4 Differences Between a Powerlifter & Bodybuilder

If you were asked to name the biggest and strongest men on the planet, names like Eddie Hall, Brian Siders, Ronnie Coleman and (if you are of a certain age) Arnold Schwarzenegger probably come to mind. These are all strong men, with big muscles; but two of them are defined as Powerlifters, and two of them are defined as Bodybuilders. They are not the same thing! Or are they? Let’s compare powerlifting vs bodybuilding.

What is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is a competitive sport that centres around three core exercises; Bench Press, Deadlift and Squat. The ultimate measure of powerlifting is strength. Whether you are a powerlifter competing in the Olympics or in International Powerlifting Federation competitions, your success is dependent on your raw strength and your practised technique.

Powerlifters train to lift as much weight as possible in either the bench press, deadlift or squat, for one rep. This means, powerlifting is not about stamina or muscle definition, and is instead about power.

Why should you Powerlift?

Powerlifting, whether you are a professional competitor, or a fitness enthusiast, centres around compound exercises. Compound exercises are those that engage multiple muscle groups at the same time, and so give you many of the core benefits that a successful fitness regime should deliver such as increased; balance, calorie burn, and muscle development.

The equipment set needed to embark on powerlifting isn’t too diverse either. You need just; a 7ft barbell, bumper plates, walk-in squat rack, weight bench and a whole heap of weights.

The powerlifting community is engaged, friendly and supportive with a huge depth of support, tips and guides available to help you become a better powerlifter.

What is Bodybuilding? 

Bodybuilding by its very definition is a competitive sport that centres around competitors and participants building muscle for aesthetic, presentation and pose purposes. The ultimate measure of a bodybuilder is the proximity to perfection across six core bodybuilding principles:


  • Muscle symmetry
  • Muscle size
  • Muscle conditioning
  • Muscularity
  • Body posing
  • Stage presentation

The highest governing body of the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness with competitions such as Mr Olympia at the forefront.

Bodybuilders train to develop each and every muscle group intensively, seeking to develop and over-develop each muscle systematically throughout the work out. The emphasis on holistic body training, through not just the muscles, but the hormones, diet and muscle stamina are at the forefront.

Why should you Bodybuild?

Bodybuilding, both as a professional and as an amateur, centres around healthy diet and committed all around muscular training and muscular exercise; which are at the core of a healthy lifestyle. So bodybuilding can offer significant health and wellness benefits, but more than that, a focus on bodybuilding can help to hone your nutritional knowledge and body awareness as well as your concentration, analytical skills and attention to detail.

Bodybuilding has a great online community of experienced and developing members across the world which you can tap into if you are looking to train a bodybuilding regime.

The 4 differences between Powerlifting & Bodybuilding 

Powerlifters and Bodybuilders by definition are both competitive fields and both fields are packed with strong minded, determined competitors; and while at the most basic level both fields are focused around building muscle, and increasing muscle capability; they are very different.

The most fundamental differences between powerlifting and bodybuilding are;

  1. Exercise Technique - Bodybuilders seek to exercise each muscle throughout its full range of motion as to ‘damage’ the muscle more broadly and encourage muscle repair and growth; this leads to a larger and more defined muscle presence. Powerlifters seek to minimise the range of motion to the minimum that is needed to complete the one of the three core exercises, this minimises the overall muscle effort needed to complete one rep.
  2. Workout Structure -  Powerlifters set their workout structures so that they alternate between training each of the three core exercises, so a powerlifter will have a “Squat Day” followed by a “Bench Day” followed by a “Deadlift Day” etc. Bodybuilders on the other hand set their workout structures to train 1-3 muscle groups at a time, so a bodybuilder will have a “Lower Body Day” followed by an “Upper Body Day” followed by a “Core & Torso Day” etc. 
  3. Repetition Structure - Bodybuilders are training for muscle growth and definition, and therefore a bodybuilder’s workout will be based around higher repetition numbers where each set consists of 8 to 15 reps. Conversely, powerlifters are training for muscle strength across squat, bench and deadlift exercises, and therefore a powerlifters workout will be based around low repetition numbers where each set consists of 2 to 6 reps.
  4. Resistance Levels - Powerlifters generally aim to complete their training reps at 80-95% of their maximum one repetition strength capacity, so the resistance levels on each exercise are incredibly high. Bodybuilders generally aim to complete their training reps at 65%-80% of their maximum one repetition strength capacity, so the resistance levels are lower to enable higher numbers of reps to be performed in each set.

Whether you choose to take up powerlifting, bodybuilding, or just exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle you are making a great choice; and our gyms have all of the equipment and personal trainers available to help you achieve your fitness goals.

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