Powerlifting vs weightlifting is a debate that has been going on for years inside of gyms.
They are both sports that require intense training to reach the competitive level. It’s also essential to not forget that they both also require a strict diet and rest routine if we want to succeed in either of these training styles.
During the following article, we will compare these two styles of training. We will break them both down so you can better understand the different biology of each style of training and how it affects the body and decide which style of training is best suited for your goals.
Not only will we talk about the competitions themselves, but we will also compare the other aspects that separate the two different styles.
Powerlifting – As a Competitive Sport
Powerlifting is a competitive strength sport. Each competitor has three attempts to perform the three lifts: deadlift, bench press, and squat. The competitor can decide the weight for the three attempts of the three lifts, and the only condition is that he/she cannot decrease the weight at any time.
The second attempt must be equal to or heavier than the first, and the third attempt must be equal to or heavier than the second.
In the end, the weights of the three disciplines will be added, and the final score will be obtained. Only valid attempts will count.
Three judges will determine whether the lift is valid or invalid, two at the sides of the rack and one at the front.
Although it is not an Olympic sport, there are a large number of federations with different scoring systems that offer the chance to compete for the first position in their ranking cards.
If you want to compete in powerlifting, you will certainly find a way to do so in your location. There are usually several powerlifting federations in most countries. The main difference you will find between federations will be that some will work with anti-doping testing, and some will not.
Federations that fall into this category are those that test for anabolic performance enhances on competition participants.
However, within this type of federations, there is a big difference between the ways of testing that they apply to their members.
While some of them test each one of the competitors, some manage more questionably, deciding who to test arbitrarily.
In this category, there is no anti-doping testing at all..
This category also is far less technical than the others.
In most cases, competitors in this category of competition usually use anabolic performance enhancements to increase their strength and sports abilities.
However, there are exceptions.
For example, there are countries where there are no federations that perform these tests. In this case, the competitor who uses anabolic steroids will be greatly benefited from those who do not.
Powerlifting Competition Training
The powerlifter’s training will generally be focused on lower repetition ranges and higher loads. Think, high weight low reps, is one key characteristic that separates powerlifting from standard weight lifting.
There are several powerlifting routines that one can choose to include in their program, however, these are not the same planning as those performed by professional powerlifters.
Most of the time, training will fall mainly into two broad categories: Off-season, when the powerlifter has no competition coming up and performs training that will not be aimed at reaching a PR on a given day.
Most powerlifters tend to use this time to try to gain as much muscle as possible, and even also lose fat if they want to drop down in weight class.
What will be present at all times during a powerlifter’s training will be the three major lifts they will perform during competition.
3 Major Powerlifting Exercises for Competing
The deadlift is one of the three movements practiced in a powerlifting competition. Most of the time this is the heaviest of the three lifts, making it the most important for the final score.
This is a highly respected, if not feared, exercise. This is unfounded because if the deadlift is practiced consciously and with good execution technique, it is a safe and beneficial exercise.
Both the conventional deadlift and the sumo deadlift are allowed in powerlifting competitions. Competitors usually choose the variation that allows them to lift the most weight.
In the gym, it is usually practiced at fairly low reps, in the 3-5 rep range unless you are working towards a 1RM.
The muscles that are most involved during the execution of the deadlift are the hamstrings, the muscles on the rear of your quads. Your lats and core are acting as a stabilizer throughout the movement too.
The squat is usually the second heaviest exercise in powerlifting competitions. There are even powerlifters who load a heavier squat than the deadlift. However, this is not the case for most powerlifters, who will lift more in the deadlift than in the squat.
Squats do tend to be performed over a wider range of repetitions. The high-bar squat is generally performed at higher reps, as it is not usually the choice of powerlifters, at least when competing.
The low-bar squat, on the other hand, is usually performed at lower reps. Both work well for building muscle, and several powerlifters who perform the low-bar squat continue to do so in the off-season, at higher reps, to hypertrophy their quadriceps.
The muscles that are most involved during the execution of the bench press are the quadriceps, also using the lower back and core as stabilizers.
The bench press is the last powerlifting competition lift we have yet to name. It is by far the one in which the least weight is usually lifted. However, it is still the favorite exercise of many powerlifters.
There are many different variations of bench press that most lifters and gym goers like to incorporate into their training, such as the dumbbell bench press, incline bench, and machine assisted presses. These are all good variations to include in your workout as different variations of bench press will all help to improve your standard barbell bench press (one used for competition).
Unlike the dumbbell bench press that is usually part of most training routines, whether powerlifting or other styles of training, the one performed in competition is a slow barbell bench press. One of the judges will give the signal when it is time to execute the push, with a short pause coming before this.
The muscles that are most involved during the execution of the bench press are the pectoral, deltoid, and triceps.
Accessory Work – Improving Strength of Stabilizer Muscles
For powerlifters, accessory work is very important. Especially the one that is focused on the most used muscle groups during the discipline: legs, chest, and shoulders.
The most common accessory exercises in powerlifters’ routines are variations of competition exercises. For example, the front squat, Romanian deadlift, and bench press with dumbbells or incline.
Olympic Weightlifting is a much longer-lived sport than powerlifting. Powerlifting is also an Olympic sport but with rigorous anti-doping testing is performed at major competitions.
The rules are very similar to those of powerlifting, what varies greatly are the exercises to be performed. In Olympic lifting, only two exercises are performed in competitions, one less than in powerlifting. These are the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk.
The Weightlifting workout
It is very important to train on the one hand the technique of each movement and not only focus on increasing our strength. The grip is a fundamental part of the movement that must be trained.
Weightlifting grips are hook grips, using the thumb to wrap around the bar and then wrapping the thumb around the other fingers. Two different types of grip can be distinguished, the snatch grip and the loading grip.
The difference between the two lies in the width, there is no fixed number of separation because it depends on the morphology of each person, but as a general rule, the easiest way to calculate the starting grip is to hold the bar with the hands as far apart as possible.
After holding the bar in this way, we lift one of our legs, and if we can move the bar with our thighs, we must increase the distance between our hands until we cannot move the bar.
This exercise is faster but a generally lower weight is lifted and consists of three main parts: pull, movement in which the bar is raised as high as possible, quick drop, a moment in which the arms are extended and in squat position, a moment in which the athlete stands with the bar on the head.
Clean and Jerk
In this case, the movement is slower than in the snatch because the athlete must pause with the bar on the shoulders.
In terms of weight, we usually lift much more weight, because, in the second phase of the lift, the momentum we use with the help of the legs helps to lift the bar over the head.
In this case, we distinguish on the one hand the clean movement in three parts: pull, raising the bar as high as possible, in this case, to weight will be resting on the shoulders. After this, you do what is called a drop, getting under the bar, and then pressing up with quads.
After doing the clean part, the jerk part is performed, which also consists of three parts: dip, drive, and split, squat or catch (any of the three variations works).
Accessory Work – Again, Improving Strength of the Stabilizer Muscles
It is important to note that the definition of accessory in weightlifting is quite different depending on the current, type of coach or school in which we look.
While some use very strict terminology, others are flexible when referring to weightlifting accessories. Most accessories are classified based on the main competition lifts (Snatch and Clean and Jerk).
Thus, if the lift is not performed from the ground and is done from some position of the thigh, we can say that it is a Hang Snatch or Clean. In addition to hanging, the most commonly used term is “power”, in this type we would find exercises such as the power snatch.
In addition to these variations, powerlifters usually also perform hypertrophy work during most of the year. Muscle mass will also play an important role in this discipline even though it requires much more technique and efficiency than powerlifting.
Closing Thoughts – Which Style of Training is Right for You?
After looking at different aspects that surround both of these fantastic sports, you should have enough information to pick which one is for you. Both require high levels of discipline to be able to follow intense workout plans and diets.
If you want to start training to compete in one of these disciplines, it’s recommended that you do so with a specialized trainer, or even better, at a specialized gym or training club.