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4 Powerlifting Lessons Every Bodybuilder Should Know – Written By Scott Masson

If mouth-breathers on internet bodybuilding forums are to be believed, powerlifters and bodybuilders are supposed to hate each other. We are told by these keyboard “experts” that powerlifters are fat and lazy, while bodybuilders are weak and vain.

However, anyone who has watched Ronnie Coleman squat 800lbs for reps, or seen the conditioning of power lifters like Konstantin Konstantinovs or Kirk Karwoski knows that this isn’t true.

4 Powerlifting Lessons Every Bodybuilder Should Know
The fact is, there is so much that the two sports can learn from one another, but as the two scenes become more fractured, members of both camps will continue to be robbed of invaluable skills and tactics. Your training can benefit from the regimes of elite powerlifters, and with these 4 tips you can reach new peaks in size, strength and conditioning.

#1 Partial Power

As well as training their full range of movement on lifts, powerlifters also do “partial lifts” where they only perform ¼ of the full ROM. By doing this, powerlifters are able to lift loads far in excess of their usual 1 rep max, which allows them to bust plateaus and shock muscles into growth.

However, the main benefit of partial lifts is that they have been shown to dramatically strengthen tendons and connective tissues. Due to the enormous cumulative volume of weight bodybuilders lift during workouts, they are particularly vulnerable to tendon and joint injuries. If you’ve spent any significant amount of time in the gym, I’m sure you’re acutely aware of the impact chronic injuries can have on your training regime!

Therefore, by performing partial lifts on big compound movements like the bench press, squat and deadlift, you will strengthen and thicken your tendons and ligaments, meaning that you will be at far less risk of developing an injury.

#2 Functional Balance

Muscular balance should be the last thing bodybuilders can learn from powerlifters – after all the central pillar of bodybuilding has always been developing a perfectly symmetrical physique and musculature.

However, powerlifters are similarly preoccupied with muscular balance, the difference being that their preoccupation is based solely on functional balance, rather than aesthetic, visible balance. Powerlifters train to develop balanced, functional muscles which support joints and therefore strengthen lifts.

For bodybuilders, the benefits of this sort of training are numerous – firstly, by developing supporting muscles (which are sometimes not even visible) they will become noticeably stronger, meaning that they can lift more weight with better form, resulting in lean muscle gains. Secondly, they will be less likely to injure themselves, as the more delicate joints will be better supported.

Finally, developing balanced strength will naturally be reflected with a more balanced physique, meaning better symmetry on stage!

Some basic exercises to build balanced strength include:

Hip Thrusts

Sumo Deadlifts

Seated Band Abductions

#3 General Physical Preparedness

General Physical Preparedness, or GPP, was a big part of the strength training regimes which were used in Soviet countries a couple of decades ago. More recently, it has been enthusiastically adopted by legendary powerlifting trainer Louie Simmons, who runs the Westside Barbell Gym, widely considered to be the greatest strength gym in the world.

At its most basic, GPP essentially combines a variety of different drills to develop athletic ability, agility and functional strength. GPP also diversifies training sessions, meaning that underdeveloped areas of the body get a pounding, while overworked parts are allowed to rest and recover.

For bodybuilders, GPP not only builds real strength, which will translate into bigger lifts and less injuries, but it is also a fantastic way to help prepare for competitions.

GPP exercises tend to be explosive and hypertrophic, as well as fat burning and cardio intensive, so they are the perfect conditioning workout for bodybuilders.

Some ideas for effective GPP exercises include:

  • Sled running
  • Hitting stuff with sledge hammers (never gets old)
  • Strong man training like farmer walks and stone lifts
  • Gymnastic drills (get coaching on this – don’t just go and chuck yourself at some rings and hope for the best)

#4 Active Recovery

Due to the enormous individual loads powerlifters work with, their muscles, connective tissues and CNS take more of a battering than their bodybuilding counterparts, so active recovery is essential if powerlifters want to maintain their health.

Many bodybuilders, however, tend to take a more “relaxed” attitude towards recovery. In fact, overtraining is one of the biggest mistakes many amateur bodybuilders and fitness fanatics make. As well as limiting muscle gains, overtraining can have a disastrous effect on CNS and joint health.

However, by making the most of the active recovery techniques powerlifters and other strength athletes use, bodybuilders can massively accelerate their own recovery times and therefore train harder and safer.

4 Powerlifting Lessons Every Bodybuilder Should Know
Sports massages, acupuncture and cryotherapy are hugely important for expediting recovery, and although they can be costly, saving up for just a couple of sessions a year can offset injury and improve overall health.

Louie Simmons, the aforementioned powerlifting guru, is also a huge proponent of myofascial massages using foam rollers. When used correctly, foam rollers have been shown to significantly increase blood and nutrient flow to damaged muscles and joint tissue, thereby helping to stimulate growth and recovery.

Good foam rollers can be quite pricey for what they are, but you can pick them up at a discount here, or, if you’re feeling particularly creative, make your own at home following these instructions.

These 4 powerlifting tips can help any bodybuilder build real strength, stimulate hypertrophy and protect themselves against the single most destructive force in sport – injury! As a strength athlete and powerlifter, I have learnt so much about conditioning, form and nutrition from the bodybuilding world, and so I hope both scenes continue to become more and more involved with one another.

Author: Scott Masson

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