Bodybuilding exists solely for the purpose of “building” the ideal physique (whether that be in the eye of the beholder or for competitive purposes) through weight training and precise dieting.
On the other hand, powerlifting is all about moving the most amount of weight possible with a few, specific compound lifts.
Now, you can do both simultaneously. But, most people would elect to put most of their time and efforts into one discipline since both involve pretty strenuous physical activity and recovery is essential for being able to perform at the highest level possible. And so, if one decides to make the switch from one discipline to the other, it usually involves a strategic process.
So, let’s discuss a few of the differences between bodybuilding and powerlifting plus how you can make the transition process as easy as possible…
Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting Differences
Bodybuilding is all about manipulating body composition in order to achieve a certain amount of muscle mass while minimizing body fat levels as much as possible. And this process results in an aesthetic, very lean and muscular physique that is well proportioned.
Now, you do have to get progressively stronger (progressive overload) to stimulate maximum muscle hypertrophy. But it’s equally as important to ensure that you achieve peak muscular contraction during each repetition. So, although strength is part of the focus, it’s not the main objective.
Bodybuilding also involves higher volume training on average to ensure the adequate breakdown of muscle tissue and time under tension. (1)
Powerlifting focuses on getting stronger in the main lifts which are the deadlift, squat, and bench press.
Repetitions are mostly in the lower range but are more explosive which is still conducive to muscle gains (although this is obviously not the main focus). But, body composition isn’t the main focus. However, muscle and overall body weight are largely related to strength potential. But it’s not the only determining factor for how strong an athlete is as we’ve seen as evidenced by many examples in strength sports.
The ability to maximize body mechanics, your genetics, and other factors also play a role to a significant degree. So, you really do have to know your body to be able to make certain adjustments most beneficial for your performance.
Making The Transition From Powerlifting To Bodybuilding
Diet, training, and recovery are all very essential when it comes to progressing in any fitness regime.
Building big muscles requires a lot of time with the weights (although not too much) and you should be continually implementing progressive overload; which means adding weight to your exercises frequently. And this training structure is similar to what powerlifters do.
And the best way to do this is through the use of the main compound lifts mentioned previously. Using a barbell will allow you to train with maximum poundages and increase the resistance consistently in small increments. You’ll need to focus largely on compound movements to build a solid base with some isolation exercises thrown in which bodybuilding routines usually incorporate a lot.
Bodybuilding training requires more training volume overall and a varying number of rep ranges to stimulate fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers. So it should be apparent that the premise of this discipline is to isolate each muscle group thoroughly and strategically.
Now, most bodybuilders use a training split which separates and combines certain muscles to isolate them with a designated training session. And this is an effective way to structure your workouts. But everyone has a different routine and it’s in your best interest to experiment a little and find what works best for you.
However, we do have many great resources which can be very useful for helping you navigate the process.
Bodybuilding routines place more of a focus on diet (although it’s important for powerlifting as well) which is one of the key components to manipulating body composition and achieving that very sharp, full, and dry appearance.
And although the diet is important for powerlifting, it’s a much simpler process and this is largely what separates a bodybuilder from a powerlifter. Now, protein is very important for supporting muscle mass and strength gains but plenty of complex carbs and fats should be consumed to maintain and support optimal power output and hypertrophy.
So, counting your macros and having a structured bodybuilding diet plan is pretty important, and eating clean food sources which are nutrient-dense is imperative to achieving a precise level body composition. And it always helps to use supplements like creatine and protein powders which do in fact improve performance and body composition according to numerous studies; which support the efficacy. (2)
A good, high-protein diet and carb cycling can help you stay lean by not overeating on your non-active days.
Check out this bodybuilding diet guide.
In order to progress and perform at an optimal level, we must get sufficient recovery through rest and diet. And sleep is one very essential component in maintaining and progressing with your strength performance because a lack of adequate sleep will inhibit your ability to fully recover. (3)
The recovery process is also essential for maximum coordination, which for an athlete, is non-negotiable. Now, as mentioned previously, diet is a big make or break factor when it comes to recovery and also achieving that razor-sharp look.
But, sufficient hydration is often underrated when it comes to maximum strength performance which is directly connected to muscle growth potential. And it’s one component you simply cannot neglect. (4)
Other Important Factors
Another big limiting factor for progress is excessive stress due to external circumstances. Too much of it and the body releases hormones which break down the body and your performance/aesthetics will drop off like you wouldn’t imagine. Now, of course, it’s a normal part of life. But it must be managed by making healthy lifestyle changes conducive to your overall well-being. (5)
Discipline is also a component of weight training that many lifters have a hard time with. You have to be very disciplined and one hundred percent in it to reap the benefits of your efforts. So, create a schedule just as you would any serious fitness regime.
Going from powerlifting to bodybuilding requires you to make a lot of adjustments to your training and nutritional habits. Both disciplines have similarities regarding the three main essential components of any effective fitness routine which are training, diet, and recovery.
But on the other hand, they’re so different in style. And to effectively transition to bodybuilding, keep these simple pieces of information in mind and you’ll be off to a good start. There are numerous, effective bodybuilding routines strategically designed to help you in your journey as well, so always take advantage of your resources.
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