Having it all, Power, Strength, AND the body of an Adonis!

Power-lifting involves the relentless pursuit of all-out strength. In this sport, competitors pour all of their energies into moving the heaviest weight possible in a single, spleen-bursting, hernia-inducing effort. Their maximum successful poundage for the bench press, squat, and deadlift are added together to give the grand total. The highest total wins. Simple…well, apart from the spleen bit.

Bodybuilding is exactly what it sounds like…the aim is to build the ‘perfect’ body as decided by contest judges on criteria such as muscle size, symmetry, proportion, and condition.

Size and strength are both highly sought after byproducts of training…but so is looking good with no clothes on! So what if we could have it all? Power, strength, AND the body of an Adonis?

There are rare individuals (generally, you hate them for having what you don’t!) who have achieved both. Try to look past the envy and become a part of the fraternity. If you’re quick, you might gain founding father status, considering the lack of membership in this exclusive club (they don’t offer discounted joining fees either…I’ve tried). However, entry will cost you a healthy dose of blood, sweat, and tears.

One of those rare people is  Mariusz Pudianowski. Now this guy is a freak, and Mariusz, if you’re reading, I mean that with the utmost respect and admiration. He hasn’t merely achieved a high level of functional strength along with looking pretty good…no, this guy doesn’t subscribe to anything mediocre. He simply dominates the strongman competitions as World Champion and he sports a year-round physique that would normally require a month-long bodybuilder-style diet-down to don the baby oil, hit the stage, and win!

World Champion Strongman, Mariusz Pudianowski sporting his year-round muscular, lean physique

Why not you? If he can be great at both the functional and decorative aspects of strength training, surely you can improve your raw stats as well as shedding bodyfat to an all-time low, right?

‘But Mariusz must have great genetics, and can afford top sports nutrition and have trainers at his beck and call’, I hear you say, but I don’t buy it. I’m willing to bet that the harder he works, the better his ‘genetics’ are.

It’s time to maximise your genetics and finally reach your potential! Follow me on the trail to the best of both worlds.

Training for either Powerlifting or Bodybuilding

Bodybuilders tend to lean towards sessions that are:

  • Short and intense
  • Planned around body-part splits, hitting a muscle or group HARD and from different angles
  • Stimulate as many fibres as possible through high volume training in order to maximize growth

Bodybuilders also tend not to stray too far from the 10-15 rep range (and generally, never go lower) in order to stimulate maximum muscle growth

Powerlifters, on the other hand, don’t care about the girth of their biceps or working their calves to failure. Their focus is purely on:

  • Training competition movements, the squat, bench, and deadlift
  • Longer training sessions to accommodate the rest periods needed between sets of near-maximal lifts
  • Neural and physical recovery; the CNS plays a major role in heavy lifting and needs to recover for the next attempt.
  • Assistance work, though not to pursue muscular definition, but purely to strengthen the secondary and synergistic muscles (such as the triceps and anterior delts) for their role in the bench press.

Generally, powerlifters stick to a max of 5 reps and work up to single-rep loads. This is more in the accepted strength training range and also more closely replicates the competition requirements.

Eating for either Powerlifting or Bodybuilding

Diet obviously plays a major role in each sport as well to fuel workouts, recovery, and body development. Key features for each athlete’s diet would be as follows:

For both:

  • Adequate calories
  • Sufficient protein, carbs, and fats

This is pretty much where the similarities end. I spoke to a competitive bodybuilder and a high-level powerlifter about their diets. Here is a rundown of what each said, starting with our bodybuilder:

  • Sufficient protein intake based on bodyweight (1.5 g per lb)
  • Seven meals daily, evenly spaced, no longer than three hours apart
  • Supplementation from protein shakes (four daily)
  • Limited carbs during all afternoon meals (bar the post-workout meal)
  • Protein at each meal paired with carbs OR fat, but not both
  • Huge water consumption (manipulated along with sodium and carbs during pre-comp preparation)

In contrast, here are the general diet guidelines according to our powerlifter:

  • No calorie counting
  • Meal frequency based on hunger
  • Protein with every meal
  • No restrictions on macronutrient pairings
  • Calories from food, not supplements
  • Supplements for joint integrity

Admittedly, these are the habits of only two individuals, but they illustrate the main qualities that each one values in a diet. The bodybuilder will often eat based purely on nutritional need and won’t put a premium on satisfaction, instead following more rigid, scientific guidelines. This approach ignores hunger and focuses on specific guidelines to treat the body essentially as a machine. Diet might even be more important to a bodybuilder than training! It plays a big role in the final physique product and is manipulated largely throughout the training year to provide not only fuel and recovery, but to serve as a primary tool in fat loss.

The powerlifter seems pretty content with his diet as long as protein intake is high enough to support tissue growth and repair and he steers clear of supplements that aren’t completely necessary. This diet is more dictated by satisfaction as long as it sticks to the basic rules. The only function of food intake, aside from any individual physique-based goals, is to fuel training sessions and allow for recovery and energy to do it all over again.

I’ll admit, these training styles and diets sound like polar opposites, but there are still similarities:

  • Effort towards the end goal
  • Protein

That seems to be it.

Powerlifter, Donnie Thompson eats for brute strength and boasts a World Record 2,850lb total

Achieving the best of both worlds

So, assuming you put in the effort and follow a sensible balanced diet with enough calories, what should you do in the gym to get the ‘Mariusz’ look?

Regardless of whether your focus is getting stronger or leaner, I’ve put together a body-part split to target both, with enough volume AND emphasis on the three main lifts.

Each training day has a specific emphasis:

  • The Big 3 will be trained once weekly with adequate rest for neural recovery and adaptations to take hold (between sets and workouts)
  • Superset component in each day 
  • Conditioning circuit in each day

This plan ensures that the main strength work takes priority while the body is still fresh and energetic. Supersets are a tried-and-true system used by bodybuilders as a way to work a muscle that is already in a state of fatigue (two exercises, same muscle) or to provide a rest for the agonist while the antagonist does the work (non-competing superset).

The conditioning circuit is designed to raise the heart rate and boost metabolism while preserving and even developing muscular strength and size.

This plan also includes a power move to ‘prime’ the nervous system for high-power motor unit recruitment prior to the day’s main lift. This is not done to failure, but generally 2-3 reps shy of fatigue with an emphasis on speed of movement.

The Program


Bench, Upper Body Push

  • Plyo pushups 3×5 (CNS primer)
  • Bench 3×5 (build to 5RM), 2x3RM, 1x2RM, 2x1RM – rest as required
  • Standing military press & lateral raise (superset) 1×12, 1×10, 1×8 – 1 min rest
  • Tricep dip & EZ-bar lying extensions (superset) 1×12, 1×10, 1×8 – 1 min rest

Conditioning Circuit (2 circuits, 1-2 mins rest)

  • Kettlebell swing x20
  • Pressups x20
  • Walking lunge x 20 steps
  • Kettlebell squat-press x 15
  • Kettlebell swing x 20 


Squat, Quads, Calves

  • Jump squats, weightless 3×6 (CNS primer)
  • Squat 3×5 (build to 5RM), 2x3RM, 1x2RM, 2x1RM
  • Bulgarian split-squat & Goblet squat (superset) 3×12 each leg
  • Straight leg hops (30secs) & Single leg calf raise (full ROM) x5 each leg (slow) x3

Conditioning circuit (2 circuits, 1-2 mins rest)

  • Split jump lunges x 10
  • Kettlebell single arm swing x 20
  • Step-ups x 20
  • Static squat x 30secs

Wednesday: Rest


Deadlifts, Upper Body Pull

  • Clean pulls 3×5 (CNS primer)
  • Dead-lifts 3×5 (build to 5RM), 2x3RM, 1x2RM, 2x1RM
  • Romanian deadlifts & step-ups (superset) 3×12
  • Pull-ups (alter grip each time) & face-pulls  (superset) 3×12

Conditioning circuit (2 circuits, 1-2 mins rest)

  • Kettlebell high pulls x 15
  • Bodyweight row x max reps
  • Reverse lunge x 10 each leg
  • Bent-over reverse fly x 15
  • Kettlebell high pulls x 15


Abs, Arms, and Metabolic Conditioning

  • Close grip underhand chin-ups 3 x max
  • Close grip bench press 3 x 8
  • Alternating bicep curl (start at top) & dumbbell decline extensions (superset) 3×12
  • Barbell roll-outs 2 x max
  • Cable wood-chops & Paloff press (superset) 2 x 25

Conditioning circuit (2 circuits, 1-2 mins rest)

  • Kettlebell clean & press (right arm) x 10
  • Kettlebell renegade row x 20
  • Kettlebell clean & press (left arm) x 10
  • Kettlebell swing x 25
  • 1 min max-effort rowing

Saturday and Sunday: Rest

Before you get into the programme, I want to add a quick aside about nutrition. Clearly this is a different type of training than your regular heavy lifts or hypertrophy sessions, so it’s important to fuel it correctly and to recover correctly.

You don’t want to go too crazy on the additional calories, but at the same time, you need to take in calories at a level slightly above your maintenance intake to make sure you have the energy to complete the sessions in a quality manner.

Another of our writers, Daniel Roberts, gives more detail on this subject, including macronutrient percentages and pre- and post-workout nutrition in his article, “To bulk or to cut – That is the question”.


Here is your mission, if you choose to accept it: Unleash your biggest, strongest, AND leanest physique ever!

Try this program as an addition to or as replacement for your current program or mix a couple sample days into your regular routine. A few simple changes to your current routine might be all that you need to unleash your leanest, strongest, and most powerful physique ever.

Take a before photo, indulge me for a month with single-minded focus and intensity, and take an after photo. Then….take it to the beach!

Written By Stuart Gatherum

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Having it all, Power, Strength, AND the body of an Adonis discussion thread

About Stuart Gatherum

Stuart Gatherum is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by way of the NSCA and runs Stuart Gatherum Personal Training in Englands South West. He works with a variety of clients of hugely varying goals. Also on the resume are roles as a college lecturer in Gym Instruction and Personal Training as well as freelance writer covering exercise and fitness.

His exercise philosophy: Consistency, frequency and effort yeild fantastic results. His exercise motto: Go Hard or Go Home Stuart can also be found blogging on his website – www.stugatherum.com