Making Bodybuilding More Athletic

fit guy smilingMaking Bodybuilding More Athletic by: Ryan Zeppelin

The approach to strength training in which athletes take into the weight room is drastically different from which is taken in bodybuilding. Within athletics, primary concerns are injury prevention and improved performance. Speed, agility, explosiveness, flexibility, balance, and kinesthetic awareness are all integral parts to being a successful athlete, all of which have little, if anything, to do with bodybuilding.

Traditional forms of weight training most applied by bodybuilders, become more involved with producing specific hypertrophy. Regional hypertrophy, as it has been called, is possible when incorporating specific variations of exercise [1]. Although possibly an effective method to induce these particular gains, traditional bodybuilding programs often negate properties of muscular and structural joint balance. A recent study exposed strength and range of motion imbalances of bodybuilders as compared to non-bodybuilders [2]. Results indicated increased susceptibility to shoulder injuries. Maintaining healthy structures and preventing injuries should always be of primary concern.

If you also participate in sporting events, why not take advantage of your time in the weightroom to improve performance. There is no reason why a blending of styles can not be effective for recreationally inspired individuals.

Test it Yourself

Perform these same tests pre and post cylce. These will help give you other methods to test improvement.

1. Heal Elevated Overhead Squat: With heals shoulder width and placed on top of a 2×4, squat down to parallel while holding a dowel or broomstick directly overhead, arms completely extended, with a shoulder width grip. If your arms bend or are forced forward, you have tight muscles in the shoulder anterior.
2. Hip Flexors and IT-Band: While lying in the supine position with legs extended, completely pull one knee into your chest while leaving the other relaxed. The extended leg coming off the ground indicates tight hip-flexor muscles. Having the extended leg rotate outward indicates a tight IT-band.
3. Ankle Flexibility: Stand with feet together facing a wall. Lean forward while keeping your heals in contact with the floor and touch both your chin and chest to the wall. Try to see how far back from the wall you can get. Less than 18-inches would be area for concern.
4. Groin Flexibility: While lying on you back in the supine position with legs extended, cross one leg over the other so that the ankle touches the opposite quad just above the knee. Desired flexibility will allow the upper leg to rest parallel to the floor.
5. Standing Broad Jump: From a standing position on two feet, jump the furthest distance possible. Measure the distance from your heels to the starting line.

A Combined Training Approach

A combined training approach is one in which both high force / low speed and high speed / high power applications are both used simultaneously to improve a variety of physical parameters.

High force training typically uses resistance over 80% of 1RM and generally result in the greatest maximum strength gains [3,4]. High force contractions are also necessary to fully recruit fast twitch muscle fibers and training increases this potential.

Training with high force parameters only has its deficencies though. Muscular contractions respond according to what is referred to as the Force-Velocity Curve. Basically, the greater the force requirement, the slower the movement potential. Continually training with high intensities limits application to only that particular part of the curve.


Velocity of



The ability to override the actions of the golgi tendon organ (GTO) is an important adaptation in response to high force training. GTO inhibit muscle fiber activation in response to high tensions. In turn, this can limit abilities of maximal strength.

Excessive high intensity training has also been shown to impair performance of multiple training requirements. The overuse of high force training can result in reduced sprint performance, jump performance, and agility [5-7]. Maximal strength can also be reduced in response to similar training methods, even without the presence of muscular damage [8,9].

Combining high force training with high power training gives the capability to train a broader range of the Force-Velocity Curve. This is crucial to the development of athletic prowess. Lighter resistance intensities can enable greater power outputs to be achieved [10-12]. Performing movements at higher velocities can also allow for greater capabilities during other high power movements [3, 13, 14]. The result is a greater coordination of muscle recruitment and activation leading to improved performance. Since most sports rely heavily upon explosive recruitment of fast-twitch fibers, training these pathways are of special concern.

Using Olympic weightlifting movements is an extremely effective method to train explosive power. They allow for greater adaptation of the propreioceptors while moving at very high rates of speed. Weightlifters, in comparison to powerlifters and bodybuilders, have greater power outputs and vertical jumps [15, 16]. And with regards to the Snatch and Clean movements, it is most important to train the second pull. It is this part of the movement, about from the knee up, that has the greatest force outputs [17]. If you are unfamiliar with Olympic lifts, refer to the following page at USA Weightlifting.

The Program

[ View Program | Download Spreadsheet ]

Any exercise program, even one for advanced participants, should generally evolve from one of low intensity / higher volume to that of high intensity / lower volume. A periodized training approach can enable greater gains to be reached while reducing the chances of overtraining [18-20].

The program presented gradually increases intensity and volume with an eventual maintenance of volume being reached. Weeks one through three allow for an adaptation to a new approach to be achieved. The remainder of the ten-week program is when the most improvements can be anticipated.

A balance of movements to maintain joint integrity and prevent injuries was a priority. Pulling volume meets the demands required during the pushing workouts. Heavy demands were also placed upon compound free weight exercises. These movements allow for the greatest coordination capabilities as discussed earlier.

Olympic lifts are gradually introduced to allow for proper learning. These are performed with medium intensities to allow for both greater velocities and the ability to maintain proper form.
Starting in week 6, a compound leg exercise is performed in super-set fashion with an explosive movement. Although this has not been shown to dramatically increase jumping capabilities, it does offer some great conditioning benefits. Performing these movements while tired, allows participants to push past perceived mental limits of anaerobic capabilities.

Heavy emphasis has also been placed on maintaining and improving shoulder pathology. The shoulder workout has been separated from the chest workout to allow for recovery. Overhead squats are included to improve overall flexibility, especially of the shoulders. Also, the shoulder warm-up not only prepares the ligaments, muscles, and tendons for activity, but it also has a prehabilitation affect and thus potentially reducing the severity of an injury.


Warm-up- Perform a general and specific warm-up for approximately 15 minutes prior to starting each workout.

Overhead Squat- With a very wide grip, extend the bar directly overhead. While keeping the arms extended and the bar directly over the ears, perform the traditional squat movement.

Front Squat- Use of the traditional clean grip will make learning/ performing the Olympic movement much more efficient.

Snatch Pulls and Clean Pulls- Refer to explosive shrug movements with the specified grip. Focus upon using the hips for power while keeping a firm back.

Anything Box- This signifies a stationary start position, as compared to the hang position. If you do not have different height boxes, alter the pins in the power rack. Note the height.

Muscle Clean- Non-explosive movement focusing upon perfecting the arm action. Start with the bar at the waist and use little/ no leg drive. Momentum will come from a forcefull shrug.

High Pulls- Using the specified grip, perform the explosive movement lifting the bar to approximately chin height.

Adjusting 1RM- If you can perform 4 reps more on the maximal set as was performed on the set prior with the same intensity, raise the maximum next week 5-15 pounds.

Incline vs. Flat Bench- One can easily change flat bench to incline bench and follow the same pattern of progression. Just remember to work off of your Incline Max.

Close Grip DB Press- Push the dumbbells in a parallel neutral position while keeping the elbows fairly close to the body.

For those on Ergogenic Enhancements

If you are in a super-training mode, you will probably be able to increase the volume in these workouts by either adding another exercise on some days, or by increasing the sets performed. For example, on bench day you may add in barbell incline bench press for 3 sets. Or on leg day add in leg extensions of box step-ups for a few additional sets. I do not recommend doing this until week three though.


1. Antonio. J. Nonunivorm response of skeletal muscle to heavy reistance training: can bodybuilders induce regional hypertrophy? J. Strength Cond. Res. 14(1):102-113. 2000.

2. Barlow, J., Benjamin, B., Birt, P., & Hughes, C. Shoulder strength and range of motion characteristics in bodybuilders. J. Strength Cond. Res. 16(3):367-372. 2002.

3. Hakkinen, K. Neuromuscular adaptation during strength training, aging, detraining, and immobilization. Crit. Rev. Phys. Rehab. Med. 6:161-198. 1997.

4. Fry, R., Morton, A., & Keast, D. Periodization and the prevention of overtraining. Can. J. Appl. Sport. Sci. 17:241-248. 1992.

5. Fry, A., Webber, J., Weiss, L., Fry, M., & Li, Y. Impaired performances with excessive high-intensity free-weight training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 14(1):54-61. 2000.

6. Fry, A. The role of training intensity in resistance exercise, overtraining, and
overreaching. In: Overtraining and Overreaching in Sports. Kreider, R., Fry, A., & O’Toole, M., eds. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1998.

7. Fry, A., Kraemer, W., Lynch, J., Triplett, N., & Koziris, L. Does short-term near-maximal intensity machine resistance exercise induce overtraining? J. Strength Cond. Res. 8(3):188-191. 1994.

8. Fry, A. & Kraemer, W. Resistance exercise overtraining and overreaching: Neuroendicrine responses. Sports Med. 23(2):106-129. 1997.

9. Fry, A., Kraemer, W., Van Borselen, F., Lynch, J., Marsit, J., Roy, E., Triplett, N., & Knuttgen, H. Performance decrements with high-intensity resistance exercise overtraining. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 26(9):1165-1173. 1994.

10. Berger, R. Effect of dynamic and static training on vertical jumping. Res. Q. 34419-424. 1963.

11. Kaneko, M., Fuchimoto, T., Toji, H., & Suel, K. Training effect of differeng loads on the force velocity relationship and mechanical power output in human muscle. Scand. J. Sport Sci. 5:50-55. 1983.

12. Moritani, T. Muro, M., Ishda, K., & Tagachi, S. Electro-physiological analyses of the effects of muscle power training. Res. J. Phys. Educ. 1:23-32. 1987.

13. Haff, G., Stone, M., O’Bryant, H., Harman, E., Dinan, C., Johnson, R., & Ki-Hoon, H. Force-time dependant characteristics of dynamic and isometric muscle actions. J. Strength Cond. Res. 11:269-277. 1997.

14. Stone, M. Explosive exercise: Position stance. Natl. Strength Cond. Assoc. J. 15(4):7-15. 1993.

15. Baker, D. Improving vertical jump performance through general, special and specific strength training: A brief review. J. Strength Cond. Res. 10:131-136. 1996.

16. Hakkinen, K. & Komi, P. Training induced changes in neuromuscular performance under voluntary and reflex conditions. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 55:147-155. 1986.

17. Gourgoulis, V., Aggeloussis, N., Antoniou, P., Christoforidis, C., Mavromatis, G., & Garas, A. Comparative 3-dimensional kinematic analysis of the snatch technique in eklite male and female greek weightlifters. J. Strength Cond. Res. 16(3):359-366. 2002.

18. Stone, M. H., Potteiger, J., Pierce, K., Proulx, C., O’Bryant, H., Johnson, R., & Stone, M. E. Comparison of the effects of three different weight-training programs on the one repetition maximum squat. J. Strength Cond. Res. 14(3):332-337. 2000.

19. Stone, M.H., & O’Bryant, H. Weight Training: A Scientific Aproach. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess International. 1987.

20. Stone, M.H., O’Bryant, H., Garhammer, J., McMillan, J., & Rozenek, R. a theoretical model of strength training. Natl. Strength Cond. Assoc. J. 4(4):36-39. 1982.

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