It's necessary to have strength for bodybuilding. It pushes your muscles past their limits. Every workout, we try to lift a pound or two more, get one more rep, or make the same number of reps a bit easier than last time, because that tells us our strength has increased, indicating the muscle has grown. The more the muscle grows, the more weight it can push, and vice versa.
It's not necessary to be incredibly strong, but it's good to have more strength than the average bodybuilder. That's your edge for faster muscle gains than your competitors. I always switch to powerlifting during the offseason, not only to benefit from its unique stresses, but also to compete. Competitive meets oblige me to take my powerlifting training seriously. Powerlifting quickly increases my strength - and consequently, muscle mass.
The procedure for improving your bench by 20 pounds and your squat by 50 pounds is the same method I use when coming off bodybuilding contests and making the offseason switch to powerlifting. Because of space constraints, I'll explain only my bench press and squat workouts as examples. The third, the deadlift, uses the same approach. The three together are my training program.
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Author, Johnnie Jackson At The 2008 Arnold Classic.
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It takes about 16 weeks to improve my bench by about 20 pounds and my squat by about 50 pounds. That gives my body time to heal and increase in strength.
Set 1 This is a warm-up for 10 reps — light enough to warm up your joints, but heavy enough to practice your explosive reps.
Set 2 Pyramid the weight, and do eight good working reps.
Set 3 Increase the weight again, and do five reps.
Set 4 This is your max-increase set. Add 12 1/2 pounds (for bench) and 25 pounds (for squat) to the weight that is 90% of your current max for each lift. For example, if your current max bench press is 275, start with 260 pounds (90% of 275, plus 12 1/2 pounds = 260) and perform one set of three or four reps. If your max squat is 315 pounds, start with about 308 1/2 pounds.
The first week, you'll increase your bench by 12 1/2 pounds and your squat by 25 pounds. Those increases take place during your last set, and are for only three or four reps.
To get the rest of Jackson's bench and squat training program, pick up the April 2008 issue of FLEX, on newsstands March 10.
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