20+ Differences Between Powerlifting And Weightlifting (Explained)

Building strength mostly means building muscles, lifting heavy weights, or both. Among sports, weightlifting and powerlifting primarily focus on these.

Therefore, it is no surprise that anyone mistakes them for being a single sport and thinks of powerlifting as a fancy word for weightlifting.

However, powerlifting and weightlifting are very different from each other. They differ on many grounds, including the subdivisions, the priority, the movement of the athletes, and many more.

Knowing them would be enough for anyone to tell whether anyone is powerlifting or weightlifting.

Key Differences Between Powerlifting And Weightlifting

Comparison Between Powerlifting And Weightlifting

Inclusion in the OlympicsPowerlifting is not an Olympic sport.Weightlifting has been in the Olympics for a century.
The nature of the liftAll three lifts in powerlifting are unique. None of them require lifting overhead.Both snatch and clean-and-jerk need the person to lift the barbell overhead.
The score totalThe best scores from the three lifts are added to become the total score.The best scores from the two sections are added for the total score.
The speed of performancePowerlifters lift the weights slowly without any explosive movement.Weightlifters lift the weights quickly. The movement is faster than in powerlifting.
The distance covered by the weightThe barbell covers a short distance, about the length of an arm or a leg.The barbell covers a greater distance, about the height of the person.
The investment in strengthPowerlifters put their entire strength in one action.Weightlifters put the entire strength when they lift the barbell adobe their heads.
Support equipmentPowerlifters may or may not wear support equipment depending on the event.Weightlifters wear support equipment at all times.
PriorityPowerlifting focuses more on strength.Weightlifting focuses on strength and technique.
General buildPowerlifters have a shorter torso in relation to their legs.The torso-to-leg ratio is more in weightlifters.

Major Differences Between Powerlifting And Weightlifting

What Is Powerlifting?

In powerlifting, the athlete has to lift heavy weights under three categories – squat, bench press, and deadlift. For each category, the athlete gets three separate attempts. Powerlifting has two divisions based on the equipment worn – raw(with less to none) and equipped.

Powerlifting is an ancient sport, with the Greeks and the Persians being the earliest known to adopt it. People used to lift heavy stones as a display of strength.

In 1964, the York Barbell Company organized the first official powerlifting event. During those times, powerlifting was known as ‘odd-lifts’ and had multiple events before reducing to the current three.

What Is Weightlifting?

Weightlifting is a sport that involves lifting heavy weights under two categories – snatch and clean-and-jerk. In both categories, the weightlifter gets three chances. This sport focuses more on the athlete’s overall technique and quick, powerful movement.

Weightlifting dates back to many civilizations like Greece, Egypt, India, and China. However, the current form is an evolution of the weightlifting competitions that were held in nineteenth-century Europe. The first weightlifting world championship was in 1891.

Powerlifting Vs Weightlifting All You Need To Know

Contrast Between Powerlifting And Weightlifting

Inclusion In the Olympics

  • Powerlifting- The Olympics Association has not included powerlifting. However, powerlifting is a part of the Paralympics, with the bench press as the only division. 
  • Weightlifting- Weightlifting was an irregular event in the Olympics. However, it is now a permanent event after the 1920 games. In 2000, the Olympics introduced a women’s division as well.

The Nature of Lifts

  • Powerlifting- All three powerlifting categories are specific and unique from one another. The powerlifter has to perform by holding and lifting the weight to a particular point. None of the three involve lifting the weight over the athlete’s head, like in weightlifting.
  • Weightlifting- Both snatch and clean-and-jerk require the weightlifter to lift the weight overhead. Despite the difference in each technique, the athlete pulls the weight from the ground and lifts it overhead.

The Score Total

  • Powerlifting- In powerlifting, the total score is the addition of the best individual scores from the squat, bench press, and deadlift categories.
  • Weightlifting- The total score in weightlifting is the addition of the best individual scores from the snatch and clean-and-jerk categories.

The Speed In Performance

  • Powerlifting- Since the athletes do not have to perform explosive movements for lifting the barbell, they gradually put in their strength. The lack of explosive action allows them to lift the weights slowly.
  • Weightlifting- Weightlifting requires athletes to lift weights quickly. Therefore, the athletes have to put their strength faster. As a result, the motion is explosive and faster than powerlifting.

The Length Of The Lift

  • Powerlifting- The lift length is short in powerlifting compared to weightlifting. The barbell moves from the ground to the hip in a deadlift. The other two have shorter lift lengths.
  • Weightlifting- The barbell moves from the floor to the head in both weightlifting divisions. Therefore, the distance covered by the barbell is far more than powerlifting.
The Lifting Technique Powerlifting Vs Weightlifting

The Investment Of Strength

  • Powerlifting- The overall movement is limited in powerlifting. This simplicity allows the powerlifters to put all their strength at once, which is the main essence of powerlifting.
  • Weightlifting- The extended movement of weightlifting can be easily fragmented. While the action is quick, it does not put much stress initially but uses full strength in the later phase.

Use Of Support Equipment

  • Powerlifting- Although powerlifting uses support equipment, the ‘raw’ division has less or no equipment. Some raw events allow knee wraps or knee sleeves, but the number of equipment worn is minimal.
  • Weightlifting- The weightlifters have to wear adequate support equipment at all times. Weightlifting does not have an unequipped division that requires them to lift without equipment.


  • Powerlifting- Powerlifting events focus more on the athlete’s strength and ability to lift. The technique is mostly uniform for all three categories, so it is not a scoring factor.
  • Weightlifting- In weightlifting, the athletes must equally focus on strength and technique. They can lift as much weight as possible, but if there is any lack in precision, the judges can declare the lift as a ‘failed lift.’

The General Build

  • Powerlifting- Most powerlifting athletes have a lower torso-to-leg ratio. In other words, their midsection is shorter than their legs. 
  • Weightlifting- Most weightlifting athletes have a torso-to-leg ratio higher than powerlifters. The length of their midsection is closer to the length of their legs.
The Athletes Powerlifting Vs Weightlifting

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Is there a difference in the training regimen of powerlifting and weightlifting?

Yes. Because both sports have different priorities, the training will be distinct. Powerlifting training will be more stressful and slow to let the body build up strength.

Weightlifting training deconstructs the movements and focuses on building a smooth technique.

Q2. What kind of equipment do people wear in the weightlifting and powerlifting events?

For both powerlifting and weightlifting, athletes wear the same equipment.

These include a belt for back support, chalk to keep hands dry, knee wraps, a one-piece garment, tape to prevent calluses, and weightlifting shoes.

Q3. Do powerlifting and weightlifting build muscle?

Whether your training is related to powerlifting or weightlifting, building muscle is a part of the progress. However, the way you will gain it will be different.

Moreover, the repetitions in both are less, leading to a slower muscle gain.

Q4. How is bodybuilding different from powerlifting and weightlifting?

Bodybuilding training focuses on building muscle with an equal focus on strength and none on technique. Therefore, you will gain muscle a lot faster because bodybuilding exercises have more reps.

Bodybuilding competitions also differ from powerlifting and weightlifting because the muscle and the overall appearance impact the score.

Q5. Is bodybuilding easier than powerlifting and weightlifting?

Yes. Bodybuilding puts more focus on the overall nutrition of the individual. Bodybuilding exercises put less stress on the muscles and compensate by increased repetitions.

The reduced muscle stress is why bodybuilding is relatively more manageable.

Similar Posts:

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Comment