The Awesomeness of Powerbuilding, Part 2 - Chaos and Pain

The Awesomeness of Powerbuilding, Part 2

Posted by Jamie Lewis on 27 Dec 2017

Although the term and practice have fallen out of favor with the lifting community at large, the combination of powerlifting-style ultra-heavy training and bodybuilding known as powerbuilding is the balls. In spite of this, the wise "menfolk" of the interwebz feel differently, because of a variety of very weak and easily disassembled arguments. In any event, here are the wonderful things I've learned after feedback from the last installment of this series:

  1. People love dogma like dogs love drinking out of the toilet.
  2. Lazy people too lazy to even bother getting out their recliner to take a crap will scream about being "natty' until my ears are bleeding like I've been listening to Michael Bolton on 10, and they steadfastly refuse to try anything new.
  3. Everyone seems to want to know my opinion on Layne Norton.
  4. The wise men of the internet has developed a very stupid acronym that I've already forgotten for "natty bros" they don't consider to be natty.

Here are my responses to that news:

  1. People are less intelligent than your average drunken koala.
  2. See above and add "lazy."
  3. I know literally nothing about the man other than he the seeming fact he uses the word "natural" so frequently one would think he's considering a name change to Natural Norton, and he undulates or something. I guess he's some sort of snakeman who panders to the drunken koala people?

Just so you guys keep posting that stupid internet acronym for fake natty. Because that endears all of you to my heart.

But, being the swell guy I am, I will placate the aforementioned parties by including more "natty" bros in this article, since everyone seems to have missed my inclusion of Mike O'Hearn (who insofar as I know no longer uses that dumbass word) and Roy Hilligenn. Let me add the qualifier "alleged", because I don't know who's on or not and neither do the wise young men populating Reddit and filling it with all of the love and intellect that website could possibly hold.



For the uninitiated, steroids in the US basically started with a man named Dr. John Zeigler. They were only ciminalized in the United States in the 1990s, however, after one of our athletes popped positive and lost his gold medal in about the same way a person in Los Angeles loses his car at gunpoint. Bear in mind, it was not because he died or had adverse effects- it was because a body of Frenchmen said that he couldn't win because he tested positive for a substance that was legal to use in the US. In any event, Ziegler was a third generation doctor who tested the effects of dianabol on American weightlifters around or after 1959 after traveling to Russia and witnessing feats of brutal weightlifting badassery. Thus, any lifter mentioned before 1959 could be considered (for the excuse- and retardation-oriented) "natty". That's not to say they necessarily were, however, as Ziegler himself noted in 1954 that the Russians "had to catheterize all of these young [lifters], say 22 years old just so they could urinate" because they were taking such enormous doses of methyltestosterone, which was first produced in 1947 (Roach 329).

So, we'll start with a man who was ostensibly "natty", to satisfy the Redditors who weep and wail and gnash their teeth about the subject, and then move on to more modern trainers.


Jack Delinger

5'6" 195 lbs

You've all heard of the 20 rep squat workout, right? The workout about which old heads and "natty" kids who only want to lift twice a fortnight jack off to before they go to sleep at night after chugging a gallon of milk a day and admiring their nonexistent abs in the mirror? Delinger comes from that era, except for the fact that he thought 20 rep sets on squats were for slack-jawed wusses- he would just put 415 on the bar and squat it until he literally fainted. As you can see from the picture above, his method clearly worked- apparently squatting more than double bodyweight for six sets of more than twenty reps is the way "natty" bros can defy modern conventional "wisdom" and actually get over 160 lbs.


Not a lot of planning went into his workouts, either- Delinger would lift five or so days a week, doing a full body workout that was roughly the same each time. As to his split? He essentially lifted as much weight as possible until he literally couldn't move, rested, and then hit the weights again when he was able. He didn't screw around with a slide rule and a notepad determining what his training weights and percentages should be- instead, Delinger beating every body part to death like he was Braveheart with a warhammer smacking about the British with heavy weight and high reps, with no craps given about his exact training volume.


To gain weight, Delinger found that high reps with basic compound movements were his best bet- an interesting departure from the norm. He apparently gained 33 lbs in two and a half months doing 6 sets of 15-20 reps on the following exercises (Delinger):

  1. Heavy Bench Press
  2. Heavy Cheat Barbell Curl
  3. Cheat Bentover Row
  4. Squat
  5. Cheat Upright Row

Definitely a different approach from what you usually see out of powerbuilders, but apparently a highly effective one, because Delinger was built like a goddamned tank.


Mike Francois

5'9" 235lbs in season/270lbs off season

Mike Francois was one of my favorite bodybuilders of the 90s simply because he was massively strong and looked it. Though he didn't ever really get to show the world what he was truly capable of, due to his contraction of ulcerative colitis, Francois definitely brought the most brutal physique of the 90s to the stage every time he stepped on it, and certainly is in consideration for the title of "greatest uncrowned Mr. Olympia" of all time. Want to know what makes it even better? His numbers- a 700lb squat, a 525 bench, and a 800 deadlift, which are serious numbers for a 242 lb powerlifter. Know how he did it? When he was contest prepping, Mike Francois trained at Westside Barbell.

To get his brutal-as-hell physique, Francois incorporated a lot of 5×5 and 8×2 rep schemes, then used high rep backoff sets and accessory work to backfill his program with volume. True to his powerlifting-esque training regime, Francois used box squats and rack pulls to supplement his main lifts, in addition to his favorite accessories:

  • Chest: Incline barbell bench press (30* incline)
  • Upper Back: Wide grip cable row to chest
  • Biceps: Barbell curls, Hammer curls
  • Tricep: J-curls. [Edit: This may be a half retarded description of a JM Press. I've no idea- I just repeated what he described in an interview.]This is a Westside exercise that is kind of a combo skull crusher and close grip bench. Take the weight down to your chest using a narrow grip, the at the bottom of the motion slide the bar back to about your nose, then slide it back out to your chest and then press it up.
  • Quad tear drop: leg press with feet on lower portion of plate, 6-12 inches apart.
  • Quad sweep: front squats with heels elevated.
  • Rear delts: dual cable flies or reverse pec dec
  • Calves: standing calf raises

Francois credited the no-craps-given attitude of nonstop competition in the gym for a lot of his physique success. "Each day was a competition. Being the lone bodybuilder (even though I was treated great by all the guys), there was an unspoken challenge. It may have just been in my mind, which is all the really matters anyway when you are trying to make improvements" (Colescott). That's where his massive shoulders arose, apparently, as the constant competition led to Francois and his training partners using 400 to 500 lbs on seated shoulder presses, over 900 lbs on rack pulls, and other hideously heavy weights on everything else.


Phil Hernon

5'6' 239 lbs

Without question the bodybuilder of whom you've never heard with the most brutal physique you've never seen, Phil Hernon was the goddamned man. Allegedly a proponent of the H.I.T. training system, he was anything but- Hernon trained each bodypart three times a week with ridiculously heavy weights and rotating rep ranges. And when I say ridiculously heavy, I mean it- at under 240 lbs, Hernon was repping out with over 400 lbs on the incline bench, and was apparently a serious squatter as well.

If those tree trunks he called legs were any indication, Hernon was moving serious weight in the squat rack.

Herndon generally only did three working sets per bodypart, but he did a hell of a lot of warming up beforehand. For instance, when doing back, shoulders, and chest, he'd do pushups and light lat pulldowns to get his blood moving, then move to incline bench press for a couple of sets of 6 paused reps with 225 and 315. After that, he'd do a single set of paused reps with 405 for 5. Then he's hit up the incline bench press for a set of 8 to failure, followed by a warmupless set of low incline dumbbell bench press with the 125s for 12-15 reps. Finally, he'd hit back, shoulders, and traps with the same set and rep scheme- machines mixed with compound movements starting with low reps and then working up to higher rep ranges on his accessories.

Two days later he would repeat the first day's workout, but with the rep ranges and exercises reversed to rest the first day's heavy exercise by doing 11 to 15 reps instead of 5 to 7 reps.


Hernon would only take a day off when he felt like he couldn't continue, as he believed that a muscle would start to degenerate if it wasn't stimulated within 48-72 hours. This was the reason he kept each workout's volume low- frequency of training trumped long, volume-filled training. In short, Hernon recommended everyone:

  • train a muscle often.
  • keep protein at very high levels to add in the needed synthesis
  • train just enough to stimulate growth but keep it to a point where you are able to train each bodypart again two days later
  • train even when sore, as soreness is not an indicator of recovery


Other Notable Powerbuilders

Bill Ennis

Lest you think that powerbuilding is only good for bodybuilding, think again. Obviously, all of the dudes I've mentioned thus far were strong enough that they make the strongest guy at your gym seem like he's got enough AIDS that he pops AZT like Tic Tacs, but powerbuilding worked for all of the best lifters of the 70s and 80s as well. One of those guys, the aforementioned (in the previous installment) Bill Ennis, used powerbuilding to dominate the 198 lb weight class and post a 1906 total at 5.5% bodyfat in 1980.

To achieve this wholesale domination of his class, Ennis used a combination of ultra-low rep sets with bodybuilding assistance exercises, which he considered to be essential for the achievement of complete strength. In the end, however, Ennis credited his diet with much of his success. Unlike many powerlifters of the 1980s, Ennis focused heavily on nutrition and utilized what was essentially a strict competition bodybuilding diet- moderate fat, moderate carbohydrate, and high protein. In many ways, it mirrored Phil Hernon's paleoish Zone-esque diet. Ennis ate 9-18 egg whites a day, low fat cottage cheese, and tons of raw vegetables and fruits- roughly 6 oranges and 6 apples daily.

Like the Bulgarians of his day, Ennis's training sessions were short and heavy, 45 minutes to an hour. He focused on one lift per training session and would work up to a daily max and then back off and do low rep sets. When doing the basic movements, Ennis believed that repping out on the three main lifts was counterproductive, as it cut into his recovery and slowed his gains. Instead, Ennis used bodybuilding movements like lat pulldowns, pushdowns, leg extensions and the like to backfill his volume and get in his rep work to ensure complete development and prevent muscular imbalances.

Franco Columbo

At a height of 5'3" and a bodyweight of around 194, Franco was an absolute beast in the gym. He competed int eh World's Strongest Man against guys who outweighed him by over 100 lbs and did well until dislocating his leg running with a refrigerator on his back, squatted 655, pulled 780 in the gym, and benched 525 in competition. and deadlifted 700-plus, training twice a day and hitting each bodypart three times a week. If you want to check out his brutal powerbuilding program, go here.

Aaron Baker

At 5'8" and 236 lbs, this dude was inclining 435 on the Smith Machine for 6 or 7 reps two weeks out from a show, and worked up to 105s for reps on dumbbell flies. Though not particularly recognized for his strength, what amounts to a proto-Kai Green, nicknamed "Batman", was a legit badass powerbuilder in the 1990s.

Johnnie Jackson

The 5'8" 255 lb Jackson crushes 800-pound deadlifts and 100-pound side laterals, moonlighting as a powerlifter when he's not competing in bodybuilding. Referred to as the second strongest bodybuilder next to Ronnie Coleman, Jackson might be the third strongest behind Jackson and Stan Efferding but is likely the strongest current IFBB pro bodybuilder with an 825 geared squat and a 600 lb geared bench, plus an 823lb raw deadlift and a 225lb strict curl.

Sources:

Aaron Baker Workout. Get Bulky. Web. 22 Feb 2015. http://www.getbulky.com/aaron-baker-workout.html

Bass, Clarence. Ripped for powerlifting. The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 6 Jan 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2015. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2012/01/ripped-for-powerlifting-clarence-bass.html

Colescott, Steve. Mike Francois at Westside Barbell! RX Muscle. 21 Jul 2009. Web. 22 Feb 2015. http://www.rxmuscle.com/articles/nutrition/525-mike-francois-at-westside-barbell.html

Delinger, Jack. Bulk Training. The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 28 Oct 2009. Web. 22 Apr 2015. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2009/10/bulk-training-jack-delinger.html

Forum Post. Phil Hernon's Training Program. T-Nation. 29 Mar 2010. Web. 22 Feb 2015. http://tnation.t-nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding/phil_hernons_training_program_want_opinions

Jack Delinger: An All-American Bodybuilder. Muscle Old School. Web. 22 Apr 2015. http://muscleoldschool.com/jack-delinger-an-all-american-bodybuilder/

Meadows, John. October 2013 Interview with IFBB Pro Mike Francois. Mountain Dog Diet. 23 Oct 2013. Web. 22 Feb 2015. http://mountaindogdiet.com/media/interviews/interview-with-ifbb-pro-mike-francois/

Merritt, Greg. Rated hardcore. Flex Online. Web. 22 Feb 2015. http://www.flexonline.com/training/rated-hardcore

Sloan, C.S. Big Beyond Belief, HIT, Phil Hernon, and Other Things from the '90s. C.S. Sloan's Integral Strength. 18 Apr 2014. Web. 22 Feb 2015. http://cssloanstrength.blogspot.com/2014/04/big-beyond-belief-hit-phil-hernon-and.html