Margaux Parker/The Varsity

Whatever your inspiration , there are a variety of ways to approach weightlifting. It wasn’t until recently that powerlifting and body building became more nuanced. If you’re new to weight training, or working out in general, here are some major differences between the two fitness styles. 


We’ve all seen crazy pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronnie Colman competing for Mr. Olympia — one of the highest level of bodybuilding competition — but how did they get up to that point?  Bodybuilding is a round-the-clock commitment where athletes use cardio and strength exercises in tandem with an emphasis on bulking and cutting: putting on as much muscle mass as possible, and eliminating as much fat as possible from the body in order to get the muscle definition. The goal is to develop a perfect which meets judges’ criteria.             

Bodybuilders emphasize weight training using moderate to heavy weights with a higher number of repetitions that focus on major muscle groups. A common method that bodybuilders use is ‘rep to failure.’ This involves lifting weights until they physically cannot lift anymore. Some bodybuilders incorporate ‘heavy days’ into their training regimen, where they focus on one body part with fewer repetitions. Bodybuilders also incorporate cardio into their routines in order to reduce body fat to maintain muscle definition. In order to become a successful bodybuilder it helps to have amazing vascularity, definition and musculature. 


Powerlifting is often not covered by mainstream media. It involves three lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift. In competition, the individual who lifts the most weight, in each of the three categories, wins.

Powerlifters have a very different training regime than body builders. Powerlifters focus on training specifically for those three events and building muscle that will assist in the attainment of lifting the heaviest possible weight. They train by lifting heavy weights with fewer repetitions because, in competition, only one rep is needed. The emphasis is on triples (three reps), doubles (two reps) and a single, all out rep. This promotes maximum strength rather than defined muscles.

A powerlifter’s diet can be less specific than that of a bodybuilder. Powerlifters eat to provide immense amounts of energy, rather than maintain muscle or build a certain physique. They eat high fat, high calorie and high protein foods in order with a much higher calorie intake than the bodybuilders.  If you look at the body types between powerlifters and bodybuilders, they are quite different. Powerlifters are stockier and have much more fat on their bodies than the average person, and many can be classified as morbidly obese because of their high muscle and fat body composition.

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