Going Through Phases
Powerbuilding, as much as anything, is a state of mind. Transcending limits and pushing past obstacles is the bare minimum. Ingenuity and innovation are basic requirements. Doing all you can to build a hulking and brutish physique that is as functionally powerful as the imposing shadow it casts… This is the ultimate goal of my training approach. I have not forever changed the game, I didn’t reinvent the wheel. I simply have observed the best for the past decade plus, applied it all and via trial and error, and determined that which would further my own personal goals.
I have loosely codified and classified this school of hard knock thought as powerbuilding and for me personally, it works. I used it to gain about 100 lbs of mass over the years and to accomplish feats of strength I could be proud of. As with all systems in this game, we must always be our own guinea pigs. No single system works for everybody but I have a hunch that over the course of our time together, within the lines of this page and the many pages to come will be enlightening, edifying and worthwhile concepts worthy of your valuable time.
When Ma Dukes bought me my first gym membership to the Brigantine Fitness Center (site of two recent Animal Barbell Club gatherings), she figured it was just a phase. Another physical outlet thought to be a productive means of keeping me occupied and out of trouble—a worthwhile channel though which to funnel my teenage white boy angst. In many senses she was dead on the money, except from her idea of the iron lifestyle being a passing fancy. From day one, I was bitten by the bug… I was down for life. That isn’t to say, however, that the idea of phases have no valid application in our world. Allow me to expand…
I’ve spoken many times before about the amazing adaptive abilities of the human body. Overcoming crushing stresses on a daily basis is de rigueur for the “normals” that surround us, let alone the masochists of our ilk who choose to punish ourselves in the iron dungeon on the regular. The most demanding and unconventional of routines will only pay consistent dividends for so long, before your body is able to adapt and overcome or to breakdown altogether, at which point your muscle building progress screeches to an abrupt halt.
That is when any other troubleshooting approach other than drastically switching shit up is to your detriment. An even better strategy is to be cognizant of the impending stagnation and to proactively implement change. Don’t waste time pissing into the wind. After 6-8 weeks of mass accumulating onslaught, break up the monotony. This cyclical modification as I’ve come to call it is the switching from a “mass phase” to a “refinement phase”. Borrowing from the precontest vs. offseason protocol of competitive bodybuilders and the strength training cycles of powerlifters, my powerbuilding tactics are designed to ensure constant growth and improvement.
Powerbuilding Phase 1: Mass
This is where the foundation of the house is laid. A footing of enduring, functional mass is a prerequisite if your ultimate goal is to build an exceptional physique. This should be the primary focus of any young lifters or those that are at the beginner to intermediate level of weight training. The mass phase of powerbuilding necessitates the prioritization of heavy compound movements, often done in straight set fashion with lengthy rest between sets. These rest periods are designed to allow the handling of maximum loads from set to set.
Multi-joint movements of particular interest during this phase are as follows: squats, leg press, hack squats, deadlifts, free weight rows, pull-ups, military presses, shrugs, dumbbell and barbell bench presses from varied angles and free weight curls and extensions for arms. The basis of the mass phase of a powerbuilding regimen should be powerlifting’s hallowed big three (bench, squat, deadlift) complemented by an array of efficient and strenuous basic lifts.
The mass phase of a powerbuilding routine emphasizes mega calorie eating, supplements that prioritize cell volumization and recovery and ample rest. Cardiovascular training, especially for athletes with fast metabolisms, should be minimized during periods when the primary goal is the accrual of maximum mass. During these times, the heavy weights handled in an intense and efficient fashion must be matched by sufficient recovery time.
Rest is critical, meaning that often a three or four day split is ideal. I tend to follow a five day split, but that is a personal preference dependent on the available time in my schedule at a given time and my experience with this style of training. Eating during a mass phase is of the utmost importance and is so often an arduous task. While the inclusion of cheat meals provides a welcome respite from bland bodybuilding dieting, the copious amounts of clean eating needed to earn those cheat meals is nothing to sneeze at. The mass phase of a powerbuilding protocol should last in the range of 8-12 weeks.
Powerbuilding Phase 2: Refinement
The flipside of the powerbuilding coin is what I’ve termed “refinement”. A period of refinement is not a standard precontest diet or what is casually referred to as a “cut”. Training with refinement in mind is done with the idea of holding on to quality and losing fat and bloat but not to the degree of extreme purgation. Improvement is at the heart of this movement. At the end of a refinement period, a powerbuilder should have a better physique with a higher baseline of lean body mass.
That said, refinement is also in one manner of speaking a break… A break from force-feeding, respite from the crippling effects of ponderous poundage consistently thrashing your joints and skeletal infrastructure. It is also refreshing in that your approach in the gym is temporarily altered.
Intensity techniques in the gym are now in vogue and should be at the heart of your routine. Circuits, dropsets and supersets should be the rule instead of the exception. All of the movements valued during the mass phase are still worth their weight in gold, but the rep ranges need to expand and the periods of rest between sets should be cut to the bare minimum. Due to their convenience and fixed nature machine work can now provide added benefit. During a period of refinement, activity is your friend, so the inclusion of moderate intensity cardio on a reasonably consistent basis is to your benefit.
During a period of refinement, the call for quality applies to your eating as well. Cheating is to be minimized and healthful, high-protein choices become priority number one. Inclusion of fat burning supplements and those meant to spare muscle and to promote anabolism in caloric deficit are valuable weapons in your arsenal. This physique-altering approach should allow enough time for recomposition before fundamental losses in size and strength occur. Remember, the idea here is to get better, improve the quality of your physique and to create and environment in which your next mass phase pays new dividends. The refinement phase of a powerbuilding protocol should last 6-8 weeks.
In the coming weeks and months, I will extrapolate on my powerbuilding training theories including workouts and philosophies for each bodypart as well as supplement and diet strategies devised to maximize your results and to keep you growing and improving for years on end. Keep it locked to Animalpak.com for Volume 2 as your boy G is on a roll...