By: Josh Bryant
Ronnie Coleman, the most successful bodybuilder of all time, nearly a decade after his retirement, has set a muscularity standard no one today has come close to matching!
King Ron trained with extremely low reps and heavy weight like a powerlifter—including an 800-pound squat for a single and a double at the same weight in the deadlift. Coleman also performed extremely high reps on a variety of exercises.
Coleman did not succumb to any established dogma; he trained with a holistic approach and developed more muscle than any human being that has ever walked the face of the earth.
1970s & 80s bench press world record holder, Doug Young, served as a mass-building consultant to the “Austrian Oak” Arnold Schwarzenegger. Young trained tremendously heavy but also included high volume sets and reps like a bodybuilder. Had Young dieted down in his day, Frank Zane would have never have won the Olympia.
Arnold Schwarzenegger started off as a powerlifter and Franco Columbu successfully competed in the world’s strongest man.
Sure, some people have built enormous slabs of muscle training like a bodybuilder, others training like powerlifters, but it seems like the most muscular men of all-time have trained using a hybrid methodology.
Anecdotes show that the way to maximize muscularity is with both bodybuilding and powerlifting, what I call powerbuilding.
What’s science have to say?
A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research entitled, “Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men” compared a high-volume bodybuilding training regimen to a powerlifting-training regimen, the subjects were 17 well-trained young men.
The bodybuilding group trained performing three sets of 10 reps with 90-second rest intervals, contrasted to the powerlifting group that performed seven sets of three reps with a three-minute rest interval. Over the seven weeks of training, the powerlifting group made greater strength increases but there were no significant differences in the increase of muscle over the same period of time. The study concluded: both bodybuilding and powerlifting-type training promote similar increases in muscular size, but powerlifting-type training is superior for enhancing maximal strength.
To maximize muscular development, this study confirms what great bodybuilders have known for decades: if you only train within the confines of traditional bodybuilding or powerlifting combines—you are seriously limiting results!
Here are some tips that will help you maximize muscular development.
Train Core Lifts
Big movements produce big results!
Core movements must form the core of your training program, even if pure aesthetics is the goal. Examples are squat variations, bench press variations, deadlift variations, dips and pull-up variations; these movements build the most muscle mass and produce the highest levels of inter and intra muscle coordination, and increase High Threshold Motor Unit (HTMU) recruitment, which has the highest potential for growth. Not to mention, it spikes production of anabolic hormones.
Rep Ranges Must Vary
Sets with lower reps/heavy weight catalyze myofibrillar hypertrophy or the contractile element of the muscle, increasing limit strength. This is why strong bodybuilders have a dense look.
Bodybuilders that never lift heavy do not have that dense, grainy look when dieted down.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the result of higher reps; this is almost like swelling the muscle. It’s the non-contractile element; this does not make you stronger. For the athlete confined to a weight class, this is like increasing the size of a car but with no increase in the engine size, not a good thing! For the bodybuilder, it is essential to fully develop a muscle.
Look at some training regimens of the all-time greats.
*Reg Park thrived on a 5 sets of 5 approach
*Tom Platz routinely squatted 20+ reps
*Ronnie Coleman trained with squat and deadlifts with 1-2 reps right up to the Olympia
*Branch Warren swears by his signature 100+ reps on the leg extensions.
All rep ranges need to be trained!
Use Isolation Exercises
Isolation exercises will play a role. Core movements are more functional and natural but to “super naturally” develop certain muscles, you have to overload them with principle of isolation.
Let’s look at the vastus lateralis, or the sweep of the quads. To fully develop it, you have to do leg extensions. No human movements isolate the quads from the hamstrings, but a large sweep is the bodybuilding standard; ergo to acquire the sweep, you have to step outside the functional training paradigm and hit the leg extensions.
A holistic training approach is needed to maximally develop your physique!
Too many iron game enthusiasts believe you have to either train like a bodybuilder or a powerlifter. There is no “or.” Maximizing development requires you train like a bodybuilder and a powerlifter, hence the name powerbuilding.
Maximizing muscular development takes a holistic approach with high reps, low reps, fast reps, slow reps, compound movement, peak contraction ones, free weights and machines…it’s a balancing act.
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