Becoming the Bodybuilder You Want to Be

WRITTEN BY Adam Foster

Can powerlifting help you become a better bodybuilder? Read this and find out.

Long before I lathered my body in the darkest shade of tan I could find and started flexing and posing in trunks, I trained following a powerlifting-style training.

For the longest time if I wasn’t benching, squatting, or deadlifting then I wouldn’t consider it a real workout. Over the years I’ve realized this is definitely not the case. I have awesome workouts all the time without ever including the three big lifts these days.

However, I owe my initial “base” to powerlifting—or at least following a powerlifting style of training.

Here are three things I have either learned, benefited from, or that have helped shape the bodybuilder I am today.

One: Trackable Progression

Making changes to your physique takes time. Getting into shape for summer takes such a long time—heck, most people probably start around February or March.

It literally takes months for abs and striations to begin showing. Building muscle is an even longer and slower process. It’s so easy to get discouraged and actually quit when you put so much effort into something and fail to see any results.

What I loved about weightlifting or powerlifting was seeing results—sometimes on a weekly basis.

Sure, you’re not going to break a one-rep max week in week out. However, monitoring how much weight you can lift, or how many reps you get on a certain weight, is far more enjoyable than looking in the mirror every week.

There is no debating or second guessing progress when it comes to powerlifting, unlike bodybuilding. Some weeks I’ll look at myself and think I’m making progress. Some weeks I feel as if I look the same. And some weeks I feel like I look worse and am going backward instead of forward.

When it comes to tracking progress in powerlifting, you either can or can’t lift more weight or do more reps. Going into a session and adding even just 5kg onto your squat or grinding out one more rep on the bench is an awesome feeling.

When you can track your progress and actually see something positive happening, it keeps you motivated and makes you push even harder.

Sure, we all have “off days” were we might not be able to lift as much or feel a little weaker.

However, these are few and far between.

Two: The Basics Are a Foundation

When it comes to shaping a physique or training/dieting for aesthetics, it seems that every month we’re bombarded with a new revolutionary training method, exercise, cardio protocol, diet plan, or supplement that is “the best.”

Tell an insecure bodybuilder you have a product that can help him lose fat quicker or build muscle quicker, and you’ve got yourself a customer.

I’ve reviewed a ton of supplements over on my supplement discount code and review website

I’ve researched a lot about different supplements and their core ingredients. This might sound hypocritical considering I run a supplement review site, but supplements are not essential.

Look back at bodybuilders of the ’70s and ’80s. Did they have pre-workouts and intra workouts? Nope.

Did they have time-released protein for nighttime and fast-absorbing proteins for post-workout? Nope.

Did they have thermogenics, fat burners, and anything else supplement companies want to try and bullshit you into buying? Nope.

Did they debate about IIFYM, keto diets, Atkins diets, whether eating 30g or 50g of protein per meal was enough? Nope.

But they still managed to nail condition for shows. Did they have great physiques? Yes.

Far better than any “average” gym-goer has. They stuck to the basics, and it worked.

So why do people today feel the need to overcomplicate things?

The same applies when it comes to workouts and exercise selection.

My leg workout has always been pretty basic, and I’ve got well-developed legs. They’re my strongest point from an aesthetics point of view, and it’s the body part I’m always complimented on when I step off stage. I owe this largely to sticking to the basics. 

This is what I learned from powerlifting.

The first gym I went to was very limited on leg equipment, so my routine was: 10–12 sets of a mixture of squats, front squats, leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls, and straight leg dead lifts. I’d typically do three exercises for my quads and two exercises for my hamstrings.

I’ve trained like this for years. The only exception I’ve made is adding a hack squat machine into the pool of exercises. Guess what? It works.

There are a ton of top-level fitness professionals and bodybuilders who still train with a powerlifting approach at their core. Ronnie Coleman did, Layne Norton does, so why don’t you?

I’ve not needed to look for anything fancy or try anything crazy. Why would I?

If the basics work, why neglect them?

Three: Core Control

The bubble gut is a huge problem in the IFBB Pro ranks. It’s hard to find a competitor on the Mr. Olympia stage who doesn’t look pregnant. There are numerous possible reasons for this, from “HGH gut” to insulin abuse and even too much food.

One thing I’ve learned through powerlifting, particularly deadlifting and benching, is to “control my gut” by strengthening my core.

Take a look around your gym. There are a probably a dozen, if not more, “spice boys” who hit abs every time they’re in there yet wonder why they don’t have abs. This is of course because their body fat is too high—most likely from overeating or a poor diet.

I rarely train abs—maybe once a week, twice at most. However, my “core” and “gut” are not distended, I don’t look like I’m pregnant on stage, and I always have good, visible abs.

Basic movements like the deadlift and squat are fantastic ways to train your core and abs, without directly targeting them.

The key is to do these movements with strict form and engage the core throughout the movement. Tighten up, make the mind-muscle connection, and then perform the exercise.


While my training is different today (compared to what it was when I was more involved in powerlifting), I have been able to carry over much of what I’ve learned, and the experience of powerlifting has definitely helped me with bodybuilding.

If I didn’t start with a powerlifting style of training, I probably would never have gotten into bodybuilding. It’s not the only “right way” to start, but it worked for me.

If you’ve never given powerlifting a go, maybe take six months to find yourself a really good plan, stick to it, and see what you can learn.

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Author: Adam Foster
My name is Adam, but im better known online as ‘Shreddybrek’. Im 23 and I’ve been training since I was a teenager. In 2013 I decided that I wanted to wear skimpy, revealing under garments, ditch the rest of my clothes and getting brown as fuarq. What does this mean? I decided to start competing in bodybuilding.
You can find Adam Foster at

Get your hands on my cheat sheet for setting up training programs that took a 132lbs. skinny weakling from not being able to bench the bar to deadlifting 3x his own body weight and winning silver at the nationals.



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