By Carlon Colker, M.D. Flex
If building muscle were a simple as pushing or pulling the heaviest weight possible, bodybuilding would be easy. Since that’s basically all powerlifters do, they’d have the most exquisite physiques on earth. But the fact is, they don’t. Most powerlifters are clinically obese (with no muscle definition), perpetually injured, and, astonishingly, only marginally developed by bodybuilding standards. It’s an important subject for my readers to explore because, due to some degree of real strength-to-size correlation, so many of us get drawn by the lure of low repetitions with heavy weights.
Some experts claim that the diference between bodybuilders and powerlifters centers on the bodybuilder’s desire to “feel” the movement in order to achieve a pump, and thus maximize muscle stimulation. In sharp contrast, the powerlifting goal is to simply lift the maximum amount of pound- age regardless of the form. The idea is to “incorporate” as many muscle groups as pos- sible in order to maximize the poundage moved, as opposed to isolating and hyperstimulating a particular muscle.
Another aspect—beyond style and execution of form— to consider is the actual diference in training. Bodybuilders train with considerably more volume. In other words, even though a powerlifter may lift more poundage in a single lift during a particular training session, the bodybuilder moves expo- nentially more total poundage. Also, powerlifters take far more rest between sets compared to bodybuilders.
So again, strength is important, but it’s all about how you define it. You can’t expect the muscles to grow without getting stronger. To help you compare and contrast the substantive training diferences between bodybuilding and power training to understand the dramatic diference in physique development, check out the table below.
By the way, before all those annoyed e-mails, blog posts, and letters come in from staunch powerlifters, please be advised that I know all too well that the sample routine I posted for power training is not what a typical powerlifter might do preparing for a meet. Rather, it’s reflective of the kind of number-chasing routine one might typically fall into when ego trumps sense.
When I see guys overreaching on the weights with less-than- impressive muscular development to show for it, I remember the words of the long-since-passed Muscle Beach pundit Dan Duchaine. Eccentric but brilliant in his own way, he used to say, “If you want to impress me, build a 20-inch arm with a 20-pound dumbbell.” He was so right. But it took me quite a while to figure it out. In fact, it took me 20 years, to be exact. I pray it takes you less. – FLEX