On the surface it looks like bodybuilding and powerlifting are the same thing: both have you moving weights. But a closer look reveals that powerlifting and bodybuilding have some important differences.
What Is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting is a sport where you do three major lifts: the deadlift, the benchpress and the squat. All that counts here is pure strength, which is why many a powerlifter will display a higher body fat percentage. Because his performance won’t be judged on his looks, but only on how much weight he was able to move.
What Is Bodybuilding?
A professional bodybuilder in a competition, on the other hand, will purely be judged on how visually appealing his physique is. A low body fat percentage and symmetrical and balanced muscles will therefore have the highest priority for him.
This makes for some fundamental differences in how both have to train.
The powerlifter will always strive to improve his deadlift, benchpress and squat. He may do some variations of them and occasionally throw in an exercise he feels can improve his performance there, but won’t go far from practicing these three.
The bodybuilder has much more variety in the exercises he can choose to do, but simultaneously has to be very careful about his picks. As said above, symmetry and proportion of muscles play an important role for him and he has to keep an eye on what the main muscle, the synergists and stabilizers in his exercises are.
If, for example, he is satisfied with his chest muscles and wants to improve his back and decides to incorporate pullovers for the task, then the result is very likely that both muscles will grow, because pullovers involve the chest quite a bit. In the end the proportions would still not be ideal.
Doing It Professionally Is A Job
The question is: If you don’t want to do either professionally, do you need to overly concern yourself with the distinctions?
My answer is no. Powerlifters and bodybuilders both have to be very strict about how they train, because it is their job. They have to follow these rules no matter if at that moment it is enjoyable to them or makes them feel better.
But if you train to feel and look better, you have the freedom to do that, because that is your goal and as long as you are setting yourself those, reach them and enjoy the journey, all is well.
Here is the video discussing the concept:
Picture courtesy of Brett Jordan.