It’s tough to compare the two, and even tougher to succeed in both. The lifestyles of bodybuilding and powerlifting are so different, while being similar at the same time. I have lived both, and find myself always back in the powerlifting realm. It’s pretty obvious to see which pictures are from which phase of my competing. I am happy I had the self-discipline to follow through with both, but after 5 shows, I am retired from bodybuilding.
Bodybuilders focus primarily on building muscle, losing fat, contest preparation, or simply maintaining size and strength. I found that even though I was at my leanest, looked great, got the most compliments, and got to dress up all fancy for my shows, I didn’t walk away feeling accomplished no matter what placement I received.
Powerlifters direct their attention to getting as strong as possible on the core lifts such as the deadlift, squat, and bench press. With this type of training, I get excited to go to the gym every day knowing I am getting stronger. I also love all the food, both clean and dirty, I get to eat on this plan. There is a lot more flexibility in this lifestyle.
Both bodybuilders and powerlifters incorporate the principle of experimentation into their regimens. It’s imperative to discover what works for you and what doesn’t. For bodybuilding purposes, it’s important to experiment with your nutrition and training. Only for my last 2 shows did I hire a coach; I love the opportunity to learn by manipulating my own diet and training regimen to see the changing outcome. I knew these last shows were going to be my last, so I sought out the help of another trainer who specializes in bodybuilding prep.
Both bodybuilders and powerlifters also incorporate the idea of sleep and recovery. Think about it, both types of programs are breaking down muscle fibers on a constant basis. Therefore, recovery and recuperation is key to attaining your goals. There are adverse effects of overtraining, and they can be crippling.
Both bodybuilding and powerlifting take quite a bit of mental preparation. For bodybuilders, this includes having the mental capacity to keep going and never giving up when you’re practically running on an empty tank, just 2 weeks out of a bodybuilding contest. For powerlifters, this means having the mindset to nail that 650 pound deadlift no matter what!
Bodybuilders train for pure size, where as powerlifters train for brute strength. Training for the powerlifter implies training in a very low rep range – 2-4 reps and many singles is the crux of the powerlifter’s routine. These reps are completed with maximal weight broken up with extremely long rest periods.
Bodybuilders are more concerned with diet and appearance than powerlifters. A powerlifter typically doesn’t care about appearance (I still do of course), as the main goal in the sport of powerlifting is to move as much weight as possible (this is still true). Proper diet either makes or breaks a bodybuilder’s appearance, and that is why it is imperative for bodybuilders to make smart food choices. Food choices also make a difference in powerlifting, but there is certainly a lot more “dirty” food than in bodybuilding. For example, I typically have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before leg day and back day.
Have you ever seen a powerlifter do cardio? I didn’t think so. Right now, I still do some since it’s summer and I’m not prepping for a meet, but when I get into a powerlifting prep, I only do power movements (depth jumps, broad jumps, box jumps etc). Bodybuilders focus not only on strength training and diet, but on cardio as well. When losing fat or preparing for a contest are the goals of the athlete, cardio is absolutely key.
Both powerlifting and bodybuilding have their benefits. For example, both sports teach the athlete the importance of discipline and dedication. You have to have the perseverance to hit that big squat or place within the top 5 competitors in your show. You have to possess the dedication to commit yourself day in and day out.
One of the biggest benefits of bodybuilding is the fact that it improves your appearance significantly. As a result, you will have more confidence and be much happier with yourself. Not to mention the fact that you’ll now be sexy AF. For me, I felt “skinny” and didn’t really like the physical changes that were happening, but for most, they consider show prep to be when they were in the best shape of their lives! When I am in powerlifting mode, I am around 22-24% body fat, and definitely have some curves that come from storing a bit more fat.
If I am not getting ready for a show or a meet, I just live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I lift heavy, but do some isolation work too. I eat 80% clean 20% dirty and am happy to go out with friends to a brewery or out for froyo with some of my younger clients. I love hiking and doing all the outdoor Colorado things just as much as I love being in the gym. I could easily run a 5k if I wanted, but can also deadlift 265 like a beast. Life is all about moderation, and that is what I live by and teach to my clients.