Powerbuilding For Over-40 Lifters

Man standing with Muscles

You’ve probably heard about powerbuilding. For those who haven’t, it combines powerlifting and bodybuilding. Some of the biggest, strongest bodybuilders have trained this way. The focus is on compound exercises (not a bad thing!) and the use of progressively heavier weights (also not a bad thing!). With a program like this, you will build a solid foundation of strength. It also means you’ll still work on the aesthetics of bodybuilding. What about powerbuilding after 40? You’ll have to make a few adjustments. Time to train becomes harder as you get older, but if you have 45-60 minutes, you have time to train. Let’s take a closer look and see how powerbuilding works!

Powerbuilding Fundamentals

Powerbuilding combines fundamental concepts from both powerlifting and bodybuilding. This means you’re working the basic exercises, such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. It also means you’re working on building a balanced yet densely-muscled physique. Plus, you’re making full use of the most time-tested form of progression – consistently adding weight to the bar. 

Benefits Of Powerbuilding

Before we look at the things over 40 lifters should consider, let’s look at the benefits of using a powerbuilding program.

Improves Strength & Size

This is the classic idea of “size follows strength”. It suggests that a stronger muscle is a bigger muscle. Of course, the concept of muscle growth is more complicated than that, but the statement itself is true. For example: let’s say you can bench press 100 lbs for 6 reps. If you can bench press more weight for 6 reps 12 weeks from now, you will be stronger and bigger.

Creates A Solid Foundation

As noted, a key to progress is progressive overload. If you’re over 40 but new to lifting, you need a foundation of strength. If you’re over 40 and have been at it for years, you may not be satisfied with your strength level. Maybe you side-stepped strength work for the attraction of other training concepts. I can tell you, I’ve made that mistake. You get caught up in “angles”, varying reps, “muscle confusion”, and consistently adding weight on the basic exercises falls by the wayside. Don’t worry, it happens, but it’s not too late to build that foundation.

Powerbuilding After 40 – Things To Consider

It should go without saying that there’s a big difference between training after 40 and doing it at 20. Trust me, things change. Yet, 40 is still young. It’s the lifters over 50 or 60 that have to make major adjustments. With that in mind, let’s look at the things lifters over 40 should consider.


Right at the start, you need to be sure you are fully warmed up. If you’re used to doing 2-3 warmup sets, I suggest doing more. One good way to do this is to spend 5-10 minutes on the treadmill, walking at a moderate pace. Include some easy calisthenics.  Do several light movements of your first exercise for every bodypart.

Increased Recovery Time

At 20(ish), you can work out for hours, work a full-time job, go out at night, and still recover. That won’t happen at 40! An approach like that is no longer an option. As you get older it’s all about recovery. The key point to remember is that you grow between your workouts when you recover. You might want to repeat that sentence about 5 times, and lose the mindset that recovery is for lifters who are “weak”. That’s incorrect, recovery is for lifters who are smart. 

Shorter Workouts

One adjustment you will be making after 40 is shorter workouts. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, as noted, you’re older now, and you need more recovery time. Second, your lifestyle may allow less time for the gym (job, kids, lifestyle obligations). Let me be real here, it’s easier on your joints and your schedule if you keep your workouts to 45 – 60 minutes.

Less Strength

Be prepared, you will have less strength at 40 than you had at 20. Don’t worry, you can still make gains. There’s a strength ceiling that everyone (even steroid users) hits, but that doesn’t mean you’re there yet, so keep at it.

A Slower Metabolism

An unchangeable fact of getting older is that your metabolism naturally slows as you age. You gain fat more easily, lose muscle, and need more recovery time. Yet it’s not as bad as it sounds because that’s mainly true for those who never get off the couch. If you’re training hard and eating right, you can slow age-related changes considerably.

Powerbuilding Principles

Let’s look at some of the fundamental Powerbuilding principles:

The Use Of Compound Movements

First, as we have seen, powerbuilding is about working the basic exercises. These exercises should always form the core of your program, no matter how old you are or how heavy you lift.


As noted, you will be using progressively heavier weights. You should be trying to add weight to the bar when your goal reps become easier. For example, if you’re lifting 100 lb for 6 reps and those 6 reps have become easy enough that you feel you can do 2 more, add 10% to the bar. However, this doesn’t mean ego lifting, or waiting 6 months to add weight. You should think in terms of every 2-3 weeks. 

Rep Range

A rep range of 6-10 reps works best for powerbuilding. On the heavy compound movements like squats, deadlifts, or bench presses, 6 reps make sense. On the other movements, 8-10 reps work well.

Training To Failure

40 and over lifters should take their sets to a point just shy of total failure. Your last couple of reps should be difficult to complete. On all working sets, you need to work hard. That means you are struggling to get that last 1-2 reps. That’s not to say going to failure (and beyond) isn’t a good technique – I’m a big believer in intensity techniques. But, that’s best left for after you’ve hit your strength ceiling.  

Keep A Training Journal

Write down your workout in detail so you can track your progress. This means date, time, exercises, weight used, reps, sets, how you felt, and any supplements you’re using. 

An Example Routine

This example routine is the classic 3-day legs/push/pull split routine. It’s ideal for recovery and it can be adjusted to fit your lifestyle. You can use it as I have written it or move the training days to fit your lifestyle needs. The routine employs heavy squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead presses. Even after 40, these compound lifts are the keys to size and strength. Even so, it’s a simple routine considering the changes that come with age. Make sure your form is perfect. Work the entire rep and work it hard. Proper rep performance is the key to getting the most out of your sets. I cover that at the end of the routine.

Day 1 – Legs, Abs


Warmup – Spend 5-10 minutes on the treadmill. Do a bodyweight-only set x 15 reps, then do 3 sets x 12, 12, 12 reps – easy weight each set.

Working sets – 4 sets x 6 reps

Leg Curls

3 sets x 8 reps

Standing Calf Raises

3 sets x 10 reps

Seated Calf Raises

3 sets x 10 reps


4 sets x 10-15 reps

Day 2 – Chest, Shoulders, Triceps

Bench Press

Warm-up – Spend 5-10 minutes on the treadmill. Do calisthenics that involve your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Then do 3 easy sets x 15, 12, 10 reps

Working sets – 4 sets x 6 reps

Incline Press

3 sets x 8 reps working sets.

Overhead Press

3 sets x 6-8 reps


Upright Rows

2 sets x 8 reps, alternate with Shrugs – 2 sets x 6-8 reps, one workout do Upright Rows, the next do Shrugs

Close Grip Bench Press

2 sets x 8 reps

EZ-Bar Extensions

2 sets x 8 reps

Days 3 & 4 – Rest

Day 5 – Back, Biceps, Abs


Warm-up – Spend 5-10 minutes on the treadmill. Then do a bodyweight-only set for 15 reps, then 3 easy sets x 15 reps.

Working sets – 3 sets x 6 reps


Bent Rows

Warm-up – 2 sets 12-15 reps

Working sets – 3 sets x 8 reps

Lat Pulldowns (Or Pull-Ups if possible)

2 sets x 8-10 reps

EZ Curls

2 sets x 8 reps

Hammer Curls

 2 sets x 8 reps


4 sets x 10 reps

Days 6 & 7- Rest

Start over

Performance Notes

This is a recovery-oriented routine, that’s why you have 4 total rest days every week. If you adjust this to fit your schedule, the only requirement is to take one rest day after two training days. As far as rep performance, I advocate using explosive up, pause for 2-3 seconds, slow and controlled down on all movements. Here’s your rep tempo: 2-3-4, or 2 seconds up, a 3 count, and 4 seconds down. You may only be able to pause on the last rep. Also, the reps listed are the maximum reps you should do per exercise. If you feel you can easily go beyond the listed reps, your weight is too light. Put some plates on that bar!


A powerbuilding diet is healthy, but not overly restrictive. Your goal is to get stronger and bigger. With that in mind, here are some tips:


You should be eating 5-6 times per day. Your first choice should always be whole-food meals. Still, based on your lifestyle, you may have to use protein shakes and bars to help you meet your daily requirements. If you spend long days at work and find it tough to get in your meals, that’s the way to go.  Check out our protein deals here: https://illpumpyouup.com/protein/


You need to ingest 1g of protein per lb of body weight, at the minimum. Divide your intake evenly throughout the day. This is where a good protein powder can make all the difference.


Avoid high-sugar junk carbs. If you’ve been following a low-carb diet, you will have to eat more carbs because the muscles use stored carbohydrates for energy. Start with 2g per lb of body weight.


For starters, multiply your body weight by 18, and that’s your daily calories. Adjust up or down based on your waistline, as needed.

Workout Nutrition

You should eat roughly 50% of your daily carbs in the hours around your workout. Make sure you’re taking in protein with all of your pre-workout meals. As soon as you are done with your last set, have a post-workout shake with protein and carbs.


You should have a cornerstone program of protein powder, a multi, creatine, and the pre-workout of your choice. You should also include BCAAs/EAAs as an intra-workout. If you’re really serious, give prohormones a try. Bear in mind, that they are more aggressive, but you can make good gains with well-planned cycles. 

In Summary

With a few easy adjustments, powerbuilding after 40 can help you get stronger and bigger. As long as you warm up completely and recover 100% between workouts, you can make the gains you want to make. Good luck, train hard, and stock up on all your supplement needs by visiting illpumpyouup.com!


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