Powerlifting Vs Bodybuilding for Women

Ok girls, you might’ve been weight lifting for a while now, or you might be fresh faced and excited to hit the bar. Either way, if you’re thinking of building muscle and strength training, you might be choosing between two disciplines – powerlifting vs bodybuilding.

If you’ve spent any time in a gym or any kind of fitness community, you will have heard of these two. But when everyone’s lifting weights and slaying their workouts, it’s not always clear what they are, or how they differ from each other.

To help you decide what works for you, we’ve created this comprehensive guide. Read on to find out if you’re a lifter or a builder.

Article preview:

  • Powerlifting vs. bodybuilding
  • The benefits of powerlifting
  • The benefits of bodybuilding
  • How are powerlifting and bodybuilding similar?
  • How are they different?
  • How to train for powerlifting
  • How to train for bodybuilding

Powerlifting vs. bodybuilding

Now, we’re not saying you need to pick one and get yourself up on a platform or stage in a few months. These two disciplines are actually defined by two underlying goals. Powerlifting is all about strength and bodybuilding is focused on physique.

So, if you just want to feel stronger, a powerlifting program will definitely help. Similarly, if you want to change your physique, a bodybuilding routine is a great idea. You don’t have to go all out pro, you can just work these into your fitness plan and reap the rewards.

Don’t get us wrong, whichever one you do you’re gonna look absolutely fiyah in your fitness leggings and easily dominate the weights room. But if you pick a certain focus you can customize the way you train to get optimal results and hit your target at double speed.

Not sure which one is for you? Read on, girl.


Woman a the top of a deadlift in powerlifting vs bodybuilding

The benefits of powerlifting

We’ve all seen the powerlifting girls out there. Lifting some serious loads, smashing big bar lifts and being an all-round girl-boss in the weights room. We’d be lying if we said weren’t jealous of their prowess when it comes to nailing the big stuff.

Powerlifting is comprised of three main power lifts – squat, deadlift and bench. As a powerlifter you’ll drill these movements for all over body strength. Your aim here is to get strong and lift heavy.

You’ll work accessory, isolated exercises as well as the main lift to build additional strength and keep the power gains rolling in.

The main benefit of powerlifting training is that you’ll feel stronger. Because of the compound lifts involved, you’ll also have a well-rounded physique and build strength across your whole body.

It goes without saying that powerlifting will give you some serious power and muscle growth. With more muscle comes a plethora of health benefits. Here are a few:

  • Longer life – With a strong muscle base you’ll be healthier and you’ll add years to your life
  • Weight control – Muscles burn more calories than fat, so if you’re looking to lose fat, it’s a real gamechanger
  • Reduced risk of injury – By growing muscle, you can add an extra layer of protection to your body, craft a stronger physique and reduce the risk of injury. Great for day to day life and if you play sports
  • Healthier life – Muscle helps to reduce fat levels, therefore putting you at less risk of diseases. For example: high blood pressure, cholesterol and even diabetes


toned woman building muscle in powerlifting vs bodybuilding

The benefits of bodybuilding

These are the girls with the spot on, perfectly crafted physiques. They’re toned, they smash the most intense looking workouts and they know how to rock their fitness wear.

Bodybuilding is a slightly different type of training. Compound lifts like squats, deadlifts and bench still play a big part in workout routines, but the focus is more on building size than strength. You’ll still get stronger, but that’s not your main aim here. You’re trying to grow muscle to craft your goals bod.

The benefit of bodybuilding is you’ll see the results in your physique. You’ll grow stronger, but you won’t get the same power you would if you trained for powerlifting. The more immediate result will be the muscle gains.

Once you have this style of training nailed, you’ll be able to craft muscle in a way that will help you achieve the physique you want. If that’s your goal, you’ll also benefit from that superhuman feeling – heightened confidence.

If all that wasn’t enough, you’ll also get the health benefits you see above for powerlifters too. You’ll be more muscular, and if you’re really into it, you’ll also cut down your fat levels, making you healthier.

[infobox] Key Takeaway: You’ll get amazing health benefits from both powerlifting and bodybuilding [/infobox]

How are bodybuilding and powerlifting similar

  • Both powerlifters and bodybuilders go through a loading phase where they aim to achieve a calorie surplus to build muscle. To a bodybuilder this is called a bulking phase and is usually in off season, when they can afford to have a little more fat on their body. A powerlifter also has a high calorie phase where they work intensely to build muscle and increase strength, although it tends to be longer, and there isn’t really a fat loss phase.
  • Both powerlifters and bodybuilders rely on a good amount of sleep to encourage repair and recovery after a workout. They’re both going through intense workouts, where muscle fibers are damaged. Sleep is an essential part of repairing the body.
  • Powerlifters and bodybuilders both use compound movements like the squat, deadlift and bench to build rounded muscle structure.


How are they different?

  • The main difference is the overall outcome. Bodybuilders are aiming for aesthetic, whereas powerlifters are in it for strength.
  • Training is styles are different for powerlifters and bodybuilders. A bodybuilder will have high volume, medium weight reps to grow muscle. A powerlifter will do lower volume reps at a heavy weight.
  • Powerlifters are generally less concerned about burning fat, whereas bodybuilders are all about cutting down for maximum toning.
  • Cardio is a big difference between these two gym fiends. Bodybuilders will hit cardio hard when it comes to shredding season, whereas you’re very unlikely to see a powerlifter on a treadmill.
  • Powerlifters get a whole-body workout, and while they do train accessory movements, a bodybuilder has more of a focus on isolated exercises.
[infobox] Key Takeaway: The main difference between powerlifting and bodybuilding is the end goal, body composition and training methods [/infobox]


So, it’s time to decide girl. Do you wanna get super strong on the double and lift weights that will put the bros to shame? Or are you in it for that toned physique?

Whichever one you choose, we salute you girl. You’re here to get fit, healthy and slay every workout. Once you’ve decided, check out this guide on how to train for the two disciplines.


Woman competing in powerlifting at the bottom of a squat

Add a pre-workout into the mix to get unreal power for your lifts…

Best pre-workouts for women 2021

How to train for powerlifting

To get your power on, you’re gonna need to adapt the way you train. That comes down to two things, perfect your three main compound lifts and alter your rep and set pattern.

To build strength you should be lifting heavy for just a few reps. Although you won’t be smashing out the reps, the weight intensity will be very high, so you’re growing new muscle fibers, primed to handle heavy loads.

You should aim to do 5-6 sets of 3-6 reps. For a beginner a 5×5 routine is a great way to start.

Your workouts will be targeted around your back squat, deadlift and bench press, but you’ll need additional lifts to help you power-up. Here are some great accessory exercises you can perform to boost the strength in your big three lifts:


5 x 5 Back squats and…

5 x 5 Front squats – This will add load through the quads to bring more power to your legs

5 x 8 Hip Thrusts – The hip thrust will focus in on your glutes and strengthen up that booty

5 x 6 Leg Press – This puts your legs right in the firing line, isolating them to build muscle and strength

4 x 8 Calf Raises – Your calves are hard to target, so raises are essential to improving your all-round leg strength and boosting your big lifts


5 x 5 Deadlifts and…

5 x 8 Bent over row – This compound movement will get your mid-back and upper-back firing on all cylinders, perfect for reinforcing your deadlift

5 x 8 Upright barbell row – Work your shoulders and upper back to support your core strength with this movement

5 x 6 Bicep Curl – Strong arms are key to helping you keep hold of that bar. A heavy bicep curl will back up the lift

5 x Good Mornings – Lower-back strength is essential to success in this lift, so bolster yours with good mornings


5 x 5 Bench and…

4 x 8 Pec flies – This works with a cable machine or with dumbbells and is a surefire way to get your chest burning like crazy

5 x 6 Lateral shoulder raises – Strong shoulders are key to a powerful bench, so boost yours with heavy lateral raises

5 x 8 Tricep extension – Your triceps play a big part in stabilizing your lift and creating all-round push strength

4 x 8 Incline dumbbell bench – Incline positioning really helps you to target your upper chest muscles, resulting in an all-round powerful upper-body. As a unilateral movement it will also work the stabilizing muscles you don’t get to touch with a barbell bench


Woman doing a shoulder press as part of a powerlifting workout

How to train for bodybuilding

This type of training is all about working your body in a certain way to achieve your dream physique. To do that, you need to have muscle building techniques down, and that all comes down to reps and sets.

In bodybuilding you’ll need to adopt a high volume, medium load approach to achieve hypertrophy. That means pick a challenging, but not super heavy weight and do lots of reps. Usually between 12-15 reps across 3-4 sets should be enough to activate muscle growth.

On top of that, you should also aim to include cardio in your workout plan. HIIT is the perfect way to approach cardio, as it won’t damage the gains you’ve already made. They’re super quick workouts and will help you burn fat fast.

Check out this article on the best HIIT workouts for female bodybuilders to perfect your physique.

It’s also worth noting that diet is a gamechanger for the bodybuilder. Rather than just eating lots of carbs and protein, you’ll need to have your macros planned out to the calorie – especially when it comes to cutting season. If this isn’t you, you can still practice bodybuilding, you just aren’t likely to get down to that super toned physique – but that’s cool. Not everyone is in it for stage-worthy results and you gotta do you girl. You’ll be getting fitter and healthier either way.

Here are a few typical bodybuilding workouts to start you off on your physique journey.


Legs day

4 x 12 Back squat – Use this as the anchor of your workout, as it works a huge range of muscles for amazing gains

3 x 10 Split squats (each leg) – Focus in on your booty growth with a weighted split squat

4 x 15 Hip thrusts – This will complement your split squats for a burner of a booty workout

4 x 12 Leg extension – Target that leg swoop with this isolated movement. Drop set it for to really work those muscle fibers

4 x 10 Hamstring curl – Achieve perfectly toned legs and give your booty a boost with hamstring work


Back and biceps day

4 x 10 Deadlift – Again, this is a fantastic place to start on your back day, as the deadlift works so many muscles

4 x 15 Bent over row – Super set this with your deadlifts and feel that muscle-growing burn

3 x 15 Wide grip lat pull down – Get your lats working double time with this wide grip variation

4 x 10 Seated cable row – Tighten up your upper back with cables. They provide constant resistance, so your muscles will be working hard at every part of the movement

4 x 10 Straight arm row – Put your lats to work again with another cable exercise

4 x 12 Bicep curls (each arm) – Craft strong, defined arms with a bicep curl. You pick between a straight bar or a dumbbell variation


Chest and shoulders

4 x 10 Bench press – Drill this compound movement to build up chest and shoulder muscle, before you head to more isolated movements

4 x 12 Incline dumbbell bench press – Target your upper chest muscles to ensure well-rounded muscle growth

4 x 15 Cable pec flies – Opt for the cable here to keep your muscles working through every part of this movement

4 x 12 Skull crushers – Target your triceps with a skull crusher to tone up the back of your arms

3 x 15 Shoulder press – Grow your shoulders and achieve an hourglass figure with a strict shoulder press

4 x 12 Cable triceps push downs – Reinforce your skull crushers with this fiyah isolation exercise


The final word

Whether strength is your forte, or physique is your calling, you should now be in a better position to choose between powerlifting vs bodybuilding. Both are kick-ass disciplines, so whichever you choose, you’re going to feel the physical benefits in no time.


Find more fitness wisdom in the pages of our other articles. Check it out, girl:

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button