Posted By ProjectAD on August 19, 2019
A question Iʼve been asked often the past months since transitioning into powerlifting is; “which do you like more”.
Rather than just give a direct answer I think it would be more interesting to give my own evaluation of the two sports after being in both at a competitive level.
Bodybuilding training is usually high paced, with shorter rest periods and a duration of 60-90 minutes. A bodybuilding workout prioritizes contraction of the muscle and increasing blood flow to an area. For bodybuilding purposes the load on the bar or machine means absolutely nothing in terms of muscle growth.
Powerlifting training is about brute force power. A short powerlifting workout is 90 minutes. While a heavy squat session in wraps can take upwards of 3 hours. Rest periods are usually in the 8-10+ minute range especially when hitting top sets. Specifically isolating muscle groups is not something commonly done in a powerlifting workout but can be utilized. The most important thing in a powerlifting session is the load on the bar.
Nutrition for bodybuilding is the number one most important aspect of a bodybuilders success. Every nutrient placed into the body has a specific purpose, from the way itʼs cooked or the exact time itʼs eaten. Foods are timed and programmed around the workout to ensure proper digestion, nutrient uptake, muscle protein synthesis, all that fancy science stuff.
Powerlifting nutrition is basic, hit your protein needs. Then fill the rest of your calories in with carbs and fats at any ratio or timing. Obliviously there are better ways to do it, but the diet aspect beyond getting enough food for powerlifting isnʼt as important. Iʼm speaking from a total performance standpoint and not health. I know powerlifters who eat absolutely junk everyday and have monster totals and know guys who eat like bodybuilders and have monster totals. The difference is they way the look.
This is where bodybuilding and powerlifting differ the most. Bodybuilding can and will put an extreme stress on your relationships. People tend to become much more irritable, selfish, and non social in the latter stages of a prep. Which is expected when dieting that hard for long durations.
While powerlifting becomes just as selfish at the end of a prep as you spend more time in longer training sessions. It does not lend itself to being irritable or dieted down. As during the end of a meet prep you are eating tons of food and recovering extremely well (at least you should be).
A bodybuilding show is the most laid back aspect of a bodybuilding prep, the work is done and minus adding the finishing touches of a few carbs and a tan thereʼs nothing left in your hands to do except flex you muscles on stage. The worst part of show day is the lack of water and desire to shower and wash off the tan. Other than that show day is about just relaxing. The biggest issue is the egos are insane. Everyone is checking each other out sizing them up and ultimately telling themselves why theyʼre better. Then the judging is 100% subjective. Everyone has a different idea of what a bodybuilder should look like and you are at the mercy of the judges opinions.
Powerlifting meets are one of the funnest things you can do whether spectating or competing. As a competitor the nerves are high and the focus is on level 1,000. Every hour of training will come down to the next few hours. The 8 hour day flys by during a
meet. Everyone is friendly, everyone will help you out or assist you in any way. And while there can be some issues with judging calls at the end of the day if I lift 101 lbs and you lift 100. I win.
There is so much more that can be compared and contrasted between the two. I will say a bodybuilding show is more rewarding as that moment on stage is usually the best you will ever look. In powerlifting having the perfect day and hitting all the numbers you want is a fairytale as something will always put a snag in that plan leaving you asking what if even after the most successful meets. Both endeavors will take a toll on your body and health when competing at a high level. Getting to sub 8% body fat is not healthy, but neither is squatting hundreds of pounds either. Powerlifting gives you a set goal, you know exactly the number youʼre looking for where as bodybuilding is a “look” and you never know if youʼve achieved it.
For me the sport of choice right now is powerlifting. I know that I can be extremely Competitive on a high in powerlifting in the coming years. Plus this level of stress on my body and joints is better done while my body is young and resilient. The bodybuilding stage is not going anywhere and I will return to it in time. For that reason I maintain a bodybuilding style diet which I feel boosts my performance. And while the weight on the bar is my ultimate goal I donʼt neglect building muscle either.
Thereʼs a way to do both. And I plan to prove that in the long term. But for now itʼs all about the total.