Have you ever thought about getting into powerlifting or bodybuilding? The only problem is that you’re not sure if there’s a difference between the two. Well, bodybuilding and powerlifting are two completely different forms of training. However, they do have some similarities as well. So, let’s take a closer look. What should you know?

Defining Powerlifting

Powerlifting is unique compared to Olympic lifting and bodybuilding. In powerlifting, competitors aim to lift as much weight as possible for each lift. These lifts include the squat, deadlift, and bench press. For each lift, you’re allowed three attempts to lift your maximum weight. Each competitor is also categorized into different classes and divisions based on their weight, age, and experience. This prevents any unfair advantages amongst competitors.

Basically, powerlifting goes for brute strength – all in one rep. They train to increase their one rep max. And unlike Olympic weightlifting, the type of lifts differs. As aforementioned, the squat, deadlift, and bench press are the three main lifts in powerlifting.

And training is also very different when it comes to powerlifting as opposed to bodybuilding. A powerlifter will typically lift heavy weights for 2-5 reps, with longer breaks in between. This is to build their strength.

Further, powerlifters won’t restrict their diets like bodybuilders often do. Yet powerlifters do pay attention to their nutrition, their ultimate goal is to maximize their energy and thus maximize their output and ability to lift more weight.

Explaining Bodybuilding

The key difference between powerlifting and bodybuilding is that bodybuilding mostly focuses on aesthetics. A bodybuilder aims to look more aesthetically pleasing. And in competition, they are rated as such. Competition depends on achieving the most symmetrical look in muscle shape and size.

They train using similar lifts to a powerlifting, but they often perform more reps and sets to achieve a more lean and toned look. They further restrict their diets to appear more leaned and “ripped.” Come competition time, a group of judges compare and rate their bodies. 

What About Weightlifting?

Then there’s weightlifting. Surprisingly, bodybuilding and powerlifting aren’t the only two competitive lifting sports. And Olympic weightlifting isn’t just lifting any weights.

Olympic weightlifting is similar to powerlifting in that the individuals aims to lift as much as possible. Aesthetics don’t matter. It’s all about lift technique and weight. In Olympic weightlifting, individuals compete to lift the most in two lifts: the snatch and clean, and the jerk. Interestingly, this sport dates all the way back to the ancient Olympics. And the training for it requires more than just practicing the two main lifts. 

Similar to powerlifting, weightlifters have accessory exercises and other exercises they use to build their strength. They also don’t restrict their diet, since they need the energy to lift heavy weights. Their dietary requirements often involve eating more food (the healthy and nutritious type) to fuel their heavy lifting regimes. 

Which Should You Try?

In truth, you don’t have to try any of the above! It all depends on your goals. If you want to appear as lean as possible, a bodybuilding routine (or something similar) might be worth looking into. If you want to increase your total strength, powerlifting or weightlifting might be more your speed. You can also choose to do a combination of all three or two of them. And don’t forget about aerobic activity. You’ll still want to perform other exercises and movement where you get your heart rate up!

Still not sure? Here’s a general guideline to help you out:

Try bodybuilding if your focus is on your appearance.

You want to change your body shape. Ideally, you’d also like to lose fat. A bodybuilding regime may help you get there. Although, eventually, you’ll want to transition into a more sustainable routine. The diet side of things can be extremely tough on the body.

Choose powerlifting for brute strength and function.

Powerlifting uses very functional moves. These exercises transition over into your daily life, allowing you to perform activities without pain or fear of injury.

Go for weightlifting if you want to improve full body strength and flexibility.

Weightlifting targets the whole body. Yet, so does powerlifting to some extent. Between these two, it may depend on where you want to gain strength and your personal preference. 

Although, if health is your ultimate goal, you may want to combine all of the above. Realistically, you don’t want a diet that’s too strict. This can be hard to sustain. It can also backfire, causing you to take many steps back. This is why bodybuilding may mislead you. It goes to the extreme in some cases. Ideally, you want a healthy and balanced diet that you can sustain for the rest of your life – the same goes for an exercise routine. You want something you generally enjoy. And that may be a combination of these three different types of training.

Other exercise routines, like Crossfit and HIIT, combine a variety of these training types. In the end, you want to listen to your body and decide what feels best for you. What will help you achieve your goals? What will keep you motivated? These are questions you’ll want to ask yourself when going after your goals. Why? Because your mindset matters. If you can’t trick your mind into believing you need exercise, then you’ll never get to your ultimate goal nor will you potentially even start your journey toward it. 

The best thing you can do is try different routines out. See which ones stick. This is an especially good idea for those who are new to fitness or just getting back into the swing of things. Stay motivated. Create goals. And go after what you want! Your life gets so much better when you do!

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