Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting: Which Training Style Is Right For You?


Which training program should you be doing?

Both Bodybuilding and powerlifting involve lifting weights.

However, the purpose behind doing so differ in both these physical pursuits.

How can you know which is better for you between bodybuilding and powerlifting?

Here we aim to establish a clear distinction between both the physical activities to help you pick between them.

To the novice, it may seem like both bodybuilding and powerlifting are similar. In fact, both of these share many similar exercises.

This perpetuates the confusion of choosing between Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Workout.

Well, before starting on with any training program, you need to know about your goals.

Without it, you’re actually lost without a clue on which exercise will be a better fit for you.

Let’s dive right into the Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Difference to know about each one of them specifically.


Bodybuilding Basics

Bodybuilding Program

So, what exactly is bodybuilding and what do you stand to get out of it?

History tells us the popularity of gaining a muscular physique has been incomparable.

In fact, with time, the activity is not only limited to men but women are also taking great interest in building a muscular frame.

People wanting rock-hard muscles have always been a fan of bodybuilding.

Many also take part in competitions to get recognized for the hard work they put into achieving such a physique.

Bodybuilding has long been known for offering the ideal manly physique. And the obsession doesn’t seem to go away any time soon.

But what about powerlifting and how does it differ from the most commonly known bodybuilding?


Powerlifting Basics


Like bodybuilding, powerlifting is also about lifting weights. However, the main criteria for weightlifting here is to build strength and not achieve a certain body type.

Most commonly, powerlifters are judged on their ability to lift weights.

The amount of weight they can lift maintaining a specified form determines how successful they are as powerlifters.

Powerlifting usually involves three events: deadlifts, squats, and bench press.

Moreover, powerlifting is relatively new when compared to bodybuilding. That’s the reason many athletes find it hard to choose between the two.

One is ages old and the other has been gaining immense popularity in recent years.

From the above, one thing is pretty certain. Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting Body will always differ in terms of appearance. We’ll discuss this in detail later in the blog.

Now that we’ve got what the two activities mean in particular, it’s time to understand the differences between the two based on different criteria.


#1: Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting Training and Goals

Bodybuilding and powerlifting differ quite a bit when it comes to training methods and their goal.

Bodybuilding may require you to bulk up without much focus on strength building.

On the other hand, powerlifting is about building strength to lift heavy amounts of weight.

Bodybuilding Training Methods and Goals

When it comes to bodybuilding, the main aim is to build muscle mass while maintaining symmetry and proportion. What this means is a bodybuilder’s exercise routine is designed to increase muscle size.

But it should be such that all the muscle is in balance.

That’s why bodybuilders usually exercise different muscle groups on different days.

Further, a bodybuilding workout routine consists of multiple sets of a single exercise.

This allows bodybuilders to build lean muscle tissue fast. Most bodybuilders follow a bulking and cutting cycle.

During the bulking part, they eat and train as much as required to put on huge muscle tissue.

Later comes the cutting phase in which they use cardio and circuit training to lose fat build-up and build a more toned physique.

Bodybuilders usually use the following training systems for designing the reps and sets:

  • Supersets
  • Partial reps
  • Forced reps
  • Drop sets

Powerlifting Training Methods and Goals

Powerlifting is mainly focused on getting stronger. Powerlifters pay attention to building enough strength to lift heavyweights.

For that reason, their workout programs usually consist of low reps with heavier weights. This is considered to be the best way to build strength.

Powerlifting involves practicing mainly three lifts we already mentioned above, deadlifts, squats, and bench presses.

Unlike bodybuilding, powerlifting is not about exercising varied muscle groups.

Rather it’s centered on doing different exercises on different days alternating between the main three lifts.

Some additional exercises, if performed, are mainly to improve performance in the three lifts.

Furthermore, the reason powerlifting is not able to trigger as much muscle growth as bodybuilding is its low pump rate. Thus, decreasing the amount of blood flow to the muscles.

A normal powerlifting training session lasts for only a few seconds. This doesn’t allow enough pump and muscle injury to trigger lean muscle growth.

Bottom Line

Thus, Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Workout Routine differ in almost every aspect. The only similarity for Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting we can find is lifting weights. Though, the aim of weightlifting is also unique in both the training programs.

While bodybuilders lift weights to become muscly, powerlifters lift weights to increase strength and weightlifting endurance.

Accordingly, the build of bodybuilders and powerlifters are also unique, which brings us to our second point.


#2: Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting Physique

Well, we’ve already seen the difference between the workout methods of bodybuilding and powerlifting. This naturally means there will be a noticeable difference in the physique of a bodybuilder and powerlifter.

Opting for one over the other workout is totally fine depending on the body build you’re aiming for.

Bodybuilding Physique

Well, looks are valued when it comes to bodybuilding. We’ve seen many bodybuilders who are known for their manly appearance. In fact, most men and women go into bodybuilding with the target of getting a ripped body.

A classic bodybuilder’s physique is a V-shaped frame with broad shoulders that tapers down to a narrow waist.

The main benefit of bodybuilding is this activity is as much for competitions as it’s for recreational purposes.

When it comes to choosing Bodybuilding or Powerlifting for Mass, the most obvious choice is always bodybuilding. As an added advantage, you also get to lose fat build-up during cutting cycles.

Powerlifting Physique

A powerlifter’s body is designed to enable him/her to lift as much weight as possible. For this reason, powerlifters may not have a shapely body the same as a bodybuilder. But they are always stronger enough to take on heavier weights.

As we previously mentioned, the main aim of powerlifting is to always focus on building stamina.

This means powerlifters are rarely bothered with getting ripped or shredded. Their main concern is to lift weights in the most correct form.

To lift heavy weights, they put on as much mass as possible. This means they also tend to have more fat.

In comparison, a bodybuilding workout session also includes cardio training to shred fat stores while maintaining lean muscle mass.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, both these physical activities will yield unique types of results in terms of body types.

Consider the following point when choosing Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting for Aesthetics.

If you’re aiming for a muscular and toned body, go for bodybuilding.

Moreover, when picking between Bodybuilding or Powerlifting for Fat Loss, bodybuilding should be your first choice.

If you’re after gaining more strength and stamina and are not bothered much by body shape, then go for powerlifting.


#3: Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting Diet

How can we talk about training programs and do not mention a diet plan? Diet is the main supportive factor for any kind of physical pursuit.

You need to follow proper eating habits to get desired results out of any training program. Whether it’s bodybuilding or powerlifting, both need a specific diet chart to complement your hard work in the gym.

Bodybuilding Diet

The diet plan of a bodybuilder has too much to do with what phase he/she is currently in. What this means is they have to take the best diet possible during the bulking and cutting cycles.

This becomes even more of a concern for them if they’re taking part in a competition. This automatically places them under great strain to maintain a nutritious diet plan.

Needless to say, bodybuilders have to take a protein-rich diet while focusing on other nutrients as well.

They focus on taking all the foods that support more muscle growth and recovery so as to enhance muscle size.

A bodybuilder’s diet plan primarily focus on more protein and less fat and carbs.

Powerlifting Diet

A powerlifter is not required to pay as much attention to the food selection as a bodybuilder. In contrast, they are more concerned about the volume of foods you do eat.

Unlike bodybuilders, powerlifters don’t go through bulking and cutting cycles. And their diet doesn’t switch depending on the phases they are in.

However, powerlifters do have to go through peaking cycles. This means they have to increase their diet in volume in order to bulk up.

Further, the powerlifter’s diet plan is high in protein, carbs, and medium in fat. In case you’re going to take part in a competition, the weight class you compete in will also determine the diet intake.

The Bottom Line

The main aspect of maintaining a diet plan is focusing on a balanced meal plan irrespective of the training program you’re preparing for.

Both bodybuilders and powerlifters will agree on the importance of a diet in the prevention of injury. Consequently, follow the above dieting tips depending on the result of following such a diet plan.


#4.  Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting Rest

Resting and recuperating is essential to give your body the required time to get ready for the next challenge.

Whether bodybuilding or powerlifting, the importance of rest is equally important. That’s why athletes are often recommended to maintain a regular sleep pattern.

This helps their body recuperate and recover itself for daily physical strain in the gym.

Bodybuilding Rest Frequency

Resting has a crucial role in repairing and recovery of muscles. Let’s suppose you’re sweating it out pretty hard in the gym.

This will naturally cause muscle strain and micro-tears.

In order to repair these tears, you need to take the required amount of sleep every day.

Depending on the amount of physical strain, you may require to sleep two to three times a day.

This allows the time for your muscle s to repair the tears. Thus, increasing muscle growth.

Powerlifting Rest Frequency

Rest periods for a powerlifter will likewise depend on the amount of physical exertion. That means the heavier weights you lift, the more is your requirement for deep sleep.

Your sleeping pattern may also vary based on the foods you eat and the level of stress.

That’s why it’s paramount to keep a check on these other factors as well. This will automatically encourage quality sleep.

The Bottom Line

Rest and recovery should be your top priority whether you choose to go for bodybuilding or powerlifting.

However, it’s important to pursue only those activities that are comparatively easier for you to incorporate into your daily routine.

This way you ensure that you’ll get enough time to take required rest intervals.

This will help you get to your goals faster than if you would have pursued something that you don’t find enjoyable.


#5. Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting Competition Criteria

A Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Program differ in a huge way when it comes to competition and contests.

While bodybuilding competitions usually have a lot of categories, powerlifting is based on just three lifting movements.

Let’s see each one of the training programs in detail to understand the competition parameters of each one.

Bodybuilding Competition

A Bodybuilding contest is held in different categories, namely:

  • Men’s physique
  • Women’s physique
  • Classic physique
  • Women’s Bikini
  • Men’s sports model
  • Women’s wellness
  • Women’s fitness
  • Men’s beach body
  • Women’s figure

All these categories focus on varied muscle groups and usually have different outfits and pose. The judges judge the participants based on their proportions, aesthetics, and posing.

People judge bodybuilders primarily on their appearance, it’s important for them to exude certain confidence in their stature.

Powerlifting Competition

A powerlifting contest has nothing to do with aesthetics. Rather it’s focused on how much weight the participants can lift with correct form in the following three categories:

  • Squats
  • Deadlift
  • Bench Press

Powerlifters are usually divided based on their age group, weight class, or level of experience. The final judgment is based on which participant performed the reps while maintaining the best form in each category.

Thus, powerlifting has everything to do with strength and lifting the heaviest weights.

The Bottom Line

As per the above criteria, bodybuilding and powerlifting require a different kind of determination to compete in contests. While bodybuilding may need you to go through excruciating bulking and cutting cycles for a long time to get to your goals.

Whereas, powerlifting needs you to maintain a willingness to lift heavy loads at a time. It’s not an easy feat to be able to lift immense amounts of weight and eat a large amount to be able to do that. Not everyone has the willingness and grit to maintain this cycle for months and prepare for the competition.

So, whichever you choose between bodybuilding and powerlifting, make sure to prepare yourself mentally to take on the challenge.

These were just some of the considerations that differentiate bodybuilding from powerlifting and vice-versa.

But which is healthier bodybuilding vs powerlifting?

Let’s see a summary of both to understand the key aspects.


Bodybuilding or Powerlifting Which Is Better?

Well, the ultimate choice will depend on what you envision yourself to be. If you want to be a bodybuilder, then focus on training your muscles and eating the right foods.

On the other hand, if you want to be a powerlifter, then focus on building strength.

And build a body that can keep up with heavy pressure and exertion.

In fact, you can also use a hybrid of both to see which one you enjoy more (in case you’re not taking part in any competition).

Try each one for a few months and then decide which one suits your body better!

At the same time, it’s important to consider both bodybuilding and powerlifting to require a certain amount of mental strength.

So, whatever you choose, be ready to follow the rules and prepare yourself mentally.

Did the article help you clear your confusion between the two highly popular physical pursuits?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.


Read Next: 

Athlete Training: Build An Athletic Physique | Ultimate Workout Routine

12 Upper Body Exercises With or Without Weights for Men & Women


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