Though mostly confused for each other, bodybuilding and powerlifting are very different both in approach and goals. They, however, share a number of factors that can be attributed to the confusion many people have towards them. The most common however is the fact that they both involve the same lifts. The only difference is the rep range used in each type of lifting.

We will be covering the differences between these two sports. To give you a clear picture of both, we will begin with covering what each of them is.

powerlifter stood next to bodybuilder


Bodybuilding is a sport that incorporates a number of exercises that include dumbbells, barbells and hypertrophy machines. These exercises are optimized for strength training, bulking, cutting and cardio. Bodybuilders also take a much keener interest on dieting, much more than powerlifting, and have to create a nutrition plan that consists of combinations of drinks, foods and supplements.

The major aim of bodybuilding is to build a person’s physique to hold the maximum amount of muscle possible with as little body fat and water as possible. The winner is judged based on their symmetry, skin tone, posture, vascularity, pose, and attitude.


Powerlifting on the other hand consists of three major lifts: the squat, bench press and the deadlift. The goal of this sport is to lift the highest weight in each of the three lifts. Powerlifters are also less concerned with diet compared to bodybuilders and anything goes for most of them.

This is because judging is not based on the aesthetics of the athlete but rather on their maximum power output. Training may also include exercises like overhead presses, power variants, bands and more. These are however used to supplement the three major lifts.

The differences

From the descriptions of the two sports, it becomes pretty obvious that the sports are quite different. More differences include:

1. Training for powerlifters is geared towards building brute strength while bodybuilders train for size. Powerlifter training includes low rep ranges of 2-4 reps while that of bodybuilders includes high rep ranges.

2. Appearance and diet matter to bodybuilders much more than powerlifters. Though they also diet, powerlifters care less about what they eat. They are more concerned about their calorie intake. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, need to make smart food choices as this can make or break their appearance.

showing the difference in physiques between bodybuilder and powerlifter

3. Apart from dieting and strength training, bodybuilders pay a lot of attention to cardiovascular training. Powerlifters pay no attention to cardio because it does not tie in any way with their sport.

4. A powerlifter’s training is more focused on full body lifts. They, however, incorporate other exercises to train every body part. Bodybuilders use compound movements and accessory lifts with the aim of targeting every muscle group to ensure optimum development of the muscles.