The Instigator
Pro (for)
6 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
2 Points

Powerlifting > Bodybuilding

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/16/2014 Category: Sports
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 18,479 times Debate No: 59032
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (16)
Votes (2)




Powerlifting is superior to bodybuilding, and I intend to convince you, the voter, in this debate.

Pro will defend powerlifting.

Con will defend bodybuilding.

Burden of Proof

The BoP is split.


1. Powerlifting: a strength sport consisting of three attempts at maximal weight on three lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift.

2. Bodybuilding: Specifically, competitive bodbuilding -- a competition where competitiors appear in lineups doing specified poses, and later perform individual posing routines, for a panel of judges who rank competitors based on criteria such as symmetry, muscularity and conditioning.

All other terms requiring clarification once the debate has started will be defined using the merriam-webster online dictionary definition that best fits the context of this debate [1]. If there is a dispute on which definition best fits the context of this debate, I reserve the right to final arbitration.

Any specific stipulations Con wishes to make should be request in the comment section prior to accepting.


1. First round is for acceptance

2. Users with Elo under 2000 need not apply

3. Any questions on this debate should be asked in the comments section prior to acceptance

4. No semantics/ trolling



I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, for an untrained individual, both bodybuilding and power-lifting will add both size and strength to your body. Power-lifting will allow you to become stronger than bodybuilding, and bodybuilding will make you more muscular than power-lifting, but you will get bigger and stronger with both. I'm not here to berate and offend those who have chosen bodybuilding as their passion, but there are certain things people ought to be aware of when deciding which road they want to take with their weightlifting careers, and I firmly believe that, for most people, power-lifting is the superior option to bodybuilding.

1. Competition

Bodybuilding competitors are judged on vague and arbitrary standards. You could compete in a show one year and place second, then work your tail off all year, step on the very same stage again and only place 4th. This is because bodybuilders aren't judged by any objective metric; it's based on the opinion of 5 faceless nobodies who judge on unclear and wildly varying criteria.

“The IFBB rulebook, section 28.2, states that competitors with a "harmonious" physique should be favored: "The judge should favor competitors with a harmonious, classical physique. The judge should look for good posture and athletic bearing, correct anatomical structure..." But what exactly does harmonious mean? What does classical mean? There are no clear guidelines, not like there are in other subjective sports. This makes the rules for the sport confusing for everybody, including the judges.”[1]

In other words, even compared to other subjectively judged competitions (e.g. figure skating), bodybuilding competitions have especially convoluted judging. You never really know if you look competitively better or not, because the criteria for winning changes arbitrarily and sporadically.

With power-lifting, you always know objectively how good you are. If you bench 315 in competition one year, then go back to that same competition next year and bench 365, you know exactly how much better of a powerlifter you are, because your progress is measurable in real pounds lifted. You always know exactly what you have to improve to be a better power-lifter (either improve your lifts, or drop your weight). With bodybuilding, how do you decide whether your training should prioritize your trapezius or your glutes? Your anterior deltoids or your obliques? You won't know which muscles will mean the most on stage until you ask the judges after the show why you only placed 6th, and by then it's already obsolete information, because the next competition will have different judges looking for something else entirely.

Bottom line: power-lifting competitions put you in control of where you place. In bodybuilding competitions, it's a toss up, and most of the factors determining how well you do are completely out of your control.

2. Drugs

The ugly truth of professional bodybuilding is that copious amounts of steroids are necessary to succeed at it. Drugs exist in the power-lifting world too, as is true with any sport, but bodybuilding is unique in that its largest federation (IFBB) does not enforce their banned substance list. The last IFBB pro tested was Jay Cutler back in 2001, and that was for diuretics, not even steroids. Furthermore, even though Jay failed the test, the IFBB backed down from their ruling after being threatened with a lawsuit [2]. Since then, no one gets tested.

The side-effects of steroid use are well enough known, but here's a short list of the most common ones:

1. Shrunken testicles
2. Severe acne
3. Baldness
4. Enlarged clitoris
5. Breast development in men (gyno)
6. Impotence
7. Infertility

And those are the ones you get even if you know what you're doing. We can get into some of the more serious side effects later. [3]

The problem is worse than just steroid use, though. Bodybuilding is also rife with synthol usage. Synthol is a kind of oil pumped deep into the muscle tissue in order to make the muscle look bigger. When done correctly, it can make you look much bigger than you actually are. When done incorrectly, well... you can watch at your own risk [4][11].

If your goal is to be one of the best bodybuilders in the world, these substances are mandatory. Why is bodybuilding like this, you ask? Simple, because bodybuilding prioritizes looking fit over actually being healthy.

Power-lifting's largest federation, on the other hand (IPF), is very aggressive in combating steroid use. Testing is mandatory for lifters who break a record and wish to have it recognized, and lifters are also subject to random testing at the federation's discretion [5].

Final point here, there's a huge gap between drug-using bodybuilders and natural bodybuilders, as seen here:

Natural bodybuilders

Enhanced bodybuilders

However, in power-lifting the top steroid-using lifters are only marginally stronger than the top drug-free lifters. The strongest non drug-tested power-lifter is Andrey Malanichev, who totalled 2468lbs. The strongest drug-tested power-lifter was Mark Henry (That's right, the famous wrestler), who totalled 2336lbs. [10]

Bottom line: You can't be one of the best bodybuilders in the world without using steroids, but you absolutely can be one of the best power-lifters while remaining natural.

3. a) Why Guys Do It

Let's face it, 99.9% of the reason why guys start lifting weights is to impress women. The thing is, there's an upper-limit to how muscular you can get before women start getting grossed out by your body, and that upper-limit is surprisingly low. An article on FoxHoundStudio lays out the facts for us:

We’ve got Brad Pitt in first place with 72.5% of women finding his body the MOST attractive and 86.7% of women being attracted to his body... In last place with 1% we have three time Mr. Olympia winner Frank Zane...” [6]

Brad only weighs 150lbs in this picture of him, by the way.

As it happens, men grossly overestimate how muscular women want them to be, while ignoring the far more important factor; strength. As the article goes on to point out, 74.5% of women want a man that’s stronger than they are, but only 2.9% want him ripped ‘n muscular like 50 cent.

Bottom line: If you want to pick up chicks, start power-lifting. Bodybuilding focuses too much on what men think women want, and not enough on what women actually want.

b) Why Women DON'T Do It

The most common reason why women don't engage in resistance training is because they're afraid of becoming too muscular and looking masculine. For these women, power-lifting is once again the better option.

This is Ana Rosa Castellain. At a body-weight of about 155lbs, she squats over 400lbs [7]. She is the current IPF world record holder in her weight-class. You can watch her world-record lift here [8].

This is Iris Kyle. She's the 2013 Ms.Olympia champion. She weighs the same as Ana, yet is weaker and more masculine-looking than her.

Bottom line: With power-lifting, a woman can be both the best in the world and still look feminine. With bodybuilding, there is no option. This is what you must look like to be the best, because that's what the sport is, after all.

4. Powerlifting Has More Carry-Over

This one is straight-forward enough. Strength is an advantage in literally every single sport, so the skills and strength you gain in powerlifting will help you in whatever athletic endevour you wish to pursue. Bodybuilding, on the other hand, won't help you get better at anything other than bodybuilding. Learning the various bodybuilding poses will only ever come in handy on a bodybuilding stage. Yes, bodybuilding will help you get stronger, but not as much as power-lifting. So, even if you're interested in training and not competing, powerlifting is still a better option.


If you care about competition, powerlifting offers objective judging with clear stadards -- Bodybuilding doesn't. If you want to be able to make waves in your chosen community without having to resort to drugs, you can do that in powerlifting -- You can't even get your pro-card in bodybuilding without juicing. If you just want to pick up chicks, powerlifting will give you a muscular physique and herculean-strength without making you so big you disgust the women you're trying to attract -- bodybuilding is all about getting as big and vascular as possible, which is a turn-off for most women.
If you're a woman and you like the idea of working out, but you're afraid of looking too bulky, powerlifting allows you to become stronger than most men without having to look like one -- with bodybuilding, the goal is to look as muscular as possible, which is exactly what you're trying to avoid. If you don't care about competing and are looking to train (perhaps for another sport you play), what you gain in powerlifting will carry over and make you more competitive -- bodybuilding will make you good at posing in a speedo.

It's clear that power-lifting is the superior discipline.



4. [Video 1]
8. [Video 2]
11. [Video 3]


Thanks pro for your arguments and initiating this debate.

Body Building Is Safer

Power lifting has what's called the big 3 lifts. This is the bench press, squat and dead lift. Other important exercises include things like the clean snatch. These are very complex movements that have a high risk of causing injury if done improperly. If you YouTube people doing clean snatches, you'll be hard pressed to find somebody doing it with good form, especially when going to drop the bar down at the end.

The dead lift and squat are incredibly dangerous for your spine. There is a ton of weight compressing your spine down and something any doctor will warn you away from. The biggest problem with the dead lift is that if you round your back while doing them, you can cause irreversible spine and/or back damage. My opponent is going to come back and say these things can be avoided with proper form. However, proper form is a very rare thing. Most people don't use it and even the ones that do use it make mistakes. Also if your back is bad, it's recommended you stay away from dead lifts. Body building I still appropriate for people with back issues.

Now if you body build and do a bicep curl with bad form no big deal. You get a mild injury and you'll heal, but dead lifting several hundred pounds and putting all that pressure on your spine like power lifters is going to cause serious permanent injury.

Squats are another exercise notorious for giving a person permanent knee problems. My opponent again is going to say that with proper form this isn't a big issue, but it will be missing the point. Most people don't use good form. Most people don't hire a personal trainer to show them, and even if they did it's very easy to get certified as a personal trainer. If that weren't true, cross fit wouldn't even exist.

Body building is better for most people, because the risk of serious injury is greatly lessened. For some other accidents that can happen powerlifting check out this playlist. It's mildly entertaining.

Better Living

Let's face it your probably not going to get rich doing either, but at least you stand a reasonable chance at making a living body building. It's no mystery that body building has a bigger fan base and more media solely dedicated to it.

Prize money in the Mr. Olympia contest reached a total of 1 million dollars, with the winner receiving a cool $250,000.

In power lifting's biggest events, you can expect to see prize pools of $20,000 dollars. You can be the best power lifter in the world and still have to flip burgers for a living.

If you look at the richest bodybuilders, they're millionaires. You won't see that type of money in powerlifting.

Power Lifter's are fat

Power lifters are fat. Those at the top of their game anyway. Here is the body of a power lifter.

That's pretty much the norm. Bring up any big name such as Mark Henry and chances are they are fat. Body builders on the other hand pretty much half to stay lean. It's part of the job description.

Watch the most elite power lifters. They're all fat, and yes I'll say that to their face. I can just speed walk away from them.

I've heard it said that power lifters are just fat bodybuilders.


Powerlifting is really disorganized. There's probably 10 guys calling themselves the world champ right now. The same can't be said about bodybuilding. There is only 1 world champion and it's none other than Mr. Olympia.
Debate Round No. 2


1. Safety

Con claims that bodybuilding is safer than powerlifting because powerlifting focuses on 3 big lifts; Squat, bench and deadlift. Con also brings up the "clean snatch" (which, by the way, doesn't exist. He's either talking about the power snatch or the clean and jerk). Firstly, Powerlifters don't power-snatch or clean-and-jerk. These are lifts performed in Olympic lifting, not powerlifting. You will rarely see a powerlifter doing these lifts.

Con provides absolutely no evidence that powerlifting is dangerous, we're just supposed to take his word for it. Obviously if you perform the lift incorrectly, you're putting yourself at risk for injury. The same is true for literally any sport. The idea is to join your local powerlifting team and get coaching (usually free) on how to perform the lifts competitively and safely.

Thirdly, there's a reason why the IPF has a 70+ age division (Masters IV) [1]. If you take the time to learn the sport, as any athlete would with their chosen sport there's no reason why you couldn't safely compete well into your 70's as Ernie Parks did when he, at 72 years of age, deadlifted a world-record winning 460lbs [2].Or Svend Stensgaard who, at 92 years of age, can still deadlift over 285lbs with perfect form [3]. Most men this age can't perform these movements with no weight, let alone several hundreds of pounds.
They're only able to do what they do thanks to their powerlifting training.

Thirdly, bodybuilders still squat and deadlift. This is because, as it's famously known, heavy compound movements (like the deadlift) add more muscle than light concentrated movements (like curls) [4]. Also, hypertrophy (the process that builds muscle in your body) isn't localized, it's systemic. Meaning heavy deadlifts will add more size to your arms than curls [5]. Therefore,
if you want to be an accomplished bodybuilder, you're going to have to learn how to squat and deadlift anyway.

And finally, there's evidence showing that
powerlifting is actually safer than bodybuilding. One study found that powerlifters sustain injuries at a rate of 0.84 injuries per 1000 hours of training [6], while bodybuilders sustain injuries ta a rate of 1.00 per 1000 hours of training [7].

Bottom Line: There's no reason in the world why powerlifting should be a dangerous sport. If you take the time to learn your craft, you can be doing this well into your twilight years. You'll have to learn how to do it if you want to be a bodybuilder anyway, and they get injurd more than we do. It's a clear choice from here.

2. Money

Con is right that the best paid bodybuilder is paid more than the best paid powerlifter, but this is irrelevant to everyone who isn't one of the top 10 best bodybuilders in the world. The top prize for the Mr. Olympia is $250,000, but as soon as you drop 1 place (2nd), you're only getting half that ($125,000). By the time you reach 10th place, the prize money is only $15,000 [8]. Keep in mind what I said last round; Bodybuilding competitions are judged on vague and arbitrary guidelines, so even the best bodybuilders in the world can't ever count on actually making any money off the sport.

It's worth noting that these top-level bodybuilders also spend a ton of money of their steroids. A top-level bodybuilder will spend $2000-$8000 a month just on growth-hormone [9]. Forget about all the other steroids you need to take, just that one will cost you literally thousands of dollars a month. So let's say you're only the 10th best bodybuilder in the world (God forbid, I know...).
Your grand prize probably wouldn't even cover 1 month of steroids, let alone put food on the table and a roof over your head. The richest people in the fitness industry got that way by marketing themselves or their products, not from actually competing. If you want to make money in this industry, your discipline is irrelevant. It comes down to your business sense.

Bottom Line: If your goal is to make money, competing in either discipline is a waste of time. Make your choice based on factors like health and training philosophy, because you won't get rich lifting weights either way.

3. Fat

Con claims that powerlifters are just fat. This is only true with super-heavyweight powerlifters where it stops mattering how lean they are. Most powerlifters have to stay lean in order to be competitive in their weightclasses. Take Konstantīns Konstantinovs. He competes in the 275lb weightclass. Literally just 1 weightclass below the super-heavyweight class, and he's lean enough ot have abs [10].

Or how about Dan Green? He's the strongest 240lb man in the world [11]. Can Con say he's fat? I don't think anyone can.

Besides, if the biggest powerlifters are guilty of being too fat, then bodybuilders are guilty of just the opposite -- They get too lean. Once your bodyfat levels dip below 5%, you're cutting into your essential fatty stores, which is dangerous to your health.

"Essential fat is the level below which physical and physiological health would be negatively affected... The leanest athletes typically compete at levels of about 6–13% for men or 14–20% for women. Bodybuilders may compete at ranges even lower than these levels. Certified personal trainers will suggest to male bodybuilders that they aim for a body fat percentage between 2% and 4% by contest time." [12]

If health is your main concern, you're better off being as strong as a powerlifter at 10% bodyfat than be a 4% bodyfat bodybuilder halfway in the grave by the time you step on stage.

Bottom Line: Powerlifters are only fat if you ignore literally all of them under 300lbs. Most powerlifters are lean, but not sickly lean as bodybuilders will get when they compete.

4. Khaos

Con claims that powerlifting is disorganized because 10 people claim to be the best in the world. This is utter nonsense. The best lifters in the world are catalogued by weight class at, which I sourced last round [13].

5. Dropped Arguments

Con dropped every single one of my R2 arguments. As such, I extend them all.


Powerlifting is a perfectly safe sport anyone can do for decades, even ino their 90's if they take care of themselves. In fact, there's evidence showing the powerlifting can actually be safer than bodybuilding. There is no money in weightlifting regardless of if you're a powerlifter or a bodybuilder. Powerlifters have the potential to win more money, but that money is only barely enough to cover the steroids you'll have to buy to win it in the first place, at best. You might as well be a powerlifter -- you'll be just as broke, but you won't have to pump your body full of drugs to be that broke.
Powerlifters are typically lean, as they have to be in order to have a competitive amount of strength for their weightclass. Unless you want to compete as a super-heavyweight, you can expect to get lean with powerlifting too. Bodybuilding will make you lean as well, but if you want to compete, you'll have to get dangerously lean to do so. Finally, as none of my R2 arguments were addressed, they all still currently stand.






I really wanted to debate Ryuu, but my heart isn't in this. He came out a lot stronger than I expected him to. Usually before I debate, I have my case laid out in my head and then I research it further over the course if the debate. Upon accepting the debate and beginning my research, I realized my whole case was built on common misconceptions, outdated science and old wive's tales.

I've never had my entire argument refuted before While researching it. I'm really tempted to go through the motions and just argue this anyway. I think that will be a further waste of time.

I apologize for wasting my opponent's time, and wish him luck in future debates.

I concede and hope my opponent can forgive me for not giving him a better debate.
Debate Round No. 3


No worries, Wylted. Thanks for your time.


Vote pro.
Debate Round No. 4
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Wylted 6 years ago
I think my opponent basically answered those objections in his arguments and showed, why you're wrong.
Posted by WILLWYANT 6 years ago
This is an old debate, and I'm posting from a non bias fitness standpoint for the betterment of the new members of the fitness community. I only have 2000 characters so i will make this brief, and leave out many unnecessary details. To start, Bodybuilding IS better than power lifting for the average person, siding me with CON. The reasoning is simple. Most people are not competitors, most weight lifters will never step on a bodybuilding stage or go to a power lifting lift off. This leaves us with the question of "why is it better?" The reason is for practicality purposes. Power lifting has a single focus and purpose, that is to lift as mush weight as possible for one rep in 3 exercises. The idea is great, however one major argument that was not brought up was the use of "Gear". For people who don't know, gear is an assistance to lift weight. It is complicated, takes multiple people to set up, dangerous, and very unpractical. A bench suit holds your elbows together so tight that you can not bring your arms to your side without a few hundred pounds in your hands. This is comparable to being able to use a trampoline in basketball. It is not a measure of strength, but a measure of technique. On the opposite side of the spectrum, bodybuilding is totally functional and practical. The facts behind my logic are as follows. Bodybuilding is built around looking good. Good is a relative word, formed our of opinion. Without drugs, your body will never get to the point of disturbing the public. Bodybuilding and power lifting are both dangerous if done incorrectly, like anything else.. moving on. Power lifting is not functional. Flexibility is very minimal, accessory muscles are not well devolved, and the body becomes very asymmetrical. Bodybuilding has a focus on symmetry, creating a functional, flexible, practical physique. Dan green, and the few ripped power lifters are an exception simply because they are the elite. for someone new trying to choose a road, take the useful one
Posted by 9spaceking 7 years ago
whup! RK still remains UNBEATEN. Man, Ragnar should really try to take him down.
Posted by Wylted 7 years ago
I had a rough outline of my case, in my head and then when I went to do the initial research. I noticed my whole case was BS and based in science from 15 years ago that I remember reading and also based on some old wives tales. So I basically left myself a few hours to build a case from scratch.

I'm going to start limiting the debates I take, to crap I'm more passionate about.
Posted by 9spaceking 7 years ago
wait...hold on a sec...right now con looks like he's losing. :/
Posted by 9spaceking 7 years ago
this may be pro's first lost.
Posted by RyuuKyuzo 7 years ago
"Powerlifters have the potential to win more money, but that money is only barely enough to cover the steroids you'll have to buy to win it in the first place, at best."

This is a typo. The first world should be "Bodybuilders".
Posted by Romanii 7 years ago
Ugh... some of these pictures... XP
Posted by RyuuKyuzo 7 years ago
Posted by Wylted 7 years ago
Screw it. I'll take it. If you challenge it may take a few days to accept, but I'll definitely accept.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:31 
Reasons for voting decision: honorable concession. Looks like RK still remains UNBEATEN.
Vote Placed by Mikal 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:31 
Reasons for voting decision: concession

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