Laine Norton

Author Archives: Laine Norton

I am a strength training enthusiast that loves discovering new ways to get stronger. As a certified trainer and powerlifting competitor, I'm always looking for different training methods and advice. I hope to pass some of what I learn on to my fellow lifters.

Barbell vs Dumbbell Training – Which is Better?

An age old and common debate around the strength training world is the barbell vs dumbbell argument; which piece of equipment is best for building strength and gaining muscle?

I have seen a lot of very similar answers to the question and I don’t really think many of them are correct.

The answer always tends to be “dumbbells activate more muscles and fix imbalances while barbells are good for going heavy. Therefore, rotate between both”

Now, some of those statements may be correct but I really feel that is a poor answer. In this article I want to explain why and give my reasons for which really is better: barbells or dumbbells.

barbell vs dumbbell training

Barbell vs Dumbbell Common Arguments

Below, I have listed some common “advantages” of dumbbell training and I am going to present to you why I feel they are often wrong or misguided.

Fixing Imbalances

This is usually one of they key points individuals like to make when promoting dumbbell training over barbells. The argument is that using each arm individually will fix any strength and size imbalances between your right and left side.

The fact is barbell training should have that exact same benefit. After all, if your hands are placed evenly on the bar, each side is responsible for applying the same amount of force to the bar.

The only time you should worry about an imbalance is if you are using poor technique. With proper technique, barbell training is more than capable of building a very well-balanced body.

But, what about all those times you see the barbell moving like a see-saw?

This is usually down to one side simply being a bit more dominant than the other. The slightly weaker side still needs to apply the same amount of force, it is usually just a bit slower.

Over time, the barbell can correct the discrepancy. However, you are always likely to have one side that is slightly more dominant than the other. That’s just how it goes for most people.

Building Stabiliser muscles

Stupid stability push up image

Instability = gains??

Another argument for the supposed superiority of dumbbells is the recruitment of the stabiliser muscles in your shoulders.

There is no denying the fact they do require extra stabilisation than the barbell and there are studies that show increased activation in the stabiliser muscles.

What people tend to forget is that barbells also require work from your shoulder stabilisers and it will strengthen them. A lot of the time, people dismiss this fact and behave as if stabiliser activation is completely devoid in barbell exercises.

Barbells might not activate those stabilising muscles as much as dumbbells, but they will sure as hell make them stronger. In fact, they will probably make them stronger than they would ever really need to be.

Therefore, in my opinion, making this stabiliser argument a little irrelevant.

Greater Range of Motion

Now, this is the point where I can safely say that dumbbells are better for many exercises.

I am a big proponent of full range of motion training and while barbells can provide a good stretch and range of motion, there are certain cases where the bar gets in the way.

An easy example to take is the bench press; the movement must stop when the bar touches your chest. With dumbbells, you can get a bigger stretch on the muscle since they allow your hands to go below chest level.

Obviously, all of this is only a benefit if you are making a point of using the complete range of motion, which is something many gym-goers do not do.

The major downside to this benefit is that once you get strong, the heavy dumbbells tend to get much longer. These longer dumbbells then get in the way and can prevent you from performing a full range of motion.

Once you reach this point, the barbell is king again.

Higher Muscle Recruitment

There are studies that have shown higher degrees of muscle activation when comparing the barbell to dumbbells for some exercises.

A study on overhead pressing shows dumbbells to activate more total shoulder muscles than barbells.

Another one on the bench press shows varying degrees of activation in different muscles depending on whether a bar or dumbbells are being used. For example, dumbbells showed greater anterior deltoid activation while the triceps were recruited more in a barbell press.

These are all interesting things to look at and valuable information to have. I feel their downfall is muscle activation doesn’t necessarily mean more muscle gains.

shoulder muscle activity barbell vs dumbbell

Shoulder activation comparison between seated and standed barbell and dumbbell variations. Chart Source.

There can be no denying the greater potential for heavier weights to be lifted with a barbell.

And, we know what an important driver of hypertrophy lifting heavier weights is. So, while total muscle recruitment may be higher with dumbbells, it might not be higher in the primary muscles you want to build.

It would also only really matter if you could consistently load those exercises with the same amount of weight as you can with a barbell.

When are dumbbells useful?

I know this article seems like a bit of a rant against the use of dumbbells. I guess it kind of is for most situations.

And that is the key right there: MOST situations.

I genuinely believe that barbell training should be the true focus of any strength training program. Particularly for the general population.

With that being said, dumbbells do have their place at times.

As mentioned earlier, any exercise where dumbbells provide the advantage of a greater range of motion is the perfect place to use them.

Other circumstances such as an injury or other issue that makes barbell training painful or impossible could be better suited for using dumbbells.

In such a situation, my aim would be to rehab the problem, so barbells could be used again. But, in the mean-time, dumbbells can be used during that process if you are able to.

Finally, dumbbells would be preferred in any athletic endeavour where they provide a more sports-specific training effect.

Does Lifting Weights Burn Fat?

People are always looking for the latest fat burning workouts and supplements. Of course, almost everybody would like to be a little leaner and feel more confident with their bodies.

However, it can be difficult to decide the best route to take for your workouts; should you do CrossFit style workouts, HIIT training, steady-state cardio or something completely different?

How about strength training? We all know it is essential for building muscle but does lifting weights burn fat?

does lifting weights burn fat

On the path to a leaner physique, most people tend to veer towards standard methods of increasing calorie burn like adding extra Cardio or HIIT training while manipulating their diet so they are in a calorie deficit.

Obviously, that stuff will work. After all, if you are burning more calories than you consume over a period of time, you will lose weight.

The trouble is, for strength athletes and trainees, those methods can sometimes detract from your goals of being bigger and stronger as well as being lean.

If you want to be strong (who doesn't?!), strength training needs to remain the main focus of your programming.

But don’t worry, strength training still has many fat burning benefits.

Cardio Training vs Strength Training for Fat Loss

This purpose of this article isn’t to prove whether traditional cardio or resistance training is superior for fat loss. In fact, a combination is likely to be the best approach.

Cardio is a fantastic way to reduce your bodyweight, get leaner, and improve your overall fitness levels.

However, there can be some disadvantages to cardio if it is not programmed alongside a good strength training regime.

The main downfall of doing copious amounts of cardiovascular training while consuming a lower-calorie diet is muscle loss. This happens as a result of creating a calorie deficit that's too big as well as hampering your muscle's recovery.

You may lose weight on the scale with a lot of cardio but it may not be the weight you want to be losing. You must perform the correct type of cardio to avoid muscle loss.

Strength training, however, can be an effective way of burning fat while allowing you to keep muscle, if not gain some in certain situations.

Why? Let’s discuss how strength training burns additional fat, and how you can manipulate your training program to accelerate your fat loss results.

Weight Training Boosts Metabolism?

One effect that strength training has on your body that traditional, aerobic cardio doesn’t is that it increases what is known as EPOC, (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) which, in simple terms, relates to the processes that take place when you rest to bring your body back to a level of homeostasis.

Strength training has been shown to have a positive effect on EPOC and, therefore, metabolic levels.

Increasing metabolism and burning fat as a result of high intensity exercise is a pretty great benefit if you ask me.

Please note, high intensity cardio will also increase EPOC but is less likely to increase your strength and help maintain your muscle mass.

Do Heavier Weights Burn More Calories?

It has been observed lifting heavier weights, with the correct form, in comparison to moderate weights (around 70% of your 1 rep max), will create a longer lasting EPOC in your system.

So, to increase your chances of elevating EPOC for longer periods after training, try lifting heavier weights on your main lifts (80%+ of your max), with correct form to avoid the risk of injury.

EPOC high intensity vs aerobic training graph

If you are unsure of the weight percentages, aim for a weight you can lift in the range of 3-5 reps.

Calorie Burn During Weight Training

So far, I have discussed the big benefit of Post-training calorie burn.

What I haven’t touched on is the fact your body will still be burning calorie during your resistance sessions. While a 90-minute run may burn more calories than a 90-minute lifting session, you do still burn a respectable number of calories while strength training.

Plus, the 90-minute run doesn’t have the muscle-maintenance, strength gaining or post-workout calorie burning effects.

Exercise calorie burn chart

Choosing the right exercises when you are lifting will also have a big impact on the total number of calorie being burned.

Best Exercises for Fat Burning

If you were to follow the typical routines of bodybuilders and celebrities found in magazines, you will likely end up performing a bunch of different isolation exercises for each body part during your workouts.

All-round this doesn’t really make sense but it makes even less sense when it comes to burning fat.

Working more muscles during a given time period is surely going to produce a higher calorie burn. So why would any effective workout ever be based around isolation exercises?

Compound movements (exercises that require the involvement of multiple joints), bench, deadlift, squat, pull up etc, are known to burn more calories than isolation movements. Why wouldn’t they, they put a whole lot more stress on your entire body, rather than one muscle group.

compound exercise chart

An effective way to burn extra calories throughout a fat loss regime is to focus the majority, if not all of your workouts on compound movements and perform them at higher intensities as discussed earlier.

But how will this burn more calories?

When performing an isolation exercise, let’s take a bicep curl for example, you are only really working a small number of relatively small muscles; your body doesn’t really need to work that hard.

Compare that to performing a chin-up, which will work not only your biceps but back, shoulders and core as well.

It make sense that an exercise consisting of several muscle groups should have the potential to burn more calories than a single-joint exercise.

How Often Should you Lift Weights for Fat Loss?

If pure fat loss was the only consideration, high-intensity strength workouts every single day would yield remarkable results.

Unfortunately, there are factors like recovery that must be thought of.

It can be difficult to determine the optimal amount of training for the best results as every individual is different. Some may respond positively to extra loads of training, and some may experience some negative effects.

For more detail on this topic, view my training frequency article.

As a general recommendation, I would suggest that you strength train 3-4 times per week. As long as you are training every major muscle group in a balanced fashion at least twice per week, you should be good to go.

I would also emphasise leaving at least a complete day before training the same muscle group again.

A full-body workout routine could have you training all your muscles on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This should provide enough frequency and enough rest.

Remember that I said cardio is still an effective fat burning tool?

Well, the off days from your strength workouts is where you can implement it. Feel free to experiment with the types of cardio you are doing but pay attention to how your body reacts.

If the cardio work starts to impede your strength training, you may need to back off or adjust the intensity of it.

Does Lifting Weights Burn Fat? - Conclusion

The overall takeaway from this piece is that you CAN burn fat when performing strength training, and in many cases I feel it is has more benefits than traditional cardio.

For the majority of people, I would prefer to see them base their training routine around strength training while manipulating calorie intake to achieve fat loss.

Cardio can then be added on top to burn extra calories and for the additional health benefits.

You will be able to maintain, and even build muscle if you have never tried lifting weights before. you won’t realise the full benefits of strength training until you try!

Best Wrist Wraps for Powerlifting and Bodybuilding in 2019

I am of the belief that wrist wraps are a fundamental piece of lifting equipment. Find the best wrist wraps for powerlifting and bodybuilding is a key step to take.

The trouble is that there seems to be a whole lot of options for something that is essentially rather simple.

I'm sure you'll agree, it makes it hard to know if you are getting a good, supportive pair or wraps or a flimsy piece of stretchy fabric.

This guide will give you all the information you need to know about wrist wraps as well as my opinion on the best pair to buy. 

best wrist wraps for powerlifting

Best Wrist Wraps for Powerlifitng - Quick View

To save you some scrolling, here's a quick overview of my suggested wrist wraps.

Titan Signature Series Gold Wrist Wraps

titan powerlifting wrist wraps

Why Wear Wrist Wraps for Powerlifing? 

Wrist wraps are generally thought of as a piece of safety equipment for presses and, in some cases, squats and deadlifts.

It isn’t likely that you will see a big increase in your bench press numbers from using wrist wraps. Unlike a powerlifting belt or knee sleeves for squats, wrist wraps don’t tend to increase your lift by a large amount.

What wrist wraps will do is provide you with support around your wrist joint and enable you to keep it straight while pressing.

For most people, a straighter wrist is going to lead to a better transfer of power to the bar.

bench press wrist position

Bent vs straight wrist position. Photo found at Kaizen Strength. Check out their full bench press mistakes article here.

Wrist wraps can help to enforce this stronger position under heavier loads.

So, if you do struggle to keep your wrist straight when pressing, wrist wraps might add a little bit to your one rep max.

Personally, I feel the tightness of the wrap provides and stiffness of my wrist helps me get a stronger grip on the bar. This, in turn, makes the weight feel lighter upon un-racking.

It also make sense that wearing wrist wraps allows you to forget about any pressure on your wrist joint and put more focus into your lifting instead.

Do wrist wraps prevent injury?

As I mentioned earlier, if you are somebody that struggles to keep your wrist solid during the bench press, wrist wraps can help you.

While there is little scientific research to show the benefits of wrist wraps during lifting, common sense should tell us that preventing the wrist from bending backwards under load is probably good for your wrists.

In fact, I started using wrist wraps in the first place after I stumbled at the top of an overhead press, causing the bar to roll backwards into my fingers, bending my wrist with it and causing a sprain.

Some lifters use wrist wraps for squats to minimise the risk of the bar putting pressure on a bent wrist. This is more common for low-bar squatters because of the hand position when squeezing the bar into your back.

Wrist wraps for squats image

In short, I do feel wrist wraps make lifting safer for your wrist joints if you wear them properly (I’ll cover that later).

When should you use wrist wraps?

I will state that I have no actual scientific proof for this section, but I will present what makes sense to me and you can make up your own mind about it.

I think wrist wraps should be used a bit like most people would use a lifting belt; only for higher intensity sets.

My reasons for this are as follow:

I feel like putting them on later in the workout acts as a bit of a mind trick and makes the weight feel lighter once you put them on.

I like to keep some sets performed without them, so I don’t become over-reliant on them.

I think lifting weights without any support must have some strengthening effect on the wrist joint. Lifting with wraps for every single set may remove this benefit and weaken some of the tissues inside the wrist.

Again, you may not agree with those points but those are my thoughts and you can use them to draw your own conclusions.

What size wrist wraps to buy

If you are competing in powerlifting, your chosen federation is likely to have its own set of rules and limits for wrap sizes.

The most commonly seen sizes for wraps are 18” and 24”. I would say this is where you want to aim.

A longer wrap means more coverage and less joint movement but I feel anything over 24” is overkill for most lifters.

Plus, constantly wrapping and unwrapping a long wrap in the gym gets rather tedious.

12” wraps are also available but, unless you have tiny wrists, they aren’t really long enough to get a good amount of material above and below the wrist joint when you wrap them up.

How to use wrist wraps properly

Wrist wraps are a simple piece of equipment and there isn’t much to them. However, there is a correct way to wrap your wrist properly before lifting.

They key is to make sure you are wrapping on both sides of your wrist joint. Many people simply wind the wrap around their forearm, which does next to nothing.

You also want to crank the wrap tight. It shouldn’t be so tight that your hands are turning purple, but it will be tight enough to resist your hand when you try to open it.

If you’re putting your wraps on at the start of the session and not taking them off until the end, they are likely too loose. Properly tightened wrist wraps are not comfortable.

Instead of listing the steps and trying to have you imagine what to do, here’s a video that explains it well:

Which wrist wraps to buy?

In all honesty, many wrist wraps from the top brands are going to be quite similar.

What you want to avoid is purchasing a pair that are too soft to provide good support or are inferior quality and going to stretch and fray.

I have seen some sites present a whole list of recommended wrist wraps, which I don’t feel is useful for such a simple product. With that being said, my recommendations are simple:

Get the Titan Signature Series Gold Powerlifting Wrist Wraps. They are very supportive and quite stiff, which I think is a good thing, but will soften up slightly over time.

I would just grab the 18” version since I hate having too much wrapping to do before every set. I also feel like the support I get from cranking the 18” tight is always going to be more than enough.

Titan Signature Series Gold Wrist Wraps

titan powerlifting wrist wraps

Currently IPF Approved (2018)


High-Quality, premium wrap


Specialist powerlifting manufacturer


Stiff and supportive

Texas Power Bar vs. Ohio Power Bar – The best powerlifting barbell?

Congratulations! By finding this article, I’m going to assume you have reached an important stage in your lifting career: you have discovered that all barbells are not created equally!

I’m also guessing you’ve discovered that two of the very best and most popular powerlifting bars are the Texas and Ohio power bars. Along with buying a power rack, selecting the right barbell for your training is a crucial decision.

Both bars featured here are great but which is best?

Texas Power Bar vs Ohio Power Bar

This article will take you through what to consider when buying a proper powerlifting barbell as well as pitting the two bars against each other with reviews and side-by-side comparisons.

What is a Power Bar?

As the name suggests, power bars are manufactured with the sport of powerlifting in mind. They are designed to be used for lifting the most amount of weight possible in the squat, bench press and deadlift.

For this reason, they need to be built much differently than weightlifting bars and the standard bars you might find in a commercial gym.

Compared to a weightlifting bar, which is used in for snatches and the clean and jerk, a power bar needs to be much more rigid or “stiff”, as you will hear it referred to.

On top of the extra stiffness, the knurling should be much deeper and sharer on a powerlifting bar. If you like having skin on your palms, you won't want to be cleaning a power bar too often.

olympic weightlifting bar vs powerlifting bar knurling

Power bars also have no need for the free-pinning needle bearing that weightlifting bars use in the collars. This is good news for the wallet since power bars use bushings, which make the bars cheaper.

A power bar will generally be around 29mm thick, which is a touch thicker than a standard Olympic bar of 28mm.

Power Bar Specifications

Different federations have their own rulings on what bars are acceptable to be used in their competitions.

Certain federations use specialist bars for each of the three lifts. I believe it is important to spend a lot of time training with the bars you will be competing with.

The IPF is the most popular drug-tested powerlifting federation in the world and many other federations follow the same or similar when it comes to legal bar specifications.

Therefore, many power bar manufacturers will aim to create a bar that adheres to the IPF’s rulings.

Here is a diagram of a standard power bar that is legal for use in an IPF competition:

powerlifting bar specifications

The bar should also weigh 20kg (not 45lbs.), be 2.2m in total length and have a diameter ranging from 28mm – 29mm. View the offical IPF rule book here.

Things to Consider When Buying a Powerlifting Barbell

1. Tensile Strength and capacity

You can fall into a bit of a trap with this one so it is worth knowing what to watch for.

Tensile strength, measured in PSI, is the amount of force it will take for the bar to break. Unfortunately, it is measure by pulling the bar apart length-ways, which is never something you will be doing with the bar.

So, keep an eye on the PSI rating but do not fall into the trap of believing a higher rating means a better bar. Higher tensile strength alone is not an indicator of a better bar.

Yield strength is a much better method of determining how strong your barbell really is.

It rates the point at which a bar will bend and not return back to its’ normal state. Basically, how much you can bend a bar before it is permanently deformed.

Unfortunately, many barbell suppliers do not disclose the yield strength rating.

Some will list their total capacity, which still isn’t the best, but you can combine that with the tensile strength rating to get a rough idea of the bar’s strength.

Luckily, both the Texas power bar and the Ohio power bar are very strong and highly unlikely to break on you.

2. Stiffness

A lot of people confuse tensile strength with stiffness; they mistakenly believe a higher tensile strength leads to a stiffer barbell.

As mentioned earlier, tensile strength measures the breaking point when a pulling force is applied to each end of the bar. No good for indicating bar stiffness or “whip”.

In this video you can see the difference between a bar with more whip (top) and a stiff Eleiko bar (bottom).

Luckily, stainless steel bars are now becoming more common, which give the same feel without all the maintenance. Stainless bars are going to be more expensive, though.

Bar length, thickness and material density all play a part in the overall stiffness of the bar.

For powerlifting, you will want to find a bar with a similar level of stiffness to the bars used in your federation. This is particularly important for the deadlift since a stiffer bar leads to a harder pull for most people.

3. Knurling

By nature, power bars have very aggressive knurling, which makes keeping hold of them easier and stops them sliding down your back but can tear the shit out of your delicate skin until it toughens up.

In truth, if you are locking the bar in your hands or on your back tightly, it shouldn’t really move enough to tear your skin that much.

Knurling can be somewhat subjective in terms of preference, so the best idea is to feel a bar in your hands before buying.

I prefer a very aggressive and rough knurling on a bar since it feels almost glued into my hands.

4. Bar finish and feel

Many bars are coated to prevent rusting and keep them functioning at a high level.

Common coatings include chrome and zinc plating. The finish of the bar will affect how it feels in your hands as well as how much maintenance is required on the bar to keep it rust-free.

barbell finish chart

Without doubt, bare steel bars feel the best during lifts but also require a high amount of upkeep to prevent them rusting.

Texas Power Bar vs Ohio Power Bar – Individual Reviews

Texas Power Bar Review

The good old Texas power bar! Manufactured by Buddy Capps and used in high-level meets for almost 40 years.

It is no fluke this bar has stood the test of time as is regarded by many as the best powerlifting bar for all-round use.

There are so many advantages to this bar:

It is strong, high-quality, features aggressive knurling, has a resistant finish with a good feel to it and the price is incredible.

The bar comes with the option of upgrading the sleeves from raw steel to chrome, which I think is a good move since it will cut down on bar maintenance needs.

However, these sleeves are slightly shorter than many bars, which may be a problem when using those stupidly thick bumper plates or if you’re freakishly strong.

All in all, you can’t go wrong with the Texas Power bar but is it still the best all-round powerlifting bar on the market?

We will discover that later on.

Texas Power Bar Specs:

Length – 84”

Weight – 20 kg

Diameter – 28.5 mm

Capacity – 1500 lbs.

Tensile strength – 186,000 psi

Shaft material – Sprung tempered steel (zinc plated finish)

Ohio Power Bar Review

Whenever I sit down to write one of these reviews lately, I feel like I’m just shilling Rogue products.

They just seem to be absolutely killing it with their equipment and the Ohio power bar is no exception.

As mentioned, this article focuses on the 20kg variation as it is the one with the IPF stamp of approval.

The Ohio bar feature very deep and aggressive knurling, which I am a huge fan of. It is also the stiffest bar I have lifted with.

I have used an Eleiko PL bar, which I believe is stiffer. Unfortunately, with a meagre 260kg deadlift, I’m not yet strong enough to notice a real difference in “whip” between the Ohio bar and the Eleiko.

That last point is exactly why I feel this bar is awesome for most powerlifters, particularly IPF competitors. It provides a very similar lifting experience, in terms of difficulty, to that of the Eleiko bars used in many competitions.

The main difference being the rather large and, in my opinion, unjustifiable price-gap between the two bars when you compare their performance.

The black zinc version is obviously the most comparable to the Texas bar, but the Rogue bar does now come in a stainless steel shaft variation, which is certainly superior and recommended if your budget allows. The stainless steel one is $100 more but feels better and requires much less maintenance.

The 20kg version of the Ohio bar also has a larger loadable area on the collars than the Texas bar and the 45 lbs. versions of the Ohio. This may help you load an extra plate on the bar depending on what kind of plates you are using with it.

As you can see, there are many advantages to the Rogue Ohio Power bar. Read the next section to see exactly how it stacks up to the Texas bar.

Rogue Ohio Power Bar Specs:


Length – 86.52”

Weight – 20 kg

Diameter – 29 mm

Tensile strength – 205,000 psi

Shaft material – Steel with zinc finish or stainless steel shaft option

Texas Bar vs Ohio Bar Comparison

Texas Power Bar vs Ohio Power Bar

Tensile Strength

186K psi

205K psi

Loadable sleeve length

15"

16.88"

Shaft diameter

28.5 mm

29 mm

Stiffness

Knurling (aggressiveness)

Purchase

Conclusion – Which bar is best?

Like I have already said, both are great bars and I don’t think you will be disappointed with either one. If I walked into a gym, I would be pleased to see any of them.

Of course, you probably want some more solid recommendations than that so here they are:

If you have a tighter budget, get the Texas Bar

If you compete in a federation that uses Eleiko bars but don’t want to splurge on an Eleiko Pl bar, get the Ohio Power Bar

If you just want the better bar out of the two, get the Ohio Power Bar. Preferably, the stainless steel version if your budget allows it.

Looking for more home gym equipment? check out my article to make sure you get the best power rack as well.

Best Power Rack to Buy in 2019

Are you looking to find the best power rack for your home gym but are confused with the countless options available?

After the barbell itself, the power rack is probably the single most important purchase you will make for your gym. Finding the right one is crucial to the enjoyment and success of your training.

Fortunately, you aren’t short of options. Unfortunately, this can make it very difficult to pick make a good decision when buying your power rack.

To save you a whole load of time before, and possibly after, you purchase a rack, I have created this in-depth buying guide for 2019. After reading through it, you will know exactly what needs to be considered when searching for a quality power rack as well as my recommended power racks for various situations.

Best power rack

Best power racks in 2019 Quick-view

(In-depth reviews and descriptions below)

Our Top-Pick!

Rogue RML-490

Rogue RML-490 power rack

Best Budget Power Rack

Titan T-3

Best Wall-Mounted Power Rack

Rogue R-3W

Rogue Foldable Power Rack

Best Squat Stands

Rogue S-4 2.0

rogue squat stands

Best Premium/High Budget Power Rack

Rogue R6 Monster Rack 2.0

Rogue monster power rack

Advantages of using a power rack

The fact that you have found your way to this article tells me you probably already have a pretty good idea of the reasons to buy a power rack. However, it never hurts to re-emphasise the benefits of a product before making a purchase.

Some of these points may even impact your final decision.

1. Safety

When it comes to building a home gym, this is possibly the biggest concern since you are likely to be training completely alone on some, if not all, occasions. Even inside a commercial gym, the safety provided by a power rack is much higher and more convenient than asking for a spot.

There are going to be times in your training where you will want to push a little harder and test your limits, which increases the risk that things will not go as planned.

If you have a decent quality power rack with all the necessary safety bars or pins, failing a lift can be very safe. Whether it is a squat or a bench press, all you need to do is lower the bar carefully on to the bars or pins to avoid getting pinned or crushed by the weight.

When squatting, the pins should be set just below the level of the bar at the lowest point of your squat. If you fail a squat, all you will need to do is sit yourself down or let the bar slide off your back and on to the safety rails.

In the case of a bench press, the bars should be just below the level of the bar when it touches your chest. If you fail a rep, simply removing your arch will drop your chest enough to let the bar rest on the safety pins.

Simple!

2. Versatility

Of course, if you want to squat as safely as possible, a power rack, squat rack or squat stands are pretty much a necessity.

However, power racks are built for much more than just squatting.

Between a barbell, some plates, a bench and a power rack, you really have enough equipment to train every muscle in your body extremely effectively.

Especially, if you look for a power rack with a pull-up bar.

Many racks can also be fitted with several accessories like lat-pulldowns, dip bars and pegs for resistance bands.

power rack with many accessories

A rack bursting with accessories. A thing of beauty!

You don’t really need any equipment other than those four pieces mentioned above. The power rack should be the centre-piece of any home gym or commercial gym for that matter.

3. Longevity (if you buy a good one)

With all gym equipment, you should aim to buy the highest quality gear that your budget allows. I would argue that the power rack is the one place where you should certainly stretch your budget to allow for better build-quality.

After all, your power rack is responsible for your safety and is going to be one of the most used pieces of equipment in your gym.

The good news is that a better-quality power rack will last for a long time. You may not ever even need to replace it if you choose the right one from the start.

A bonus, most gym equipment holds its’ value relatively well, if the condition is kept good. So, you shouldn’t have too much trouble selling a decent power rack if/when you are done with it.

Disadvantages of a power (Are there any?)

1. Size of a full rack

To be honest with you, I really struggled to think of any disadvantages to buying a power rack.

The only real drawback I could think of is they are usually fairly big, which is going to be bad news for those without much space.

Luckily, there are other great options available that will save some space.

If ceiling height is a problem for you, short racks are an option. As the name suggests, a short rack is a full power rack that isn’t quite as tall as standard ones, which is perfect for lower ceiling rooms.

If your issue is the total footprint and space the rack takes up in your room then half racks, wall-mounted racks or squat stands could be an option for you.

Each of these is designed to take up less space while still providing the benefits and safety of a power rack.

As you can see, there is a rack to suit pretty much any home gym.

How to choose the best power rack/things to consider

Use case/needs

When deciding which type of rack to buy for your training, you need to take into account exactly what you wish to use the rack for. As an example, if you solely want to use it for squatting then a simpler squat rack or stands may be sufficient.

On the other hand, if you want a rack that can be used to give you as many different options as possible, you would be better off with a full power cage that allows for the attachment of accessories.

I would also suggest thinking about how often it will be used. If you are building a home gym to use as you regular gym, you want to opt for the highest quality rack that your budget allows with the most features.

If you are buying a power rack to use alongside your regular gym membership, maybe on days where you can’t make it to the gym, you might be able to get away with a cheaper option.

Available Space

This one should go without saying; of course, you need to make sure the power rack is going to fit in the space you have available.

However, there are a few space factors people tend to forget about. For instance, the space left around the rack after installation is crucial.

Will you have enough height to perform pullups?

Does the cage height allow you to press a barbell overhead while standing inside it?

Is their plenty of space either side of the rack to comfortably load the barbell with plates?

These kinds of questions all must be considered. Only once you’ve figured out exactly how much space you have, can you decide what size power rack to get.

Adjustability and hole spacing

As noted above, one of the biggest advantages to using power racks is their versatility.

The more adjustability there is within your power rack, the more versatile it will be when it comes to using it. Being able to fully adjust spotter bars, J-hook heights and band pegs, for example, leads to a much more pleasant training experience.

There is nothing more annoying than a bar being in a slightly awkward position for you and not being able to move it.

power rack hole spacing

Closer holes for more adjustability

The hole spacing on the racks is a great example of this adjustability.

You may have experienced this in a commercial gym with a cheap, non-adjustable rack:

You set up to bench press, put the bar on one of the hooks, go to un-rack it but it is so high that you can barely get it off. So, you drop it to the next hook down only to find out this hook is so low, you are performing a half-rep just to un-rack the bar.

Finding a rack with as many adjustment holes as possible means you can fine-tune the set-up to suit you.

Power rack accessories

Are you hoping to perform a wide variety of exercises on your power rack? Maybe even employ the use of bands for accommodating resistance.

If so, you should look out for whether your chosen rack comes with any accessories or if they can be bought separately.

Things like dip bars, band pegs, cable pulleys and even jumping platforms can be attached to power racks. Even if you won’t be buying these things right away, it is always nice to now you have options for adding them to your training in the future.

Just be sure to check exactly what is compatible with each power rack if you are looking to add some of these accessories.

Overall Budget (remember you need other equipment)

Finally, the power rack you buy must be well-priced to fit in with your total home gym budget.

Well, duh! I know it seems obvious and a stupid thing to say but it can be easy to forget about the other equipment needed for your home gym.

It’s no good buying an awesome power rack if you have not money left to buy a barbell to put on it.

On the flip-side to that point, it is an equally bad idea to spend so much of your budget on bars, calibrated plates and accessories that you can only afford a cheap, flimsy rack.

You must prioritise.

In my opinion, most of your budget should be spent on your power rack and barbell. Of course, you then just need to leave yourself enough money to purchase enough plates to train with.

You can always add more equipment over time, but an excellent quality power rack and bar are crucial from day one.

Here is a rough guide to how I would break it down using percentages of my total budget if I was building a home gym from scratch:

Power rack – 50%

Barbell – 25%

Weights – 25% (would probably look at buying weight plates used on lower budgets.)

This is a bit of a rough guide since there is going to be a lot of variability in the percentages due to the differing amount of weights each person is going to need. However, it should give you an idea of how to prioritise your budget.

The next purchase would be a good bench and then you can add other equipment as you see fit.

Best Power Rack in 2019 Product Reviews

All-round best power rack for a home gym – Rogue RML-490

Rogue RML-490 Power Rack

Rogue RML-490 power rack

PROS

2” hole spacing plus 1” spacing in bench press area.

Includes band pegs.

Fat and skinny pull up bars.

43” working space between front and back of cage.

Wide range of compatible accessories.

Super sturdy.

Fast assembly (30mins to an hour).

CONS

No integrated plate storage.

Must be bolted to the ground for stability if optional stabiliser isn’t bought.

Accessories are more expensive compared to the smaller framed racks.

The Rogue R-4 power rack has been an insanely popular power rack for home gyms and with good reason; it provides everything you need for training, superb quality and a great price point.

However, I believe the newer Rogue RML-490 is a better choice due to the added sturdiness while still being very similar in price.

The one thing that lets many racks down is the stability and, thanks to the 3” x 3” steel used in the RML-490, you will be hard-pushed to find a sturdier rack at this price-point.

It wouldn’t be out of place in most commercial gyms so is an excellent rack for your home gym that is rugged enough to last a lifetime of gruelling workouts.

Dimensions:


Weight: 336lbs.

Height: 90 3/8”

Footprint: 53” x 53”

Features:


3 x 3” 11-gauge steel

5/8” hardware

Westside hole spacing: 1” through bench and clean pull area, 2” spacing above/below

Pair of Monster Lite J-Cups with UHMW plastic inserts

Set of Pin/Pipe Safeties for Squats, Bench & Rack Pulls from any height

Band Pegs for additional resistance workouts


Best Budget Power Rack – Titan T-3

Titan T-3 Power Rack

PROS

Relatively small footprint.

Available in shorter size for low ceilings.

High capacity, especially for this price-point.

“Westside” hole-spacing.

Variety of compatible accessories.

Wide base for sumo stance exercises.

Comes with weight storage and band pegs.

CONS

Smaller 24” working area could be restrictive for some.

Must be bolted to the ground to be stable.

Coating scratches easily.

The fact that this power rack has been compared to Rogue’s popular R-3 offering, despite the lower price, is a great compliment.

The only real downside, when compared to Rogue’s racks is the overall build quality. However, this is mainly aesthetic and does not draw away from the rack’s usability.

It is a sturdy rack, compatible with accessories and is very reasonably priced. If you aren’t too worried about some welding imperfections or a few scratches during use, this is a great power rack.

If you are on a tighter budget, you cannot go wrong with it!

Dimensions:


Weight: 230lbs.

Height: 91 1/8”

Inside Width: 42 1/8"

Outside Width: 53 1/4"

Inside Depth: 24"

Outside Depth: 32 3/4"

Features:


T-3 Series of Power Racks contain 2"x3" steel tubes

Capacity: 1000 lbs

1" round steel j-hooks

Chin up bars: 1 1/4" & 2" diameter

Includes J-Hooks and weight storage pegs

2” hole spacing with 1” spacing in bench press area


Best wall-mounted power rack – Rogue R-3w

Rogue R-3W Foldable Power Rack

Rogue Foldable Power Rack

PROS

Space-saving foldable design.

Retains high level of stability.

Quick-attach pull-up bar included.

Easy assembly.

Simple to fold away.

Lifetime warranty.


CONS

No safety or spotter bars. Will need to be purchased separately.

Sometimes, particularly in a garage gym, space is at a premium. Unfortunately, there just may be no way you could fit a full power cage in the space you have.

Luckily, there are now some excellent options and the Rogue R3w is one of the best power racks for small spaces due to its foldable design.

I was super-impressed with the fold-away technology when I first saw this rack. On top of that, I was even more impressed that the rack retained a high level of quality and durability along with it.

It folds away so neatly, it really is perfect for those who don’t have much space but still want to train at home.

It comes in 20.5” or 40.5” depth versions. I would only suggest the deeper one if you are planning on performing kipping pullups, muscle ups etc. inside the rack.

I would recommend purchasing the pre-made stringers to help with mounting it to your wall.

Dimensions:


Weight: 163 lbs (20.5” version) 190lbs (40.5” version)

Height: 90.5”

Footprint: Less than 5” from the wall when folded. Choice of 20.5” or 40.5” depth.

Features:


Fully retractable power rack

Set of Infinity J-Cups

Mounting Brackets

Quick-attach Pull-Up Bar

UHMW Plastic Caps to protect floor

Westside hole spacing


Best squat stands – Rogue S-4 2.0

Rogue S-4 2.0 Squat Stands

rogue squat stands

PROS

Very easy to store and move around.

Sturdy, stable design.

Great build-quality.

2” hole spacing with 1” spacing around bench press area (Westside style).

Cheaper than a power cage or squat rack.




CONS

No spotter or safety bars included. Must be purchased separately, if required.

Very stable but obviously less-so than a full rack or cage.

Stand bases may be in the way for some people when walking the bar out of the rack.

Less versatile in terms of accessories and exercise selection.


Sometimes, a more portable option is needed for your home gym. This is where squat stands can be of great use.

For this category, I chose only independent squat stand i.e. stands that are not fixed together with any type of crossmember.

The advantage to squat stands over squat racks is they can be moved and stored very easily.

Of course, the disadvantage is you are more limited in terms of accessories and exercise. However, if you are just looking for somewhere to hold your bar for squats, bench presses and standing presses, squat stands are a viable option.

They also tend to be much, much cheaper than squat racks or power cages. The Rogue S-4 2.0 squat stands are excellent and feel even sturdier than some squat racks I have used in the past.

Dimensions:


Weight: 130 lbs.

Height: 72”

Footprint: Each stand base is 26” x 22”

Features:


Westside hole spacing

2” x 3” uprights made from 11-gauge steel

2 infinity J-cups with plastic inserts

Rubber feet to protect floor surfaces and add stability


Premium/high-budget choice – Rogue R6 Monster Rack 2.0

Rogue R6 Monster Rack 2.0

Rogue monster power racks

PROS

Super sturdy and rugged. “Monster” certainly described it.

Includes plate storage.

Tonnes of optional extras/add-ons.

Custom colors.

Close hole spacing.

Different heights available.


CONS

High-priced. However, it is supposed to be the premium offering and best power rack around.

Takes up a lot of room.

Requires 2 people to assemble.

If you just want the very best rack with all the bells and whistles without worrying too much about a budget, this is the one.

It features pretty much everything you would need from a squat rack and it looks pretty badass too.

On top of the supreme durability, there are a plethora of different options and accessories from custom colours to J-cup designs.

This is a serious piece of kit for a serious home gym.

Dimensions:


Weight: Varies due to the number of options

Height: 90 3/8", 100 3/8", or 108 3/8"

Footprint: 80" x 53"

Features:


Westside hole spacing

23” x 3” uprights made from 11-gauge steel

Numbered holes

1” heavy-duty hardware


Conclusion

With the range of power racks available to suit all different needs, there really is no reason to settle for an inferior option.

I strongly feel that the Rogue RML-490 will be suitable for the vast majority; it strikes an unbelievable balance between price and quality.

I know this article has probably sounded like a bit of an advert for Rogue power racks but they really provide a wide range of options to suit your needs, with great quality and customer service to match.

You cannot go wrong with any rack featured in this write-up so, just select one based on your own needs and situation.

Does Cardio Burn Muscle?

Cardio. Some of us love it, and some (most) of us hate it! We all have our reasons to love and hate cardio.

A question you have probably asked is will performing cardio negatively affect your muscle gains?

Well, this article aims to give you the answer to that question as well as some suggestions for the best type of cardio to for building and maintaining muscle mass.

does cardio burn muscle

Cardio Muscle Burning Myths

It cannot be argued that regular cardio training can have tremendous health benefits, fitness advantages and can be a key tool for staying lean.

It’s a great way to burn off some unwanted fat, but is it burning some of your hard-earned muscle too? Here are a couple of the common viewpoints about cardio and muscle gains.

1. Skinny people do cardio

People who perform considerable amounts of cardio, for example, a high-level runner, is typically a light build and doesn’t hold a lot of muscle.

This is by choice, they eat and train accordingly to maintain this physique since it helps them to perform at their best.

Anybody that highlights examples of cardio-enthusiasts being skinny has got it the wrong way around. The cardio itself isn’t necessarily making them skinny, they maintain that shape to make the cardio easier for themselves.

musclular cyclist

Cardio doesn't seem to have hampered this guy's muscle building efforts much

2. Cardio will burn all your gains

You may hear of professional or aspiring bodybuilders telling people about their ‘worst nightmare’ of losing all their muscle leading up to a show or competition as a result of too much cardio.

This is not solely down to cardio and, in a lot of cases, it has nothing to do with cardio in and of itself!

The cause of muscle loss is generally down to poor diet and nutrition protocols. Failing to consume the correct amount of Carbohydrates, Fats, and Protein.

The second big mistake people make with their cardio is choosing the wrong type.

This can be categorised by selecting inferior mode of cardio as well as the wrong intensities. More on this later.

Benefits of Cardio for Body Composition

As long as you program it correctly (again, more on this at the end), cardio should not have any actual negative affects on your body composition. In fact, there are some nice benefits to be had for those who perform cardio regularly alongside their lifting.

Cardio Improves Recovery

Now, while there don’t seem to be many (if any) studies confirming the reasons for it, from the experience of myself and many other lifter, it is generally agreed performing cardio on a regular basis aids recovery.

This study shows also shows a positive correlation between moderate-intensity aerobic work when performed after soreness-inducing exercise.

How can cardio improve recovery?

It can be theorised cardiovascular exercise improves your body’s overall blood circulation due to the sustained increase in heart rate.

Moreover, Increasing the blood flow to a specific area in your body, should increase blood supply to that area and boost its’ recovery.

For example, if you have completed a lower body weights workout, adding some moderate-intensity cardio such as a cycling to the end of your workout.

This should increase blood flow to the area and help the delivery of nutrients as well as flushing out “waste products” that are left because of the repeated muscle contractions during weight training.

By reducing the effect of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), you should be able to train more regularly and at a higher level in each workout.

Important for maintaining and building muscle mass.

Increases total work capacity

Performing cardio on a regular basis will increase both your anaerobic and aerobic capacity, in other words, it will allow you to do more total work without feeling fatigued and to recover more efficiently from that work.

Of course, being able to do more in general can definitely help with you muscle building efforts.

Cardio is not just for cutting

Here’s a common scenario among bodybuilders:

During your “offseason” or “bulk”, you lay off the cardio to increase your size, lifting heavy and reducing the number of reps you perform during workouts. This is a great approach for adding muscle mass to your frame.

However, your work capacity and stamina are going to take a hit.

But, who cares, right? It’s all about gains!

Well, not only are you missing out on the benefits already covered earlier, you could well be making it harder for yourself when it comes time to cut down?

Your work cardiovascular fitness may be so low that you need to spend weeks just building that back up before it even becomes truly effective for fat loss.

Performing cardio all year around, even if it is only to maintain a base level of fitness during a gaining phase, will make it much easier to transition into doing more cardio work when the time comes to burn some extra calories.

Best type of cardio for building and maintaining muscle

Earlier, I alluded to the fact that many people suffer negative effects by choosing the wrong mode of cardio and/or the wrong intensity.

So, what is the best way to do cardio without losing muscle?

Firstly, selecting the best type is key. 

There are so many different modes of cardio training for you to choose, which makes it near impossible to examine the effects of each one individually.

However, there has been one important study done in 2009, which compared to cycling to treadmill endurance and their effects on both strength and muscle size.

Cycling was found to be superior for maintaining muscle mass. This is likely down to the lower impact nature and reduced eccentric demand of cycling.

Therefore, choosing a lower impact mode of cardio like cycling is probably the way to go.

Secondly, you must pay attention to the intensity of your cardio.

To be honest with you, almost any cardio method is going to work for dropping bodyfat. All it takes is calorie burn.

What we are looking for is the most efficient and least detrimental method of cardio for you muscle levels.

With this is mind, it is clear that interval style training is superior. Not only is it much more time-efficient but it has been shown to be superior for muscle mass maintenance, as shown in this study.

4-10 rounds all-out effort sprints lasting 10-30 seconds is a solid protocol for fat burning cardio without sacrificing muscle. I like to keep recovery time relatively high with these sprints to allow for full effort on each one. 1-2 mins recovery between each is good.

Best time to do cardio?

As mentioned earlier on, it may be beneficial for recovery purposes to add some low to moderate-intensity cardio in after a workout.

However, for your fat burning cycling intervals, it is likely best to leave them away from your lower body training.

This study suggests that same-day endurance training may impede strength gains, which could damage muscle gains in the longer term.

This does seem to be specific to the muscle groups used so you could still perform your intervals after a lower body workout, but the mode of cardio would need to change to something upper body dominant. An example could be battle ropes.

Conclusion

The key takeaway from this article is that cardio will not burn your hard-earned muscle as long as you program it correctly. Resistance training and endurance training combined are superior for body composition than performing either of them in isolation.

Don't get me wrong here. In the short term, extra cardio is probably going to decrease the amount of muscle you are building by a small amount.

However, I believe over the long-term it will benefit your body composition and health as a whole.

Follow these guidelines and you will be good to go:

Cardio for Muscle Building Strategy

Perform high intensity intervals of 10-30 seconds with rest periods of 1-2 minutes.

Choose a lower impact mode of cardio such as a spin bike.

Do not work the same muscles during your weight training and high intensity cardio on the same day.

Consume a diet that supports the amount of activity you are performing along with your goals. If you find yourself losing a great deal of muscle, you are probably eating too few calories.

Strength Training Equipment – The ultimate guide

Best Strength Equipment Guide
- The Ultimate Training Gear Resource

I aim to make this strength training equipment guide the most in-depth available.

Whether you are a beginner who wants to learn about a piece of equipment, or a seasoned lifter looking to buy some new gear for the home gym, this guide has you covered.

It's gonna be a long old read, so here's a navigation table so you can skip to any equipment you like.

Please note: for my recommended products, I have factored in price as well as how good the item is. I have found, what I believe, is the best all round, cost-effective option.

Strength Training Equipment Guide

Power Racks

Name: 

Full squat rack / power rack / temple of gains

Description:

A vital piece of strength training equipment. Provides a safe way to squat and bench press.

Also good for a number of other exercises: Overhead presses, rack pulls, inverted rows, pin presses and usually pull-ups.

Click here for my in-depth guide on the best power rack to buy for a home gym.

Recommended Product:

Rogue RML-490 power rack

Usage and buying tips:

Set safety bars at correct height if adjustable

Walk the bar out of the rack backwards

Don't overload the bar on one side. It will tip!

Perform curls inside them at your own risk.

Learn to squat with this article.

Video review of the RML-490 rack:


Name: 

Squat Stands

Description:

Gives you the ability to do many of the same exercises as you can with a full power rack, without taking up as much space.

Usually stands don't have proper safety bars, you will definitely need a spotter.

CFF Heavy Duty Squat Stands - 1000lbs


CFF Heavy Duty Squat Stands - 1000lbs. Very nicely priced, rated up to 1000lbs, fully adjustable, safety bars. A very nice find

Usage and buying tips:

Set safety bars at correct height if adjustable

Walk the bar out of the rack backwards

Don't overload the bar on one side. It will tip!


Barbells

Name: 

Olympic Barbell

Strength training equipment guide image of rogue euro bar

Rogue Euro Olympic WL bar. Quite an investment but it will last and a fraction of most other high-end bar's cost. Plus, it is a key piece of weight training equipment.

Recommended Product:

Usage and buying tips:

Some non-competition bars have no knurling in the center. I suggest finding one that does have a knurled center if you plan on squatting with it.


Name: 

Power Bar

Description:

As the name suggests, designed for powerlifting exercises primarily.

Much stiffer than an Olympic bar since the added flex or "whip" isn't needed.

Power bars will usually have bushes in the sleeves instead of bearings, as they don't need to rotate as freely.

gym equipment texas powerlifting bar

Texas power bar. Possibly the most popular powerlifting bar around. Super strong with aggressive knurling. I have even used this bar in a couple of local IPF competitions.

Recommended Product:

Usage and buying tips:

Not suited for Olympic lifting exercises, the more aggressive knurling on most power bars will tear your hands apart.

Check the tensile strength of the bars and get one that isn't going to be damaged by your heaviest lifts.


Name: 

Deadlift Bar

Description:

Very heavy duty bars made for very heavy deadlifts. 

More aggressive knurling than any other bar, supremely high loading capacity and longer than standard bars. All things that will enhance your deadlift.

Rogue Ohio deadlift bar image

Rogue Ohio deadlift bar. Built for deadlifts only!

Recommended Product:

Usage and buying tips:

If you compete in a federation that doesn't use a deadlift bar on meet day, you probably shouldn't train with one too often.

Not suitable for other lifts. it's a deadlift bar.


Name: 

Trap Bar / Hex bar

Description:

Allows you to perform deadlifts with the weight in-line with your center of gravity, instead of being out in front.

Great for extra quad activation and less posterior chain involvement.

Rogue trap bar for strength training

Rogue TB-2 Trap Bar. Plenty of space on the sleeve for your plates. I also like trap bars with 2 handle heights so you can switch your starting position up.

Usage and buying tips:

Make sure you get one with long sleeves if you want to deadlift heavy. There are some available with shorter sleeves that can only fit a few plates on.


Name: 

Safety Squat Bar / SSB

Description:

Changes the center of mass when squatting. Brings the center of mass further forward, more like a front squat.

Forces you to stay much more upright and is usually more comfortable for those with lower back trouble.

Demands less shoulder flexibility. So, if you can't squat due to shoulder issues, this could be a life-saver.

Still a very challenging exercise and a great accessory movement for improving your squat.

SS yoke strength training bar

Elite FTS SS Yoke Bar. Mention safety squat bars to anybody "in the know" and Elite FTS will most likely spring straight to mind.

Usage and buying tips:

Try it out if you have lower back trouble. An SSB should ease the pressure on your lumber.

Get one with a good amount of padding for extra comfort and stability over your shoulders.


Benches

Name: 

Standard Bench Press

Description:

Fixed bench press rack and bench. Usually there isn't any adjustment and they can vary in design quite a bit.

Probably won't have any safety bars.


Ader Olympic Bench Press Set. Pretty good bench for bench for a home gym. Has a 1500lbs capacity rating and comes with a bar.

Usage and buying tips:

Use a spotter if there aren't any safety bars.

If the bench is too high for you to plant your feet, try putting your feet on a couple of plates, boxes or aerobics steps.


Name: 

Competition bench press

Description:

As the name suggests, these are the benches used in powerlifting competitions.

Will usually be higher quality all round than a standard commercial bench press.

Adjustable rack height as well as safety bars making benching much easier.

Rogue bench press


Rogue Monster Westside Bench. Bench in safety in a competition style bench press. Fully adjustable, band pegs and optional spotter decks. Surprisingly well priced too.

Usage and buying tips:

Set the safety bars right below your chest when you are benching. If you are benching with you shoulders retracted and a slight arch in your lower back, all it should take is for you to flatten your back out in order for the barbell to rest on the safety bars.


Name: 

Incline Bench Press

Description:

The inclined angle of the bench slightly changes the way your muscles work to press the weight.

Compared to flat benching, you will work more of your upper chest and shoulder muscles. Most people will need to use slightly less weight.

Body-Solid GDIB46L Incline Bench. A fairly cheap bench that is still of good quality. Also has a few different adjustments so you can switch the angles up a bit. Not too keen on the leg developer, but it I see it as an added bonus that I might use at times.

Usage and buying tips:

Ideally, a bench that is adjustable for a couple of different incline angles will give more options.

I generally prefer quite a low incline. Once you start getting past around 30 degrees in incline angle, the shoulders come into play much more.


Name: 

Decline Bench Press

Description:

The opposite to the incline bench applies here. You will work less muscle of the upper chest.

Your triceps will also get more involvement than on the incline, but less than a flat bench.

Generally, people are able to handle more weight once they get used to the decline position. The extra weight is mostly due to a decrease in range of motion on the decline bench.


Body-Solid SBD351G Proclub Decline Bench. Commercial approved quality bench for non-commercial pricing. If you want a dedicated decline bench in a home gym, this is a great choice.

Usage and buying tips:

Start light and feel the movement out. It can be a strange position to get used to so don't jump straight in with your usual bench press weight.


Name: 

Free Moving / Adjustable benches

Description:

A staple in pretty much every gym. 

Will be mainly used for dumbbell work.

Can also be placed inside of a power rack if you want to bench safely without a spotter.

PowerBlock Sport Bench. Super sturdy bench, 5 incline adjustments from flat to upright. The seat can also be adjusted to stop you sliding off mid-set.

Usage and buying tips:

Make sure the bench is sturdy. Many adjustable benches shake around, particularly in the incline position.

Incorporate some dumbbell pressing in your program. Dumbbells are great for getting more of a stretch than the barbell allows on presses.

Be sure to work the full range of motion to get the benefits.


Dumbbells

Name: 

Fixed Dumbbells

Description:

These will be what you find in the majority of gyms.

Can be used for a plethora of exercises.

You can incorporate dumbbell variations of barbell exercises like presses and rows to increase the range of motion of the exercise.

Will be very expensive to buy a full set for a home gym.

hex dumbbells for a home gym

Rogue Hex Dumbbells. Buying a full set of quality fixed dumbbells for a home gym isn't going to be cheap. You can buy these as sets or a separate pairs.

Usage and buying tips:

Work through the entire range of motion, don't cheat yourself.


Name: 

Adjustable Dumbbells

Description:

Much more cost effective option if you're looking for home gym equipment.

Can be bought in various different weight ranges to suit your strength levels.

IronMaster Quick-Lock Adjustable dumbbells. These give you the quick-change over that you don't get with the spin-lock style dumbbells, while still retaining the actually dumbbell "feel" that many quick-change sets lose. Certainly the go-to dumbbells for a home gym.

Usage and buying tips:

Pay for quality here. There are some that are a little flimsy and rattle when you lift, very annoying.

Some sets also end up being quite bulky and awkward once you get into the higher weights. Bare that in mind when you browse your options.


pull-up and dip stations

Name: 

Power Tower

Description:

A 2-in1 pull-up and dip station.

Some come with various grips for pull-ups and even varied dip-bar widths.

Fitness Reality X-Class High Capacity Power Tower. Bit of a mouthful to pronounce! If you are going to get a power tower, get one that's sturdy and doesn't shake around. This one is quite a big investment but the cheaper ones are infuriatingly flimsy.
In my opinion, you should put the money towards a good power rack that you can do pullups on instead, and then buy some parallel bar or a dips attachment, if available.

Usage and buying tips:

Make sure there is plenty of space between any handles on the pull-up bar. Some models come with different angled grips but lack space for your hands to do a regular pull-up.

If you have a power rack that allows pull-ups, you probably don't need to buy one of these. Just get some dip bars.


Name: 

Parallel Dips Bars / Dips Handles

Description:

A set of parallel bars used for performing dips.

Some models have slightly angled bars so that you can vary grip width. Different grip widths will work your muscles slightly differently




Body-Solid Commercial Dip Station. A nice, solid piece of equipment that would be suitable for a home gym or commercial gym. Has a 500lbs max capacity and the bars are slightly angles for different grip widths. More expensive than some but you pay for the quality with gym gear.

Usage and buying tips:

Dips are an excellent upper body builder.

They work your chest heavily as well as your triceps.

Lean your body forward with a slightly wider grip to target the chest more.

Stay more upright with a closer grip and tucked elbows to switch the emphasis more to your triceps.


Kettlebells

Name: 

Competition Kettlebells / Cast iron kettlebells

Description:

One of the very oldest and time-tested pieces of strength training equipment.

Extremely versatile and unique in the way they force your muscles to work.

Use them for intense interval workouts, pure strength training or explosive, athletic movements.


Perform Better First Place Competition Kettlebell. Available from 8kg up to 48kg. Very solid kettlebell with a nice finish on the handle and no sharp burrs or edges to tear your hands up. Read my full post on finding the best kettlebell.

Usage and buying tips:

Use them for full-body, explosive movements like swings, cleans and press, snatches and Turkish get-ups to get the most out of them.

Males start with 12-16kg.

Females for for 8-12kg to start.

Go for competition kettlebells. They are shaped to be more comfortable to use. Plus, the size of the kettlebell and handle is the same, no matter the weight, which helps with technique consistency. 


Glute-ham Developers

Name: 

Glute-Ham Developer / G.H.D

Description:

There are hardly any "machines" or contraptions on this list of strength training equipment. So, you can appreciate how much I rate this machine.

It's used to strengthen your hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

Having a strong posterior chain is helpful strength sports, team sports, athletics and daily life.

A G.H.D is pretty expensive for your home gym but is an excellent piece of equipment if you have access to it or can buy one.

Gym gear image, Rogue GHD

Rogue Abram GHD 2.0. This thing is solid. Not cheap but it is specialist equipment. Rogue actually offer a step up from this for double the price if you have the budget and want all the bells and whistles. This is the one I'd go for, though.

Usage and buying tips:

I love doing these as an accessory after lower body movements.

It's really an awesome way to strengthen your posterior chain without putting any compressive load on your spine.


Best Strength Training Books – 17 Essential Reads for Gym Goers

The internet is an amazing resource for gaining knowledge and information. But is does have its downfall:

Information online is often broken down into single pages or topics, which makes learning a large amount of information on a single subject rather time-consuming.

If you ever want a deep-dive into a topic, reading a book by experts in the field is still the way to go. That's why I have created my ultimate list of the best strength training books available.

They say knowledge is power. Well, in this case its strength and power!

best strength training books

Below is a series of what I feel are essential books for different aspects of strength training. 

I have broken them down into categories for easy navigation but many books overlap and could have gone into multiple categories.

In all honesty, you will learn something from any book on this list, no matter what type of training you are involved with.


Best Weight Lifting Books for Beginners

Startin​g Strength – Mark Rippetoe

An absolute classic! I don't think any strength training book list would dare to miss this one.

Starting strength is the ultimate guide to simple barbell lifting techniques and training methods.

Easy Strength - Dan John & Pavel

An interesting dialogue format between that offers perspectives from two legends in the industry. Easy strength offers a huge amount of very practical information.

Also contains programs and routines that you can implement right away.

Practical Programming for Strength Training - Mark Rippetoe & Andy Baker

One of the most comprehensive books on the theory and application of designing a strength training program.

This will take you from merely "working out" to actually training. Couple this with Starting Strength and you'll have a great foundation of knowledge.


Best Powerlifting Books

Powerlifting - Dan Austin & Bryan Mann

The title of this one says it all; it takes a much more specific look at programming and preparing yourself for powerlifting competition.

Written by a multiple powerlifting champion, this book is great for learning how to train effectively with the 3 "power lifts" in mind.

Westside Barbell Book of Methods - Louie Simmons

Louie Simmons and his Westside Barbell brand is a huge name in powerlifting. His methods are somewhat divisive but they have certainly made an impact on the powerlifting world.

The writing is pretty sporadic but there is a lot of information to give you some different views and methods of training.


Best Bodybuilding Books

New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding - Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold's huge book has gained a reputation for being the "bible" of bodybuilding.

There is an absolute ton of detailed information inside this book.

While I think some of the methods are a bit "bro-sciencey" and the routines are not the best for your average lifter, it is definitely worth reading.

Strength Training Anatomy - Frederic Delavier

This is a great visual guide for learning how the body works while applying it to strength training principles.

The detailed illustrations are supremely detailed and show you exactly how everything is working during each exercise.


Best Olympic Weightlifting Books

Olympic Weightlifting - Gregg Everett

This book is the ultimate resource for learning the Olympic lifts and their progressions. Gregg rreally takes a deep-dive into details of the snatch and clean & jerk.

If you coach or practice Olympic lifting, this will be a book you constantly refer back to.

The Weightlifting Encyclopedia - Arthur Drechsler

Written by somebody who has been a high level coach, athlete and judge, this book brings a wealth of information to the table.

It features a lot of detail and Drechsler's enthusiasm for the sport is clear as he projects years of wisdom on to the reader.

Best Books for Strength Coaches and Advanced Lifters

Scientific principles of strength – Dr. Mike Israetel, James Hoffman and Chad Wesley-Smith

As the title suggests, this book provides an in-depth look at the science and principles behind programming for short and long-term strength gain.

Definitely not for the beginner lifter but coaches and individuals who are looking to learn about proper program design will benefit from this one.

Scientific principles of strength training cover

The Science and Practice of Strength Training – Vladimir Zatoriorsky and William Kraemer

I would deem this to be almost essential reading for anybody involved with strength training.

Divided into 3 parts, the book covers a wide variety of practical information as it relates to strength training.

There is a lot of scientific information and it is rather textbook-like but is still readable and digestible for anybody.

Essentials of Strength and Conditioning - Gregory Haff and Travis Triplett

This book is recommended as the number 1 resource for the Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam.

It is probably the most comprehensive overall text for exploring the principles and theories of strength training and nutrition. 


Best Movement and Mobility Books

Becoming a Supple Leopard - Dr. Kelly Starrett

This is a truly awesome book for learning how to optimize human movement as it relates performance and strength training.

Filled with images and in-depth guides, you will learn how to get your body into the best positions to reduce injury and improve performance.

Movement - Gray Cook

Gray's book outlines the importance of assessing and fixing dysfunctional movement patterns to improve performance and reduce injury occurrence.

The book is a textbook style book and is certainly not light reading. However, it provides a great deal of important information for serious lifters, athletes and coaches.


Best Calisthenics and Bodyweight Training Books

Never Gymless - Ross Enamait

This is a 230 page book that covers a wide range of exercises and their progressions for a number of different training goals.

The book also features information on programming and periodization for bodyweight exercises as well as sample routines.

Note: purchase this from Ross's website (rosstraining.com); it's way cheaper than Amazon!

never gymless cover image

Overcoming Gravity - Steven Low

This book is for those who wish to develop a deeper understanding of programming and periodizing calisthenics/bodyweight exercises.

It covers everything from exercise technique, progressions, injury awareness and building workout programs.


Other Great Books for Strength Enthusiasts and Lifters

This section is for books that I love but don't necessarily fit into the categories above. However, I think lifters will get a lot out of reading them. I imagine this section will be added to and updated the most over time.

Never Let Go: A philosophy of lifting, living and learning - Dan John

I actually suggest reading all of Dan John's books but I remember really enjoying this when I first read it.

Chapter by chapter, and in an entertaining writing style, Dan imparts endless wisdom on strength training, fitness and life in general.

Anybody reading this list should read this book!



For now, that concludes my list. I know there are plenty of others great books that could have gone into the list.

However, if you just read the books listed here to start with, you will gain more knowledge than you know what to do with.

Let me know what you think of my list in the comments and suggest some of your own for me to read myself.

Improve your Deadlift – 3 Simple Deadlift Cues to Lift More Weight

I’m sure you will agree that for such a simple movement at its core, the deadlift can become very technical. With so many little nuances and teaching points, it can be hard to think straight and remember them all during the lift.

When I first learned to deadlift, I would just go up to the bar, get in the correct starting position and then pull. My start position was good but after that, my technique would always look and feel different.

That was until I came up with a small, rememberable sequence of coaching points or cues that I could run through during my deadlift set up…

During this article, I will explain each of them.

Deadlift cues

Learn How to Deadlift First

Sure, these cues will help your deadlift technique. However, you must actually have some form of a deadlift technique first. What I mean is that you need to know what a good start position looks like, feels like and how to perform the lift first.

My deadlift form guide article will give you all the info you need for this.

To help you quickly with your start position, I will give you 2 rules to follow:

  • The bar must be directly over your mid-foot
  • The bar must be aligned with your shoulder blades
deadlift form start position image

As long as you adhere to those rules and your start position resembles something like the picture above, the following cues will help to reinforce your technique.

3 Simple and Effective Deadlift Cues

Trying to remember too many teaching points for the deadlift at once is likely to confuse matters further. So, after getting into a strong start position, I have a simple sequence of just 3 cues that I like to go through.

Here they are in the exact order that I think about them:

1. Bend the Bar

After not using this cue for years, it has become one of my favourites.

The purpose of the “bend the bar” cue is to get your upper back tight before you even lift the bar from the ground. This will help you to maintain a flatter back and neutral spine position.

This is a cue that I have only started using quite recently; I used to make sure my back position wouldn’t change during the lift, but I would begin the pull with my upper back rounded.

Pulling with a rounded upper back is a technique used by some great lifters, but I think the majority should aim to pull with a flatter back.

The rounded upper back start position usually helps with a faster pull from the floor. However, I have seen and experienced it have detrimental effects at lockout.

Lifting with a flatter back overall from start to finish tends to make it much easier to finish the lift. You may just have to be a bit more patient as you weight for the bar to break the ground if you are switching from a more rounded upper back technique.

The execution of this cue is simple:

Once you are in your desired start position for the deadlift, simply rotate your arm outwards as if you are trying to bend the bar around your shins.

Another way to think about this is to “point your elbows backwards”.

You should instantly feel your lats engage and your chest will puff out slightly.


2. Buddha Belly

Correct and strong abdominal bracing is absolutely crucial for holding a solid, safe spine position throughout the deadlift.

Too many people completely ignore abdominal bracing before a lift or they simply don’t know how to do it correctly.

A common misconception is that you need to draw your stomach inwards to brace your abs. In fact, it is the opposite.

Right before you lift, as you suck in your big breath of air, you should be expanding your stomach to increase what is known as “intra-abdominal pressure”

This video from Brian Alsruhe explains it all in detail:

This cue is essentially the Valsalva manoeuvre, here’s how to use it:

Before lifting, you should be taking a big breath. It is up to you when you take this breath, but I like to do it after I set up, right before I pull. Some people take their breath while they are standing before setting up to the bar, but I prefer not to hold my breath any longer than necessary.

As you draw this breath in, you should expand your stomach, so it makes a little pot belly, like a buddha.

When you have sucked in all the air you can and extended your stomach, now you need to brace your stomach hard as if you are about to take a punch to the gut.

Keep the belly extended and abs tensed throughout the lift. This will help stabilise your spine and minimise flexion, which could cause injury.

3. Leg Press

This final cue should help you to initiate the lift with the correct muscles, which are the big, powerful muscles of your thighs.

People often think of the deadlift as “pulling the weight from the floor”. Of course, it is a pull, but it should begin with a forceful push from your legs.

By starting the lift by pushing with your legs, instead of pulling with your back, you stand a better chance holding a stronger position for the lockout.

If you initiate the lift with your legs, you can then use your glutes and spinal erector muscles to power your hips through as the bar passes your knees.

This cue is a simple one:

You should have completed all the steps in your deadlift set up and used the previous two cues to get yourself as tight as possible.

Once you are tight and ready to go, think of the initial movement as a leg press. You are pressing the floor away from you just as you would if your feet were on the platform of a leg press machine.

Once the bar reaches your knees, you will then be in a strong position to drive your hips through and finish the lift.

Deadlift Cues Conclusion

Once you have a basic understanding of how to properly perform the lift, the coaching points above can be used to give you a memorable, repeatable routine.

Try them out and see how they work for you.

You may even have your own little sequence of cues, in which case, I would love to hear how your mind works when you're about to rip a heavy weight from the floor. Let me know in the comments section!

Powerlifting VS Bodybuilding – The key training and nutrition differences

Powerlifting vs bodybuilding, what are the main differences between the two? Honestly, they are completely different sports but they do both require you to get in the gym and lift some iron.

However, the way you approach your lifting and nutrition will have a few key differences depending on whether you are a powerlifter or a bodybuilder.

This article will outline the main variances between each sport so you can tailor your own training approach depending on where your goals lie.

powerlifting vs bodybuilding

Even if you aren’t seeking to compete in either sport, this article can still help you out. After all, you are likely to be drawn more towards either a strength goal or an aesthetics one so your training needs to match.

What is powerlifting?

Ed Coan deadlift image

Powerlifting is a strength sport that focuses around three barbell movements: The squat, bench press and deadlift. The idea is to master each of those three lifts to lift the most weight possible across all of them.

To even up the playing field, competitions are divided into different weight classes and even age classes as well. The weight classes vary among the different federations within powerlifting.

The rules for a successful rep on each lift may also vary slightly between different federations, as do the rules on equipment and drug testing.

One of the most well-known federations is the international powerlifting federation (IPF), which does drug test its’ competitors and holds itself to some fairly high standards for the what constitutes a passing attempt on each lift.

In powerlifting, every single lift is judged by three judges who award either a red (fail) or a white (pass) light. A lifter needs 2 out of 3 white lights for a lift to count.

A lifter gets three attempts at each lift with their highest weight recorded on each to give them what is known as their “total”, the sum of their highest weight in the squat, bench press and deadlift.

For a more detailed look at all the rules of powerlifting, you can check out the IPF’s rule book. Please note, as I mentioned earlier, these are the rules for that federation and some things may vary in the other organisations.

What is bodybuilding?

Arnold bodybuilding pose image

Bodybuilding is all about sculpting the most appealing looking physique as it is judged purely on aesthetic appearance. The winner should be the competitor who has ticked the most boxes when it comes to building and then showing off their physique.

Like powerlifting, bodybuilding incorporates the use of judges who mark each competitor on a list of criteria that includes muscle mass, body proportions, body fat levels, skin tone and their posing. As you can see, bodybuilding isn’t just about getting as big as possible; there are several different factors that must be acknowledged.

As is the case with powerlifting, there are several different bodybuilding federations so some rules will vary within each. Typically, a bodybuilding show will be split into two parts: pre-judging and the finals show. These may be held in the morning and then the evening or all in one go.

During pre-judging, all competitors in a weight class or category will be judged alongside each other through a series of standard poses.

During the finals show or “evening show”, competitors have the chance to show off their physique and impress the judges further by going through their own choreographed posing routine.

After the judge’s scores have been totalled from both portions of the competition, the winners are announced on stage.

Training for powerlifting

image of weights on a barbell

If you are a powerlifter, the end goal of your training is to increase your squat, bench press and deadlift numbers. There may be times where you focus on a sub-goal like building leg size but your reason for doing so should always relate back to the three competition lifts.

The actual training for powerlifters is going to vary a lot based on your current level and the amount of time you have been training for.

As an example, somebody completely new to the powerlifting movements will be able to make vast improvements relatively quickly with a very basic program. On the other hand, a more advanced lifter may need to break his/her training down into multiple phases in order to make small gains over the course of an entire year.

As you have probably guessed, there are almost endless methods and programs out there to help you become a stronger powerlifter. Instead of going through all the individual programs and the nuances of each, I have listed a set of guidelines that you can put into consideration when selecting a powerlifting training program.

Powerlifting Program Considerations

Your Training Level and Experience

I have already covered this briefly but if you have been training for powerlifting for a long time, you are going to do more work if you want your body to adapt further.

Beginners are in the enviable position of being able to make strength gains on almost weekly basis without the need for complicated programs. Simply performing the main lifts a few sets and looking to progress from workout to workout is likely to be enough for a novice.

As you advance through your training life, gains will become harder to come by since you need to find ways to push your body further and force it to adapt. This is where you may have to get more creative with your programming and possibly even have phases of training with more specific goals.

Check out this guide on how to pick a program If you want a bit more detail and some recommendations on selecting a program by training level.

Specificity

The goal of powerlifting is to perform heavy squats, bench presses and deadlifts. Therefore, your program should include heavy squats, bench presses and deadlifts if you want to get better at them.

On top of that, the rest of your training needs to be focused on improving those three lifts. If anything is in your program for any reason other than making you better at the competition lifts, take it out.

Progressive Overload

Your body gets stronger because it adapts to the demands you put it under so it can cope better with them in the future. The absolute key to any powerlifting program is progression over time; you need to be training and forcing your body to make adaptations.

This overload can come be the result of several factors: lifting more weight, performing more reps or sets and reducing rest times are just a few ways in which you can force progression over time.

Any good program will have some form of progression already built into it, you just need to decide if a given progression scheme matches your current goals and training level.

Personal preference/circumstance

Although general guidelines can be used to get a rough idea of the best program for you, there are always going to be some individual factors to consider. If a program doesn’t cater to your own personal set of circumstances, you will not follow through with it.

This is a big reason that online coaching has become so popular; people have realised that customised programming is likely to yield better results. In my opinion, most beginner level trainees can get away with a generalised program but may want to seek additional help and personalisation once a more advanced stage is reached.

How to design your own powerlifting program

Most people should not be designing their own program until they have gained enough knowledge to do so. If you have no desire to learn about proper programming for lifting, you will fare better by sticking to pre-made, expertly designed programs or hiring a coach.

On the other hand, if you want to start gaining the know-how behind the principles of program design, a great place to start is the book “practical programming” by Mark Rippetoe.

practical programming for strength training cover

Training for bodybuilding

image of bodybuilder training in the gym

You know that the goals of powerlifting and bodybuilding building are very different, so surely the training must be wildly different as well, right?

In fact, the principles spoke about in the powerlifting training section above still hold true for bodybuilding. The only difference would be that less focus should be placed on maximal strength in the squat, bench press and deadlift.

Performing those three lifts with as much weight for a single rep is not going to be of great use to a bodybuilder. However, progression in those exercises, as well as other movements should still be a focus.

There are many bodybuilders that put their efforts into just destroying a muscle group by splitting their training into weekly session for each body part. The reality is, training a muscle just once per week is sub-optimal.

The recovery cycle after a training session will last a maximum of 2-3 days, which means the muscle is ready to be trained again after that period of time. If your training volume is properly managed, you shouldn’t feel too sore and should be able to train a muscle group every 2-3 days.

how often should you train a muscle group? SRA curve

For more info on this, go to this post: How often should you train a muscle group?

The body-part split method, where you have a separate day for each muscle, was popularised by professional bodybuilders. This isn’t a problem but you must realise that these guys are seriously advanced and likely to be using performance-enhancing drugs, which do change the rules of training recovery.

The best bodybuilding program

I must apologise in advance for the somewhat misleading title; there really isn’t one “best” program. There are way too many individual differences for there to be one program that will be optimal for everybody.

What I can offer you are some general rules and an example of what should be a very solid bodybuilding routine.

General rules for bodybuilding programs:

  • Volume should be divided throughout the week to allow for proper recovery
  • Exercises should cover the entire body throughout the week
  • A clear progression scheme must be put in place (this detail is key; if you progress over time, you will build muscle)
  • Example bodybuilding program

    The following program is a very simple, yet effective program that trains the entire body. I would consider these to be a very general routine that will build a good base of muscle for most people.

    The workout is broken down into two upper body workouts and two lower body workouts each week. To take advantage of the benefits of heavier training as well as higher rep training, there is a heavier and lighter day for each workout.

    The workouts

    Lower 1

    Exercise

    Sets X Reps

    Squat (M)

    4 x 6

    Deadlift (M)

    2 x 6

    Leg press

    3 x 8-12

    Hyper extensions

    3 x 8-12

    Kneeling cable crunch

    3 x 8-12

    Upper 1

    Exercise

    Sets X Reps

    Bench press (M)

    4 x 6

    Bent over row (M)

    4 x 6

    Overhead press (M)

    2 x 6

    Weighted chin-ups (M)

    2 x 6

    Incline dumbbell curls

    3 x 8-12

    Tricep pushdowns

    3 x 8-12

    Lower 2

    Exercise

    Sets X Reps

    Front squat (M)

    3 x 10

    Romanian deadlift (M)

    3 x 10

    Leg press

    3 x 8-12​​​​​​​

    Hamstring curl

    3 x 8-12

    Kneeling cable crunch

    3 x 8-12

    Upper 2

    Exercise

    Sets X Reps

    Incline Bench Press (M)

    3 x 10

    Bent over row (M)

    3 x 10

    Seated dumbbell press

    3 x 10

    Lat pulldown

    3 x 10

    Barbell curl

    3 x 8-12

    Close grip bench press

    3 x 8-12

    * Sets and reps listed are main working sets. They do not include warm-up sets.

    How to progress

    The exercises labelled "(M)" are your "main" movements and should be your primary focus of progression.

    For the first week, start with a weight that you are confident you can do the required amount of sets and reps with.

    Start relatively light and then progress from there. If you can complete the required seats and reps, add weight to that exercise next time.

    Only add weight once you can perform the target sets and reps with good technique. You may not be able to increase every single week.

    You should still aim to increase the weight on the other exercises over time but progression will likely be a bit slower on these.

    For example, leg press is 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Start with a weight that you can get 3 sets of 8 with and build up from there.

    Once you have reached 3 sets of 12 with a weight, add weight next time and build back up to 3 sets of 12 again.

    Powerlifting vs bodybuilding nutrition

    The nutrition side is probably where the most extreme differences are going to be seen between powerlifters and bodybuilders.

    During the off-season, which is when competitors are not getting prepared for a competition, both groups may follow a relatively similar diet.

    In general, the off-season diets will consist of quite a large amount of protein, higher carbs and a moderate amount of fat. This is to ensure that powerlifters are getting enough fuel to build strength and bodybuilders are getting enough to gain muscle mass.

    The run-up to a competition is where things are really going to be different between competitors of the two sports.

    image of bodybuilder eating

    A bodybuilder needs to be extremely lean to make all his/her muscles as visible as possible. To get to such low levels of body fat, an incredibly strict diet needs to be followed leading up to competition day.

    The number of calories being consumed by a bodybuilder during the latter stages of a contest preparation phase is much lower than their body needs. Usually, this has a negative effect on strength and energy levels.

    Of course, a powerlifter cannot afford to follow any type of diet that hampers their strength or energy for competition day. So, most competitive powerlifters won’t change too much in the run-up to a competition.

    The only time nutrition may be altered is if a powerlifter needs to drop a small amount of weight to stay in their desired weight class. Often, a water cut will be done to achieve this weight loss instead of a calorie-restrictive diet.

    Conclusion

    I hope this has given you a much clearer understanding of the differences between powerlifting and bodybuilding. As you can see, the requirements, particularly on the nutrition side, for each sport are quite different.

     Because of the differences, successfully competing in both sports at the same time is tremendously difficult. If you do want to take part in both powerlifting and bodybuilding, you really need to focus on one at a time as your primary goal.