Bodybuilding for Strength

Gaining strength is a two way street in the world of bodybuilding.


If you agree with what I’m about to say, than you don’t consider yourself a true to form “bodybuilder.”

Aesthetic Bodybuilding


Hear me out for a second.


In my world I’ve evolved into the bodybuilder who builds his body with more in mind than just pure aesthetics.


I enjoy training my body to develop lagging body parts and sculpting a championship physique. Over the past 8 years I’ve developed a hybrid approach to my bodybuilding training. It makes my training more enjoyable and for me, more well-rounded.


Many of my own programs focus on the following.


Bodybuilding 3-Part Focus


1)   Compound movements

2)   Progressive overload

3)   Accessory work


You might be wondering why only three things.


My reply. Yes, my training focuses on more but the main structure builds off of those three components.


A bodybuilder wants to look good and their time in the gym usually focuses on targeting the areas they feel need overall improvement.

To the bodybuilder, aesthetics are key.


When a strength athlete, whether a powerlifter or strongman, embarks into their training a common goal is overall strength.

To these strength athletes, pure strength is key.


I’m not a strength athlete, though for a natural bodybuilder I do consider myself strong. There are plenty of natural bodybuilders who trump me with their pure strength. I’ve used my desire to increase my strength as a strong component to my growth and success in natural bodybuilding.


Bodybuilders can learn a TON from those in the strength world, hell I know I have.


To become a successful natural bodybuilder or pure strength athlete, two things remain constant.

Muscle is needed for both, though I’d rather use my muscle in the gym than on stage in a banana hammock (shhh don’t tell anyone.) Yes, some bodybuilders still poke fun at bodybuilding, I love the sport, but you also need a great sense of humor.

As a bodybuilder we are given an outlet to display this balance of muscle and allow our peers to subjectively judge our structure.

In the world of bodybuilding, bodybuilders approach their training in two forms.

One, we enter into our offseason so we can focus on strength and muscle gain (and for some overall size), while consuming a surplus of calories.

Two, we enter our contest preparation or in-season diet. We typically base our starting point on when we are to compete, and use this time to reach our desired level of conditioning, build our muscle fullness, sparing the muscle we’ve gained in our offseason, and all while in a caloric deficit.


The first approach seems easier and if you’ve ever dieted for a bodybuilding competition, you’re probably in agreement.

In the world of a strength athlete, getting strong means getting better and an increase in strength and size leads to more muscle. To compete as a strength athlete, the strongest wins. It’s objective, and determining a winner is cut and dry. (Wouldn’t it be great if bodybuilders could say that?)

Whether you see yourself as a bodybuilder or strength athlete a key component is your balance of strength.


Strength or Beauty?

For the dieting bodybuilder training with the hopes to maintain strength levels is always a desire, but as a main goal of any bodybuilder preparing for a competition is to spare muscle.


So if the most important variable to a dieting bodybuilder is to maintain muscle mass, while getting leaner and leaner. They may succeed in sparing the muscle they gained during their offseason, but gaining or even maintaining any offseason increase in strength, becomes a losing battle deep into a contest preparation diet.


The fuel needed any increase in strength, just is not there and the body mass required to see these increases in strength, just isn’t there. There are good reasons why strength athletes alike carry with them an extra amount of size. The dieting bodybuilder simply doesn’t have this option.

I don’t consider myself a powerlifter, strongman or strength athlete but I do carry with me an affinity for gaining strength. This does not happen as a bodybuilder in contest preparation.

The perils of the bodybuilding contest prep dieting will eventually lead to substantial strength loss. In order to obtain the desired level of conditioning, to be competitive or win at the professional level, takes time. Accompanying this length of time is your lose of maximum strength levels.

Elite level natural bodybuilders will utilize 16-32 weeks for contest preparation. In this time your body fat will reach minimal levels that make it near impossible to increase strength.


Living day to day in a caloric deficit makes the dieting bodybuilders end goal about overall conditioning to maximize the illusion of a bigger, fuller physique on stage.


To the offseason bodybuilder an increase in strength, ultimately leads to an increase in muscle mass. Add to this the caloric surplus many will allocate to their diet during these time periods and you have the perfect equation for a fat and happy non-dieting bodybuilder.


Take your bodybuilding approach in two formats.


The In-Season Approach


Diet, lose body fat, maintain muscle, maintain strength levels and compete.


Get Shredded = Eat less + Lift Heavy + Increase Conditioning


The Offseason Approach


Eat, gain body fat, gain lean muscle, gain strength and repeat.


(This doesn’t mean you are “bulking” I’m not a bodybuilder who believes in offseason bulking, a topic for another day.)


Build Muscle = Eat More + Lift Heavy + Less Conditioning


Obviously, if I’m lifting heavy with both approach and I’m a bodybuilder who “gets it” then I’ll realize that during my in-season approach my increased fat loss, limiting caloric intake and length of diet will ultimately lead my body to limit “how heavy” I train.


Simply put, a dieting bodybuilder can only maintain offseason strength levels for so long.


Just because I’m entering a bodybuilding in-season program doesn’t mean my approach to training differs.


Bodybuilding Training, Dieting or Not


Here are the components that will remain consistent in my bodybuilding training, whether my goal is to compete or to build up my physique.


1)   Focus on Compound Movements (and the variations)


–       Deadlifts: Barbell Narrow Stance, Sumo, Trap Bar, RDLs

–       Squats: Barbell, Goblet, Front Squats, Split Stance, Bulgarian

–       Bench Press: Wide Grip, Close Grip, Board Press

–       Military Press: Barbell, DB, Push Press

–       Pull-ups: High Rep, Low Rep, Heavy, Wide Grip

–       Chin-ups: High Rep, Low Rep, Heavy, Mixed Grip, Fat Bar

–       Push-ups: High Rep, Low Rep, Heavy, Feet Elevated, Suspended


2)   Lower, Push, Pull and Total Body Workouts


–       Lower Body Days (Push and Pull Combo)

–       Lower Body Pull Dominant (Hamstring Focused)

–       Lower Body Push Dominant (Quad Focused)

–       Upper Body Days (Push and Pull Combo)

–       Upper Body Push Dominant (Vertical and Horizontal)

–       Upper Body Pull Dominant (Vertical and Horizontal)


3)   Progressive Overload


–       Increase the Resistance

–       Increase Sets

–       Increasing Repetitions

–       Increase Frequency


4)   Accessory Work


–       Body Part Training

–       “Weak Point Focused” Training Sessions

–       Shoulder, Back, Chest, Bicep, Tricep, Traps and Calves

–       Nothing is too insignificant to train; this equals abdominals, calves, neck, low back, forearms, etc.


5)   Conditioning


–       Offseason = Sleds and Sprints

–       In-season = Sleds, Sprints and YES, Supplemental Cardio


I’ve included a sample workout for you to grab.


Be sure to pick it up HERE.


I’d also love to hear your feedback or how you approach your training.


Work Hard, Train Hard, Get Better,





PS – Don’t forget to SHARE!


PPS – Grab your FREE 4-Week Program right here => BODYBUILDING for STRENGTH



  1. I loved this article. Another follow up detailing in and out season cardio methods?