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Chaos and Pain

  /  tips   /  Behold The Awesomeness Of Powerbuilding

Behold The Awesomeness Of Powerbuilding

Priest was a strong sonofabitch in his day… because he was not a
minimalist and learned from his contemporaries in other sports.

I mentioned in a recent article, there seems to be a trend toward
minimalism in today’s trainee. I’m not simply referring to
powerlifting, either- the strength training/physical culture world has
become so fractured that hard lines have been drawn in the sand
regarding training techniques and styles that people don’t dare cross,
lest they arouse the ire of others within their given subculture. For

so not all amateur bodybuilders are tards, but the vocal ones on forums
are 100% retarded. Somehow, I don’t think Milan Šádek is on seeking affirmation from 16 year olds with gyno.

  • amateur bodybuilders (not pros, as they actually
    understand how to train to maximize hypertrophy) scream endlessly about
    the value of “perfect form” and rail against training heavy or with
    loose form. From Reddit to Facebook to Youtube, they’re constantly
    bemoaning the likes of Brad Castleberry for their “crappy form”…
    nevermind the fact that that crappy form has him lean, 255 lbs at 5’9”,
    and strong as hell all the time. Has he been to “snap city”? Nope.
    That doesn’t stop the pussies on the internet from whining about his
    form, however, and the weights he’s using to “pump up his ego.”

I’ve seen pot pies with more muscularity and intensity than this chap.

  • powerlifters yammer on endlessly about the uselessness of
    bodybuilding movements and seem to hold it as a point of honor when they
    look like fat bags of pasty white dogcrap. Then, they have the utter
    audacity to flip out on people on the street when questioned if they
    bodybuild, incredulous that someone would actually be giving them a
    compliment for appearing as though they lift. Retarded, yet
    that’s what they do daily.

Any time I need an ego boost about my crap clean technique, I know right where to look.

  • CrossFitters are perhaps the worst of the lot, telling
    everyone nearby with their clothing and words of their love for CrossFit
    and decrying the utility of exercises that would actually lower their
    risk of injury and resolve muscular imbalances, like leg curls, seated
    rows, and dumbbell and cable work for their “vanity muscles.”

Ugh.  Someone had to make Crossfitters’ form look good.

  • Olympic weightlifters in the United States are notorious for
    furiously masturbating to the deliberate misinformation propagated by
    the Bulgarians in the 1980s, so they eschew any and all assistance work
    for endless light sets of squats and the Olympic lifts to “perfect their
    form.” As such, they blow at everything from their own sport down on
    through basic fitness.

So, how’d it get this way? Frankly, I blame the internet,
because I’m old and crotchety and shoot rock salt at the young
whippersnappers in my yard as they scamper hither and yon in their
damnable skinny jeans, listening to Miley Cyrus dubstep remixes or
whatever horrible crap that passes as music is these days. Prior to the
internet, there were divisions between the sports, but nothing like
what goes on now, at least in my experience. The camps have become so
goddamned dogmatic that they’re blind to the fact that all of them can
learn a great deal from each other, and that they’d all benefit from
doing so.

Lee Priest- powerbuilder and grand world champion of bulking.

is where power bodybuilding, or powerbuilding, comes in- it crosses the
lines between the different lifting disciplines to create the thickest,
leanest, strongest sonsabitches the world has ever seen. Nowhere in
powerbuilding would you find fatties happy to be fat and look like they
don’t lift (save, perhaps, for Lee Priest and his hilarious obsession
with KFC), and nowhere withing the confines of this style of training
would you find a lifter whose training poundages didn’t match the
impressiveness of their physique. Instead, powerbuilding has always
been jam-packed with huge, strong, ripped dudes throwing massive weights
around like they were pinatas at a Mexican midget’s birthday party-
we’re talking about badass, hard-as-nails, thicker-than-a-mack-truck
dudes like:

Scott Wilson

1980s mass monster with who is considered to have one of the broadest sets of shoulders in history.

Superstar Billy Graham

Western USA Tenn Mr. America, World Strongest Man competitor, and
possessor of a 605 bench press who trained with Pat Casey, Arnold,
Franco, and Dave Draper in the late 1960s.

Brutally thick and strong Mike Mentzer

Huge squatter and possessor of some of the craziest triceps in history, Paul “Quadzilla” Demayo

Training partners and general lunatics Branch Warren and Johnnie Jackson

would hope that you might find the above pictures at least somewhat
compelling, as those maniacs are all cut from the same cloth as Chaos
and Pain’s Badasses Ivan Putsky, John Grimek, Chuck
Sipes, Phil Grippaldi, Steve Stanko, Stan Efferding, Franco Columbu,
Bruno Samartino, John DeFendis, Benny Podda, and Marvin Eder. A quick
bit of googling will net you their routines, all of which I’ve posted in
their requisite articles, and all of which were lengthy, brutally
heavy, and frequent in the extreme. The following workouts are no
different- while they might vary in rep ranges and exercise selection,
each of the following routines utilizes weights designed to make the
lifter crap their pants in fear before starting each set, training
volumes designed to destroy the person undertaking the program or make
them into the most brutal sonofabitch who’s ever lived, and all of which
require focus and intensity that would make the nerds in the CIA’s
Stargate Project look like drooling halfwits with a bad case of ADHD.

Bill Ennis, just walking into meets and trashing kids while looking like a bodybuilder and rocking 5.5% bodyfat.

then, the awesomeness of powerbuilding programs- programs designed to
make lifters brutally strong, massive, and ripped. And before you
assert that these programs have never allowed a lifter to dominate
powerlifting, bear in mind that Stan Efferding and Johnnie Jackson are
both IFBB professional bodybuilders and are fifth and sixth on the best
of the best list on Powerliftingwatch at 275 for the deadlift, IFBB pro
Greg Doucette has the ninth best bench press at 198 in the history of
the sport, IFBB pro Amit Sapir has the world record in the raw squat,
Stan Efferding has held the unwrapped squat and total records at 275 lbs
for the last four years, and that all of the great powerlifters of the
late 1970s (John Kuc, Jon Cole, Rick Gaugler, Ricky Dale Crain, Ernie
Frantz, and Jack Barnes) and most of the great powerlifters of the 1980s
(like Gene Bell, Joe Ladnier, Larry Pacifico, and Ken Lain) trained
with a powerbuilding style. Hell, the first guy to bench press 600 lbs
in competition, Pat Casey, was a bodybuilder. Therefore, it might be
time to put aside your Smolov/Sheiko/program du jour and take a page out
of a time wherein Magnum Pi was an authority on facial hair and dudes
were actually proud to look like they’d stepped inside a gym before.

The Powerbuilding Elite

Mike O’Hearn

6’3″, 285lbs.

I was surprised at this, but when I started googling “power building”,
his name started popping up like plastic rodents in a short-circuiting
Whack-A-Mole game. Insofar as I knew, O’Hearn gave up powerlifting and
bodybuilding years ago to be a cover model, American Gladiator (he’s the
only person to be a gladiator on both the old and the new show, Battle
Dome gladiator, and actor. Apparently, that’s not so, because he looks
as big and lean as he’s ever been at 46, and has been putting up crazy
PRs recently like a double with 500 on the incline, bottom position pin
squats with 650 for 8 sets of 8, and highish reps on seated behind the
neck press with 405 lbs.

self-stated training style is “power bodybuilding” and as he’s bulked
back up, he’s been heavily espousing this style of training, mixing it
up in the gym with the likes of such strong dudes as Kali
Muscle, NFL punter and oft-voted “best body in the NFL” punter Steve
Weatherford, IFBB pro and world record holding powerlifter Stan
Efferding, and synthol-ed Mickey Rourke look-alike Rich Piana. From
what I can see of O’Hearn’s training, his workouts are a hell of a lot
longer, heavier, and more intense than what he recommends for the
average trainee, but you guys will get the gist of his methods from
O’Hearn’s 12 week power bodybuilding program. If you check out his
Facebook page, you can see he also highly recommends exercises like the
bottom-position pin squats (also one of my faves), shrugs, machine rear
laterals, incline JM presses and all sorts of cables for arms, seated
dumbbell work for shoulders, and a bunch of other stuff- the following
is just his bare-bones recommendation.




Barbell Incline Bench Press – Medium Grip -1-3 sets, low weight

Working Sets

Barbell Incline Bench Press – Medium Grip -6 x 5 as heavy as possible

Dumbbell Bench Press- 4-5 x 10

Incline Dumbbell Flyes-3 x 8-10

Pm: 30 minutes cardio/crunches




Barbell Squat- 1-3 sets, low weight

Working Sets

Barbell Squat 7 x 3 as heavy as possible

Leg Press 5 x 10 as heavy as possible

Leg Extensions 3 x 10 as heavy as possible

PM: 30 min treadmill/ crunches



Standing Shoulder Press – 3 x 8

Wide-Grip Upright Barbell Row – 3 x 8

Standing Dumbbell Upright Row – 3 x 8

Side Lateral Raise – 4 x 12

Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raise – 4 x 12



Barbell Curl – 3 x 8

Seated Dumbbell Curl – 3 x 8-12

Preacher Curl – 3 x 8-12

Lying Triceps Press – 4 x 8-12

Triceps Pushdown – 4 x 8-12

Dumbbell Incline Triceps Extension (shown with cable) – 4 x 8-12

PM: 30 min jog/ crunches




Barbell Deadlift – 1-3 sets, low weight

Working Sets

Barbell Deadlift – 7 x 2

One-Arm Dumbbell Row – 5 x 10

Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown – 3 x 8

PM: 30min Cardio/crunches

Sergio Oliva

5’9″, 235lbs.

I find it hard to believe that anyone could not be aware of Sergio
Oliva, but on the off chance one of you just crawled out from under a
rock and are still trying to blink the sunlight out of your eyes, here’s
the lowdown on Oliva:

  • he took 2nd place in the 1962 Cuban National Olympic Weightlifting Champions
  • 1966 AAU Jr. Mr. America
  • 1967-1969 Mr. Olympia
  • 1972-1973 WBBG Mr. Galaxy
  • 1975, 1976 and 1978 WBBG Mr. Olympus
  • 1977 and 1980 WABBA Professional World Champion
  • 1980 and 1981 WABBA Professional World Cup winner

Oliva’s strength was as massive as his arms and quads
(his quads were always 27″ and his largest waist measurement was 28″).
He hammered at his body the same way he hammered steel in the foundry
where he worked, and his efforts paid off- at 235 lbs, he was strong
enough to tangle with most powerlifters and not embarrass himself.


Chest and Back

Bench Press supersetted with Chinning Bar.

Set 1: 200lbs x 8, 15 reps on chinning bar

Set 2: 220lbs x 8, 15 reps on chinning bar

Set 3; 260lbs x 8, 10 reps on chinning bar

Set 4: 300lbs x 8, 10 reps on chinning bar

Set 5: 320lbs x 8, 8 reps on chinning bar

Set 6: 350lbs x 8, 8 reps on chinning bar

Set 7: 380lbs x 8, 5 reps on chinning bar

DB Flyes supersetted with Dips- 5 x 15 reps with 80lb dumbbells for flyes, supersetted with weighted dips.


Shoulders, Biceps and Triceps

Overhead Press- 5 x 15 x 200 lbs

Extending Heavy Curls. 5 x 5 reps x 200 lbs

French Curls. 5 x 5 reps x 200 lbs

Scott (Curls) Bench. 5 x 10 reps x 150 lbs

Scott (Curls) Bench with Dumbbells. 5 x 5 reps x 60 lb dumbbell

Seated Triceps Extension. 5 x 5 x 60 lbs dumbbell, supersetted with Tricep Press Downs


Abs, Heavy Squats and Calves

Situps- 10 x 50

Leg Raises- 5 x 20

Side Bends with Bar Behind Neck- 5 x 200

Squats- 300 x 5, 400 x 5, 440 x 5, 470 x 5, 500 x 4

Standing Heel Raises- 10 x 8 x 300 lbs


Chest, Back and Shoulders

Bench Press- 200 x 5, 220 x 5, 260 x 5, 300 x 5, 320 x 5, 350 x 5, 380 x 5

Press Behind Neck- 5 x 5 reps x 250 lbs, supersetted with Rowing Machine, 200 pounds

Sitting Press with Dumbbells- 5 x 5 x 80 lb dumbbells.

Dips- 5 x 8


Heavy Arms

Press- 3 x, 5 x 200 lbs

Extending Heavy Curls- 3 x 5 x 200 lbs

French Curls- 3 x 5 x 200 lbs

Scott Bench for Triceps- 3 x 5 x 200 lbs

Scott Bench for Triceps with Dumbbell- 3 x 5 x 50 lb dumbbell, supersetted with Tricep Press Downs.

Chinning Behind Neck- 5 x 5 reps

Chinning Bar with Closed Hands- 5 x 5 reps, supersetted with Tricep Machine Pull Downs


Abs and Legs

Situps- 5 x 10

Leg Raises- 5 x 10

Side Bends with Bar Behind Neck- 5 x 50

Squats- 3 x 3 x 300 lbs; 2 x 3 x 400 lbs; 3 x 20 x 250 lbs

Front Squats- 5 x 10 x 200 lbs

Sitting Heel Raises- 5 x 5 x 200 lbs

Steve Michalik

5’10”, 210lbs.

known for his psychotic intensity, undying love of AAS, and for having
trained John DeFendis until he achieved his ultimate and ridiculous
final Super Saiyan form. Training two days on, one day off, Steve
smashed heavy legs and back Day One, slaughtered chest, shoulders, and
arms Day 2, and massacred his abs and calves on a daily basis. Every
workout was basically a bloodbath in which Michalik would work up to an
incredibly heavy last set, then do three weight drops in that set to
pulverize whatever was left of the bloody hamburger that was the
bodypart being trained into a painful pile of pumped up muscle mush.

the weights below might not scream “HOLY HELL HE WAS STRONG” at you,
bear in mind a bad car accident cut Michalik’s career short and we never
really got to see what he was capable of, but Michalik was strong as
all hell. According to 1974 IFBB Mr. America winner Don Modzelewski,

ran into [Michalik] and just asked if he could give me some advice. Out
of the goodness of his heart, he came down and trained me every night,
six days a week, for about twelve weeks, and never asked me for a dime.
He was no longer training at that time, but one Sunday morning plopped
down on a bench with a jelly doughnut in his mouth and, without a
warm-up, knocked out twenty reps in the bench with 315, with his ankles
crossed up in the air.” (Colescott).

I don’t know
about you, but I’ve never seen a 5’10”, 210 lb man bench a set of 20
with his legs in the air and 315lbs, all while munching on a jelly
doughnut. That, in my book, equals seriously strong.

Michalik with 1982 Mr. O Samir “Lion of Lebanon” Bannout

Michalik’s Split

Day One


a. Leg Presses – four sets – 450 lbs. to 800 lbs.

b. Leg Curls – four sets – 125 lbs. – 15 repetitions.


c. Hack Squats – four sets – 150 lbs. to 325 lbs. – super-setted with

d. Leg Extensions – constant weight of 225 lbs. – ten repetitions.

e. Full Squats – four sets – 205 lbs. to 405 lbs. – ten repetitions.


a. Long Pulley Cable Rowing – seated – six sets – 150 lbs. to 200 lbs.

b. Bent-over Rowing – four sets – 150 lbs. to 245 lbs. Triple drop on last set.


c. Seated Lat Pull-downs – six sets – 150 lbs. to 275 lbs.

d. Deadlifts – four sets – 205 lbs. to 400 lbs. Triple drop on last set.

It wouldn’t be a party without this picture.

Day Two


a. Barbell Pullover – constant weight – 75 lbs. four sets of 15 repetitions for rib-box stretch.

b. Bench Press – six sets – 205 lbs. to 405 .bs.


c. Decline press – six sets – 20t lbs. to 345 lbs.

d. Incline Press – six sets – 150 lbs. to 300 lbs. Triple drop on last set.


a. Seated Press (on machine) – five sets – 150 lbs. to 205 lbs.

b. Seated Behind the Neck Press (on machine) – 5 sets – 125 lbs. to 175 lbs. Triple drop on last set.


c. Lateral Raises (dumbbells) – 4 sets – 25 lbs. to 45 lbs.

d. Shrugs – 4 sets – 205 lbs. to 300 lbs. Triple drop on last set.


a. Lying Triceps Curl on Flat Bench – 6 sets – 110 lbs. to 200 lbs.

b. Seated Triceps Curl – 6 sets – 100 to 150 lbs. Triple drop on last set.

Regular Set:

c. Decline Triceps Curl – 6 sets – 100 to 150 lbs. Triple drop on last set.


a. Preacher Curl – oNe Arm – 4 sets – 50 to 75 lbs.

b. Incline Curl (on half-moon bench) – 4 sets – 65 to 85 lbs. Triple drop on last set.


c. Standing Curl – 6 sets – constant weight – 120 lbs. super-setted with-

d. Preacher Curl – constant weight – 110 lbs. Triple drop on last set.

Every Day

Calves – 15 sets of about 20 reps – 150 to 250 lbs.

– On an adjustable abdominal board. 50 to 75 repetitions on each rung
for a drop set. One to two sets of each drop set (Mr. USA).

Roy Hilligenn

5’6”, 180 lbs

Hilligenn might be the baddest man of whom you’ve never heard.
At 5’6″, 180lbs, he might have been the biggest guy I’m going to
mention in this series, but he his strength was so prodigeous than when
coupled with his Aryan good looks, he’d have been the only person in
Hitler’s spank bank if he’d lived long enough to witness Hilligenn’s
lifts. Hilligenn was the first South African to clean and jerk double
bodyweight, tied the world record in the same lift in competition, and
eventually unofficially broke the world record in that lift, smashing
John Davis’s record with a 402lb exhibition lift at a bodyweight that
was 50 lbs less than Davis’s, and crushing his own weight class’s best
lift by 32 lbs. Hell, Hilligenn was even crazy strong into his old age-
at 72, he did 35 reps with 400 lbs in the deadlift at a bodyweight of
165 (Bass).

Hilligenn with 405 overhead.

training poundages are pretty badass even by today’s standards,
considering the frequency with which he trained, his bodyweight, and the
equipment available to lifters in the early 1950s. While training for
the 1951 Mr. America, which he won, Hilligenn was moving some impressive

Full Squat-420 x 10

Bench Press-280 x 10

Seated DB Press-90s x 10

Dumbbell Row-155 x 10

Incline DB press- 115 x 10

Hilligenn’s Olympic days were much heavier and ultilized much lower rep
ranges- for these he stuck in the 1-3 rep range. On each of these days,
he’d do all three of the olympic lifts, followed by jerks out of the
squat stands for triples and doubles, then snatch grip high pulls, then
clean grip high pulls, adding weight until he could no longer pull it.
Frankly, this seems like a really utilitarian, if brutal, methodology,
and one that could easily be applied to any other strength sport with

Olympic days were much heavier and ultilized much lower rep ranges- for
these he stuck in the 1-3 rep range. On each of these days, he’d do
all three of the olympic lifts, followed by jerks out of the squat
stands for triples and doubles, then snatch grip high pulls, then clean
grip high pulls, adding weight until he could no longer pull it.
Frankly, this seems like a really utilitarian, if brutal, methodology,
and one that could easily be applied to any other strength sport with

couldn’t find a single iota of info on this dude’s training, but Mahmut
Irmak is the only person I’ve seen make Andreas Munzer look like he
should have been riding a Rascal through an Arkansas Wal-Mart.

you can see, there are plenty of different ways to attack your physique
with powerbuilding, and all of them yield pretty phenomenal results.
Still to come, we’ve got Mike Francois, Rich Gaspari, Phil Herndon, and
a bunch of other badass, ultra-strong, weight-destroying badasses and
their programs lined up to give you an idea on how to alter your program
to bring your physique up to match your lifts, and vice-versa. In the
meantime, start working on that mustache- they appear to confer some
sort of physique and strength advantage science has yet to explain.


Bass, Clarence. Roy Hilligenn, a Marvel – Then & Now. Web. 22 Feb 2015.

Colescott, Steve. Surviving Mr. America’s gym. Musclemag. 16 Feb 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2015.

The Mr. USA Story. Eric’s Gym. Web. 24 Feb 2015.

Nuckols, Greg. Powerlifters Should Train More Like Bodybuilders. StrengthTheory. 7 Feb 2015. Web. 22 Feb 2015.

O’Hearn, Mike. mike O’Hearn’s power bodybuilding: The 12-Week program. 12 Nov 2014. Web. 3 Mar 2015.

Roy Hilligenn- The smiling superman. Iron Game History. Aug 1994:3(4);8-10.

Sergio Oliva Training Routine. Muscle and Brawn. 5 Jun 2010. Web. 26 Feb 2015.

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