Powerlifting workouts can actually be used by regular people to increase muscle mass and lose body fat. I have talked about this before but not sure it really sunk in with the readers here so I'm going to hit it again. Focusing on strength training results in bigger, stronger, more defined muscles. To focus on strength training you need to drop all the exercises that don't bring big results and double up on the exercises that do.
Powerlifters know that focusing on the three big lifts (Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift) will work the entire body and build big thick muscles all over without needing all the supplement exercises. If you talk to a body builder they will insist that you must do some isolation exercises to bring out the details in your muscles. Even most men would argue that you have to do some curls at least to hit your biceps. I disagree.
Majority of your gains come from the big lifts and consistently increasing the weight. Take a look at any workout program worth its weight and it will include Squat and Bench Press. Those that really know what packs on the muscle also include the Deadlift.
In a nutshell powerlifting workouts are really nothing more than building a solid foundation on your frame by focusing on those exercises that bring the most results. I'm a huge fan of this approach because it is basically the Pareto Principle applied to working out. For those of you not familiar with Pareto it is more commonly referred to as the 80/20 principle which basically states that roughly 80% of results are produced by 20% of efforts.
Think about it like this. Let's say you are looking to get a big and strong chest. You decide to take the bodybuilding approach to training and are going to do a chest day that consist of bench press, incline press, and dumbbell flys. You decide to finish off your chest workout with triceps and are going to do some dips, pressdowns, and kickbacks. To keep it simple let's assume you do 3 sets of 8 for all exercises.
Now when you dig into powerlifting workouts you notice you are doing 9 sets for chest and 9 sets for triceps. Depending on your work rate and rest periods you are probably looking at one to one and a half hours for this workout. If you have ever done any lifting, you know that the first exercise you do is normally your biggest lift and the one you perform the best on (prioritization). After the first lift you are a little sore and tired and your next lifts typically don't get the same kind of intensity. Another common scenario is that you take it easy on your first exercise so that you can finish the workout. If we believe in the Pareto Principle we have 18 total sets and only 20% of those are truly producing the majority of our results. 18 - 80% = 3.6. So in this workout example my results would be coming from the first 3-4 sets in my workout which would be the bench press. Makes since the bench is a compound lift that hits my chest, shoulders, triceps, and to a lesser degree my back, abs, and biceps.
So let's say instead of doing all these sub-optimal sets and reps I decide to apply the 80/20 rule and say okay I'm getting results from my first 3 to 4 sets. 3 sets of 8 = 24 +8 = 24-32 reps for chest. Break this into a manageable work load and I end up with 5 sets of 5-6 reps which funny enough is exactly what powerlifting workouts and strength training are all about. Matter of fact this training style is how the old school bodybuilders got so big in the first place. It has been recommended by Bill Starr, Glenn Pendlay, Mark Rippletoe, and countless others as the program of choice. I have detailed out the free workout plan already so I won't do it again but the bottom line is if you want big muscles then powerlifting workouts are the way to go.
For those of you who need more details about how to build a program right for you I highly recommend 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler.
A powerlifting routine is very similar to a strength training routine but the difference in a powerlifting workout is that there is absolutely no doubt which exercises are the most important. When doing strength training routines you will see various supplemental exercises like dips, bent rows, pull ups, etc… but in powerlifting these exercises are minimal or non-existent. more...
Powerlifting training is not all about big guys with red faces grunting and yelling at pounds of iron. This workout program can actually be used by regular people to increase muscle mass and lose body fat. more...