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Powerlifting vs Bodybuilding | What Is The Difference?

Hitting the weights rack, for some, isn’t about terminologies, it’s about switching off and getting the job done. With just a bit of minimal planning, however, your gym session can be transformed from a random slog into a structured workout that achieves the results that you’re looking for.

The terms powerlifting and bodybuilding are often bandied about. So how do each of these change the way you lift weights and develop strength and muscle?

The Difference

First of all, you can tell pro bodybuilders from powerlifters based on appearances. A bodybuilder will likely be more ripped and leaner than a powerlifter who will be all about mass muscle.

Powerlifting is a sport based on strength. This isn’t exactly to say that bodybuilders are the vain cousins of powerlifters, rather that bodybuilder’s strength and muscle training is geared towards appearances whereas powerlifters’ is not.

To put it in broad strokes, competitively, as a sport powerlifting involves three chances to lift a weight in squats, bench pressing and deadlifts. The aim is to lift the largest amount of weight in those lifts.

At the time of competition, bodybuilding is a demonstration before judges of the physique acquired off stage. Bodybuilding, therefore, takes place in the gym but the ability to lift doesn’t come under judgment, only how they look at the time of competition.


The Similarities

The reason they are huddled under a similar label is that weightlifting is at the core of both. A bodybuilder and powerlifter could well train alongside one another and yet achieve very different results.

There are similarities and differences between both. First of all, diet and nutrition are at the root of success in each, with both manipulating their intake of carbs, protein and supplements to build muscle. The most common difference here is that a bodybuilder who is looking to gain serious muscle and trim body fat will require more structured diet. A PowerBuilder eats to build and body fat is not on the agenda, so it’s likely a PowerBuilder would consume more calories with the sole focus of mass and strength, as opposed to a bodybuilder’s fuel for gains.

Cardio training is a common question among weightlifters trying to achieve size and mass. The expenditure of calories (or energy) that may be used for lifting can potentially impact on strength and mass gains. During the cutting phase of a bodybuilder’s process, cardio is employed to burn excess fat and promote lean muscle, whereas a powerlifter may not perform cardio exercise at all if it means risking strength gains.

power clean benefits


In terms of training, there are more similarities as bodybuilders may use many powerlifting techniques in their approach to building muscle. For example, explosive power training and the range of reps used by powerlifters will benefit bodybuilders for building strength.

Because of the specific goals of powerlifters (bench press, squats and deadlifts), they have the option for more variation in their regimen, from training each more than once a week to assigning individual days for each. The main focus is often the three main lifts, but powerlifters may borrow from the routine of bodybuilders by using accessory exercises to strengthen the supporting muscles for each. In terms of diverse workout sessions, powerlifters have less use for the likes of snatches and jerks.

Bodybuilders maximise the number of reps, working more to muscle fatigue to achieve size, which isn’t necessarily advantageous to powerlifters who are purely after strength. Isolating exercises such as arm curls and leg extensions are also used to build size rather than strength.

Powerlifting training sessions tend to be longer than bodybuilding sessions, which because of muscle failure have a limit, whereas powerlifting sessions allow more time for rest between sets.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Master of Science in Sport Physiology and Nutrition. She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. Find out more about Faye's experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faye-reid-8b619b122/.

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