check out “Break It Down: The Calf Raise.”

Day 2: Bench Day

A: Barbell Bench Press

  1. Keep your feet on the floor, and your butt, shoulders, and head all in contact with the bench. If you cannot comfortably plant your entire foot on the floor, use a box or plates next to the bottom of the bench as risers for your feet. Repeat.

For additional form tips, check out “Break It Down: The Bench Press.”

B1: Hands-Elevated Pushup

  1. Scale the intensity back by elevating your hands onto a higher step, box, or railing, or make it harder by using a lower surface.

For additional form tips, check out “Break It Down: The Pushup.”

B2: Dumbbell Lateral Raise

  1. Repeat.

B3: Resistance-Band Triceps Pushdown

  1. Slowly allow the band back up to the starting position, and repeat.

Day 3: Deadlift Day

A: Barbell Deadlift

  1. Push the floor away and stand up with the weight. Exhale as you stand tall with your shoulders back and your chest up at lockout. Your hips should not shoot up before the bar leaves the floor. If the hips move, the bar should move. Repeat.

For additional form tips, check out “Break It Down: The Deadlift.”

B1: Resistance-Band Straight-Arm Pulldown

  1. To make the movement more difficult, “choke up” on the resistance band for more resistance as you pull the band downward.

B2: Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

  1. When you reach the end of the range of motion — typically felt as a stretch in the hamstrings or a change in back position — reverse the movement and stand up. Repeat.

For additional form tips, check out: “Break It Down: The Romanian Deadlift.”

B3: Body-Weight Leg Lower

  1. If the movement feels taxing on your lower back, shorten the range of motion (lowering your legs only partway) and slightly bend your knees.

Weeks 1 to 4 of this program prior to beginning Phase II. Perform each numbered day once per week, for a total of three workouts each week. Perform as a straight set for four sets of six to eight reps. Rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets. Perform three sets of eight to 10 reps. Rest 30 seconds between sets.For additional form tips, check out “.”For additional form tips, check out “.”For additional form tips, check out “.”

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