Comparing Powerlifting vs Bodybuilding

Powerlifting vs bodybuilding: many people think they’re one and the same. However, while both sports are types of resistance training, there are some key differences between the two. Sports involving resistance training such as weight lifting, help you build muscle, improve flexibility and balance, and reduce your chance of injury. In addition, having a good percentage of muscle mass on your body can help you manage your weight. This is because muscle tissue burns more calories, even at rest, thereby increasing your metabolism, leading to gradual and effective weight loss.

If you want to compare powerlifting vs bodybuilding, it’s important to understand that athletes who participate in each sport set out to achieve different results. Powerlifters focus on increasing their overall strength, and while developing strength is also important for bodybuilders, the sport of bodybuilding has an aesthetic element to it as well.

So, regardless of whether or not you want to lift competitively, incorporating powerlifting or bodybuilding is a great addition to your health and fitness practice. This article will look at the differences between powerlifting vs bodybuilding, discuss the pros and cons of each and compare the two.


Powerlifting athletes focus on three primary lifts that work large muscle groups: back squats, deadlifts and the bench press.

These three lifts work your biggest muscle groups and activate your core. Building a strong core helps improve balance and posture, and can alleviate back pain and prevent injury. What’s more, strong core muscles make doing everything easier, and not only in the gym. Strong core muscles make it easier to bend over to pick something up, climb stairs, carry heavy bags and more.

The bench press primarily works the muscles of your chest and arms, in addition to your core. Deadlifts and back squats strengthen your core while working the largest muscles in your legs as well as your lower back. Back squats require you to hold a barbell over your shoulders and behind your neck, as opposed to in front of you, such as during a front squat or goblet squat, or air squats, which require no extra weight at all.

Powerlifters aim for one repetition of their maximum weight, and most of their training focuses on strengthening the muscles needed to perform these three movements. Training consists of increasing the amount of weight they can lift with a low amount of reps, followed by a long rest period. In a maintenance phase, during which time a powerlifter exercises to maintain their peak strength, a lifter will likely perform with less weight but increase the number of reps per set.

Additionally, powerlifters go through exercises that strengthen the stabilizing muscles in their legs and back, such as good mornings, Romanian deadlifts and lunges.

In competition, powerlifters are judged not only on how much weight they can lift but on their form as well. Good form is essential to any form of lifting, but since powerlifting involves such a great amount of weight, the technique is even more essential.

Body Building

The sport of bodybuilding focuses on maximizing muscle size and reducing body fat without dropping to dangerously low levels.

Bodybuilders tend to want well-defined muscles that ‘pop’ and are visible. Reps tend to be higher and the amount of weight lifted tends to be lower when compared to powerlifters, but bodybuilding also involves lifting heavy weights and working out the larger muscle groups while incorporating additional isolation movements that work smaller muscle groups to achieve definition. Additionally, bodybuilders take shorter rest periods.

In competition, bodybuilders are judged based on their appearance and the symmetry of their physique. Bodybuilders choose clothing that reveals much of their bodies and they apply self-tanner to really emphasize that definition. Bodybuilders present themselves in front of judges and perform a variety of poses that show off their muscles.

Differences Between Powerlifting vs Bodybuilding

So, what are the main differences between powerlifting vs bodybuilding? Practitioners of both sports dedicate themselves to building muscle, but the way strength is developed tends to differ when you compare powerlifting vs bodybuilding.

Powerlifters lift the maximum weight possible for a lower amount of reps, usually capping it at one or two lifts of very heavy weight. This kind of lifting is good for improving your maximum strength.

Bodybuilders, on the other hand, lift less weight but do more reps, which stimulates the growth of muscles.

Powerlifters also mainly practice compound exercise movements like deadlifts and squats which build strength in larger muscle groups. Bodybuilders practice these movements as well, but they also add isolation movements to their workout routines, like bicep curls and shoulder raises, which work smaller muscle groups. These isolation movements are how bodybuilders achieve definition. When you compare the physique of people who practice powerlifting vs bodybuilding, bodybuilders tend to be more defined and ‘toned’ than powerlifters, even if the powerlifter very likely has more strength overall.

Pros and Cons of Powerlifting vs Bodybuilding

When we compare powerlifting vs bodybuilding, is one better than the other? It depends on what end result you want to achieve, but there are pros and cons to both activities.

On one hand, both powerlifting and bodybuilding will help you build muscle, which is crucial to anyone wanting to lose weight because muscle tissue will boost your metabolism. People who lose weight by building muscle tend to be more successful than people who rely on counting calories as their primary method of weight loss, and the weight loss tends to stay off when you increase your muscle mass.

Additionally, both powerlifting and bodybuilding offer you ways to measure your improvement, which can help you stay motivated to keep going even if you haven’t noticed major changes in your body yet.

Powerlifting can also help improve bone density and functional strength since you’re maxing out your largest muscle groups. Bodybuilding, on the other hand, works more muscle groups, so your overall muscle mass will increase more with bodybuilding. Bodybuilding routines also tend to include more cardio than powerlifting routines, since recovering from a cardiovascular workout leaves your body with less energy and energy is needed for muscle recovery and growth.

Nutrition is vital to bodybuilders and powerlifters alike, so participating in both sports offer you an opportunity to learn more about the components of nutrition like how to track macronutrients.

However, both sports focus on only one aspect of fitness: strength. There are other important factors to consider when assessing health and wellness, like flexibility, cardio and joint mobility. Additionally, the culture surrounding both sports has the potential to be very toxic, prompting lifters to use steroids if they feel like they don’t measure up. Finally, improper form can lead to serious injury.

The Bottom Line

So when it comes to powerlifting vs bodybuilding, one is not necessarily better than the other, but one might be more well-suited for you, depending on your fitness goals. Either way, adding strength training to your routine is a great way to lose weight and take control of your health and fitness, but your ability to build muscle mass depends largely on your genetics. You can find out more about how your genes impact your ability to develop strength by taking a DNA test from CircleDNA, as it offers you genetic fitness reports.

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