Skip to main content

Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting has always been an interesting debate in the fitness industry. Most bodybuilders would love to be called a powerlifter, but we are not sure if it goes the other way around. Bodybuilders generally love when someone calls them a powerlifter and take it as a compliment. Whereas telling a powerlifter that he looks like a builder will make you sit and listen about how bodybuilding is not even a sport, and all the bodybuilders are non-functional.

Well, these are two schools of thought, and you don't have to agree or disagree with any of them completely. Read the full article, and you will get to know the main differences and similarities between a bodybuilder and a powerlifter and then choose what interests you more.

What is Bodybuilding & Powerlifting?

Bodybuilding and powerlifting are two completely different sport, each with its specific requirements. Squat, deadlift and bench press are the three primary moves in Powerlifting. Lifters have a single goal: to lift the most weight with the best technique possible. All of a powerlifter's training, nutrition, and recovery strategies revolve around these three main lifts and how to increase one's lifting capacity.

On the other hand, bodybuilding is more of an art, as the goal is to build maximal muscularity and definition, with the appropriate size and symmetry, to get maximum points from the judges. Bodybuilding involves many nutritional adjustments, including salt and water manipulation, glucose depletion and loading. These aren't utilized in powerlifting.

Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting: Differences

Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting

Size vs Strength

The type of workouts and focused workout plans used by powerlifters and bodybuilders tend to vary. For example, bodybuilders employ moderate weights for 6-12 repetitions, whereas a lower rep count with heavy weights is required for powerlifting.

General loads can reach up to 75% of one rep in bodybuilding. This kind of weight training approach causes an increase in muscle cell fluid levels and density. This is why bodybuilders have an impressive and detailed physique, but the strength-to-weight ratio of bodybuilders is lower than powerlifters.

Physique Goals

The end physique goals for both sports couldn't be farther away. Bodybuilding is all about aesthetics. Of course, you need to gain muscle size to look big and muscular on the stage, but the definition and details of the muscles are what makes anyone a bodybuilding champion. Powerlifting, on the other hand, is all about brute strength and performance in the gym. Powerlifters don't care about their muscle definition and aesthetics as long as they break their one-rep max record in the gym.

Hypertrophy vs Strength Training

Hypertrophy vs Strength

Bodybuilding is the sport of optimizing muscle hypertrophy while maintaining symmetry, proportion, and the ideal level of leanness. A bodybuilding program is more than just striving to get as big as possible; it also entails a thorough, honest assessment of one's physical attributes. It is crucial to choose the perfect quantity of exercises for each muscle group, eat and recover properly, and practice precise positions to best show off your physique. Bodybuilding's basic training technique will be hypertrophy-focused — the continuing development of a muscle's size.

Powerlifting is the sport of lifting the biggest single repetition possible in the squat, bench press, and deadlift while adhering to strict technical guidelines as the athlete concentrates on training movements rather than developing a particular muscle group.

To make this simpler for you, read more on this in another related topic Bear Mode Vs Lean Mode – Which is Better & Why?. They are two different approaches in training and both have different goals, just like powerlifting and bodybuilding. Bear mode can make you look bigger and stronger just like bodybuilding, hence it is similar in nature. This is not to say that lean mode is just like powerlifting. A powerlifter is mostly concentrated on strength and performance, while someone trying to get into lean mode is more interested in the physique and thereby good muscle definition.

Exercise Selection

Both powerlifters and bodybuilders use weight training to develop muscular mass, strength, mobility/flexibility, and overall performance. However, the specific workouts in each training plan will differ considerably.

As mentioned earlier, the three main exercises in powerlifting are the squat, bench press, and deadlift.  This means that every workout routine must have a direct influence on improving these three motions. As a result, you'll see powerlifters using different variations of these three movements.

  • Squats: variation includes front squats, pause squats and tempo squats
  • Bench press: variation includes inclined bench press, decline bench press and paused bench press
  • Deadlifts: variation includes deficit deadlifts, snatch grip deadlifts and stiff leg deadlifts

While these three exercises are also a prominent part of a bodybuilder’s training regimen, it also includes many isolation exercises to focus on a specific muscle group.

  • Back: seated row, lat pulldown, pullups, bent-over rows
  • Shoulders: dumbbell press, front raises, lateral raises
  • Biceps: hammer curls, preacher curls, reverse barbell curls
  • Triceps: triceps pushdowns, close grip bench press
  • Glutes: hip thrusts, kickbacks
  • Hamstrings: leg curls, stiff leg deadlifts

Rep Ranges

Powerlifters employ low reps (1-5), and bodybuilders use high reps (6-15), as mentioned earlier.  This is because lower rep ranges help in increasing strength, and higher reps help in achieving hypertrophy.

But saying that doesn't mean powerlifters cannot benefit from building muscles or a bodybuilder cannot benefit from increasing their strength. Both can incorporate either of the rep ranges in their workout program, but the real difference is the time spent doing it. For example - a powerlifter will usually include three workout sessions of low rep ranges, and then a session of higher rep range and vice versa is the case with bodybuilders.


Powerlifters employ heavier loads than bodybuilders. As a result, powerlifters utilize fewer reps, and they tend to lift weight around 80-90% of their one-rep max. Whereas bodybuilders use more reps, and tend to lift about 65-80% of their one-rep max.

If you want to know what is your one-rep max, check out Epicvita’s 1 Rep Max (1-RM) Calculator to find yours.

But don’t mix training load with effort. Powerlifters use bigger loads, but it doesn’t mean they work harder than bodybuilders. Based on rep ranges, powerlifters and bodybuilders still aim to train at or near their maximal potential. For example, a powerlifter lifting 90% for three reps is as difficult as a bodybuilder squatting 75% for 12.

Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting: Similarities

You Need to Lift Heavy in Both

Whether a bodybuilder or a powerlifter, one needs to lift heavy to see improvements and achieve their respective goals. No matter how opposing the physique, you need to gain strength to progress in both fields. You can't expect your muscles to grow if you are moving the same weights every day. Therefore, a bodybuilder also needs to focus on the basics of lifting heavy and improve their one-rep max to gain strength and muscle mass.

Eating a Tonnes of Calories

Every powerlifter eat a lot to lift more weights and improve their numbers in the gym. It is evident by their physique too. Powerlifters are not very concerned about how they look as long as they are able to better their lifts. On the other hand, bodybuilders need to be cautious about what they eat and how much they eat to look sharp on the stage. But again, this is just during the prepping season. During their offseason, bodybuilders try to put on as much muscle mass as possible to look even better the next time. And this can only be done when you are eating more calories than you burn. Therefore, bodybuilders also eat a ton of calories in their offseason to look bigger and better.

Exercises Involved

Both bodybuilding and powerlifting involve some similar kinds of exercises, and they are known as compound exercises. Deadlifts, squats, bench presses, and military presses are basic compound exercises that act as the common ground for both schools of thought. One needs to get better at these compound exercises to gain strength and muscle mass. Whether you are a powerlifter or a bodybuilder, and interested to know more on compound movements, then go through this blog we have already published, 6 Unmatched Benefits of Compound Exercises. It can improve the strength balance in your body while burning calories efficiently.

Rest and Recovery

Professional bodybuilding will come across seasons and off season. It is remarkably important to use these off seasons for rest and recoup. As an active bodybuilding, you may not be in a state of complete rest but taking a bit easy has no long-term harm. These are times to note down how to improve further, plan the next competition, re look at your diet if required. The same is applicable to a powerlifter as well. It is imperative to recover and also rest so you are not fatigued and give time heal from an injury. Go through some significant benefits of taking rest in our blog, Why Is Rest As Important As Your Workout? We are sure after this, you will include rest days in your workout plan henceforth.

So, What to Choose?

It ultimately depends on a person's choice. If someone wants to look excellent and aesthetic, they should definitely opt for bodybuilding routines and try to stay in the hypertrophy zone to build more muscle mass. However, if one wants to get bigger and stronger and isn't much concerned about having a ripped physique, then, of course, powerlifting is the answer. Whichever you choose, make sure to do your research and think about your fitness goals really hard. And at the end of the day, you will definitely take a step towards a much healthier and happier life.


Gomes, G. K., Franco, C. M., Nunes, P. R. P., & Orsatti, F. L. (2019). High-Frequency Resistance Training Is Not More Effective Than Low-Frequency Resistance Training in Increasing Muscle Mass and Strength in Well-Trained Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(1), S130–S139.

Westcott, W. L. (2015). BUILD MUSCLE, IMPROVE HEALTH. ACSM'S Health & Fitness Journal, 19(4), 22–27.

Nosaka, K. (2011). The recent development of research in exercise-induced muscle damage and plasticity of skeletal muscle. Japanese Journal of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine, 60(1), 26.

Burd, N. A., West, D. W. D., Staples, A. W., Atherton, P. J., Baker, J. M., Moore, D. R., Holwerda, A. M., Parise, G., Rennie, M. J., Baker, S. K., & Phillips, S. M. (2010). Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise in Young Men. PLoS ONE, 5(8), e12033.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu
Free Fast Shipping On All Items!