Key Differences Between Weightlifting, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

A man is weightlifting and bodybuilding with a heavy barbell

Getting into weights and strength training can be a daunting pursuit for building muscle mass and maintaining overall levels of fitness. Many people are not sure where to begin. The great thing about strength training, however, is the fact that there are so many different approaches you can explore to achieve the results you want. 

Some people enjoy the classic weightlifting, some prefer powerlifting, and some bodybuilding – but what is the difference? This guide will explain what all three of these strength-training styles are, tips for getting started, and the differences between them. 

What Is Strength Training?

Strength training is a type of exercise that improves muscle strength and endurance, typically by using weights, strength bands, weighted bars, dumbbells, or gravity. Strength training can involve several different methods and techniques. Some of these include:

  • Muscle endurance training
  • Circuit training
  • Hypertrophy training
  • Max strength training
  • Explosive power training

All these styles of strength training work on building muscles in different ways, by performing different types of reps, and they provide different results. Strength training essentially involves working against some type of weight or resistance to build strength.

The Benefits of Strength Training

Many people who decide to begin exercising with weights and doing strength training do so because of the incredible benefits they can realize. Strength training can be difficult, but reaping the rewards of adding weights to your exercise regimen can provide numerous benefits for your health and wellness, some of which include:

  • Improving physical performance
  • Stronger bones
  • Increasing muscle strength
  • Improving the ability to control body movements
  • Increasing walking speed
  • Alleviating depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Accelerating healing ability post-injury
  • Reducing belly fat 
  • Enhancing cognitive function
  • Increasing self-esteem and energy levels

Beginners will need to start out their strength training two to three times a week to experience the maximum benefits. It’s also important to rest each muscle group for 48 hours or more to maximize gains in strength. Working different muscle groups each time you exercise will provide the greatest benefits for those who want to begin strength training. 

person getting ready to lift weights

The Differences in Weightlifting, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding 

People who want to start strength training and using weights may not know which type of exercise is best for them. Understanding the differences between the following three methods of exercising can help you determine which type of workout you would like to do.

  1. Weightlifting

“Weightlifting” can refer to any weight-based strength training, but what makes it different from other types of strength training is the technique. Training for weightlifting focuses more on the lift performed – the “snatch” and “clean and jerk.” Both of these terms refer to lifting the barbell over your head and holding it there long enough to show that you control the weight.

The emphasis for weightlifting is on the technique, and entire workouts could be dedicated just to building the explosive power that allows you to lift the weights, while other sessions may be more on building overall strength with other complementary training and movements. Some of these movements could be front squats, overhead press, and deadlifts. 

  1. Powerlifting

Powerlifting is more centered on brute strength within a single plane of motion. The goal here is to lift as much weight as possible through three core movements: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. The focus is more on raw strength and less on physical appearance. 

Powerlifting is geared toward developing maximal muscular strength and increasing your one-rep max, meaning you are working toward building your strength to lift the highest possible amount in just one rep. 

Workouts for powerlifting will typically involve key foundational exercises, such as the box squat and leg press, that support the lifts that are the main goal. Training will also involve lifting lighter weights to work on your weaker points so you can maximize your strength. 

  1. Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding focuses on progressively building muscle for appearance over strength. Those who want to develop a muscular physique typically train in bodybuilding. This type of strength training involves fatiguing specific muscle groups one at a time for maximum muscle growth, otherwise known as “hypertrophy.” 

The muscle size, proportion, and symmetry of the body are the priority for bodybuilders. The training involved, however, is not as specific as weightlifting or powerlifting because the training is focused on appearance, leaving room for creativity with regimens and routines to develop muscle mass. 

Many bodybuilders will isolate certain parts of the body on their training days so they can maximize their muscle growth and hit all the various aspects of the body. They typically also follow a specific diet and supplementation regimen. 

It’s important to seek the guidance of a qualified trainer when you are first starting out with strength training. Injuries can happen due to improper lifting technique and overuse, so if you make the decision to start strength training, whether that’s weightlifting, powerlifting, or bodybuilding, you should begin training with a personal trainer rather than starting out on your own. 

How to Determine Which Type of Strength Training Is Right for You

There are so many choices for people who want to start getting into strength training. Weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding are all great ways to stay in shape, build your strength, and maintain your health and wellness

The decision as to which type of training you want to do is entirely up to you. You can even try all three for certain sets of time with a qualified personal trainer who can walk you through the different types of strength training methods to find your best fit. 

Get Help Reaching Your Fitness Goals

Bodybuilding and fitness can be complicated topics, but they don’t have to be. Check out other Sports Technology Labs blogs for more information about how to get the most from your training.

Key Differences Between Weightlifting, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding

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