The following post comes from the incredibly talented writer and personal trainer Carole Klein. It details both the differences and similarities between bodybuilding and powerlifting and is undoubtedly a great read for beginning and dedicated gym goers alike.
Many people think that powerlifting and bodybuilding are interchangeable terms, but while both offer a great workout, they’re not the same thing. They differ in regards to their goals and how they measure success. While both use strength and endurance, they have a different effect on the body as well. Here, we’ll break down the differences and similarities between the two.
Powerlifting and Bodybuilding: What’s the Difference?
Powerlifting and bodybuilding are both intense disciplines that aim for different measurable results. Bodybuilding is a 24/7 endeavor that demands razor focus. It’s a sport where athletes must utilize cardio, strength training, bulking, and cutting to create the ideal form.
Diet is much more important in bodybuilding than powerlifting. Bodybuilders must come up with a nutrition plan consisting of the right combinations of food, beverage, and supplementation to yield the best results.
In contrast, powerlifting is a sport that involves three essential types of lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift. The winner in each weight class is the athlete with the highest total for the three lifts. Unlike bodybuilding, powerlifting is an Olympic sport.
The Stage vs. the Platform
Powerlifters generally have a platform they use in order to perform their competition lifts. Competition lifts generally include deadlifts, bench presses, and squats.
Unlike powerlifters, bodybuilders use exercise to sculpt their body and increase muscle size, definition, and symmetry. Bodybuilders generally compete on stage for the best body created by heavy workout regimens as well.
Size Against Strength
Muscle growth between powerlifters and bodybuilders tends to vary due to the type of exercises and targeted workout programs involved. In general, moderate weights are used by bodybuilders in a 6 to 12 range of repetitions. Powerlifting, on the other hand, calls for lower reps with heavier weights.
General loads can exceed 85 percent of the one rep. An increase in muscle tissue density is seen with this heavy style of weight training where muscle cell fluid levels increase. This is why bodybuilders have impressive physiques, but not as large a strength to weight ratio as powerlifters.
The Fatigue Factor
Bodybuilding is generally associated with greater fatigue than powerlifting. When a bodybuilder works out, he typically trains until he experiences muscular failure – the point where he can’t perform another rep without faltering slightly. Going into failure mode can boost muscular hypertrophy.
Powerlifters, on the other hand, train hard for long periods, but never to the point of muscle failure. In fact, poor form can occur in powerlifters that push themselves to muscle failure. This won’t help them at all in a competition setting.
To compete in certain areas of a competition, powerlifters and bodybuilders need to be at a set weight in order to be accepted. While powerlifters don’t need to be as sculpted or as lean as bodybuilders, powerlifters may still need to achieve the required body fat ratio before the weight cutoff.
In terms of a diet plan, bodybuilders generally have to eat a more restrictive diet. The program of powerlifters are usually less strict because they don’t need to maintain their appearance like bodybuilders do every day. Their success is more measured in performance, not body appearance.
Benefits of Both Powerlifting and Bodybuilding
Powerlifting and bodybuilding both have their advantages. However, these are some advantages that they both share.
Build Stronger Bones and Bodies
Working out as a powerlifter or bodybuilder gives you the potential to build a stronger body and bones. As we age, our bones often become softer and more easily breakable. Lifting weights in either sport can help to improve the overall density of your bones, which can maintain bone density as you grow older.
Increased Muscle Size
Bodybuilding and powerlifting greatly increase strength and muscle mass, which is physically appealing to many people. This additional muscle size is especially ideal for those who want to try heavier contact sports like football and hockey.
While powerlifting may develop your strength better than bodybuilding, both offer strength development properties. Powerlifting can grant the ability to lift larger weights over the head and sustain the hold for a period of time.
Bodybuilders, on the other hand, are also very strong, but they may not be able to hold really heavier weights like a powerlifter.
Great Workout Overall
Both bodybuilding and powerlifting can provide a fantastic workout overall. Body sports require the commitment to work out hard in order to achieve the level of muscle density and strength required for each sport. Generally, workouts consist of running, weightlifting, and cardio exercises. All these activities are fantastic ways to get stronger and healthier.
Though similar at first glance, powerlifting and bodybuilding are definitely two distinctively different disciplines. If you’re considering becoming a bodybuilder or a powerlifter, it’s important to do your research, including the health risks that they may pose.
By understanding the differences between the two sports, you have a higher chance of selecting the right one for your overall passion and goals. It may take a while to get up to competition status, but you can be sure that you will lead a stronger and healthier life as a result of your choice.
Carole, poor poor Carole.
You would think, that with a B.S. in exercise physiology and being a fitness industry expert with more than 20 years of experience as a competitor and personal trainer, that you would have some semblance of a clue.
Powerlifting is not presently, nor has it ever been, an Olympic sport as you erroneously stated in the last sentence of paragraph 4: “Unlike bodybuilding, powerlifting is an Olympic sport.”
And poo-poo on the editor, too.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope this mail finds you well today.
Good catch on the article. Should have caught that one during the editing process so thank you. Shall leave it and your comment up as a reminder that we’re all human!
Best wishes and hope to have you back soon,