Olympic Lifter                                              Powerlifter 


Depending on your training goals you will eventually find your way to a barbell. It could be your trainer, coach, or fellow lifting buddy but you will get there at some point. Like most fitness addicts you will make many mistakes along the way but we’re not going to talk about that right now. Instead, we’re going to help you determine whether or not you should perform a certain group of lifts: Powerlifts or Olympic lifts.


POWERLIFTS: Bench Press, Back Squat, Deadlift, and Military Press

Focus: Building overall body STRENGTH AND SIZE (size = toning ladies)


OLYMPIC LIFTS: Clean & Jerk and Snatch

Focus: Building overall body POWER


You might be asking yourself “What’s the difference between strength and power?”. While strength and power are related they are not the same. Strength is simply the amount of force a muscle, or group of muscles, can exert against an external load (i.e. weight). Power is the ability to generate as much force as fast as possible. Yes, it’s weird that the strength movements are called powerlifts but let’s save that argument for another time. For now, just don’t confuse the terms. Now, let’s look at which group of lifts you fall into.



If you want to keep the exercises simple and basic then powerlifting is for you. Yes, you’ll need some range of motion but nothing that a few weeks of mobility drills or adjustments that can’t be made to improve your movement mechanics. A great characteristic of powerlifts is that they don’t take as much thinking as Olympic lifts. Less thinking is always a plus when you want to keep your workout simple and effective. Also, powerlifts are the go-to for 1) increasing muscle size and 2) toning. Any fitness model you see in a magazine more than likely performs some or all of the powerlifts and they are the foundation of their training protocol. Powerlifts aren’t just meant for those who want to look good. If you’re an athlete then powerlifts are for you as well. These lifts will allow your overall body strength to improve drastically because you can load more weight on a barbell than you could grab with dumbbells or kettlebells. This allows you to perform a higher volume workload; more sets, more reps, more weight. This greater workload, as compared to Oly lifts, will allow you to stimulate change in your body faster than Oly lifts.


Do you have great range of motion? Are all of your joints and spine healthy? Are you training for a sport? Any sport? Oh, and are you patient? Then, yes, Olympic lifts are for you. Olympic lifts are incredibly beneficial to your body…..if you do them correctly. While powerlifts can be performed slowly so you or your coach can see if something’s wrong Oly lifts are the exact opposite. Oly lifts are fast and violent. An untrained professional can see the most egregious mistakes but the finer details will go unnoticed leading to injuries or chronic pain. You’ll spend a very, very long time working on the mechanics of the Oly lifts before you’re allowed to throw any weight around. Once you finally get to put weight on the bar you’re going to stay fairly light b/c your mechanics will go to crap the moment you have a heavier load to move.



The short answer is both types of lifting can make you look good. However, in my experience powerlifting will make you look good faster. Why? First, as we mentioned before, it’s simple so you can start moving more weight around more often and for more reps. Oly lifts, on the other hand, take longer to master. Even after you’ve mastered the mechanics of Oly lifting you are not allowed to do high volume of reps. Lots of weight? Yes. Lots of reps? No. The reason is because Oly lifts are very complex and to perform them safely and effectively you can do no more than 3 reps per set and most often sets of 1 or 2 (sometimes higher but very rarely). Powerlifts can be done for sets of 1 through 50! It’s simple math. The more reps you do the more the muscle breaks down and the more it can rebuild. Enjoy Oly lifting more than powerlifting? Don’t worry, you’re body will change but you better be patient. In both cases make sure you keep your protein intake very high to see results. How much body fat you begin with and what your carbohydrate intake is will determine how your physique changes.


Olympic Lifter (high body fat %)


Olympic Lifter (lower body fat %)


Powerlifter (high body fat %)


Powerlifter (low body fat %)



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