Powerlifting vs Bodybuilding: What should you do?

If you’re new to the scene, powerlifting and bodybuilding probably seem like monster truck rallies versus beauty pageants. To some degree, you’re not wrong! However, there’s actually a fair bit of overlap between the two and they often have much to teach each other. Let’s take a look at the specific goals of each sport first and foremost. After, I’ll talk a bit about what I, as a powerlifter, have learned from bodybuilding.

Powerlifting

Powerlifting’s primary goal is to move as much weight as possible, in a meet setting, in the big three lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift. Thus all of the training powerlifters do comes back to the fundamental question, “Will this eventually result in me lifting more weight at my intended weight class?”

Powerlifters go through phases of trying to gain muscle for the sake of getting stronger; aesthetics is just the icing on top. While building muscles, however, the powerlifter is not primarily concerned with building a well-rounded, aesthetic physique. They are concerned with building a pragmatic, powerful physique. This is not to say powerlifters can’t be aesthetic, just that it is not the driving goal behind what they do (go look at someone like Ben Pollack).

Bodybuilding

The goal of bodybuilding is to step on stage with as much muscle mass as possible at a given weight while also having the best possible conditioning (how lean and visibly muscular someone is). With the goal being, “Build the best possible physique,” there is no “must-do” exercises, a significant difference from powerlifting.

Bodybuilding is about following guiding principles to training and incorporating lifts that both work for you and align with those principles. A great example here is the deadlift! As a powerlifter, you will be deadlifting. It’s part of the description. As a bodybuilder, however, there are plenty of reasons you may never even bother touching deadlifts! For bodybuilders, they are concerned about getting the most bang for their buck with every exercise. Why do a movement that does an alright job at building muscle but is absolutely exhausting and takes away from the rest of your workout when you could do two or three exercises that aren’t very exhausting and aren’t a detriment to your recovery?

Credit should be given where it’s due: bodybuilding is the king when it comes to efficiently improving your physique.

What should you do?

That depends! A lot of people want to get strong and build an impressive physique. Maybe it’s more of a hobby and you’re not interested in competing yet.

If either one sounds instantaneously appealing, go for it! It’s as simple as that.

If you like the sound of both, you can do something called “Powerbuilding.” The idea behind this is that you train the three main powerlifting movements, squat, bench, and deadlift, while incorporating plenty of bodybuilding exercises after. The key when it comes to powerbuilding is to have a moderate amount of work in the big three, but not to overdo it. I’ll save the specifics for a more powerbuilding specific blog post in the future.

Keep an eye out in the coming days as I write a bit more in depth about the big three methods of training: Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, and Powerbuilding!

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