Combine Strength Training and Bodybuilding for Optimal Muscle Growth

Adding some bodybuilding techniques to your strength training can improve both your size and strength.

The body adapts to specific exercise. That means that what you train for is what you get. If you want a more muscular physique, you don't train like a marathon runner. If you play football, hockey or basketball, you can't train like a guy from the World's Strongest Man competition.

However, you can combine techniques from all types of training to make a great training program. For example, bodybuilding requires aesthetics and symmetry in the pursuit of muscle growth. Successful bodybuilders are much more concerned with fatiguing their muscles than with how much weight they are actually using. Powerlifters, on the other hand, are trying to lift as much weight as possible. Although bodybuilders generally have larger muscles, many powerlifters still have impressive muscular physiques.

RELATED: Build New Muscle With This Classic Bodybuilding Technique

Athletes can benefit from incorporating training cycles that increase maximal strength, rather than simply focusing on getting bigger.

Imagine you have a 100-pound Overhead Press. Your 1RM limits the amount of training volume you can accumulate. If your training load for an Overhead Press is 4 sets of 10 at 70 percent of your max, by the end of your session you will have only accumulated 2,800 pounds (4 sets x 10 reps x 70 pounds) of volume. If you increase your 1RM to 150 pounds, your 70-percent intensity will go from 70 pounds to 105 pounds, and your 4 sets of 10 at 70 percent of your 1RM will jump from 2,800 pounds to 4,200 pounds.

This is not to say that bodybuilding routines are ineffective for increasing strength levels. Bodybuilding routines increase muscle mass, and more muscle mass means stronger muscles. But remember, training is specific; strength training is the most efficient way to get stronger.

So how can you incorporate strength training into a routine geared towards putting on muscle?

Let's break down your training into cycles, with either a focus on strength or muscle growth. Because your main goal is muscle growth, you want to spend the majority of your cycles on that. Your training cycles will last three weeks, with one strength-training cycle for every two muscle-building cycles.

Since you will be transitioning from bodybuilding training cycles, which emphasize moderate weights with high volume, be sure to alter your training variable. For an in-depth explanation of how to do that, check out another one of my STACK articles. Kettlebell workouts provide a great example of  low weight, high volume exercises. Check out the video player above for a few lower-body kettlebell exercises that can be used as accessory work for Squats.

For your strength-training cycles, use heavier weights and longer rest periods than in your bodybuilding routine. The goal is to increase the amount of weight you use.

Here is a practical example of what these 18 weeks would look like on a Squat day. You can easily apply this to the Bench Press, Deadlift and Overhead Press as well.

Cycle 1 (weeks 1-3): Bodybuilding Training

Week 1: Squat - 4x10 @ 70% 1RM

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 3x10, Dumbbell Lunges - 3x10, Leg Extensions - 3x10

Week 2: Squat - 4x8 @ 75% 1RM

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 4x8, Dumbbell Lunges - 4x8, Leg Extensions - 4x8

Week 3: Squat - 4x6-8 @ 80% 1RM 4

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 3x15, Dumbbell Lunges - 3x15, Leg Extensions - 3x15

Cycle 2 (weeks 4-6): Bodybuilding Training

Week 4: Squat - 4x12 @ 70% 1RM

Week 5: Squat - 4x10 @ 75% 1RM

  • Accessory work: Front Squat - 4x8, Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat - 4x8, Goblet Squat - 4x8

Week 6: Squat - 4x9-10 @ 80% 1RM

  • Accessory work: Front Squat - 3x15, Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat - 3x15, Goblet Squat - 3x15

Cycle 3 (weeks 7-9): Strength Training

Week 7: Squat - 3x6 @ 85% 1RM 3

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 4x6, Dumbbell Lunges - 3x10, Leg Extensions - 3x10

Week 8: Squat - 4x3 @ 90% 1RM

  • Accessory work: Leg press - 4x4, Dumbbell Lunges - 4x8, Leg Extensions - 4x8

Week 9: Squat 5x2 @ 93% 1RM

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 4x8, Dumbbell Lunges - 3x15, Leg Extensions - 3x15

Cycle 4 (weeks 10-12): Bodybuilding Training

Week 10: Squat - 4x10 @ 70% 1RM with additional 5-10 pounds compared to Week 1

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 3x10, Dumbbell Lunges - 3x10, Leg Extensions - 3x10

Week 11: Squat - 4x8 @ 75% 1RM with additional 5-10 pounds compared to Week 2

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 4x8, Dumbbell Lunges - 4x8, Leg Extensions - 4x8

Week 12: Squat - 4x6-8 @ 80% 1RM with additional 5-10 pounds compared to Week 3

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 3x15, Dumbbell Lunges - 3x15, Leg Extensions - 3x15

Cycle 5 (weeks 13-15): Bodybuilding Training

Week 13: Squat - 4x12 @ 70% 1RM with additional 5-10 pounds compared to Week 4

  • Accessory work: Front Squat - 3x10, Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat - 3x10, Goblet Squat - 3x10

Week 14: Squat - 4x10 @ 75% 1RM with additional 5-10 pounds compared to Week 5

  • Accessory work: Front Squat - 4x8, Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat - 4x8, Goblet Squat - 4x8

Week 15: Squat - 4x8-10 @ 80% 1RM 4 with additional 5-10 pounds compared to Week 6

  • Accessory work: Front Squat - 3x15, Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat - 3x15, Goblet Squat - 3x15

Cycle 6 (weeks 16-18): Strength Training

Week 16: Squat - 3x6 @ 85% 1RM with additional 10-20 pounds compared to Week 7

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 4x6, Dumbbell Lunges - 3x10, Leg Extensions - 3x10

Week 17: Squat - 4x3 @ 90% 1RM with additional 10-20 pounds compared to week 8

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 4x4, Dumbbell Lunges - 4x8, Leg Extensions - 4x8

Week 18: Squat - 5x2 @ 93% 1RM with additional 10-20 pounds compared to Week 9

  • Accessory work: Leg Press - 4x8, Dumbbell Lunges - 3x15, Leg Extensions - 3x15


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Topics: BUILD MUSCLE | EXERCISE | TRAIN | PRESS | BODYBUILDING | MUSCLE GROWTH | LEG PRESS