Bodybuilders Need An Effective Strength Training Program Too!

In our world of high speed technology, we are all suffering from analysis paralysis.  There is just too much information available to us and we are more confused and stuck than ever before.  Aspiring bodybuilders have an exceptionally hard time with finding a good strength training program. 

A strength training program for a bodybuilder is essential to their progress as a physique competitor.  With the right program, bodybuilders can make unbelievable progress.  Plus, they will learn more about how their body works and be able to train at the level of some elite athletes.  

For bodybuilders, the best strength training programs are hidden from sight because there is so much junk information out there. 

If you do a quick google search for “bodybuilding” you will see all kinds of results for supplements and apparel with some basic info about a workout routine. 

Of course, like anything, a generalized workout program will only get you results for so long.  Eventually you will need to develop an effective strength training program

So let’s dive in and see what exactly a bodybuilder needs to get the most from his/her workouts. 

Hypertrophy – The Secret Sauce Of Bodybuilding

Girl Doing Squats

The goal of the bodybuilder is simple.  They have to pack on as much muscle mass as possible for their show.  The more muscle mass they have, the more defined they will look and the higher their score on stage. 

Obviously, the main goal of a bodybuilder is to gain as much hypertrophy as possible.  This requires strength training programming slightly different from your average athlete. 

The biggest difference is the amount of volume a bodybuilder does and the tempo with which they do it.

Volume

What is volume?  It is the total amount of work done in a workout. 

Here’s how you calculate volume:

Weight X Reps X Sets = Volume For A Single Exercise

Let’s do an example:

Say you are performing the leg press with 5 plates on each side (450 lbs) for 15 reps and 3 sets.

You’re volume would be:

450 lbs X 15 reps X 3 sets = 20,250 lbs total volume

Obviously that is a lot of poundage!

Time Under Tension

Why do bodybuilders need to perform this much volume? 

One major reason is to get stronger, more on that later.  The second reason is to increase the amount of time under tension your muscles are under.

Time Under Tension 

The longer your muscles are under tension, the greater the hypertrophy will be.  But there’s a catch. 

The maximum amount of time your muscles can be under tension is directly correlated to the endurance of the muscles themselves. 

In other words, if your muscles have low endurance (poor conditioning) then your muscles will have a low time under tension. 

This is where the true importance of volume comes in.  Without a sufficient base of conditioning, you will not be able to maximize time under tension and achieve optimal hypertrophy.   

Tempo     

This brings us to the final factor of hypertrophy: tempo.

What is tempo?

It is the speed you lift the weights for EACH repetition.  If you are training for strength and power as a discus thrower, then you will lift with a fast tempo.  If you are a bodybuilder who wants hypertrophy, then you want a slow tempo.

Here is how tempo is usually written:

Eccentric-Pause-Concentric

Each place in this sequence represents a different part of the lift.  The first number represents the eccentric (negative) part of the lift.  The second is the pause in between eccentric/concentric.  Finally the third number is the concentric (positive) part of the lift. 

Let’s do an example:

For a bodybuilder you would typically lift with a 3-1-1 tempo. 

3 second eccentric – 1 second pause – 1 second concentric

This would be done for each rep.  By lowering the reps down slowly, we are increasing time under tension and eliminating the elastic bounce at the bottom of the lift.  Thus, placing more work on the muscles. 

This is obviously NOT how you want to train if you are an athlete.  But since the goal is hypertrophy, this is how you do it. 

 Bodybuilding Programming That Kicks Butt And Takes Prisoners

Since you now understand how hypertrophy works, let’s get into how to construct an effective bodybuilding program.

The first and most important thing to address is strength.  When you are performing a lot of volume you want to lift as much weight as possible. 

The more weight you lift for more repetitions, the bigger and stronger you will get. 

However, due to the high reps on the smaller exercises, gaining strength is very difficult.  So to make up for this, you want to perform heavy compound lifts for less reps and heavier weight. 

Examples of compound lifts are: Squats, Deadlifts and the Bench Press

You want to do these exercises first in the workout with a tempo of 1-0-1.  No pausing or slow eccentrics.  The goal of these exercises is strength NOT hypertrophy. 

After performing the heavy lift, then you want to perform smaller exercises that work similar muscle groups for high repetitions. 

Example Bodybuilding Workout:

Here is a 6 week sample bodybuilding workout program.  Scroll down and spend some time looking at the exercises, sets and numbers and see if you can figure out the overall scheme is.  I go over it after the last slide so don’t worry.

**Note** This is only a sample workout to demonstrate the concepts we talked about earlier.  This template below can be modified with any exercise selection of your choice.   

Week 1

Bodybuilding Strength Training Program Week 1

Week 2

Bodybuilding Strength Training Program Week 2

Week 3

Bodybuilding Strength Training Program Week 3

Week 4

Bodybuilding Strength Training Program Week 4

Week 5

Bodybuilding Strength Training Program Week 5

Week 6

Bodybuilding Strength Training Program Week 6

After performing a workout cycle like this you would typically de-load after week 6 and then start a ne workout cycle on week 8.

If you noticed, the first exercise (core lift) went lower in reps and up in sets in a wave like fashion from weeks 1-3 and weeks 4-6.  It went from 3 sets of 5 reps to 5 sets of 3 reps to finally 8 sets of 2 reps.  Then it restarted on week 4.

Same goes for the smaller exercises that come after the main lift.  The first week has 3 sets of 10-15, then the second week has 4 sets of 8-10 and finally the third week has 5 sets of 6-8 reps.  Then it also restarts on week 4.

These are called waves.  Their purpose is to increase strength AND hypertrophy as much as possible.  For each week on each of these exercises you want to increase the weight in some way.

Even if it is only 5 lbs, that’s fine.  Whatever works for you.  The point is you keep adding weight while increasing the volume.

The last exercise is a mini-conditioning exercise.  I selected side raises for this example, but typically you would select an exercise that will address any weak muscle groups that you have.

For this one, don’t worry so much about increasing the weight.  The volume is going to stay high throughout all 6 weeks for this one.  This gives an unbelievable pump at the end of the workout.

Conclusion

Bodybuilding workouts are really simple when you understand them.  The biggest difference between them and a typical powerlifting program is the style of training. 

In a powerlifting program, it is all about increasing the core lifts.  In a bodybuilding program, the core lifts may be important, but the main focus is on increasing the size of the muscles.  This means working the muscles for higher sets and reps. 

But they do have their similarities, both bodybuilders and powerlifters need to add conditioning into their workouts.  More so for bodybuilders because of the low body fat and high definition. 

Plus, both need to have a good diet plan and perform all sorts of mobility routines to protect their joints. 

There is no easy way out.  If you are thinking about competing in one sport over the other because you think it will be easier, you are wrong. 

They both require an incredible amount of work and dedication.  So make sure you pick the one you desire the most.  Because you will have your work cut out for you. 

I hope I have made it much easier for you to decide and/or start on your journey.  Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think.  And finally if you liked this article or any of my others, be sure to share and spread this information to help your friends and family get results quicker. 

Keep at it and hit the iron!

       


Tony G
Tony G

Anthony is a fan of all things gym related. Growing up very overweight and out of shape, Anthony whipped himself into shape and stunned his entire community becoming a "fitness guru". Tony then set his sights on strength sports (Weightlifting/Powerlifting/Strongman) and learned all about body mechanics, mobility work and injury prevention. Tony found his true love in the strength sports, particularly Olympic Weightlifting. He earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from Fitchburg State University in Exercise and Sports Science. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the NSCA.

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