Powerlifting and bodybuilding are two different sides of the same coin. They both require a dedication to intense workouts. Both sports require competitors to get on a stage and show the effects of their hard work. There are also many differences between the two sports.
Powerlifting is a sport that involves lifting the most amount of weight you can for one repetition. The lifts contested are the squat, bench press, and the deadlift. Some competitions involve only one lift (traditionally the bench press.) Lifters are given three attempts at each lift to lift the heaviest weight possible. Then the weights in each lift are added together to get a total amount. Powerlifters compete in various weight classes and age groupings. Strongman (or woman) competitions and Olympic weightlifting are similar to powerlifting but have different lifts.
Powerlifters train using heavy weights and low repetitions. They often focus on the core lifts and do not spend a lot of time doing cardiovascular training. Their diet is not as strict as that of a bodybuilder. They still require lots of protein to feed the muscles and complex carbohydrates for glycogen . They generally do not have to watch the calories as closely, unless dropping weight to make a weight class.
Powerlifters usually have large, powerful shoulders, chest, back, arm, and thigh muscles. Powerlifters do not usually focus on definition. Some may have a natural degree of definition but most are generally thick and powerful in appearance. They often look like bodybuilders during their bulking cycle.
Bodybuilders don’t have to demonstrate their strength on stage, instead they show the results of lifting all those heavy weights; the muscular development. They must flex and pose to show off the muscles that were developed through training. They are judged on the size, shape, and definition of the muscles. It includes a series of predetermined poses and an individual free routine.
Bodybuilders also train with heavy weights to gain size and strength, but they also spend a fair amount of time lifting lighter weights for higher repetitions. They spend time doing cardiovascular work to reduce body fat levels. Diet is a main focus for bodybuilders, whether trying to add mass or cut body fat. They spend a lot of time manipulating nutrients and calories to achieve a goal.
Bodybuilders have large muscles, but their focus is on developing symmetry and balance with all of the muscles of the body. Definitions is a large piece of the puzzle, as well. For true bodybuilding success large, full, well-defined muscles are the goal. During the off-season, between competitions, bodybuilders may look like power lifters, but in competition shape they usually appear very vascular and have low body fat percentages.
Bodybuilders and powerlifters train side by side in gyms and to an observer it would be hard to differentiate between the two. The goals of each are slightly different. The power lifter wanting to gain as much strength as possible, while the bodybuilder wants to create the largest, most balanced muscles possible. Diet is another area where the two sports diverge. Bodybuilders have to spend a lot of time focusing on their diet, while powerlifters do not need to watch it as closely. Even with the differences, the two sports are still very similar, and many lifters crossover and compete in both sports. Whether a powerlifter or bodybuilder, the name of the game is intensity.