Powerlifting vs. Bodybuilding: Which Is Greatest for You?

Bodybuilding and powerlifting are two widespread kinds of weightlifting. 

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

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

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

Due to these divergent objectives, bodybuilders and powerlifters prepare and food regimen 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 fashion of coaching impacts your physique, whether or not powerlifting or bodybuilding is the perfect coaching fashion 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 Greatest for You?

In fact, only a few individuals ought to prepare like a powerlifter or bodybuilder.

That’s as a result of most individuals don’t need to dedicate their whole coaching and food regimen 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,” principally.

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 help you acquire muscle and power successfully and effectively (together with the squat, deadlift, bench and overhead press), and utilizing the rest of your time within the fitness center to do isolation workouts that spherical out your physique. 

Take a look at this text for a coaching program that fills this invoice:

Hypertrophy Coaching: Greatest Exercise Program for Hypertrophy

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

How one can Get the Physique You Need With Versatile Weight-reduction plan

As with coaching, most individuals involved in feeling and searching nice year-round ought to comply with a extra average strategy with their food regimen—not getting fairly as fluffy as many powerlifters nor as lean as bodybuilders, whereas nonetheless permitting their physique fats share to rise and fall by a sequence of mini cuts and bulks.

Alternatively, in order for you an train program and food regimen plan that works synergistically that can assist you acquire muscle, lose fats, and get wholesome quick, then take a look at my best-selling health books Larger Leaner Stronger for males and Thinner Leaner Stronger for girls.

(Or in the event you aren’t certain if Larger Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger is best for you or if one other power coaching program could 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 entails coaching to elevate as a lot weight as doable on the squat, bench press, and deadlift for a single rep.

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

Conversely, bodybuilding entails coaching to realize as a lot muscle as doable whereas sustaining aesthetic proportions and symmetry and a low physique fats share.

To attain this, bodybuilders prepare every muscle group with loads of quantity and a wide range of workouts and use excessive rep ranges and quick relaxation durations between units.

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

When most individuals confer with a bodybuilding belt, they’re truly speaking about an Olympic weightlifting belt, which is a thick belt, typically fabricated 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. Nevertheless, the value you pay for eradicating this materials is that it gives much less assist. 

That’s why I don’t advocate you utilize a bodybuilding belt in the event you don’t do Olympic weightlifting.

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

And in order for you extra assist deciding which sort of belt is finest for you, take a look at this text:

How one can Discover the Greatest Weightlifting Belt for You

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


You may comply with a program like Larger Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger, which mixes features of bodybuilding and powerlifting that can assist you acquire muscle by getting stronger over time. 

Or you’ll be able to comply with a “powerbuilding” program, which is a mode of coaching that purports that can assist you maximize muscle and power acquire concurrently.

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

That’s as a result of it’s a must to prepare barely in another way to attain these objectives, which suggests most powerbuilding routines won’t ever be as efficient at serving to you acquire pure power as powerlifting applications or as efficient at serving to you acquire muscle as bodybuilding applications.

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