Lesson on Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting

by Dr. Jacob Wilson, Ph.D., CSCS*D

November 29, 2017



I can still remember the first time I saw the quads of Tom Platz. It was awe-inspiring, breathtaking, and phenomenally unreal. Tom Platz developed legs that had never been seen in the world of bodybuilding and we will never see again. Often referred to as “The Golden Eagle” and “The Quadfather,” Tom Platz has inspired more than a generation of athletes to redefine the meaning of leg day and the squat.

As many of you know a key to amazing quads is the almighty squat. This is where I will introduce a second character into this story, an idol of mine, a man who was one of the first true geniuses to bridge the gap between the science of training and application. In fact, the book he wrote on the Science of Bodybuilding was probably the first book I read on the topic that truly inspired my career. I am referring to Fred Hatfield. Dr. Fred Hatfield earned a PhD in psychology, sociology, and motor learning. He is also known for breaking the world record on squat with 1014 pounds at the age of 45 and the first person to squat over 1000 pounds! Combine the two accomplishments and Fred’s fans affectionately referred to him as the one and only Dr. Squat.

The Dream Squat Match: Fred Hatfield vs. Tom Platz


In sports, we dream of wars between athletes. Battles like Ali vs Frazier and Herns vs. Haggler are examples of such wars. In the bodybuilding and powerlifting realm, one such match was Dr. Squat and Tom Platz. The rules of the match? Who could squat 500 pounds for more reps? At the time Fred could squat 855 pounds, while Platz could squat a little over 600 pounds. If we went off of max squat we would hands down predict Fred would win. In fact, Dr. Squat was able to beat Platz with a one rep squat max of 840 pounds vs. Platz’s 600-pound squat.

However, when it came to squatting 500 pounds for reps, Platz beat Fred. Fred Hatfield was able to squat 500 pounds for 11 reps while Platz blew through 23 reps! These numbers are actually debated today. As you can see in the video below, Platz squat for 23 reps. However, depending on the video or source, some say the number of reps may have exceeded 23 and the weight may be as high as 525 pounds.

The question remains, why was Dr. Squat able to squat significantly more weight than Platz, but when the weight was reduced Platz was able to squat more reps? The answer to this question lies in the fact that bodybuilding and powerlifting are two separate and distinct sports. While strength helps us gain muscle, strength endurance does as well. Tom Platz had both, which is necessary for a maximizing the size of your quads. To further elaborate, let’s assess both of these Titans’ training regimens.

The Leg Day Programs

As a powerlifter, Hatfield won 2 IPF World Powerlifting Championships titles in 1983 and 1986. At the age of 45, he set a squat world record by lifting 1014 pounds in the 100 kg weight class. This program from Hatfield’s program contains two workouts per week: Workout A is a ‘light’ day and Workout B is a ‘heavy’ day. The routine is designed to add 10% to your 1 rep maximum in 9 weeks.

Dr. Squats Training Program


This program made several championship powerlifters and earned Fred Hatfield a world record. However, as you can see, it’s aimed at maximal strength and would yield low gains in strength endurance. How does this differ from Tom Platz’s program? Let’s have a look.

Tom Platz Training Program

Tom Platz was the 1980 Mr. Universe Champion, boasted the greatest quads the planet earth has ever seen and had an unparalleled strength endurance including:

• 225 pounds for more than 100 reps in 10 minutes.
• 350 pounds for 52 reps
• 500 for 23 reps

Tom Platz secret besides an insane pain threshold was an insanely high volume spread across a wide variety of repetitions. So, what was a sample training day like for Platz? Tom Platz secret besides an insane pain threshold was an insanely high volume spread across a wide variety of repetitions. So, what was a sample training day like for Platz?

Sample Training Day
• Squats – 8-12 sets of 5-20 reps
• Hack Squats – 5 sets of 10-15 reps
• Leg Extensions – 5-8 sets of 10-15 reps
• Lying Leg Curls – 6-10 sets of 10-15 reps
• Standing Calf Raises – 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps
• Seated Calf Raises – 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps
• Hack Machine Calf Raises – 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps

As you can see Platz used a combination of heavy reps, moderate reps, and very HIGH reps (20-50 rep squats), drop sets, and supersets. Why is this important? Well, any muscle is comprised of a both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. The quads are a strong combination of each and must be hit from as many angles as humanly possible!

Lessons to be Learned

The take home message is specificity of training. If you are trying to focus on powerlifting, then a targeted approach can be beneficial. Fred Hatfield’s program of very high reps, and moderate volume with long rest is a great tool. However, if size is your main goal this likely will not cut it. While very few of us could ever withstand the volume Tom Platz endured, you can take a page out of his book in your training and vary your rep ranges from very high reps, to moderate, to heavy. By the way, if you would do me a favor. Please have a moment of silence for my good friend, the late Dr. Fred Hatfield. Without his inspiration I may not be writing this today.