Powerlifting vs. Weightlifting – What is the Difference?

Jeff Baldelli
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What is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is a type of weightlifting. It uses three lifts to determine the maximum amount of weight a competitor can lift. These three lifts are called the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. You’d be hard-pressed to find a powerlifting tournament that doesn’t include all three of these lifts, and powerlifters can also compete with each other doing just one of the three lifts (though there are tournaments for that, too).

Powerlifting evolved from Olympic weightlifting and was created to allow the strength of any weightlifter to be fairly and accurately measured. Powerlifting matches are held in a 3´3´3 format. The lifter starts with the barbell on the ground, has 3 tries to lift it, and then finishes the lift.

What is Weightlifting?

Weightlifting is a sport that consists of two disciplines: the snatch and the clean and jerk. It is played individually or by teams of 2. Weightlifting is easily recognized by people who practice it by the strong emphasis on the back and core.

Weightlifters are judged on how well they lift a barbell, not how their physique looks. This is what differentiates it from bodybuilding.

Like any other competition, there are weight divisions. The heaviest weight division is the super heavyweight, which can go up to 300 pounds for men.

There are numerous benefits to weightlifting; a 2016 study at the University of Georgia reports that, “The United States military has been a pioneer in the leisure time physical fitness of its soldiers, with a rich history of integrating physical strength with physical exertion. Its four main requirements for an operational soldier … are self-sufficiency, physical conditioning, discipline, and adaptive capabilities. Given the positive effects that physical training can have on these attributes, the role of the military weight training programs will be to increase physical power and endurance in a way that is safe, simple, and effective.”

Weightlifting has many benefits – and you don’t need to be a member of the military to partake in it.

Strength vs Power

Strength is the foundation of any weightlifting program, and most people are testing their strength every single day. If you pick something up, you are testing your strength. Your training should be based on your own strength levels.

Power is the demonstration of force in as little time as possible.

Weightlifting is a sport based on strength where you lift a weight over a bar as high as possible. Powerlifting is a sport where you lift a weight over a bar as fast as possible. As you might imagine, these two sports require very different technique.

The ruling body for each sport is a little different too.

Weightlifting is governed by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) and Powerlifting is governed by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). This does not mean that there is a schism between the two, however. It’s like the difference between chess and checkers.

Interestingly enough, there is also a massive misunderstanding between the two sports. Many think that powerlifters do not practice the lifts with a high level of technical skill.

This is untrue and should be taken with a grain of salt. Most powerlifters are very aware of physics and utilize Newton’s laws of motion when performing the snatch and the clean and jerk. They may choose to set the bar lower when setting a PR, in order to move the weight more quickly.

Force vs Technique

Powerlifting vs weightlifting is a classic comparison that has been in sports for a long time. Powerlifting requires a person’s strength to be at a premium, whereas weightlifting requires a person’s technique to be at a premium.

Powerlifting is more complicated than weightlifting. It is a sport about strength which is made up of three lifts “ the squat lift, the bench press lift and the deadlift lift. These lifts work the muscles in different ways.

For instance, the squat lift targets the strength of the quadriceps muscles, the bench press weight targets the triceps which are on the back of the arms and the deadlift weight targets the gluteus which are the muscles of the buttocks.

Each of these lifts helps you build muscle strength and power in a specific area. This is also the reason why powerlifting requires a person’s technique and concentration to be perfect.

A person that is getting ready to do a powerlifting lift must be aware of their posture, breathing and stability. All of these aspects help a person lift a maximal load. When looking at how to move the weight, a person should not waste their breath on a loud exhale. Instead, they should concentrate on their concentration to strengthen the muscle.

Brawn vs Beauty

Do you ever feel a tad embarrassed as you cringe at the thought of going to the gym because you know you’d rather hang out with your friends than pump iron? It’s really a waste of time to sit there – you’re really there to let your parents know that you’re serious about fitness.

Two types of activities that people commonly engage in at the gym, or anywhere else for that matter, are weightlifting and powerlifting. Both are really the same thing with a different twist. It’s all about strength, but the way in which that strength is used really makes a difference when designing your workout routine.

What Is a Powerlifter

A powerlifter would typically use less repetitions, each repetition would be over three seconds, and, with the heavy weight being lifted, there is the addition of leg pressing.

To put it simply, they strive to have maximum potential for strength. It’s for powerlifting that you see many people sporting extremely bulky bodies, especially arms and legs.

The added repetitions and working out the smaller muscle groups are what produces these unusual proportions.

Considerations when Choosing Powerlifting vs Weightlifting

There are several differences between powerlifting and weightlifting. One is the equipment used. For weightlifting, you will need dumbbells while powerlifting requires squat racks, barbells, and other equipment.

The move selection will also be different, as well as training volume and intensity. Powerlifting places a larger emphasis on the individual lifts while weightlifting stresses the overall body composition.

Since powerlifting also has a competitive aspect to it, it generally offers better coaching and programs for those looking to compete.

And of course, there are differences in the physique you will obtain with each. While weightlifting is a great way to build overall strength, it is not specific to the development of power and explosiveness. Powerlifting on the other hand will increase power at the expense of general muscular strength.