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Powerlifting and Bodybuilding: What’s the Difference?

Powerlifting and bodybuilding are weightlifting and bodybuilding sports that focus around resistance training using weights.

If you're new to weight lifting in general, powerlifting and bodybuilding may appear eerily similar.

While both sports rely on weight lifting, the goals of each sport are fundamentally different.

This article contrasts powerlifting with bodybuilding, analyzes their advantages and disadvantages, and offers advice on how to include either into your workout program - even if you don't want to compete.

What exactly is powerlifting?

Powerlifting is a competitive sport that tests your ability to lift the most weight possible for one repetition, also known as one rep max (1RM), with a barbell in the three lifts listed below:

bench press back squat deadlift

Powerlifting's purpose, from an exercise science approach, is to generate the greatest amount of muscular force possible for the given actions.

In powerlifting contests, three judges evaluate a pass-fail mark to each lift's technique. For the lift to count, it must receive a passing score from at least two judges.

Assuming you do the exercise according to correct technique standards, your 1RM on each lift is your sole measure of performance.

The absolute weight lifted and the weight lifted relative to your weight are then used to compute your score.

Powerlifting competition rules are typically classified as "raw" or "equipped," with "equipped" permitting special suits and knee wraps and "raw" allowing only a lifting belt and knee sleeves.

How do you prepare for a powerlifting competition?

Because powerlifting emphasizes 1RM performance in the squat, bench press, and deadlift, training concentrates on improving strength in these activities.

Given the purpose of lifting the heaviest weight, powerlifters typically use a low-bar back squat variation, a medium-to-wide grip bench press, and either a regular or sumo-style deadlift.

These lifting techniques, when practiced over time, allow you to lift the highest amount of weight possible due to proper leverage and recruitment of the largest muscles.

Because of the tremendous amount of weight your body must sustain in order to be effective at powerlifting, you must train extra exercises in addition to your squat, bench press, and deadlift.

These supplementary exercises are sometimes referred to as assistance exercises, and they are primarily designed to strengthen the muscles that aid in stabilization during the main lifts, hence avoiding muscular imbalances and lowering the chance of injury.

On a squat or deadlift-focused day, for example, an intermediate or advanced powerlifter might include the following workouts for glute and hamstring strengthening:

Powerlifters, in general, concentrate their efforts on lower repetition ranges of 1–5 reps with heavy weights and extensive rest periods to increase maximal strength.

In the long run, you may also need to train at greater rep ranges to maintain and grow muscle mass.

This, however, is always in support of maximal strength performance in the three lifts and is not present in every training cycle.


Powerlifting is a sport in which the goal is to lift the heaviest weight for a one-rep max on the squat, deadlift, and bench press. Lifting large weights for 1–5 repetitions is the primary objective of powerlifting training.

What exactly is bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding is a sport in which contestants are judged based on their total physical appearance on the day of the competition.

Bodybuilders compete in speedos, bikinis, and other revealing clothes, and their scores are based on muscle size, symmetry, and definition.

While posing for bodybuilding needs effort and perfecting your routine, you are judged on the aesthetic of your appearance rather than any measure of physical performance.

Your objectives as a competitive bodybuilder are as follows:

  • maximize your muscle size and symmetry

  • lower your body fat as much as possible

The goal is to show off the definition of your hard-earned muscular bulk.

The judges will grade you based on the competition criteria as well as your appearance in comparison to the other contestants.

Certain bodybuilding competitions have varied attire regulations and may favor different overall physiques from the competitors.

Nonetheless, size and muscular definition demonstrated through posing routines onstage are the key drivers of winning in bodybuilding.

How do you prepare for a bodybuilding competition?

To maximize muscular growth, bodybuilding mostly relies on resistance training with barbells, dumbbells, and machine-based weights.

Because bodybuilding necessitates symmetrical growth in the majority of your major muscles, you'll devote more time to lifting weights in somewhat higher repetition ranges, such as 8–15 reps, which encourages more muscular growth than lower repetition sets.

While you still lift quite high weights, you lift slightly less weight than in a powerlifting exercise but perform more total repetitions.

Rest periods for these workouts are also typically shorter, ranging from 1–2 minutes between sets.

Bodybuilding also necessitates more time spent on muscle isolation.

These exercises, for example, are common in bodybuilding regimens but less common in powerlifting:

  • lateral shoulder raises

  • bicep curl variations

  • triceps extensions

While powerlifters may incorporate a couple of these exercises into their routines, bodybuilding almost usually includes numerous isolation exercises every workout, in addition to increased repetitions of compound movements like squats and presses.

Long-term bodybuilding will require heavier training with lower repetitions and near-maximal weights.

The goal of heavier training in bodybuilding is to increase strength, which will allow for greater high repetition training with bigger weights in the future.

Finally, if you can lift a greater weight for more repetitions, the overall muscle-building stimulation of your workout will be increased.

Bodybuilding, on the other hand, eventually strives to increase muscular growth through high repetition exercise.

Bodybuilding is a sport that focuses on increasing muscular size and growth while decreasing body fat on competition day.

Bodybuilding training entails increased repetitions with medium-to-heavy weights and isolation motions.

The Advantages of Powerlifting and Bodybuilding

There are several similarities and contrasts between bodybuilding and powerlifting. Weight training is essential for both sports in order to compete well.

However, bodybuilding ultimately aims at increasing muscle growth itself via high repetition training.

Summary Bodybuilding is a sport that focuses on maximizing muscle size and growth while minimizing body fat on competition day. Training for bodybuilding involves higher repetitions using medium-to-heavy weights and isolation movements.

The Advantages of Powerlifting

Even for non-competitive lifters, powerlifting training with large weights and low repetitions is quite useful.

Meeting performance-based goals, as well as greater functional strength and bone density, are just a few of the possible benefits of powerlifting training.

Bone density increases

Using heavy weights for low reps improves maximal strength while also boosting bone and connective-tissue density.

Lifting close to your 1RM during training has been demonstrated in studies to provide the strongest stimulus to bone and tissue growth when compared to training at a lower intensity.

Strengthening of functional muscles

Powerlifting can increase your overall functional strength for completing day-to-day activities since the actions employed in powerlifting create maximal strength across the largest muscles in your body.

Heavy squats and deadlifts, in particular, increase the muscle and core stability needed to avoid straining your back while bending over or standing up, especially as you become older.

Training objectives based on performance

While improving your health or appearance may be your major reason for training, setting performance-based fitness goals is an excellent approach to keep motivated while working toward long-term goals like improving your health.

Powerlifting focuses on measurable performance improvements in terms of weight lifted.

The great feeling of becoming demonstrably stronger week after week, or even month after month, is extremely rewarding and serves to break up the monotony of simply attending to the gym.

Not everyone is driven by numerical gains in weight lifted. Powerlifting, on the other hand, is a terrific training option if you appreciate the feeling of measurably improving at an exercise.

Advantages of Bodybuilding

You don't have to be a future bodybuilding champion to reap the benefits of bodybuilding. Even if you're not a competitive athlete, it's a terrific method to grow muscle and enhance your fitness.

While bodybuilding and powerlifting training strategies sometimes overlap, the key advantages of bodybuilding include muscle gain, dietary attention, and adding more cardiovascular exercise.

Bodybuilding routines are the most effective at growing muscle.

Bodybuilding training using medium-to-heavy weights for 8–12 repetitions and many sets per muscle group is the most effective way to increase muscle mass.

Even if you don't want to seem more athletic, boosting your muscle mass has numerous health benefits.

It has been related to better insulin sensitivity, lower blood fat and body fat levels, and a higher resting metabolic rate.

Resistance training has been shown to postpone, prevent, and even reverse age-related muscle loss, which is crucial for older persons who wish to retain their health, strength, and quality of life far into their golden years.

Bodybuilding places a strong emphasis on nutrition.

Given that the discipline of bodybuilding needs athletes to achieve extremely low body fat percentages, nutrition is an important component of all bodybuilding training.

While nutritional issues are present in all high-performance sports, food and nutrition are essential components of bodybuilding training and culture.

The emphasis on healthy eating, macronutrient and micronutrient considerations, and calorie intake tracking benefits anyone looking to improve their overall diet.

More aerobic activity is included in bodybuilding.

Aerobic exercise (cardio) is essential for any comprehensive fitness program. However, in the sport of powerlifting, cardio is frequently omitted because it may impede gains in maximal strength.

Bodybuilders, on the other hand, frequently add aerobics to enhance calorie expenditure and assist burn body fat, especially during cutting phases.

Whatever your reason for performing cardio, a combination of aerobic and weight training is at the heart of every excellent health-centered fitness program.

Summary Even non-competitive individuals benefit from powerlifting and bodybuilding training in terms of many health and lifestyle effects.

Powerlifting and bodybuilding have drawbacks.

While powerlifting and bodybuilding training can assist almost anybody trying to better their health, both disciplines have a few potential drawbacks.

These concerns particularly affect athletes competing at the highest levels of competition, and they are trade-offs that top competitors must make. Nonetheless, it is critical to be aware of them.

Powerlifting and bodybuilding concentrate on a single goal.

The main disadvantage of both sports is that they are excessively focused on a single area of fitness.

The goal of powerlifting is to achieve maximum strength in the three primary lifts.

The goal of bodybuilding is to maximize muscle gain while minimizing body fat.

While most people benefit from being stronger, more muscular, and slimmer, these are far from the only factors to consider when it comes to general health and well-being.

In the case of powerlifting, ignoring cardiac activity and, in some situations, a lack of overall balanced nutrition may be detrimental to your health.

If powerlifting is your major fitness activity and you don't want to compete, try adding some cardio and eating a nutritious diet.

Meanwhile, the emphasis on physical appearance in bodybuilding may lead to muscle dysmorphia, a psychiatric disease defined by preoccupation with the notion that your physique isn't lean and muscular enough.

This illness produces mental anguish, which can have a negative impact on your overall quality of life. In other situations, it may lead to hazardous practices, such as the use of anabolic steroids, resulting in potentially serious health problems.

If you want to increase muscle or lose fat for aesthetic reasons, consider your total mental and physical wellness. There is no amount of muscle gain that is worth jeopardizing your long-term health and well-being.

Alternating between times of weight training and aerobic exercise, as well as eating a nutritious diet, is the greatest way to maintain overall fitness.

Summary Competitive bodybuilding and powerlifting concentrate on a single goal and may overlook other components of total fitness. If you're merely seeking to increase your fitness, make sure to mix up your workouts and include some cardio.

In conclusion

Both powerlifting and bodybuilding rely on resistance training with barbells, dumbbells, and other resistance equipment.

While there are numerous parallels between the sports, the competitive performance goals are extremely different.

Powerlifting is concerned with maximizing strength in the three major barbell exercises, whereas bodybuilding is concerned with maximizing muscle mass and lowering body fat to extreme levels.

Each activity may have numerous health benefits, but there are some drawbacks to consider, most notably the concentrated emphasis in each sport at the competitive level.

However, by including powerlifting or bodybuilding training into a well-rounded fitness regimen, you may reap the benefits and greatly enhance your strength and general fitness.




My name is Steven Goldstein

With over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, I have worked with clients of all ages and fitness levels. From professional athletes to individuals aiming to lose weight, I have helped countless people achieve their goals and improve their overall health through customized training and nutrition plans.

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Consistency leaves clues

Hundreds of clients of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities have put their health in our hands over the years and achieved truly remarkable results. 

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