Powerlifting, Weightlifting, Bodybuilding & CrossFit. What’s the difference?


These are very much simplified descriptions of various heavy iron based sports and competitions to start beginners down the right path, I suggest if you’re a beginner that you do a little more research into the discipline you would like to partake in before beginning your journey, it could save you years of blood, sweat and terrible injuries.


Let’s begin with Powerlifting & Weightlifting, they are often confused as the same thing and to be fair to the untrained eye, its an easy mistake to make, they’re both about lifting as much iron as naturally (we’d like to think) possible.

On the surface the biggest most obvious difference is the competition technical lifts that are used, powerlifting has the almighty three (squat, bench press, deadlift) and weightlifting has more momentum based moves such as the snatch and clean & jerk. While powerlifting competitors need a certain amount of technique when lifting, particularly to avoid injury, its mostly about lifting as heavy as possible in any way possible,whereas it’s brother weightlifting is still about being a beastly weight freak but it needs just as much focus on timing and technique, such that even though it’s a weight the lifter can handle, if the timing or technique are off, they’ll miss and fail the lift.

Pretty much anyone who lifts weights in a gym will perform, hopefully with intent to improve, the gym dance trio, squat, deadlift and bench press, hopefully with the form and elegance they deserve. Momentum based lifts are performed much less for various reasons but its usually due to the fact that they look like awkward injury factory’s, plus you never hear the words “how much can you clean and jerk, bro?”.

While this is true, nothing makes you feel more like you’ve conquered the gym than nailing a clean & jerk personal best, it’s a high fives all around kind of feeling. I would highly recommend learning the skill involved in these by doing your research, starting off with a frustratingly low weight, perfecting the form and giving it a proper good go. Who knows, you might like it.




Bodybuilding is an entirely different kettlebell of fish, all the lifting of the iron is done pre-competition and the competition goal is to have a better overall aesthetic than your fellow competitors. Bodybuilding is broken down into Female and Male categories, Each having a various amount of subcategories, the most popular are as follows:


  • Bikini
  • Figure
  • Physique
  • Body Fitness
  • Classic Bodybuilding


  • Physique
  • Body fitness
  • Classic Bodybuilding
  • Bodybuilding

Training for a bodybuilding competition is not much different than powerlifting and weightlifting but instead of solely focusing on how much weight you can lift, you’re looking to create hypertrophy with in the muscle, hypertrophy is the term give to the growth and increase in size of the muscle cells, its focused on creating as much muscle mass gain with as little fat mass gain as possible.

Usually through a series of cycles called “bulking” (however this term has gotten out of control need banning), which is the phase eating above  maintenance calories allows you to gain muscle mass and “cutting” is consuming below your maintance calories allows you to reducing your overall fat percentage. Over the years you should be honing techniques to prevent fat gain on a mass gain phase and to prevent catabolism (The name given to the process of your body breaking down muscle to create energy) while cutting.

In the pre-weeks to a competition bodybuilders put themselves through what can be a gruelingly strict meal plan and exercise routine, if you look into many different interviews with ex IFBB PRO bodybuilders they often mention how not just physically but mentally draining the whole process can be,  such that it can effect time with friends and family. It’s a very slow process which is why many newbies give up.

If you’re planning on taking it to a pro level, a coach is recommend, preferably one that has compete before and understands the process and when you FINALLY nail that 1st place prize it’ll feel absolutely worth it. If you’re not planning on going pro but wish to improve you overall aesthetic then I would recommend looking into hypertrophy protocols, taking it slow, changing a few bits of your lifestyle at a time and sticking with it.





Finally, CrossFit, the marmite of the fitness industry. If you know what it is you either think its great or you think it’s a load of BS, it was founded by a man named Greg Glassman, this description is taken from the official CrossFit website; www.crossfit.com:


“CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. These are the core movements of life. They move the largest loads the longest distances, so they are ideal for maximizing the amount of work done in the shortest time. Intensity is essential for results and is measurable as work divided by time—or power. The more work you do in less time, or the higher the power output, the more intense the effort. By employing a constantly varied approach to training, functional movements and intensity lead to dramatic gains in fitness”


Which in non-CrossFit speak, is essentially a taking all the globally accepted activities that are completed in a gym, putting them in a blender and adding a large cup of stopwatches.  Now one of the main reasons its considered by many to be the ugly cousin of fitness, is the time element, it forces you to complete complex exercises such as multi jointed powerlifting movements as fast as humanly possible, which let’s face it, is bound to lead to bad form and in time worse injuries.

And yet here we are with hundreds of thousands of people around the world singing its praises, it can’t be all bad right? I must admit I was skeptical when my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to come along for a session but never the less I went with an open mind. I Would like to lie to you and say it was crap, however, it really wasn’t. While I wouldn’t recommend it more than once every week or two, the feeling you have after you’ve forced your body past what you perceive to be your limit in mental and physical fitness, you gain a sense of euphoria.

it’s probably due to the pure adrenaline that’s coursing through every single square inch of your body plus the community of people are great, they really get you through it and I guess that’s what it’s all about.


Leave a comment below on what discipline you follow and what your advice would be to beginners looking to start out, show the newbies how it’s done.



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