Powerlifting vs Bodybuilding – Introduction
What are the differences between powerlifting vs bodybuilding, plus their pros and cons?
This is especially important when you are trying to decide which form of strength training on which to focus your efforts.
Strength training is a very general term for working out with weights, and it’s arguably one of the most beneficial forms of exercise.
Lifting weights is good for your muscles (well, duh!), as well as your heart, lungs, and skeletal system.
It’ll also boost immunity and could help you live longer.
Even better it’s good for your mental health too.
So, if you’re feeling down in the dumps, start lifting weights!
If you are looking for the REAL fountain of youth, it’s strength training!
But, within the world of strength, there are several different resistance training styles.
Each one uses different workout methods and has specific goals.
Types of strength training include:
- Olympic weightlifting
While there is nothing wrong with including all these types of strength training in your weekly workouts, you may prefer to specialize in just one.
That’s arguably the best approach if you want to develop one particular aspect of your fitness.
So, to help you make your choice, in this article, we’re going to compare and contrast arguably the two most popular forms of strength training:
Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting 101
The main goal of the sport of Powerlifting is to test your strength over three big lifts – the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
The winner of a powerlifting competition is the athlete with the highest score total across all three competition lifts.
Each competitor has three attempts per lift, and if they fail all three attempts, they are disqualified from the competition.
Some powerlifting competitions also include a fourth lift, the strict barbell curl – but this is a fringe event, and not all lifting federations include it in their meets.
Powerlifting started in the 1960s and was created as a more accessible alternative to the Olympic sport of weightlifting.
Because it features compound lifts that almost every gym-goer is familiar with, even exercise novices can train for and participate in powerlifting.
However, while powerlifting is a bonafide sport, you don’t have to lift competitively if you don’t want to.
You can train like a powerlifter in almost any commercial or garage gym without ever entering a competition.
However, if you want to try your hand at competing, there are events, especially for novices, and powerlifters are usually very welcoming to new lifters.
The aim of powerlifting training is very simple; to get better at squatting, bench pressing, and deadlifting!
After all, these are the specific exercises tested in competition.
Powerlifting workouts are very varied and can involve doing each lift once, twice, or even three times per week, depending on the program being followed.
However, workouts generally include the lift being trained plus some “accessory exercises” chosen to improve the performance of the key lift and address any muscular imbalances.
The power lifts are generally done for lower rep ranges with heavy weights to build strength, while the accessory exercises are done for high reps with moderate weights.
Sample Powerlifting Workout – Credit HashiMashi.com
Powerlifting Benefits and Drawbacks
Not sure if powerlifting is for you?
Consider these benefits and drawbacks.
Benefits of Powerlifting
The aim of powerlifting is to increase your strength.
Between them, the three competitive lifts work your entire body.
If you want to lift heavy weights and build impressive levels of strength, powerlifting is the way to go.
While powerlifters aren’t judged on their size, lifting heavy weights will build muscle mass.
However, this type of training is more likely to produce a bulky physique than an athletic body shape.
Easy to get into
You can start training for powerlifting in almost any gym.
All you need is a squat rack, a bench, a barbell, and some weights.
While there are specialist powerlifting gyms, you can train for powerlifting in a basic home gym.
Progress is very measurable
You’ll know you’re making progress when you see your weights increasing.
Squatting or bench pressing more weight than you’ve ever lifted before provides not only instant feedback on your progress but is also very motivating.
Lifting very heavy weights puts a lot of strain on your muscles and joints.
This can cause both short-term and long-term injuries.
In addition, if you fail to complete a lift, you could find yourself trapped under a heavy barbell, which can cause severe injuries.
For that reason, you should only lift heavy weights in a power cage or with a spotter on hand.
Because powerlifting revolves around the squat, bench press, and deadlift, those core lifts will probably feature in every week’s training.
As such, powerlifting workouts can become a little repetitive.
However, you can vary your assistance exercises as much as necessary to avoid boredom.
Powerlifters are usually big and muscular, but they don’t look like Greek statues!
Thick waists are typical, and powerlifters often aren’t too worried if they carry a little (or a lot) of extra body fat.
Additional exercises are selected to boost squat, bench press, and deadlift performance rather than sculpt the muscles for improved appearance.
Bodybuilders train to create the perfect physique, which is muscular, symmetrical, and balanced.
Bodybuilders use exercises like a sculptor uses a chisel to build and shape their muscles.
Like powerlifting, bodybuilding is also a sport, but many bodybuilders have no intention of competing.
Instead, they want to develop a physique that’s pleasing to the eye rather than one that’ll win Mr. Olympia!
Bodybuilders often train (and diet) in seasons – bulking and cutting.
Bodybuilders eat more and train harder to increase muscle size during a bulk.
When they feel they’ve built enough muscle, they then diet away any unwanted fat that’s obscuring their muscle definition in a process called cutting.
Bodybuilders aren’t judged on how strong they are, although most are pretty strong, if not as strong as powerlifters.
This is because they tend to lift moderately heavy weights for higher reps.
For example, 6-12 reps per set are pretty typical for bodybuilding.
In addition, they do several exercises per muscle group, so they fully exhaust all the available muscle fibers.
This triggers hypertrophy or muscle growth.
To accumulate the training volume necessary for maximum hypertrophy, bodybuilders often use split routines, training different muscles on different days.
This can entail anywhere from three to six or more workouts per week.
Because the aim of bodybuilding training is to exhaust as many muscle fibers as possible, bodybuilders often use intensifying methods to extend their set beyond the usual point of failure.
Common techniques include drop sets, forced reps, negatives, and partial reps.
Bodybuilding Benefits and Drawbacks
Not sure if bodybuilding is the best workout for you?
Consider these benefits and drawbacks.
Build bigger muscles
The fundamental aim of bodybuilding is to increase muscle size.
So, if you want bigger biceps, pecs, or quadriceps, bodybuilding is the way to go.
However, bigger muscles aren’t always as strong as they look.
That’s because some muscle size increases are due to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which is the accumulation of fluid within the muscles.
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy increases non-contractile muscle size and does not affect strength.
While bodybuilders are not as strong as powerlifters, regular bodybuilding training will still make you stronger.
Bigger muscles are usually stronger muscles, although, as discussed above, not all muscle growth results in more strength.
Contrary to what some powerlifters may think, bodybuilders are not weak.
They’re just not as strong as powerlifters!
If you are training to look good, bodybuilding is arguably superior to powerlifting.
With bodybuilding, you choose exercises to target specific muscles to sculpt your physique.
Combined with the right diet, bodybuilding should allow you to create the body of your dreams.
Bodybuilders tend not to lift maximal weights in training.
Typically, they stick to 67-85% of their one-rep max.
While this may still represent a heavy weight, it’s not as heavy as powerlifters who train with weights closer to 95% of their 1RM during most workouts.
As such, bodybuilding training may be marginally safer than powerlifting.
Bodybuilding workouts are often longer and more frequent than powerlifting workouts.
Where a powerlifter might do their main lift of the day and 1-2 assistance exercises, most bodybuilders do four, six, or more exercises per body part per workout.
Also, bodybuilders tend to pay more attention to their diets as they want to control their body fat levels more closely.
This can be time-consuming too.
It could be said that bodybuilding is more of a full-time lifestyle than powerlifting.
Not as functional
Many bodybuilding exercises are deemed non-functional, meaning they do not mirror the demands of everyday life or sports.
So, just because bodybuilders look athletic doesn’t mean they are.
They could be “all show, and no go.”
So, if you want to improve your performance in sports or just develop strength for everyday life, bodybuilding may not be the best choice.
But, of course, you can fix this issue by including functional exercises in your workouts.
Powerlifting vs Bodybuilding – FAQs
Not sure which is the best type of training for you?
These FAQs about bodybuilding vs powerlifting should help you decide!
1. Which is better for building muscle?
While both types of training will increase muscle size, bodybuilding is all about muscle hypertrophy, making it best for increasing muscle mass.
Powerlifting builds muscle, too, but’s it’s mostly just a happy side-effect and not the primary goal.
2. Which is better for building strength?
Bodybuilders and powerlifters are stronger than the average person, but while bodybuilding is all about building muscle size, the main aim of powerlifting is building maximal strength.
As such, powerlifters tend to be stronger than bodybuilders.
3. Which is better for health?
Both types of strength training can benefit your health.
However, because powerlifting involves lifting heavy weights and there is less emphasis on staying lean, it has the potential to be slightly less healthy.
But, done right, both of these activities should be good for your health.
Winner: Bodybuilding! (But only just!)
4. Which is better for fat loss?
Bodybuilding workouts tend to involve more exercises and shorter rests which is the ideal formula for burning lots of calories.
In contrast, lifting heavy weights usually means taking longer rest periods between sets – three to five minutes of rest being typical – so you train less during a powerlifting workout.
So, in terms of caloric expenditure, bodybuilding workouts are probably better for fat loss but, remember, diet is the most critical consideration for losing fat and getting lean.
5. Which is better for overall appearance?
Bodybuilding is all about aesthetics, which means appearance.
Exercises are selected and programs designed to sculpt the perfect body.
These factors do not come into powerlifting.
So, if you want to build the body of your dreams, bodybuilding is the way to go.
6. Which is better for beginners?
There are beginner workouts for bodybuilding and powerlifting.
It’s easy to modify both types of training, so they aren’t too demanding for new exercisers.
Providing you don’t do too much too soon, even novice exercisers can start bodybuilding or powerlifting.
Better yet, do a few months of general strength training and then decide which direction you want to take with your training.
Winner: It’s a draw!
7. Which is better for athletes?
Bodybuilders aren’t concerned with training for performance.
Instead, they just want to build muscle for the sake of it.
That’s not a bad thing, but it does mean that some bodybuilders are not as strong as they look.
In contrast, powerlifting is all about building useable strength.
Subsequently, if you want to get stronger for sport, powerlifting training will probably be the better style of training.
Powerlifting vs Bodybuilding – Wrapping Up
The best type of workout is the one you enjoy doing – and that can be bodybuilding, powerlifting, or just general strength training.
That said, there are pros and cons to consider, and you may find that one type of workout is better for your goals than another.
If function and strength gains are your goals, powerlifting is probably your best choice.
But, if you want to focus more on your physical appearance, bodybuilding is the best option.
Either way, all types of strength training are good for everybody’s body!
Lifting weights makes you stronger, builds muscle, and is good for your heart, mind, and physical health.
The key is to do it regularly and consistently, as you’ll soon start losing muscle if you quit training.
Despite the key differences between powerlifting vs bodybuilding, you don’t need to do them separately.
They can blend and merge together into a third form of strength training known as Powerbuilding.
Therefore, if you’d like to combine both types of training, a Powerbuilding Program could be the perfect solution.
See this Beginner Powerbuilding Program: Big & Strong Workout + a Free PDF to track your progress.
What do you have to lose, other than your spare tire?
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