There are a number of different styles of strength training athletes can compete in, with weightlifting and bodybuilding two of the most popular.
Both training formats have the potential to help you develop strength and power in different ways, but which is the practice best suited for your individual needs?
Before taking a closer look at some of the differences between weightlifting and bodybuilding in terms of the training methods and the associated health benefits, it’s a good idea to briefly explain what the two different types of strength training include.
What Exactly Is Weightlifting?
While the vast majority of weight-based strength training can be referred to as “weight lifting”, competitive weightlifting, also known as Olympic weightlifting, is a sport that only focuses on two dynamic barbell lifts: the snatch and the clean and jerk.
Weightlifting tests an athlete’s ability to perform these two movements as effectively as possible. Similar to powerlifting, these lifts are done with a loaded barbell and you get three attempts to complete each lift.
Athletes are categorized according to their age, gender, and weight, with the highest weights lifted for each exercise added together for a total score. Needless to say, the athlete with the highest combined score in their category wins.
What Exactly Is Bodybuilding?
Unlike weightlifting, bodybuilding is focused on progressively building muscle for aesthetic and strength purposes. Therefore, most athletes tend to focus on one muscle group at a time in order to achieve maximum hypertrophy.
When it comes to competitive bodybuilding, individuals are predominantly judged on their athletic appearance rather than their strength, muscular power, or athletic performance. Characteristics such as muscle size, proportion, symmetry, and stage presence are often the most important factors.
Similar to other forms of strength training such as weightlifting and powerlifting, competitive bodybuilders are separated into divisions based on their weight class and gender. Other notable subdivisions include physique, wellness, and figure - each one containing their own set of rules.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that weightlifting training would be relatively simple considering the practice only consists of two lifts. However, both the snatch and the clean and jerk are highly technical movements, and require you to raise a loaded barbell explosively overhead.
Therefore, if you’re looking to train competitively in the weightlifting discipline, most of the exercise programming is focused on perfecting the technique of the two lifts, as well as developing both explosive power and speed.
In contrast, the training for competitive bodybuilding is considerably less specific than weightlifting as the exercises aren’t typically performed during the final competition. This leaves a significant amount of freedom for creative training methods.
With this in mind, the vast majority of bodybuilders isolate individual body parts and muscle groups when training. For example, one day they might be focused on chest and shoulders, while another is focused on legs. Cardio is also an essential part of training as it aids fat loss.
It’s worth keeping in mind that factors such as nutrition and supplementation are just as important when preparing for a competition, considering the fact that bodybuilding is predominantly judged on an athlete’s physique.
The greatest benefit of weightlifting is the fact that it can help to develop explosive power. What’s more, it also has the potential to recruit more muscles than any other type of strength training, making it an ideal choice for athletes who are targeting fat loss.
On the other hand, bodybuilding is a little more efficient when it comes to developing increases in muscle mass. This is because bodybuilding requires a large amount of high volume resistance exercise, which in turn produces cellular changes to grow muscle tissue.
If you can combine a good bodybuilding training routine with a well-balanced diet, there’s every chance that you’ll be able to simultaneously increase your lean muscle mass and reduce your levels of body fat.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s Better, Bodybuilding Or Strength Training?
Unless you’re solely focused on becoming a competitive bodybuilder, strength training is the best thing to do at the gym. Yes, bodybuilding might be the best practice for developing big, aesthetically-impressive muscles, but strength training is far more beneficial in terms of becoming physically strong and making the activities of your daily life easier.
What Is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting is an individual sport and a type of strength training where the main goal is to lift as heavy a weight as possible in three different exercises: the squat, the deadlift, and the bench press.
Is Weightlifting Dangerous?
As is the case with any type of strength training, lifting weights that are too heavy for you can lead to serious muscle and joint damage. In terms of weightlifting, one of the most common issues is the risk of spinal injuries such as herniated discs.
Is It Easy To Get Started WithBodybuilding?
Yes, one of the best things about bodybuilding is the fact that it can be practiced in pretty much any gym without the assistance of a coach or trainer. If you’re training towards a competition, it’s recommended to start your training by using a combination of free weights and strength training machines.
Is One Rest Day A Week Enough?
This all depends on the intensity of your workouts and your current fitness level. For example, if you’re new to lifting heavy weights, it’s probably a good idea to have at least two rest days per week. However, if you’re an experienced athlete and know the limitations of your body, one day of rest per week should be enough.