When it comes to growing muscles and chiseling your body, it requires a lot more than just tension. Ask yourself questions about the result you wish to accomplish and what type, duration, frequency, and degree of tension you wish to inflict upon yourself. That is the basis of the difference between powerlifters and bodybuilders. They appear to be doing the same thing to reach their physical peak, but their aims are different and so is their training routine.

Bodybuilders want isolation training, a mind-muscle connection, and higher rep ranges, while powerlifters want to lift the highest possible amount of weight in just one rep. This is the crucial thing that sets them apart, and even though powerlifters look jacked as well, bodybuilders achieve a much different muscle hypertrophy.

#1 Muscle Isolation

Bodybuilder trainings include many single-joint movements, while powerlifters want to lift great amounts of weight using their entire body. A chiseled body doesn’t necessarily mean greater strength, but you will certainly gain size by independently stimulating lats, pecs, delts, and quads. Maximum muscle development can be achieved by training from multiple angles, so the muscles can get worked evenly throughout their entire length. Muscular development can further be maximized through the employment of machine-based training, which allows the targeting of different aspects of muscles due to reduced stabilizer involvement.

2 Pumping

If done properly, pumping can cause bodybuilder muscle gains, even though it is considered to lead to short-term training effects. Pumping causes an increase in protein synthesis due to cellular swelling. When combined with higher rep training routines, muscle growth is guaranteed.

#3 Intensification Methods

Bodybuilders occasionally employ intensification methods, such as drop sets, negatives, training to failure, burnouts, supersets and quad sets, in order to take a set to the limit. These methods are used for delivering additional hypertrophy that can lead to greater muscle growth over time. However, to avoid overtraining, they should be performed properly.

#4 Higher Reps

One of the reasons why bodybuilders get bigger than powerlifters is training in a moderate rep range. This means that the difference in hypertrophy between these two types of lifting athletes is huge. There is a significant increase in the size of Type 1 muscle fibers (also known as ‘slow twitch oxidative’) which is the result of employing higher reps. On the other hand, powerlifters employ low-rep trainings, which doesn’t allow enough TUT (time under tension) for significant muscle fiber development.

#5 Manner of Execution

When it comes to stimulating muscle growth, the manner of execution also plays a vital role. Bodybuilders’ approach to lifting says: I may not be able to lift a lot, but it doesn’t matter as long as my muscles feel the stress. Powerlifters, on the other hand, deal with great amounts of weight in the easiest manner possible. Let’s take the bench press, for instance. Positioning yourself with the bar lowered to your lower chest, narrowing your grip with your elbows slightly tucked in – your lift will be easier. However, if you perform your lifts with the bar lowered to mid chest, your elbows flared, and a wider grip, you will accomplish more with your pecs.

#6 Shorter Intra-Set Rest Times

Powerlifters are known to take up to 5 minutes of rest between sets, while bodybuilders have shorter rest periods (1-2 minutes on average). Increased anabolic hormonal response has been associated with shorter rest intervals, and although it is still not clear whether resistance exercise and its acute hormonal effects contribute to muscle growth, there is a correlation between the amount of growth in Type 1 and Type 2 muscle fibers. Shorter rest times increase the density of a training session, as well as the hormonal milieu and ‘the pump’, which may facilitate a better environment for increasing satellite cell activity and protein synthesis.

If you’re a lifter, define your goals. Is increased muscularity your primary goal? In that case, you shouldn’t try to incorporate too many powerlifting techniques when training for hypertrophy or think too much about your powerlifting totals. If you want to maximize muscle development, don’t stray too far from traditional bodybuilding principles that are clearly proven ways for getting results.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t incorporate periods of lower rep ranges and heavier weights and periodize your routine. Actually, it is a very beneficial strategy. But most lifting professionals believe that you can’t train for both bodybuilding and powerlifting, and be in a win/win situation.

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Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and has spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for a better life. He is an all-around fitness adviser and his words are strong as an Australian Bull. He blogs at Ripped.me

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