by Geoff Roberts
Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting is a topic that has been discussed and discussed for years. There is even a slight rivalry between the two, with one side sometimes making fun of various stereotypes, such as bodybuilders who are only showcased or powerlifters who are fat. In terms of strength, I think it's much closer competition than the names suggest. I've compared the strength of bodybuilders to powerlifters in the past and suffered a tsunami of angry feedback from the powerlifting community, to which, ironically, I belong. Here we go again.
IFBB pro Ron Partlow recently shared a story about training with a powerlifter in his new podcast. Ron talked about how Ron used to smoke it in just about any other exercise, while the guy he worked with was on the bench, squat and deadlift at a different level of strength. IFBB professional Luke Sandoe recently said his goal in the gym was to get as strong as possible in every exercise he did. This would explain why someone like him or Ron could deal with a powerlifter in aid movements, but falls in love with the Big Three. What raises the question: who is stronger?
Let's take as argument a highly qualified bodybuilder and a highly skilled powerlifter, both weighing 275 pounds. Bodybuilders tend to be good deadlifts so the lift could be close by. The other two motions would most likely be about 100 pounds apart. Fewer bodybuilders put more than 525 or so on the bench, while a 275-pound high-powered powerlifter will be closer to 600. The powerlifter will squat 850 or more while the bodybuilder would hover about 100 pounds below it.
In other words, when these two athletes squat, bend over rows, manipulate overhead, a kind of pec-fly movement, etc., the high-ranking bodybuilder will in most cases bury the powerlifter. Due to the fact that bodybuilders have to build every muscle with maximum potential, they are essentially forced to become strong at almost all power stations. Before bodybuilding fans start screaming about the bench, squats and deadlifts of Akim Williams, James Hollingshead and Ronnie Coleman, I generally speak. These types could absolutely compete with any Powerlifter with a similar body weight.
So the question remains. Is a bodybuilder, who is strong on most lifts, "stronger" than a powerlifter who is extremely strong only in the bench, squats, and deadlifts? In my opinion, the powerlifting movements, especially the squats and deadlifts, are much stronger than any of the other bodybuilding movements mentioned above. Bench is controversial and it can be argued that standing upside down is the second best power test in the gym outside of squats and deadlifts. Before a supporter of the Olympic lifting blows up a seal, I purposely leave these elevators out since the two discussed demographic features are not involved in these elevators. That's why I think the Powerlifters are actually the stronger group.
Although the powerlifters are stronger, I believe that the general difference in power between bodybuilders and powerlifters has been drastically overrated over the years. If you need evidence, check out some of the UK's emerging bodybuilders who not only lift but also control massive rammers. Just because bodybuilders are not judged by their strength does not mean that they are not strong. There were very few people in history who could build Mr. Olympia's muscles without overpowering them.