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Bulk vs brawn: Decoding the differences between bodybuilding and powerlifting
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Bulk vs brawn: Decoding the differences between bodybuilding and powerlifting

While both forms of sports involve lifting weights, distinct differences lie in terms of their fitness outcomes  

While both bodybuilding and powerlifting involve lifting weights, there are distinct differences in terms of their fitness outcomes

Bodybuilding and powerlifting, both intense competitive sports, demand high levels of fitness and endurance. Their overall benefits make them an indispensable part of all fitness regimens that involve lifting weights, often setting the stage for debates regarding choosing between the two. Though the primary exercises involved are the same, there are fundamental differences between bodybuilding and powerlifting in terms of the purpose they serve in one’s fitness journey.

The approach to exercise and diet are different for each sport. While that makes them complementary in many ways, it can be counterproductive if the routines are not planned correctly. “Although bodybuilding and powerlifting are strength sports or activities, the focus is different in terms of fitness,” says Anas Hussain, a fitness consultant and bodybuilding coach from Kochi, Kerala. “Powerlifters aim for strength. They emphasize the three main lifts — squat, bench press and deadlift — attempting to lift maximum weight in each. On the other hand, bodybuilders focus on sculpting their physique for visual appeal, focusing on developing muscle size, symmetry and esthetics.”

Samir Mandal, a fitness coach and former national-level powerlifter from Ahmedabad, explains the scoring system involved in competitive powerlifting and bodybuilding, shedding further light on their fitness outcomes. “In powerlifting competitions, a participant needs to lift weights for bench presses, deadlifts and squats; the maximum weight lifted in each exercise is added to get the score. In the case of bodybuilding, points are allotted based on an individual’s overall appearance, taking into account various parameters,” he elaborates.

Workout plan and dietary needs for bodybuilding

Muscle isolation serves as the cornerstone for bodybuilders. They need balanced muscle growth, which is why they target each muscle group separately. “Bodybuilders prioritize muscular development for physique enhancement. Hence, they incorporate higher repetition ranges into their workout routines, focusing on isolation to achieve muscle hypertrophy [increased muscle mass] and definition,” explains Hussain. The workouts include compound and isolation exercises with varying rep ranges and mixed intensities. This provides adequate rest to the muscles trained, promotes muscle growth and prevents overtraining, which can hinder progress.

A meticulously planned diet is also essential to control the body fat percentage. “A diet that supports muscle growth and recovery should be followed,” informs Hussain. “It should include a well-balanced mix of macronutrients with an emphasis on protein intake, typically ranging from 1.6–2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight to support muscle protein synthesis. Bodybuilders often consume smaller meals throughout the day to ensure a steady supply of nutrients and control body fat levels.” The overall calorie intake plays a crucial role during the bulking and cutting phases; a calorie-surplus diet is required during the bulking phase, while the opposite needs to be followed in the cutting phase.

Training regimen and nutritional requisites for powerlifting

In the case of powerlifting, people focus on increasing their 1-rep max for bench presses, deadlifts and squats
Powerlifting aims at increasing one’s strength through exercises like bench presses, deadlifts and squats.

For powerlifters, the goal is to increase their 1-rep max (the maximum weight one can lift while doing a single repetition of an exercise) for bench press, deadlift and squat. Apart from these exercises, the training routine should also include assistive workouts that help increase the 1-rep max. “Exercises like lunges, leg extensions and curls, dumbbell chest presses and back extensions play an important role in this regard,” shares Mandal, emphasizing the importance of strengthening the smaller muscles of the body. This can be achieved through assistive workouts involving moderate weights and higher repetitions.

“In the case of powerlifting, round-the-year practice is needed,” shares Mandal. “If someone intends to hit their peak on the day of the competition, then weightlifting and assistive workouts should be done throughout the year.”

He also cautions, “Some common mistakes people make during powerlifting include a lack of warm-up and cool-down exercises, an improper diet and inadequate rest. All these factors increase the chances of injury.”

Powerlifters don’t need a meticulously planned diet like bodybuilders. As powerlifting competitions have different weight classes, the goal is to maintain the body weight for the desired category. The body needs energy to lift heavy weights; hence, it’s crucial to ensure adequate carbohydrate and fat intake for effective results.

Takeaways

  • While the main exercises involved in bodybuilding and powerlifting are the same, the differences lie in their fitness outcomes. Powerlifters emphasize strength, whereas bodybuilders focus on sculpting their physique for esthetic purposes.
  • Focusing on muscle isolation, bodybuilders incorporate higher repetition ranges in their workouts to increase muscle mass and definition. In addition, they need to follow a well-planned diet to control their body fat percentage.
  • Powerlifters focus on increasing their 1-rep max for bench presses, deadlifts and squats. They also need to ensure adequate carbohydrate and fat intake for energy.

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