Powerlifting vs. Bodybuilding: Which Is Finest for You?

Bodybuilding and powerlifting are two in style kinds of weightlifting. 

Whereas they share similarities, the aim of every is kind of completely different.

A bodybuilder’s focus is aesthetics. They goal to develop massive, outlined, proportioned muscle groups and preserve a low physique fats share to impress the judges at bodybuilding reveals (and lurkers on social media).

Conversely, a powerlifter’s goal is to squat, bench press, and deadlift as a lot weight as attainable whereas competing at a “powerlifting meet.”

Due to these divergent objectives, bodybuilders and powerlifters practice and food plan in distinct methods, which causes their physiques to vary, too.

On this article, you’ll be taught the distinction between powerlifting and bodybuilding, how every model of coaching impacts your physique, whether or not powerlifting or bodybuilding is the perfect coaching model for you, and extra.


Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting: Overview

Powerlifting is a sport that involves competing to lift as much weight as possible on the squat, bench press, and deadlift for a single rep (a one-rep max).

As such, powerlifters generally spend the bulk of their training time practicing these “competition lifts,” doing most of their sets in the 1-to-5 rep range and resting anywhere from 2-to-10+ minutes between sets.

Most powerlifters also do a few “accessory” exercises, such as the front squat, incline bench press, and Romanian deadlift, to augment their performance on the competition lifts.

Powerlifters tend to organize and periodize their training to be as strong as possible as they approach a “powerlifting meet” (competition).

In contrast, bodybuilding is a sport that involves trying to gain as much muscle as possible while maintaining aesthetic proportions and symmetry and a low body fat percentage.

To achieve this, bodybuilders place less emphasis on the squat, deadlift, and bench press (though most still include them in their training) and instead train each of their muscle groups with a lot of volume, using a variety of exercises, higher rep ranges (anywhere from 8-to-20+ reps per set) and shorter rest periods between sets (60-to-90 seconds, for example). 

It’s worth noting that, technically, anyone focused on building muscle while staying lean or getting leaner is a recreational bodybuilder. For the purposes of this article, though, I’m referring to competitive bodybuilders.

Competitive bodybuilders also organize their training and diet to maximize muscle growth during the “off-season” (the time of year when they don’t compete in bodybuilding shows) and minimize muscle loss and body fat as they approach a bodybuilding show.

During bodybuilding shows, competitors stand on stage while judges score their bodies based on their muscle mass, definition, and balance and symmetry.

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Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting: Physique

Both bodybuilders and powerlifters are heavily muscled. However, their physiques tend to look different for two reasons:

1. Bodybuilders maintain low body fat levels to accentuate their muscle definition, whereas powerlifters maintain moderate-to-high body fat levels to maximize their strength performance. 

(Some powerlifters also believe that having a large amount of belly fat, or “power-belly,” aids their performance by shortening the range of motion in the bench press and giving them something to rebound off at the bottom of the squat.)

2. Bodybuilders train to achieve an “X-frame,” a physique that comprises broad shoulders, wide lats, a cinched waist, and large quads. They also aim to develop small muscle groups that “polish” a physique, such as the biceps, triceps, abs, rear delts, and calves.

In contrast, powerlifters have no aesthetic goals. But since the bulk of their training consists of pushing, pulling, and squatting heavy weights, they typically develop large shoulders, traps, and pecs, a thick waist, and big glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Here are some examples to illustrate these differences:


(Legion athletes from top left to bottom right: Lauren Dannenmiller, Max Strazny, Rachael Becker, Chris Barakat, Jesus Olivares, Katyliftz, Nico Flores, and Sarah Lanzillo.)

Powerlifting or Bodybuilding: Which Is Finest for You?

In reality, only a few individuals ought to practice like a powerlifter or bodybuilder.

That’s as a result of most individuals don’t need to dedicate their complete coaching and food plan routine to maximizing their efficiency on three workouts. Nor are they motivated by lengthy, high-volume exercises and strict weight-reduction plan that may disrupt their temper, sleep, and social life typically required for aggressive bodybuilding.

As a substitute, a compromise between these approaches works finest—“powerbuilding,” mainly.

When it comes to coaching, this implies doing three-to-five 45-to-60-minute power coaching exercises per week, focusing primarily on compound workouts that will let you achieve muscle and power successfully and effectively (together with the squat, deadlift, bench and overhead press), and utilizing the rest of your time within the gymnasium to do isolation workouts that spherical out your physique. 

Try this text for a coaching program that fills this invoice:

Hypertrophy Coaching: Finest Exercise Program for Hypertrophy

And as for food plan, this implies following a high-protein, moderate-to-high-carb versatile food plan, just like the one on this article:

Methods to Get the Physique You Need With Versatile Weight-reduction plan

As with coaching, most individuals keen on feeling and searching nice year-round ought to observe a extra reasonable strategy with their food plan—not getting fairly as fluffy as many powerlifters nor as lean as bodybuilders, whereas nonetheless permitting their physique fats share to rise and fall via a collection of mini cuts and bulks.

Alternatively, if you’d like an train program and food plan plan that works synergistically that can assist you achieve muscle, lose fats, and get wholesome quick, then try my best-selling health books Greater Leaner Stronger for males and Thinner Leaner Stronger for girls.

(Or should you aren’t certain if Greater Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger is best for you or if one other power coaching program is likely to be a greater match in your circumstances and objectives, take Legion Power Coaching Quiz, and in lower than a minute, you’ll know the right power coaching program for you. Click on right here to test it out.)

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FAQ #1: What’s the distinction between powerlifting and bodybuilding?

Powerlifting includes coaching to carry as a lot weight as attainable on the squat, bench press, and deadlift for a single rep.

Powerlifters usually spend most of their coaching time practising these “competitors lifts” in low rep ranges and with lengthy relaxation intervals between units.

Conversely, bodybuilding includes coaching to achieve as a lot muscle as attainable whereas sustaining aesthetic proportions and symmetry and a low physique fats share.

To attain this, bodybuilders practice every muscle group with a variety of quantity and quite a lot of workouts and use excessive rep ranges and quick relaxation intervals between units.

FAQ #2: Bodybuilding belt vs. Powerlifting belt: Which is healthier?

When most individuals check with a bodybuilding belt, they’re really speaking about an Olympic weightlifting belt, which is a thick belt, typically made from leather-based, that tapers towards the entrance in order that it’s wider throughout the again than on the buckle.

Olympic weightlifting belts are designed like this in order that your higher physique can transfer extra freely throughout workouts just like the clear and jerk and snatch. Nonetheless, the worth you pay for eradicating this materials is that it gives much less help. 

That’s why I don’t suggest you employ a bodybuilding belt should you don’t do Olympic weightlifting.

The most suitable choice for powerlifters or these following power coaching packages like Greater Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger is a leather-based powerlifting belt that’s 3-to-4 inches extensive, 9-to-10 millimeters thick, and that has a lever or single-prong buckle.

And if you’d like extra assist deciding which kind of belt is finest for you, try this text:

Methods to Discover the Finest Weightlifting Belt for You

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FAQ #3: Are you able to mix bodybuilding and powerlifting?


You possibly can observe a program like Greater Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger, which mixes points of bodybuilding and powerlifting that can assist you achieve muscle by getting stronger over time. 

Or you may observe a “powerbuilding” program, which is a method of coaching that purports that can assist you maximize muscle and power achieve concurrently.

Keep in mind, nonetheless, powerbuilding packages typically don’t ship on this promise. 

That’s as a result of you need to practice barely in a different way to attain these objectives, which implies most powerbuilding routines won’t ever be as efficient at serving to you achieve pure power as powerlifting packages or as efficient at serving to you achieve muscle as bodybuilding packages.

As a substitute of shoehorning a bodybuilding and powerlifting program collectively, it’s usually higher to observe a program that’s optimized for constructing muscle that additionally incorporates heavy weightlifting towards that finish (reminiscent of my packages for women and men).