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Strength Training vs. Bodybuilding The Difference is in the Focus

Most people who begin pumping iron have only a general goal when they start; to get into good physical condition and build muscle fast.

At some point their goal coalesces and they take the fork in the road that will lead to their destination; developing as a bodybuilder or as a power-lifter.

The tools they use are the same, in general, regardless of which fork they take. Bodybuilders and weightlifters used the same type of weights, the same racks, the same benches and often the same gyms.

How they use that equipment is the difference that defines their goals.

A bodybuilder wants to develop his muscles in shape and size so that they display well. Their workouts consist of heavy weights lifted for multiple repetitions for a number of sets . . . and in an effort to tear down their muscle tissue so that the protein they ingest will rebuild it bigger, stronger and more shapely.

A weightlifter or power-lifter has a goal of lifting as much weight as they possibly can for one repetition. A weightlifter trains for two different lifts; the Snatch and the Clean-and-Jerk.

The power-lifter, on the other hand, trains for three different lifts; the Bench Press, the Squat and the Deadlift.

Both the bodybuilder and weightlifter will, in their training, work up to their maximum weight on each lift by progressively increasing the poundage on the barbell for each set they perform. The goal of the bodybuilder is the maximum weight he can lift for six to ten repetitions. The weightlifter/power-lifter is looking for the most he can lift for one rep.

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The bodybuilder will perform a workout routine that consists of many different exercises for each muscle group, often beginning with high-rep warm-ups and working up in weight until their max is reached.

They then move on to another exercise for the same muscle group, then another. They will complete three to five sets of three to five different exercises for each muscle. A weightlifter will focus only on those exercises that work the muscles used in their two or three competitive lifts.

To balance their muscle exercise and development, they will perform some of the exercise the bodybuilder performs for arms, shoulders, chest and legs, but their goal is to strengthen them, not to build the muscles.

Many weightlifters and bodybuilders began their workout careers in one form of the training, only to switch to the other side of the gym as they developed more defined goals.

The great bodybuilder and trainer, Bill Pearl, said it best. Remarking about bodybuilding with weights, he said, "Lift like a bodybuilder, not a weightlifter." His point was that bodybuilders should be lifting heavy weights, but for multiple reps. If they were most impressed by how much weight they could lift for one rep, they should be weightlifting or power- lifting instead.

All of us who pump iron as bodybuilders still like to see how much weight we can lift for one rep on occasion. The risk of injury that could curtail training is always a specter when you do something your body isn't used to, so always have a spotter when you are going for the max.

Weightlifters do develop their bodies, but not in the same shapely, formed manner as do the bodybuilders. Lifting weights, regardless of the reasons for doing so, will develop muscles. Developing shapely muscles does require specialized exercises.

While a weightlifter will do biceps workouts to increase the strength of his arms, he will focus on heavy curls, not the shaping exercises of a preacher bench or sets of incline dumbbell curls.

Thin skin and vascularity is the goal of bodybuilders, while any vascularity that occurs in a weightlifter's muscles is a byproduct of their exercising, not the desired result.

The approach to their diets will differ between bodybuilders and weightlifters. Both want energy derived from carbohydrates, but the bodybuilder will load his system with proteins to gain size. The weightlifter will consume foods that will give him greater strength and endurance.

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