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5 Bodybuilding vs Strength Training Benefits & Differences

Bodybuilding vs Strength Training

People have many different goals when going to the gym.  These can range from improving their fitness levels, losing weight or building muscle.  

There are many terms thrown around; bodybuilding, powerlifting, strength training, weight training, resistance training, anaerobic exercise, being just a few.  But do they all mean the same thing?  Often they’re used interchangeably.  

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In this article we’ll take a look at the main differences between bodybuilding and strength training and if the end result is the same. 

Bodybuilding vs Strength Training

Bodybuilding is used to refer to someone whose objective is to increase the size of their muscles for aesthetic purposes.  Conversely, strength training is to focus on increasing overall muscular strength to improve health and wellbeing.  

A significant amount of muscle mass doesn’t necessarily equate to a huge amount of strength and it’s certainly possible to increase your strength and power without resulting in bigger muscles.  Whist both will perform resistance-based training to achieve their objectives, they usually do so by training in different ways.  

A person who wants to increase their strength will need to focus more on exercise technique and form.  For example, if we consider a powerlifter, they tend commit a lot of time to practicing the three big compound lifts.  Those being the squat, bench press and deadlift.  

wide deadlift stance

These are technical exercises which require a lot of practice and correct form.  When training, a powerlifter will do far fewer reps when compared to a bodybuilder.  This is true of any strength athlete and not just powerlifters.  

It’s worth noting that as strength training and bodybuilding are very closely connected, focusing on one will impact the other.  In other words, lifting very heavy weight, even for a smaller number of reps, will result in muscle hypertrophy and vice versa.  

Those with a goal of improving strength will usually incorporate exercises and perform them at rep ranges of around 3 to 5 repetitions per set.  If the objective is building muscle mass, this will involve working to a higher rep range and more sets, typically being 8 to 12 reps per set.  

bodybuilder dumbbell preacher curl

Often a bodybuilder will also perform a larger variety of exercises.  These would likely include a combination of both compound and isolation movements.  The compound movements, such as the bench press, allowing them to work multiple muscle groups.  If they want to address any muscle imbalances or weaknesses, they can do so by performing isolation exercises to focus on smaller muscles groups such as skull crushers for working the triceps.  

Bodybuilding vs Strength Training Similarities

When it comes to similarities between the two types of training, there are some commonalities between the two.  These include the following: 

Exercises Performed

A strength-based workout will usually involve performing compound exercise that engage specific muscles and working through multiple joints of the body.  That being said, someone working towards muscle gains will also perform these exercises as they offer most benefit in terms of increased muscle mass.  The only difference being the number of reps being performed.  


Even though a person lifting heavy weights to improve strength will be concerned with form to reduce the change of injury, that’s not to say a person training to increase muscle tissue shouldn’t ignore proper technique.  Even high-volume training with lighter weights can result in injury when exercises are executed poorly.  

Benefits of Bodybuilding and Strength Training

As mentioned above, whether you focus on muscle building or strength training, one will directly impact and influence the other.  Both forms of training can complement each other and is the best way of improving overall strength and muscle growth.  Below are some other benefits of you can enjoy with regular training. 

Better for Joint Health

When you increase your muscle size, even just a little, this can help to better support your joints.  This is because the muscle acts as shock absorption when forces are applied to your joints, even when performing everyday activities.  

​Increases Bone Density

When working out using weights, the muscles engage which apply tension to your bones.  This in turn results in the production of more bone tissue, making them stronger.  When you have strong bones this can help to minimize conditions such as osteoporosis.  

Improved Cognitive Function

Research has shown that those who regularly undertake strength-based workouts help to improve things such as memory and concentration.  This is because blood flow to the brain increases during exercise which results in an increased oxygen supply and nutrients to the brain.  

Reduces Risk of Anxiety and Depression 

Whilst symptoms of depression can result in low energy levels, working out can help to boost your energy and reduce the severity of depressive symptoms and anxiety.  

Increase Flexibility

Many forms of exercises can help to keep your muscles supple and flexible; this includes lifting weights. Exercises should be performed through a full range of motion allowing the muscle fibers to achieve a proper stretch at the end of a movement.  

Bodybuilding And Strength Training – 2 Factors To Consider

Depending on your specific goals can impact how you choose your form of training. It’s important to remember then even though there are some key differences, both training methods are very closely linked.  

What Are Your Goals?

If you simply want to improve your overall health whilst increasing functional strength, even if that’s to keep common aches and pains, such as low back pain away, then strength-based workouts should form most of your training.  You don’t have to just focus on low reps with heavier loads.  Even well performed bodyweight exercises can increase muscle strength.  

However, if your primary goal is to build some serious muscle, whether it’s for the competitive sport of bodybuilding or just to look better in general, then a bodybuilding workout routine would be better suited for your end goals.  This will include high volume training for increased muscle hypertrophy.  Proper nutrition is an important factor when bodybuilding as sufficient macronutrients will be required for muscles to recover and grow bigger.  

Can You Commit Enough Time?

Consider how much time you can dedicate to working out.  Bodybuilding will usually mean you need to spend more time in the gym.  This is because you’ll need to work smaller muscles individually by performing several sets for high reps.  Often a bodybuilder will split their workout routine into specific muscle groups.  

For example, back and biceps one day and chest and triceps the next day.  This allows them to train more often. 

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When strength training, you can perform fewer exercises which work many muscles of the body at once, such as a barbell squat or deadlift.  If you’re going heavy, then you only need to perform a few reps.  When working to a lower rep range with heavy weight, you’ll need to make sure you factor in sufficient recovery time.  

In both cases, working with a personal trainer, especially when you’re new to working out, can be beneficial as they will customise a plan specifically for your body type and goals.  


Even though bodybuilding will help to increase your strength and increasing you strength will help to grow your muscles.  By placing more emphasis on one type of exercise will allow for better results.  

Remember, the focus of bodybuilding is to increase the size of your muscles whereas the aim of strength training is to increase muscular strength.   If you’re unsure as to the best way of proceeding with your training, it’s worth seeking the advice of a professional fitness trainer or coach who can help to get you on the right path. 

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