Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating on the Faculty of Exercise and Sport Science, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing advice for better life. Follow him on Twitter.
Bodybuilders and powerlifters seem to be the sovereigns of the physical grandeur, but in the clash of the titans who emerges victorious?
Well, we have all seen some pretty mean powerlifters, but when a bodybuilder shows up, he dwarfs the lifter in terms of muscular prowess.
The truth is that the apparent distinction is not the result of genetics or drugs. Yes, bodybuilders take performance enhancing substances, but this is also true for weightlifters.
Also, your genetics may mean you have a greater predisposition for a certain type of career, but what ultimately sets these two categories apart is the training.
Powerlifters might be jacked, but they are not as jacked as bodybuilders. The latter achieves greater muscle mass and hypertrophy, towering over all others. Few would dispute their mastery of packing on muscle.
Then again, powerlifters focus on the lifting totals and tend to carry a lot of body fat. Burning it would mean they are bidding farewell to some of the muscle gains, and this is not a pleasant thought.
As for bodybuilders, they must never sacrifice the training intensity. Strength is rooted in many different factors, but time under tension is the key to unlocking the great potential of our muscles and stimulating hypertrophy.
What matters is not just the degree, but also the duration, frequency and type of tension. Packing on some lean mass requires one to engage in active tension instead of a passive one. But, the question remains: Is bigger always better?
Strength and size often go hand in hand, but they are not entirely dependent on one another. Strength gains do support the expansion of the muscle cross-sectional area. However, there are ways to take strength to the next level without the need to get significantly bigger.
For example, to avoid the muscle hypertrophy, one can strive to improve the coordination between the muscles. Along with neurological adaptations, this can take you a long way in a quest of attaining prime strength.
Moreover, the execution and type of exercise makes a difference. Line of action and the angles that muscles form during the workout affect the level of hypertrophy, and strength gains.
Namely, larger pennation angle undermines the force-generating capacity of muscles. Interestingly enough, bodybuilders have lower pennation angles than powerlifters, employing different training methods.
They use techniques such as improving the non-contractile elements in muscle cells. This targets collagen, glycogen and other subunits that induce a phenomenon known as “sarcoplasmic hypertrophy”.
Although this does not spur better one-rep max, it results in more muscle mass. A similar effect is evoked with methods that recruit endurance-oriented fibers.
Therefore, resistance training is one of the reasons why bodybuilders get bigger and are able to build supreme muscle endurance. Still, they are not that superior when it comes to absolute strength.
Higher rep ranges, isolation training, and developing better mind-muscle connection are all methods of intensifying muscle gains.
Powerlifters train in lower ranges, and endure less time under tension (TUT).
Bodybuilders, however, endure more muscle failure and higher protein synthesis. While they turn to muscle-isolating workout, weightlifters practice multi-joint lifts. Actual workout is in the spotlight, but do not lose sight of one crucial thing. Having the proper equipment and building healthy habits is a prerequisite for maximum fitness results.
Stay hydrated, eat nutritious foods, and wear appropriate gym clothing. This prevents distractions, pain and injury during sessions, and enable you to stay on track.
Finally, bear in mind that powerlifting is the art of awakening the nervous system and refining the techniques and bodybuilding is about aesthetics, muscularity and constant conditioning.
Powerlifters sometimes opt for bodybuilding training, chasing the pump higher reps, but this better suits the goals of bodybuilders.
The reason why bodybuilders are more muscular lies in training; but the answer is not as simple as many people would like.
For better or worse, bigger does not always mean that someone is stronger, and large people are not vigorous by default.
Exerting maximum force comes through tension and muscle hypertrophy – what also counts is the length of the exercise, as well as a manner of execution and mind-muscle connection.
In theory, it is possible to simultaneously train for both disciplines, and get the best of both worlds.
So, in practice, you are better off picking clear goals and choosing a singular path to physical greatness.