Power is the capacity to bring about change. In society, powerful people influence populations through dynamic dialogue and confident communication. In general physics terms, powerful objects have a high capacity to transfer energy, or an average amount of work done per unit of time. Powerlifting is a sport of attempting great feats of limit and relative strength, in order to surpass previous performance records in major lifts. Bodybuilding is the application of training sciences to enhance musculature through tension and improve physical appearance. Although bodybuilders often dismiss any need to train like a powerlifter, the underlying concepts must not be ignored when attempting to maximize muscular proportions. Powerbuilding maximizes muscle size by training the human body to evolve into a more powerful entity.

Many successful bodybuilders developed their physique’s foundation as powerlifters. Bodybuilding is about aesthetics – you don’t have to be strong, you just have to look it. Powerlifting is functional – you don’t have to be big or defined but you must outperform others. Ronnie Coleman is well known for his feats of strength, while reigning as an eight-time winner of the International Federation of Bodybuilders’ top title. Due to his enormous build and unbeatable winning streak in IFBB events, many suggest Coleman is the best bodybuilder ever. In his training video, “The Cost of Redemption,” he demonstrates massive power output by bench pressing 495 pounds for multiple reps, 160-pound dumbbell shoulder presses and over 2,250-pound leg presses! While under a restrictive pre-contest diet, and less than six weeks out from a Mr. Olympia competition, Coleman completed an 800-pound deadlift for two repetitions.

After preliminary adaptations to consistent resistance training have occurred – enhanced motor control, matured connective tissue, mental motivation – evolving toward greater power output becomes an important aspect of a bodybuilding program’s design. The power and size of an eight-cylinder engine runs circles around a feeble four-cylinder. Constantly pushing the smaller engine to its performance limits will never cause it to develop the characteristics of the larger engine – eventually, it will fold to the pressure. On the other hand, the human body is organic in composition with a highly adaptable ability to cope with stress for survival. When pushed to its limits, performance inroads can rebound with an overcompensation effect, as long as a trainee applies proper recovery techniques.

In measuring mechanical power, work is equal to the force acting on an object, times its displacement (how far an object moves while the force acts on it). In strength training, work can be interpreted as the intensity and volume of effort applied against a load. The magnitude of a strength athlete’s force-producing potential is easily measured by identifying progression indicators during a session; such as: loads, repetitions, sets and time to completion.

To build power, force and resistance must be understood. A well trained athlete will not become more powerful by repeatedly lifting an empty bucket. The force required to move the object is nominal since the resistance of its weight and gravitational pull is insignificant when compared to their physical potential. However, things change by filling the bucket with cement. At that point, the force needed to face the resistance becomes sufficient enough to train. As the body adapts to imposed demands, the work must increase to exceed fitness thresholds – to become stronger and more muscular. The force acting on resistance can increase by: training with heavier loads; moving the same load though more repetitions and sets; increasing time under tension and range of motion; or completing the same work in less time.

Documenting efforts in a training log will help identify current fitness thresholds and suggest a means for surpassing them. If a training session involved pushing 100 pounds, 10 times for two sets in five minutes, this would add up to 2,000 pounds pushed in five minutes – or 400 pounds per minute. The next session could strive to obtain 105 pounds, 10 times for two sets in five minutes – or 420 pounds per minute. A tragedy in power production would occur if the heavier load was used but the total time to completion increased to six minutes. In this context, the trainee would have pushed 350 pounds per minute – a ten-percent performance drop, despite the heavier load, by considering time as a progression variable.

Powerbuilding involves much more thought than simply moving a load through space. Proper exercise prescription for advanced bodybuilders includes a focus on exceeding power output over multiple training sessions. To facilitate this, trainees and coaches must record and interpret numbers for the greatest return. When a performance curve drops or becomes stagnant, elements within the program must change (volume, intensity, nutrition, rest). Powerbuilding is a process of building muscle by increasing the amount of work a human body can produce in a given amount of time.

Measuring Power

Example: power index improves by over 25 percent through six sessions.

  1. 100 pounds, 10 times for two sets in five minutes; 400 pounds/min.
  2. 105 pounds, 10 times for two sets in six minutes; 350 pounds/min.
  3. 105 pounds, 10 times for two sets in five minutes; 420 pounds/min.
  4. 135 pounds, 5 times for two sets in three minutes; 450 pounds/min.
  5. 115 pounds, 10 times for two sets in five minutes; 460 pounds/min.
  6. 135 pounds, 8 times for two sets in four minutes; 540 pounds/min.