In today’s world of training and exercise, there are so many programs, training styles, and philosophies floating somewhere around the internet claiming to be the best. Many of which go against the beliefs of some other programs. Two training styles in particular that have typically been believed to contradict one another are bodybuilding and powerlifting.
Typically, when we think of bodybuilding, we think of building muscle. Slow controlled repetitions using moderate weight with an emphasis on muscular contraction in order to build lean muscle. On the flip side, when we think of building strength and power, our mind typically goes to powerlifting. Explosive and forceful repetitions using heavier weights and higher intensities with the goal of building maximal strength. Both of these concepts have their place and can play an important role within a training program, regardless of the intended goal. The problem comes with the belief that these concepts must be used separately. In reality, there are many benefits to using them simultaneously.
I am currently working with a member who is preparing for her second powerlifting meet. Prior to powerlifting, Caroline competed in bodybuilding with very good success. During her time training for bodybuilding, she developed quality lean muscle and balance among all of her muscle groups. Over the past year, she decided to give powerlifting a shot and found out that she loved it. Due to her background in bodybuilding, she already moved with great control, but her repetitions somewhat lacked the force production needed to move maximal weights which she needed for powerlifting. Keep in mind, this is very typical for someone just starting out. Over the last few weeks, she has progressed greatly with her mindset and approach to each repetition, and her overall strength has been increasing significantly due to her ability to move the bar with greater intent.
We have realized that the combination of her bodybuilding mindset and background was helping her with her strength training. Her ability to control the weight and feel her muscles engaging, combined with her explosiveness from her athletic background was unlocking some hidden potential. This is the same mindset that I have carried during my time as a competitive powerlifter, and something that I believe will help anyone even if they are not competing. In doing so, this has the ability to build lean muscle, increase coordination and motor control, decrease the chance of injury, and develop greater strength and power, just to name a few. All of which are things that we all will benefit from throughout our lifetime.
So the next time you’re training, don’t just focus on moving the weight slow and controlled, or solely think about being explosive and fast. Take the time to learn what it feels like to use both, and how they can both benefit your overall goals and outlook on training.