Ask any powerlifter or bodybuilder to train with the other, and you’ll be met with groans. Their training will differ vastly from one another, but what if it didn’t have to?
What if you could get the best of both worlds – abs and a 500lbs deadlift? Let’s see what Jeff Nippard’s Powerbuilding System is all about.
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About the Creator – Jeff Nippard
Let’s face it – you probably know Jeff from his massive YouTube channel that’s already amassed more than 3.3 million subscribers. Jeff is known for providing quality fitness information while keeping it light, funny, and interactive.
He’s also actually a coach and prolific lifter – obviously. Jeff claims to be a natural pro bodybuilder and powerlifter, and while he probably is natural, he doesn’t seem to be as intimidating as other pro bodybuilders.
That said, he has some pretty decent achievements during his life:
- Mr. Junior Canada, Natural Bodybuilding, 2012
- 502 lb squat
- 336 lb bench press
- 518 lb deadlift
- Wilks of 446
- Canadian national record for the bench press
So, he clearly walks the walk. But how about education? Well, he has a BSc in biochemistry and has coached hundreds of clients, ranging from gen pop folks to professional bikini competitors.
Today, Jeff Nippard has his own website at jeffnippard.com, which has various programs and articles about fitness and health. While he may be smaller and lighter than most professional bodybuilders, his weight is surely felt when it comes to experience and knowledge.
Powerbuilding System Overview
The term “powerbuilding” wasn’t coined by Jeff. In fact, it’s just a combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding. As you may or may not know, training for either of these sports is wildly different.
There’s a reason why powerlifters train like powerlifters, and there’s a reason why bodybuilders aren’t as strong as powerlifters.
- Fitness level: Intermediate to advanced
- Duration: 10 weeks
- Workouts per week: 4 – 6 workouts per week
- Average workout duration: 60 – 90 minutes
- Equipment needed: Full gym
- Goal: Build muscle and gain strength
The idea of powerbuilding comes from combination and “functional” fitness training styles. So you’d combine the strength from powerlifting with the aesthetics of bodybuilding – a pretty tall order if you ask me.
It may be a tall order, but when you look at what’s included in Jeff Nippard’s Powerbuilding System, it might actually work:
- Preparation manual
- Technique handbook
- Actual program
- Spreadsheet for tracking
- Extras such as various videos
With so much included, it has to be rather good, right? His site even boasts testimonials from people gaining 30 lbs on the bench while getting leaner! Spend a bit of time on Instagram or Reddit, and you’ll be met with massive praise for this plan and Jeff himself.
Jeff Nippard’s Powerbuilding System Details
Compared to both bodybuilding and powerlifting programs, Jeff seems to have designed this plan with the mindset of low volume combined with higher intensity. This is rising in popularity amongst lifters today but was actually popular in the late 80s and 90s.
Low Volume with High Intensity?
When your goal is to build as much strength as possible, you need a certain number of sets to train the neuromuscular route of the body. This essentially means you need the brain to work with the muscles to move the most amount of weight.
For maximum muscle growth, you wouldn’t necessarily need all that volume. You’d need to bring the muscles close to failure; thus, the muscles are firing at max capacity, and you’ll grow.
So how does Jeff combine the two?
Jeff uses a rather interesting method of odd weeks having a certain training style and even weeks having something completely different…
|Odd Weeks||Even Weeks|
|Heavier loads||Lighter loads|
|Lower volume||Lower RPEs (closer to failure)|
So, essentially, one week, you’ll be training like a powerlifter, and the next week, you’ll be training like a bodybuilder.
Along the way, there are also a few things that won’t perfectly fit into this, like:
- Very high load sets in bodybuilding weeks to “keep you familiar” with high loads
- Arm days in powerlifting weeks to hit the muscles you missed
- Deload weeks that are intended to lower the load on the muscles as well as the CNS and joints
A large factor behind all of the training is the use of the RPE scale or the Rating of Perceived Exertion. The higher the RPE, the closer you are to failure.
- RPE 5 means you had 5 reps until failure.
- RPE 10 means that the last rep was your last rep before you collapsed.
This is a very effective tool used by strength athletes to measure how hard a certain set is. The only problem – it’s subjective. People, especially beginners or more “emotional” people, are far more likely to say an RPE 4 set was RPE 7.
Jeff also uses loading percentages in all his workouts, such as “70% of 1RM.” This refers to 70% of your one-rep max on a specific movement. Combined with RPE, this is one of the best and most scientific ways to regulate and track training.
He also does something really interesting – he removes percentage loads from assistance movements, such as curls. Who really knows what their one-rep max curl is? Instead, he advocates that you progressively get stronger on these at your own pace.
This, to me, sets this program apart from others. The fact that progression is applied with the main movements and not advised with the smaller movements is amazing. You rarely see or hear this from coaches simply because it’s not “sexy.”
Well done, Jeff.
This is somewhat similar to the training done in the 80s and 90s by bodybuilders like Dorian Yates. However, Dorian harnessed a massive amount of strength in order to build muscle tissue. Muscle growth is, after all, determined by mechanical tension.
Because your weeks are all over the place in regards to what they’re “for,” your schedule will change as well.
Very rarely will you have weeks that share a similar structure, and you can expect all of the following with this program:
- Full body workouts
- Upper and lower body workouts
- SBD (Squat, bench, and deadlift) days
- Testing week
This will allow you to hit muscles more frequently compared to a typical “bro split,” and since the volume isn’t overwhelming (13 – 20 sets per workout), you can recover.
Of course, this does make everyday life a bit harder – just imagine:
“Can we have a date night on Wednesday, babe?”
“Uhm.. Let me check the plan first. I honestly have no idea of what’s coming. It’s all over the place.”
These things add up.
One nice feature is the testing week that’s available to you at the end of the program – granted, your joints aren’t giving you any issues by then. While there are three workouts, these are actually just testing days to see the change in your bench, squat, and deadlift.
As mentioned, you’ll also get a technique handbook. This includes anatomy lessons, form advice, and a massive breakdown of the biomechanics of movements and how they should change based on your individual physiology. You’ll also get a handy Excel sheet to track all your lifts and how you felt on particular days.
How you “feel” is something that’s quite important, especially since you’ll be doing the RPE method. RPE can change based on your recovery, and this does limit the plan to those who are capable of knowing how well they’ve recovered. Some people are just woefully poor at this, but it does get better with time.
If you’re thinking of running this plan, make sure you understand the fundamentals of recovery because Jeff doesn’t teach them in this plan, unfortunately.
Yet, it’s shaping up to be one of the best plans online. And with the inclusion of things like deload weeks and a library of form videos for you to watch, it’s becoming apparent why so many people love this plan.
4 Powerbuilding Pros
- It works: When you look at the science and the testimonials, it becomes apparent that this plan does actually work. In fact, Jeff is kind of famous for this plan – I knew who he was only because of this plan. Is it the best plan? It depends on what you measure when talking about “bestness,” but it certainly needs to be in the conversation.
- It’s scientific: I’ve written hundreds of reviews on programs and even more of my own programs for clients. Many coaches will simply slam together 25 sets of 12 – 15 reps, throw in some motivational quotes, and call it a day. A program like this one needs to be calculated. It needs to be precise and particular if you want the best results. Jeff does just that by incrementally changing the volume and loading patterns.
- It’s really fun: Whether you know you like it or not, most people love lifting somewhat heavy. It’s fun seeing yourself progress week to week, and because your muscles grow at the same rate in this plan, you get the best of both! That said, do you get the most out of both?
- It’s not too extreme: Many online programs butcher people with an excess of volume. Jeff avoids this cliche and keeps the plan focused on the quality of reps and sets. This allows you to progress while still being able to recover.
3 Powerbuilding Cons
- You don’t get the most out of either goal: Whenever people try to do two things at the same time, one thing suffers. How do you drive economically and fast at the same time? Eat your heart out, Tesla. This plan does work, yes, but if you want the most amount of muscle or the most amount of strength, you have to make an adult decision and train for that individual goal.
- Lacking nutrition and recovery info: I’m sure if you dig around on his site, you could find information that’d help you. That said, the program lacks nutrition or recovery tips, something most people would really benefit from – pity.
- Timing: While 10 weeks may seem like a long time, it really isn’t in the world of fitness. It’s theorized that strength will take months to develop fully, and when you aren’t even just training for strength, that might even be longer! Hypertrophy will also take months. Most bodybuilders take 16 – 20 week long off-seasons, where muscle growth is the only goal. 10 weeks is a wee bit short, and the program would’ve been better with at least 16 weeks.
Powerbuilding by Jeff Nippard – Final Thoughts
Let’s not be too anal – Jeff Nippard’s Powerbuilding System is awesome. Jeff has become a legend in the fitness world because of this plan, and he even has follow-up versions that address small issues, such as the missing nutrition section.
The only real problem with the plan is, unfortunately, the plan itself. When you want to make the most amount of progress in something, you have to fully commit to it. This means spending months and months trying to increase strength or muscle size.
The idea of powerbuilding is an alluring one, sure, but it has its limitations. You don’t see either the biggest or the strongest following a plan like this. In fact, powerlifters spend months doing one particular thing at a time (volume, hypertrophy, and strength phases).
However, judging this plan for what it is, which is a plan to help the average Joe build muscle and strength, it’s definitely a remarkable plan.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5