Weight lifting vs bodybuilding how are the differences defined? In this article I would like to go back to the beginning as this is partly about the men who historically trained using simple weightlifting principles.
So let's dive a little deeper and see some of the similarities and differences between weight lifting and bodybuilding and their athletic history's.
Around the turn of the
last century many of these gentlemen were using ‘Bell-bars’
as you’ll see in older photos, like those shown here.
Most of these were permanently fixed and others could be filled with sand or lead shot/pellets etc. and plugged, to increase or decrease resistance.
As you can see in some older photos, men using what we call today “dumbbells”; these in the day were referred to as the ‘kettle bell’, and these did work well for certain exercises, but did not have the diversity and ease-of-use of the modern dumbbell.
These gentlemen were in their day what the top ranked strongmen are of today. Men like the great Sandow, were revered and looked at as heroes of their day and their strength and muscular conditioning was admired by all: including the favor of the ladies.
Weight lifting vs bodybuilding does have some similar objectives and goals. However bodybuilders primarily use weight training to develop muscle for size and fullness, to be complete and distinct in separation.
Increased muscle density and tone also add to the overall body’s muscular aesthetics.
The attention in bodybuilding does not always have as distinct or direct view toward strength while trying to create this muscularity, like the focus of weightlifting does.
Out side of the competitive bodybuilding arena, many of the everyday people that are weight lifting or bodybuilding never really compete, but instead use the sport and its objectives to not only develop muscular size and symmetry but...
also add to their quality of life through its fitness and dietary principles.
Bodybuilding and its history began to grow in the middle of the last century, then began emerging from the shadows and gained in popularity after the release of the movie pumping Iron, in the mid seventies.
The release of this new movie starring Arnie, including guys like Joe Weider and Bob Kennedy to mention only a few, all helped bodybuilding become main stream.
There where other great bodybuilders of the day from the 50's and 60's that starred in block buster movies that also brought weight lifting/bodybuilding to the cinema audience guys like, Reg Park and Steve Reeves to mention a few. This also helped spark popularity toward bodybuilding.
As competitions began to grow in America and around the world at levels from amateur to professional helped make the sport known.
Bodybuilding began to receive a boost to the sport when certain networks such as (ESPN), began airing these events in the 80's, this of coarse helped the sport of bodybuilding grow even more.
Bodybuilding on its own is competition based, whether it is at an amateur or professional level...
Having said that; when something is made or becomes competitive, often the initial or original idea or goal for taking up the sport can become clouded by competition especially: where cash and prizes are involved.
Because of this; drug use before and during competitions for some individuals can become rampant and uncontrolled.
So in point: bodybuilders that compete are training with the reason or goal in mind to maximize their muscular size, achieve a hard and vascular look by maintaining extremely low levels of body fat, for the purpose of winning the competition their entering.
Within weight lifting specifically, the goal is to
increase overall strength including muscle, tendon and bone mass.
Regarding weight lifting vs bodybuilding; the emphasis in weight lifting is being put on the strictness of the exercise motion, compounded with the use of several different muscle groups at one time, and forcing the body’s nervous system to cope with the progressive efforts of these size and strength, building exercises.
This is done specifically with barbells and dumbbells, but also with the assistance of machinery from which the first two forms of resistance cannot always reach. Also, the use of compound exercises also done with strict form to build overall size and strength is strongly encouraged.
These compound exercises consist of the squat, bent-over-row, dead-lift, bench-press, clean and press exercises and the use of body-weight exercises such as dips and chinning.
As a beginner, these are the core exercises and should be the most practiced. The core compound exercises should remind the lifter this is like the trunk of a tree, and the isolation exercises would be the branches of it.
These branches are just that, they are the exercises branching off of the core exercises. Some of these differences between weight lifting vs bodybuilding, sometimes are not encouraged as strongly as the ones listed above.
Compound exercises usually incorporate two or more muscle groups
at any one time, in power and strength training exercises. Weight lifting
and its exercises that are used by the general public generally are not
competition based, Unless the athlete is specifically training for Olympic or power lifting lifts.
But there are many sports; including the Olympics that weight training is used to develop strength and stamina, to mentally and physically enhance athletic performance. Often for weight lifters, getting down to extremely low percentages of body fat: like those of bodybuilders is not sought-after.
Because weight lifting on its own is not a sport or competition based, beginners through to advanced are taught early on, the importance of goal setting.
Goals can be time, weight or strength based; making and setting these goals and achieving them, is what the weight lifter uses as his or her reward, not unlike the non-competitive based bodybuilder.
At the end of the day regarding weight lifting vs bodybuilding, we all train side-by-side...
Whatever the goals are, or how each
person sets these goals, is not as important as striving toward this physical
and mental effort that each person puts toward self-betterment.
The bodybuilding community over the years has adopted from history’s weight lifters: some of Its principles, techniques, and vocabulary even some of its customs.
Weight lifting does include a lot of diversity and flexibility in
the exercises like barbells, dumbbells and machines, which greatly assists almost all and any athletes at any level.
What ever the bodybuilding borrowed and used from weight lifting in its raw form, has been given back to its own sport and weight training in general. We all use free weights and machines, as this form of resistance is easiest to develop muscle size and strength.
The bodybuilding community along with its scientific study and data has given all of us, a host of new and very usable information. From how muscle and cellular structure work and the kinesiology of their uses.
Also with the use of scientific research and development the need for new and better dietary supplements and eating strategies meaning:(smaller meals, but more of them). A lot of this has resulted from bodybuilding.
Whether you're involved in weight lifting or bodybuilding at a competition or lifestyle better-meant level, the sport of bodybuilding, even though it is highly commercialized, which has helped get it lots of social/media attention,'s has given back so much to everyone interested in lifting.
There are of course, many similarities and parallels that cross and intertwine between weight lifting vs bodybuilding. But historically: weight training has been around for a long time, at least 100 years, as we know it here in the West, but it goes back even further than that, even to the days of the early Olympics.
Advancements in new training Ideas and equipment, has given bodybuilders more freedom and creativity to target specific muscles and muscle groups. This obviously assists bodybuilders in achieving their goals, including weight lifters.
Bodybuilders and their training routines as they reach an advanced level will focus much more deeply on isolation based exercises to be more specific with each muscle group.
Bodybuilding primarily is focusing on muscle size and separation and extremely low body fat percentages and has competitive properties to it.
Weight lifting primarily is a life style, but… Can also be used to enhance strength and reflexes for competitive and noncompetitive athleticism in almost any sport.
Weightlifting focuses on the specifics of the basic compound exercises to increase overall strength and muscular conditioning through the use of barbells, dumbbells and weight machines.
Body fat levels generally are not monitored as closely in these basics in weightlifting and has no competitive properties to it.
Appreciating our history:
The great Sandow was just one of many others during the early part of the last century, who emerged as great strongmen. Our bodies have been built on the foundation of these hard-working and gifted men.
A debt of gratitude is owed to all of these great, strong and hard working men; they have brought so much to weight lifting and bodybuilding, as we know it. As we all work towards each of our goals, I wish every aspiring and advanced bodybuilder and weight lifter the very best in all of your lifting endeavors. DWT