How to Spot the Difference: Bodybuilding, Weightlifting and Powerlifting

Fitnesse HubCo
Aug 19, 2015 · 4 min read

Well-defined muscles, great strength, ideal weight and a perfectly toned body — these are just some of the most common fitness objectives that prod people to start working out using weights. While weight training generally helps achieve overall fitness, not all body types (or body parts for that matter), are effectively targeted. This is the primary reason for development of different workout programs.

In their most basic levels, the different workout routines that utilize dumbbells or weights are bodybuilding, powerlifting and weightlifting. To many workout newbies, these three terms can be confusing especially as even mainstream fitness magazines use them interchangeably. If you’re serious about your achieving fitness through weights, you need to understand how one differs from the other, and determine exactly which style is best suited for you.


While generally used to refer to any exercise using weights, bodybuilding is particularly aimed at building muscle mass. Strengthening and fat loss usually result from this type of exercise.

Usually, bodybuilding workouts are repeated 8 to 15 times in up to 5 sets. Intervals between sets should be not more than 45 seconds. Through this workout, you are expected to increase sarcoplasm, the muscle’s liquid component. Latest research also indicates time-under-tension is emerging as the most important part of this process, hence the short breaks between sets.

Symmetry is very important in bodybuilding, so these routines have been keenly developed to correct any imbalances. While some muscle size imbalances are due to genetics, focusing more on the smaller, undersized muscles while going a little easier on those that develop quickly for you can help you achieve a more symmetrical appearance. Generally speaking, bodybuilders use a mix of compound exercises and isolation exercises to constantly work their muscles out.


Unlike bodybuilding, powerlifting workouts aren’t necessarily for bulking up muscle mass; instead, it targets strength building. It goes without saying that to become stronger, you will need to lift weights and increase as you progress overtime. Fewer repetitions help build the myofibrils, which are essentially your muscular “strength cords.”

During the first few days or weeks of training, you will find see evident muscle size increase and also torch body fat. However, you should not expect to gain lean muscle mass as much as you increase your strength level. Powerlifting is more about strengthening you and the rest of the benefits are ancillary.

Because the powerlifting routine requires you to exert massive effort, it entails more rest periods between reps and sets. This applies to nutrition and sleep as well; you’ll need a lot more calories and get at least 8 hours of sleep. Otherwise, you may risk overtraining and overtaxing your system.

Powerlifters perform as many or more workout sets than bodybuilders, but due to the heavier weights, there are rep limitations. Powerlifting rep usually fall between the 3 and 6 ranges, and it’s not unusual to see a powerlifter doing much more because they can. Unless you are a seasoned powerlifter, do not go beyond or you risk serious damage or death.

Powerlifting is not simply limited to men. In fact, more and more women are showing what they’ve got through this sport! Despite your level of strength or experience in doing exercises, you can never do powerlifting all by yourself. The presence of your training partner or spotter is a must.


As the most generic routine among the three, weightlifting has principles that also apply to powerlifting and bodybuilding routines. In fact, either can be part of a long-term fitness weightlifting plan as the latter mostly aimed at achieving better overall body fitness and health. Whether you are want to build better strength, gain lean muscle mass, tone your body or burn fat, weightlifting is a necessary part of your workout.

Generally speaking, the basics of weightlifting are for the average person and not just for professional weightlifters or athletes. Weightlifting is a lot less strenuous than powerlifting. It does not require adherence to drastic sleep and nutrition plans required of bodybuilders either.

If you’re no professional sportsman, you can include weightlifting in your routine. Use moderate weights of 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps each. Stick to your proper form and remember to consult your trainer when you are adding weights to avoid any form of injury.


If you want to build strength, toughen your core and achieve overall fitness, know the best weight training workout routines for you. Know what bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting can do for you and how you can maximize their benefits.

Fitnesse HubCo

Written by How to Get in Shape. Your guide to fitness and wellness. Mental. Physical. Emotional. Spiritual.