A New Approach to Bodybuilding

There was a time when I was hesitant to tell people I was a bodybuilder.


After all, most people associate bodybuilders with steroids, bicep curls and banana hammocks.

No one person can deny that the world of bodybuilding has grown to become a worldwide phenomenon. Spectators and competitors alike have helped make big muscles and big business.


Yet, the sport of bodybuilding is still misunderstood by many within the fitness industry. Bodybuilding isn’t just bicep curls and tuna fish.

There is a new age of bodybuilder that now walks the street and graces the competitive stage.  This new age bodybuilder is more of a “hybrid” combining strength, power, and aesthetics into a complete athletic package.


The days that bodybuilders only trained in body part split programs are a thing of the past.


For many natural bodybuilders, increasing strength, building explosive power and improving endurance will lead to maximizing muscular gains.


Training for Strength


I’ve stated this in the past. Every natural bodybuilder who has aspirations to do anything in this sport must spend a minimum of 8 – 12 weeks, if not more, of their offseason training with the sole purpose of getting bull strong.


It’s really that simple.


Focus on the major lifts – bench press, overhead press, squat and deadlift and add in your accessory work that might rival a typical bodybuilding program.


On these major movements keep your rep ranges in the 1 – 5 range utilizing percentages based off of your 1RM.


A sample for 8 weeks of these lifts could be the following:


Week 1 – 2 x 5

Week 2 – 3 x 5

Week 3 – 4 x 5

Week 4 – 3 x 3

Week 5 – 4 x 3

Week 6 – 5 x 3

Week 7 – 2 x 3, 2 x 1

Week 8 – Deload


Training for Power


Today, explosive bodybuilders exist. Training for power is one of the greatest components to moving more weight. Moving heavier amounts of iron and faster equates to faster strength gains and ultimately new muscle stimulation. Today not all bodybuilders “train slow” in their approach to building muscle.


Olympic lifting might not be a bodybuilder’s most effective approach for hypertrophy. Though variations or timely use of cleans, clean pulls, snatches and push jerks will allow a bodybuilder to break through strength plateaus and stimulate new muscle growth.


One of my favorite exercise variations to use is the high pull (I’m a fan of pulling from a hang position) not only does this fire up the upper back, it builds some awesome traps while increasing your power output.


Implementing more emphasis on speed of the movements is key, not only for powerlifters or Olympic lifters, but bodybuilders as well.


Movements like speed bench, deadlifts and squats, will only increase overall strength, power and muscle stimulation.
The translation into lifts like cleans, deadlifts and chin-ups will be paramount.


A sample workout utilizing the high pull might look like the following, and how you can vary it week by week to focus on a hybrid approach to training: (These would only cover 1 training day in a program)


Week 1


A)    High Pull – 3 x 3

B1) Chin Up – 3 x 6

B2) DB Shrug – 3 x 15

C)    RDL – 3 x 8

D)    Hanging Knee Raise – 2 x 15


Week 2


A)   High Pull – 4 x 3

B)   Pull-Up – 3 x 5

C)   DB SA Row – 4 x 12 (each)

D)   BB Curl – 3 x 8


Week 3


A)    High Pull – 2 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1

B1) Chin-Up – 4 x 6

B2) DB Shrug – 4 x 12

C)    RDL – 4 x 8

D)   Barbell Rollout – 2 x 10



Training for Endurance


Forget hours of long boring, slow, meaningless cardio. The new bodybuilder approaches cardio as conditioning.


Treadmills, bikes and ellipticals have given way to sleds, prowlers, kettlebells and battle ropes.


Do bodybuilders still find the time to improve their aerobic threshold? They sure do and bodybuilders do so by implementing aerobic based intervals or tempo runs and even the dreaded steady-state cardio, utilizing many of those overly priced pieces of equipment.


I’d be lying to you if I told you I never jump on my upright bike in my home office to knock out some recovery cardio after a horrid leg smash, as well as my choice for many of my high intensity interval training sessions.


Often times, to a dieting bodybuilder, supplemental cardio just needs to be performed.


Though we cannot neglect this changing culture within our sport.


What was once considered the only way to burn calories, in order to become stage ready, age-old cardio protocols have been forced to make room for new-age conditioning.


Conditioning doesn’t have to utilize the typical “tool” when sleds, kettlebells and such aren’t at your disposal.


A set of dumbbells, a lightly loaded barbell and even our bodyweight can be the perfect conditioning tool.


I’m a big fan of adding on conditioning at the end of strength training sessions.


Here are a few samples:


Workout A


Dog Sled Push – 30 yds x 3 -5 sets.


Workout B


Barbell Complex – 5 reps each x 3 sets, rest 30 – 60 sec



A2) Hang Clean

A3) Front Squat

A4) Push Press


Workout C (Choose 1)


Burpees or Kettlebell Swings – 5 x 15


Workout D


Dumbbell Jump Squats – 6 reps x 6 sets, rest 30 – 45 sec


These are only a few samples of how the bodybuilders of today can take a hybrid approach to training.


Strength, power and endurance all build a better bodybuilder.


You see, I told you it’s not all about sporting a banana hammock and flexing in the mirror.



Work Hard, Train Hard, Get Better,


Tyler English