Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting

What's the Difference?

Bodybuilding and powerlifting are two popular forms of strength training that have distinct differences. Bodybuilding focuses on developing a well-defined and aesthetically pleasing physique through muscle hypertrophy and low body fat levels. It emphasizes symmetry, proportion, and muscle definition, often involving high-volume training, isolation exercises, and strict dieting. On the other hand, powerlifting is centered around maximizing strength and lifting heavy weights in three main lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. Powerlifters prioritize absolute strength and aim to lift the heaviest weights possible, often utilizing lower repetitions and higher intensity training. While both sports require dedication, discipline, and hard work, bodybuilding emphasizes appearance and muscle definition, while powerlifting focuses on raw strength and performance.


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FocusBuilding muscle size and definitionMaximizing strength in three main lifts
Training VolumeHigh volume, multiple exercises per muscle groupLower volume, focused on heavy compound lifts
RepetitionsHigher reps, typically 8-12 per setLower reps, typically 1-5 per set
IntensityModerate to high intensityHigh intensity, near maximal loads
Training FrequencyVaries, typically 4-6 days per weekVaries, typically 3-5 days per week
Exercise SelectionWide variety of exercises targeting specific musclesFocus on three main lifts: squat, bench press, deadlift
Training GoalsBuilding muscle size, aesthetics, and symmetryMaximizing strength in specific lifts
Competition LiftsNone, focus on physiqueSquat, bench press, deadlift
Body Fat PercentageVaries, typically lower body fat for better muscle definitionVaries, not as focused on body fat percentage
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Further Detail


Bodybuilding and powerlifting are two popular forms of strength training that have distinct goals and training methodologies. While both sports focus on building strength and muscle mass, they differ in terms of training techniques, competition formats, and overall objectives. In this article, we will explore the attributes of bodybuilding and powerlifting, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Training Techniques

Bodybuilding primarily focuses on hypertrophy, or the growth and development of muscles. Bodybuilders typically perform high-volume workouts with moderate to high repetitions and shorter rest periods. They emphasize isolation exercises that target specific muscle groups, aiming to achieve a well-defined and aesthetically pleasing physique. Bodybuilders also incorporate various training techniques such as drop sets, supersets, and time under tension to maximize muscle growth.

On the other hand, powerlifting is centered around three main lifts: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Powerlifters prioritize strength and maximal force production. Their training involves lower repetitions with heavier weights and longer rest periods to allow for recovery between sets. Powerlifters focus on compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, aiming to increase their one-rep max in each lift.

Competition Formats

Bodybuilding competitions are judged based on the participants' overall muscular development, symmetry, and conditioning. Competitors showcase their physiques through a series of mandatory poses, highlighting their muscle definition, size, and vascularity. Judges evaluate the competitors' aesthetics, muscle proportion, and stage presence to determine the winners. Bodybuilding competitions are subjective, and the judging criteria may vary slightly between different organizations.

Powerlifting competitions, on the other hand, are purely based on strength. Participants compete in three lifts: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Each lifter has three attempts in each lift, and their best successful attempt in each lift is combined to determine their total score. Powerlifting competitions are objective, as the winner is determined by the highest total weight lifted in their respective weight class.

Physique vs Strength

One of the key differences between bodybuilding and powerlifting is the emphasis on physique versus strength. Bodybuilders strive to achieve a well-sculpted and symmetrical physique with low body fat levels. They focus on muscle definition, size, and aesthetics, often incorporating specific dieting and cutting phases to enhance muscle visibility. Bodybuilders aim to create a visually appealing physique that is admired for its muscularity and conditioning.

Powerlifters, on the other hand, prioritize strength and power over aesthetics. While they may also develop significant muscle mass, their primary goal is to lift as much weight as possible in the three main lifts. Powerlifters often carry more body fat than bodybuilders, as it can provide additional support and stability during heavy lifts. Their training revolves around building maximal strength and improving their performance in the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Training Frequency and Volume

Bodybuilders typically follow a split routine, dividing their training into different muscle groups on different days. They often train each muscle group once or twice a week, allowing for sufficient recovery and growth. Bodybuilding workouts can be time-consuming, as they involve numerous exercises and sets to target specific muscles from various angles.

Powerlifters, on the other hand, often follow a more condensed training schedule. They focus on the three main lifts and their variations, training them multiple times a week to improve technique, strength, and neural adaptations. Powerlifting workouts are generally shorter in duration but higher in intensity, as they involve heavy loads and low repetitions.

Nutrition and Diet

Both bodybuilders and powerlifters recognize the importance of nutrition in achieving their respective goals. Bodybuilders often follow strict and structured diets to support muscle growth and reduce body fat. They consume a high-protein diet to promote muscle repair and growth, while also manipulating their carbohydrate and fat intake during different phases of their training and competition preparation.

Powerlifters also prioritize protein intake to support muscle recovery and strength gains. However, due to their focus on strength rather than aesthetics, they may have a more flexible approach to their diet. Powerlifters often consume a higher calorie intake to provide the energy required for heavy lifting and overall performance.


Bodybuilding and powerlifting are two distinct forms of strength training, each with its own unique attributes and objectives. Bodybuilding emphasizes muscle hypertrophy, aesthetics, and overall physique development, while powerlifting focuses on maximal strength and performance in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Both sports require dedication, discipline, and hard work, but the training techniques, competition formats, and goals differ significantly. Whether you aspire to build an impressive physique or lift heavy weights, both bodybuilding and powerlifting offer rewarding journeys in the realm of strength and fitness.

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