Powerlifting and Bodybuilding - A Match Made in Heaven

Alli McKee strong

It seems nowadays people shy away from the words bodybuilding and powerlifting.  I know this because I have worked with women, and as soon as you say the word bodybuilding or powerlifting they think a mastadon physique, accompanied by a hairy chest, and the voice of a viking.  Well let us address this.  It’s called steroids. You do not have to take these.  As a matter of fact, women who compete naturally in powerlifting, fitness, bodybuilding, figure, etc WHO PUT IN THE WORK, EAT CLEAN, AND GET THE JOB DONE... LOOK BANGIN’ HOT.  In this field we are in, you cannot kind of want to succeed, you must be dedicated, have discipline, and patience. If you accomplish these things mentally, then the rest of the aforementioned is a joke to you.  You then throw away shape magazine and start reading information from strong females such as; Nia Shanks, Julia Ladewski, and Alli Mckee. The list goes on from there, but I love the movement these women are starting. With that said let us not get sidetracked. It comes down to this in your training, have a goal.  How are you going to accomplish that goal? I believe 100% of the goals you want to achieve must involve both bodybuilding and powerliftng. Strength, nutrition, and appropriate programming need to be intertwined with your goals.

Beginning Weight Training

Beginners will benefit from a bodybuilding philosophy for several reasons:

1.) Anything will get you strong

2.) Your nutrition needs massive intervention

I suppose it would be folly to approach this from a standpoint of one is better than the other, because neither is more beneficial than the other in regards to strength. Powerlifting is a more direct, periodized form of strength training, whereas bodybuilding is a more indirect, aesthetic view of strength.  Bodybuilding focuses on hypertrophy through various rep ranges, sets, and tempo. Powerliftng accomplishes the same goal, but focuses on getting stronger via varied stimulatory stress. Where the two seperate is simply a means of maximal effort work. Preparing for a powerlifting meet requires conditioning above 90% of your best primary lift effort because this is what is required come competiton day.  However, this cannot be accomplished without the symmetry and weakness strengthening effects of bodybuilding.  The sooner you  realize this, the sooner you will be on the road to an eye candy physique that is both strong and physically conditioned.

3.) Mentally you need to condition yourself for what hard work really is

4.) Physically you need to address proper technique, your soft tissue, and overall body strength

5.) Socially you need to condition yourself to let go of your late night shenanigans

Intermediate Weight Training

Intermediate lifters can benefit from powerlifting for several reasons:

1.) Heavy loads will stimulate the nervous/musculoskeletal system in a positive manner

2.) The body is accomplishing everything it needs from a strength standpoint with the 3 lifts

3.) You become proficient at movements that matter

4.) Less is more, powerlifting contributes to total body strength and physique change

5.) Hormonally, high intensity work, appropriately timed, can make or break taking your physique to the “level” you want it.

6.) Most people don’t have 3 hours a day spend in a gym shaping the long head of their triceps and doing cardio. Powerlifting gets them in and out with the greatest overall metabolic and hormonal benefit.

Arnold Schwarzenegger deadlift

Arnold Schwarzenegger deadlift


Lesson is this:  Combine both for the best results.  Most clients, even trainers I see can benefit greatly from bodybuilding as a means for total body symmetry and a psychological kick in the reproduction zone. Bodybuilding teaches discipline and goal setting.  It sets the foundation for powerlifting by conditioning the body to look good and to keep people moving forward with goals and positive reinforcement. Why else do people lift, eat clean, and do cardio? They don’t walk into the gym saying, “I’m here because I want to look like a piece of shit”, or "I'm eating broccoli instead of ice cream because gosh, broccoli just tastes so much better".  No, they are committed because they have an inner desire to attain a decent level of physical beauty, and if you are a dude don’t B.S. yourself, your in there to get your butt in shape for that bombshell you saw the other night. If you need a reminder you will probably run into another one at a gym like World’s Gym, and that should motivate you to get sweaty real quick because she is working way harder than you, BRO. Long story short, work up to competitive powerlifting by building physical symmetry, releasing soft tissue restriction via manual release methods, and conditioning yourself via jump rope, stairs, and hill sprints. OH, let us not forget nutrition, bodybuilders are the true experts on fat loss. They go through many months of preparation with clean eating and carb cycling to achieve the physique they want at the appropriate time, which for them is onstage in their underwear.  Proper nutrition supports continued improvement in physique and strength.


Powerlifting will come. The squat, bench, and deadlift can absolutely still be taught to beginners and in fact ought to. However, if you are a trainer or just an every day Joe or Jane DO NOT EXPECT perfection. Expect good enough, otherwise you will get frustrated and not return.  Powerliftng is something that needs to be worked toward, EARNED, and be intertwined with bodybuilding. The main lifts in powerlifting are supplemented by bodybuilding exercises.  It does not matter what exercise or machine you are using because the philosophy you are using is rooted in bodybuilding, which is symmetry and posture to improve strength.  This would be akin to eating vegetables and taking fish oil everyday with your main meals.  For optimal results, everything must be taken into consideration for improvement. Most of all your weaknesses. Your weakness may not have anything to do with the gym, but rather outside of it, in your own mind.  Are you able to make the right choices with your food? Are you going to sleep instead of going out? Are you mentally prepared for your heavy Squat session? Have you prepared well enough physically, mentally, and emotionally for what you really want in your life.  What is your goal? How are you going to use these methods to accomplish them.   This is where you come in. Trial and error is King, you will need to play with both powerlifting and bodybuilding to achieve your idea of success.   How to start is this. Start. Find someone at the gym, not online, that you can learn from and workout with that you desire to look like or be as strong as.  This is the only way to get to where you want to go, to put your self aside and be a student.  At the end of the day, each of us are students, with our only teacher being the human body.

San Diego personal trainer deadlifting at a powerlifting competition.


My name is Matthew Ryan Brown. I am obsessed about anything pertaining to health: powerlifting, bodybuilding, digestive health, hormones, and fat loss.  I am a bodybuilder in a powerlifting costume. I think that everyone secretly desires to look half decent naked, why not look half decent naked but be strong at the same time? I am new to competitive powerlifting, but I love it. I am learning a lot thanks to great resources such as Elitefts and badass colleagues who remind me each day that health is truly grace from above.  All thanks to our Creator, who places upon each of us the responsibility to help inspire others who are lost in a sea of misinformation. "Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn."  C.S. Lewis Occupation - NSCA-CSCS Personal Trainer, Competitive powerlifter Education - San Diego State University B.S. Kinesiology, 2007 - 2009