Differences between Weightlifting, Powerlifting & Bodybuilding

I have been asked by a number of friends about the new hobby I recently picked up: weightlifting. An average person will probably be unable to differentiate between weightlifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding which are all considered strength exercises. This article is a primer to help you gain a fundamental understanding of those three sports.

Weightlifting (aka Olympic Weightlifting)

It is an Olympic event, consists of two lifts: snatches and Clean & Jerk. The ballistic movements are highly technical and require explosiveness as well as mobility. This is primarily the reason why I started to cross-train in weightlifting to help develop on-bike power for track sprinting.

Kenneth executing a split snatch
Kenneth executing a clean & split jerk


Powerlifting competitions are made of 3 lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. This sport is a test of ultimate strength. Lifts are typically performed in lower velocity thus the power generation is lower than weightlifting. Funny enough, weightlifting and powerlifting should really swap names to be more intuitive!



Arnold Schwarzenegger is probably one of the most recognizable bodybuilder ever lived. Bodybuilders focus on aesthetics rather than power or strength. Hypertrophy is achieved with a number of repetitions (8-15). Trimming (fat loss) is another critical component leading up to a bodybuilding competition.

Arnold Schwarzenegger