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.
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 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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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 2020. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 2020 Product Reviews
All-round best power rack for a home gym – Rogue RML-490
Rogue RML-490 Power Rack
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.
Fast assembly (30mins to an hour).
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.
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.
Weight: 130 lbs.
Footprint: Each stand base is 26” x 22”
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
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.
Weight: Varies due to the number of options
Height: 90 3/8", 100 3/8", or 108 3/8"
Footprint: 80" x 53"
Westside hole spacing
23” x 3” uprights made from 11-gauge steel
1” heavy-duty hardware
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Incline Bench Press
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.
Work through the entire range of motion, don't cheat yourself.
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.
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
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.
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.
Parallel Dips Bars / Dips Handles
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.
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.
Competition Kettlebells / Cast iron kettlebells
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.
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 Developer / G.H.D
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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:
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, 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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sets X Reps
4 x 6
2 x 6
3 x 8-12
3 x 8-12
Kneeling cable crunch
3 x 8-12
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
3 x 8-12
Sets X Reps
Front squat (M)
3 x 10
Romanian deadlift (M)
3 x 10
3 x 8-12
3 x 8-12
Kneeling cable crunch
3 x 8-12
Sets X Reps
Incline Bench Press (M)
3 x 10
Bent over row (M)
3 x 10
Seated dumbbell press
3 x 10
3 x 10
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.
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.
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.