If you’re a newbie who has just decided to focus on improving his/her physical ability as much as possible, you probably have one big decision to make: should you embrace a powerlifting or bodybuilding training approach?
To learn the answer to this question, you must have a clear idea of what you’re looking for and which one of these two disciplines can take you there in the shortest time possible. How much do you know about the similarities between bodybuilding and powerlifting except the fact that both involve lifting heavy weights? More importantly, how much do you know about what sets them apart as two distinctive disciplines? Read this article to understand the basic differences and discover which one is the right one for you!
A General Overview
Powerlifting and bodybuilding differ mostly in the techniques and training styles included, which of course influence the resulting type of gains. Generally speaking, powerlifters aren’t as muscular as bodybuilders, although the excess body fat that many bodybuilders carry makes it hard to accurately assess their level of muscularity.
Obviously, while bodybuilders emphasize size gains and balanced aesthetics, powerlifters are focused on achieving on strength and power gains, more specifically achieving a higher 1RM. To increase their strength, powerlifters perform heavy lifts within low rep ranges. To increase their muscle mass and definition, bodybuilders tend to do high volume work and isolation training for the smaller muscles.
This is not to say that bodybuilders don’t care about developing greater strength, but their top priority is muscle growth and becoming as lean as possible with the help of high intensity cardio and by optimizing nutrition and supplementation, so it’s safe to say that the typical bodybuilder is devoted to transforming his body into the ideal, maximally developed representation of human muscularity. On the other hand, unlike most bodybuilders, powerlifters don’t work as hard at maximizing muscle mass and building an aesthetically pleasing physique, but aim to possess a superior level of real, functional strength and power. Therefore, bodybuilding competitions involve judging the looks of the competitors, while strength assessment is at the core of powerlifting competitions.
Training Program & Diet
Increasing muscle strength is undoubtedly related to increasing muscle mass. However, there are multiple ways to build your strength without increasing muscle hypertrophy, and vice versa. Since hypertrophy is not the main focus of any powerlifting training program, most of them tend to cause less metabolic stress and include longer rest periods than the average bodybuilding program. The work volume is very low and the list of exercises is dominated by big compound lifts. Their performance is strength-oriented with a lot of emphasis on form and technique. Contrary to this, bodybuilding routines utilize higher rep ranges that contribute to greater mass gains.
Additionally, bodybuilders rely on intensive sessions of cardio to shed excess fat and achieve higher muscle visibility and vascularity, while powerlifters have virtually no need for cardio since it offers them little to no benefit in terms of improved strength.
Maintaining a proper diet is crucial for anyone looking to ensure optimal athletic performance. However, since the heavy work included in powerlifting training routines work demands a high level of energy, powerlifters tend to consume more calories on a daily basis compared to bodybuilders. Bodybuilders, who have to be more attentive to their muscle to fat ratio, have to monitor their calorie consumption more carefully and make sure that most of the food they eat ends up fueling protein synthesis and muscle recovery.
Regardless of which path you choose to follow, it will undoubtedly teach you a great deal about mental fortitude, self-discipline and endurance, and those priceless gains will affect every aspect of your life, resulting with a greater confidence, improved health and improved willpower.
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Both bodybuilders and powerlifters are constantly challenged to push their own limits and learn how to become the masters of their minds and bodies. While it’s true that their efforts come with a substantial sacrifice, they also tend to result with awe-inspiring gains. For bodybuilders, it’s an improved body composition with full, three-dimensional, rock solid muscles covered with as little fat as possible, and for powerlifters is the superhero-like strength and ability to lift unfathomable weights. Therefore, both disciplines require a great deal of hard work and dedication, and both are able to produce spectacular improvements in your physical abilities, so it’s up to you to decide which type of gains fit better into your vision of the best version of yourself – and go for them with all you’ve got!