Ever wonder what the difference was between being a bodybuilder and a powerlifter?
Here’s everything you need to know to decide whether bodybuilding or powerlifting is right for you.
People often assume that bodybuilding and powerlifting are the same. The truth is, they aren’t. There is a major difference between the two.
The differences usually revolve around the types of exercises being routinely performed. Of course, there is also a difference in the desired body types appearance. There are 3 body types, it helps to figure out which one you are before choosing a training program, especially beginner weight training.
Their diets are sometimes similar depending on the phase the bodybuilder is in. There are of course other similarities. We will cover all of that and more.
First, let’s take a look at what separates the bodybuilder from the powerlifter.
What Is Bodybuilding?
The world of bodybuilding revolves around diet and training programs that are designed to increase muscle mass and muscle definition. There are definitely some awesome chest workouts for mass.
Strength and power are vital to doing heavier lifts and reps that support muscle growth. But, other than for those reasons, there really isn’t a great need of power. Yes, most bodybuilders are pretty strong men and women.
The focus on strength and power is not as important to them as their appearance though.
Bodybuilding is also for competition purposes. That is why dieting and training is very on point. Every muscle group is given focus to make it more defined. They usually follow two different cycles known as bulking and cutting.
Bulking is when you eat more calories than needed to increase the weight of your body. The intent behind this is not to be unhealthy, but to gain weight. That weight will be cut back at a later time to add more muscle in its place.
This is the fastest process to building larger amounts of lean muscle mass. How to gain muscle mass? Training and dieting for only lean muscle gains could take as much as a year for a paltry 6 to 10 pounds of muscle mass.
A cutting cycle is when the bodybuilder drops his or her calorie count to where it is below the required amount needed for daily energy usage. Ever heard of the 2000 calorie diet? This is a perfect example of calorie counting.
This is not done for long durations. After all, they do not want to risk muscle catabolism. This happens when your metabolism uses muscle mass for energy after it has run out of carbs and fats. Need to know how to gain weight with a fast metabolism? Listen up.
Usually consuming enough protein and dietary fats will prevent this, but it is just not a risk most bodybuilders wish to take.
A bulking cycle usually lasts for three to five months. It is supplemented with heavy weight training. A cutting cycle is generally one or two months long. It is supplemented with light to moderate weight training and more fasted cardio.
What Is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting is not really focused on physique unless the powerlifter personally wants to do so.
Strength, power and proper execution of strong lifts are the main focus since they will be moving heavy lifts for only one rep.
Usually, this type of person will want to see how their strength is compared to others. The highest honor a powerlifter can receive is to represent their country in the Olympics.
The diet of a powerlifter generally does not focus on bulking and cutting since the amount of muscle mass does not really matter.
You could have a large amount of muscle mass, but not be able to lift nearly as much as some powerlifters.
All three macronutrients are abundantly eaten to ensure enough strength and energy. They need it. After all, they must be capable of producing lots of energy and strength to do those difficult reps.
It’s safe to say you won’t see very many powerlifters wanting to follow a low carb diet in hopes of getting ripped abs, but maybe a better option would be carb cycling diet.
Bodybuilding Vs. Powerlifting What Should You Choose?
Both have their own advantages.
Which one is best?
The truth is, the best option would be to choose both. Let’s break the benefits down for you in case you prefer one or the other.
Following a bodybuilding diet program is rather hard. It almost gets to the point of calorie counting. Think of it as a science.
You’ll need to know exactly how your body reacts to specific changes. Some can consume more carbs than others. As a result, it is a good idea to eat carbs with a little care.
Of course, some gain fat quickly.
This is why you would need to know how your metabolism works when you change a number of calories being consumed.
Another thing would be to know how your body develops muscle mass. Obviously, a bodybuilder needs muscle mass with little fat to allow muscle definition. Doing exercises that are with moderate loads for 8 to 10 reps is referred to as muscle building reps.
You are not quite focused on power, but do not want to lose muscle from high reps turning it into cardio training either.
With a powerlifting program, you are going to be eating plenty of food to support your growing strength and power. This, of course, is going to lead to some muscle mass as well. Most powerlifters have bigger physiques with little emphasis on their muscle definition.
If you want to have sculpted muscles, then the bodybuilding diet and workout program are better for you.
You will be more focused on lifting heavier load settings quite often with some attention to moderately loaded isolation lifts.
The average person is not looking to compete even though most want to coin the term powerlifter to link it with competitive weight lifting.
Instead, you are more focused on the fulfillment of moving larger loads while also enjoying the large physique. The only thing is definition will not be as great unless you reduce your caloric intake to allow larger fat loss benefits.
Benefits of Bodybuilding and Powerlifting…
The average fitness enthusiast will want to use more of a mix of styles.
The most common training program is heavy loads for core lifts, and then moderate loads for isolation lifts. Maybe add a burnout or superset into the program.
The only difference from this would be instead to do an extra core lift with heavy load settings. Then you will have a well-rounded physique. Of course, you will only see that if you have a proper diet.
While following a mixed training program, you should consider dieting with three months of bulking and then one month of cutting for more optimal muscle mass increases.
A personal favorite is the grapefruit diet to lose weight quickly.
Then you will have the chance to build the size, power, and definition. That will give you a much nicer physique compared to the average weightlifter.
Powerlifting Training + Bodybuilding Training
Here is an example of a one-week mixed training program. You could try to use it for a month or two. The first three exercises are going to be compound lifts. You should do these with heavy load settings.
All the other exercises that follow are considered isolation lifts. You should do these with moderate load settings (unless it states otherwise).
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Flat Chest Press 5 5-6
Reverse Wide Grip Chest Press 5 5-6
Incline Unilateral Dumbbell Chest Press 5 5-6
Dumbbell Flye 5 8-10
Dumbbell Pullover 5 8-10
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Back Squat 5 5-6
Dumbbell Lunge 5 5-6
Barbell Stiff Legged Deadlift 5 5-6
Leg Press 5 8-10
Calf Raise 5 8-10
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Overhead Shoulder Press 5 5-6
Barbell Shoulder Shrug 5 5-6
Seated Arnold Shoulder Press 5 5-6
Wide Grip Upright Row 5 8-10
Dumbbell Front Raise 5 8-10
Exercise Sets Reps
Conventional Barbell Deadlift 5 5-6
Barbell Yates Row 5 5-6
Good Morning 5 5-6
Lat Pulldown 5 8-10
Seated Row 5 8-10
Exercise Sets Reps
Close Grip Bench Press 5 8-10
Barbell Biceps Curl 5 8-10
Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Press 5 8-10
Reverse Curl 5 8-10
Leg Raise 2 25
Elbow to Knee Crunch 2 25
Oblique Crunch 1 25 (alternate sides)
Russian Twist 2 25
You should rest. There is to be no physical training on either Saturday or Sunday.
Rest And Recovery Are Crucial For Bodybuilding and Powerlifting!
Believe it or not, a lot of people blow off the rest and recovery process. That’s a bad move.
This is the most crucial time for your body to repair and allow your muscles to grow and strengthen.
You need to rest your muscles for 24 hours after training those specific muscles. The reason why is because, after training, your muscles become microscopically torn, assuming they’ve been put through high enough intensities.
So, if you’ve worked them, you must also rest them.
Protein with other nutrients is transported to your muscle cells to feed them what they need. In time, this reduces muscle soreness and allows these cells to grow larger and stronger. Aside from the 24 hours of muscle rest, you also need six to eight hours of actual sleep every night. You need this every night.
During your sleep cycle, your body is at work moving nutrients where they need to go.
While all the processes are taking place, your muscles are a top priority since your body recognizes them as being injured and in need of help. That is why eating slow digesting protein rich foods such as cottage cheese are the best to eat at night.
They basically drip feed your muscles the protein required to keep your body going strong.
All Nutrients Are Welcome
When it comes to nutrients they all serve a different purpose and both powerlifters and bodybuilders need all three of the primary ingredients to maintain a successful physique capable of moving weights.
The low carb diet has become quite trendy for fat loss and lean muscle recruitment. But, many studies show that the effectiveness of the low carb diet lasts only about four to six months.
The reason is that carbs have water. When you eliminate the consumption of all or most carbs, then you lose water weight, and quickly. Then you have the fact that most end up going back to carbs and binge eating.
For this reason, the low carb diet is only really good to use during a cutting cycle. But there are much meal plans to lose weight.
Carbs provide your body with energy ready to be used right away. Once they have been depleted from your system, your metabolism uses body fat instead of in the form of ketones.
Dietary fats are important because they are the second energy source and because they protect your inner muscles and organs.
Protein is life. A low protein diet is probably the worst fad ever created. The only person who should be following a diet such as this would be one that was told to do so by a doctor.
You need a high enough protein intake to support your muscle mass during both maintenance and growth. If there were one supplement to choose, then protein would likely be your best bet to ensure enough nutrients are being consumed.
Bodybuilding and powerlifting training have a lot in common. You could try either type of training. You just need to be sure to enjoy training and not make it an obsession unless you plan on competing.
Lift both moderate and heavy loads. Consume a proper diet. Doing so will keep your body in top condition.
Your top concern should be to focus on proper form. Practice your movements before doing heavy loaded exercises. Make sure that you have a spotter if you feel the weight is too heavy.
These tips will keep your body safe and you’ll benefit more from your exercises. Whatever you do, have fun!
-By Brian Pankau, CPT