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Women: Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, Olympic Weightlifting, something else?

robingmurphyrobingmurphy Posts: 306Member, Premium Member Posts: 306Member, Premium Member
I like lifting heavy weights and I'd like to do more of it, but I'm unsure where to go or how to get there. What is the different between powerlifting, body building, and olympic weight lifting? How does it affect the aesthetics of a woman's body differently? My main focus is on getting stronger, and I don't need big, showy muscles - but I've also heard people say that powerlifters are "fat" and I don't want to be strong-but-fat. Also, I'm 46. Is there one of these that is better for a middle-aged woman? Are injuries likely? How would one go about learning one of them once I decide which is for me?
edited November 25

Replies

  • steveko89steveko89 Posts: 1,436Member Member Posts: 1,436Member Member
    This ongoing thread is a filled with plenty of women lifters who will can speak to their experiences

    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/977538/halp-heavy-lifting-made-me-supah-bulky/p1
  • claireychn074claireychn074 Posts: 197Member, Premium Member Posts: 197Member, Premium Member
    Olympic weightlifting is incredibly technical so personally I think it needs to be learnt with a coach (I’m a year in and still trying to learn adequate technique). I found powerlifting simpler, albeit still challenging to get the best from technique. At the end of the day, it’s what you enjoy and will keep doing. For reference I’m 45 and I certainly don’t have big muscles - if anything I look leaner now. Never tried proper body building so can’t comment on that!
  • DancingMoosieDancingMoosie Posts: 4,586Member Member Posts: 4,586Member Member
    If your main goal is strength, then find a good progressive strength program (I like stronglifts 5x5). It is based on powerlifting. Building strength or using a program based on powerlifting moves does not make you "fat". You would need a calorie surplus for that. Stay in a deficit or eat at maintenance to build strength and lose fat. Good luck!
  • cupcakesandproteinshakescupcakesandproteinshakes Posts: 325Member Member Posts: 325Member Member
    What are you doing at the moment?
    Do you want to compete or just do it fur fun?
    What lifts have you been doing and what do you like?

    Any goals? ( not saying you have to have goals.)
  • moogie_fitmoogie_fit Posts: 240Member, Premium Member Posts: 240Member, Premium Member
    Olympic lifts are way more fast and require POWER and SPEED across a long range of motion

    Powerlifting is POWER and SPEED over a shorter range of motion with heavy weights using barbells

    Bodybuilding is tension, volume, more sets and reps typically at lower weights, with more incorporation of single joint exercises and more exercise variety. rather than performing on performance in sport or personal records it focuses on aesthetics.

    I do a variety of lifts from all three, all with a goal of being healthier. I love Olympic movements because their fun and difficult and I feel badass doing them, but they require more fast twitch muscles and conditioning. I also enjoy the Squat bench and deadlift because they are effective. Bodybuilding workouts typically take more time to hit all muscles. By doing the compound exercises in olympic and powerlifting workouts, I'm able to get more done.
  • LolalikeslolagetsLolalikeslolagets Posts: 128Member Member Posts: 128Member Member
    What are you good at?
  • elizabethreddelizabethredd Posts: 1Member, Premium Member Posts: 1Member, Premium Member
    I love Olympic lifts! They are so challenging and technical for me. I am about 2 years in to learning the lifts and am heading to my first meet in Feb :). Using My Fitness Pal with a dietitian to work on my strength to wt ratio. I feel like you don't have to be a certain age or body type to learn the lifts, you just need to have a passion for it and keep coming back for more, even on the frustrating days. I'm a 43 yo homeschool mom and plan on Oly lifting as long as God allows me to :)
  • cwolfman13cwolfman13 Posts: 37,039Member Member Posts: 37,039Member Member
    I like lifting heavy weights and I'd like to do more of it, but I'm unsure where to go or how to get there. What is the different between powerlifting, body building, and olympic weight lifting? How does it affect the aesthetics of a woman's body differently? My main focus is on getting stronger, and I don't need big, showy muscles - but I've also heard people say that powerlifters are "fat" and I don't want to be strong-but-fat. Also, I'm 46. Is there one of these that is better for a middle-aged woman? Are injuries likely? How would one go about learning one of them once I decide which is for me?

    Most people just workout and their programs will include elements of strength (power lifting) and hypertrophy (bodybuilding). Power lifting, Olympic lifting, and bodybuilding are three distinct competitive disciplines...so most people who aren't doing competition lifting don't exclusively train for a specific discipline.

    My program includes elements of all three disciplines. I love Olympic lifts, but I would not consider myself to be an Olympic weight lifter...nor would I consider myself a body builder or power lifter...I just happen to do certain movements and work in certain rep ranges that would be common in each discipline.

    Olympic lifting is hella fun, but it's also very technical. I would definitely recommend working with a coach on those. They also pose the highest risk of injury due to their technical nature and the speed at which they are performed. They greatly improve speed and power and are great lifts for athletes...I learned them when I was a track and field sprinter in high school and got back into them in my late 30s with a coach. Keep in mind also that a good many gyms do not allow Olympic lifting...you are meant to drop the weight at the end of the lifts which is hard on equipment. You can only muscle them down with low weight...once they get heavier, you're going to tear your shoulders up trying to do that.

    Power lifters are only fat if they let themselves be fat. Some are, and some aren't. My trainer is a competitive power lifter and he's nowhere close to being fat. Some of them get fat because they are/want to move up in weight class and move more weight.
    edited December 10
  • parkerpowerliftparkerpowerlift Posts: 159Member Member Posts: 159Member Member
    I like lifting heavy weights and I'd like to do more of it, but I'm unsure where to go or how to get there. What is the different between powerlifting, body building, and olympic weight lifting? How does it affect the aesthetics of a woman's body differently? My main focus is on getting stronger, and I don't need big, showy muscles - but I've also heard people say that powerlifters are "fat" and I don't want to be strong-but-fat. Also, I'm 46. Is there one of these that is better for a middle-aged woman? Are injuries likely? How would one go about learning one of them once I decide which is for me?

    Hey!

    I will try to keep this relatively short, haha, but I can try and give you a high-level description of the three strength training mediums:

    Powerlifting is a sport that focuses on three main compound movements: the barbell back squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. Powerlifting-style training involves progressive overload on these three movements. Emphasis on lower reps, higher weights, as you get stronger. These work more of your full body and/or larger areas such as upper body/lower body. On the competitive side, the sport of powerlifting basically means to try to efficiently (and safely) lift the most amount of weight for each compound movement. I will spare you the nitty-gritty of competitive powerlifting for now, hahaha. I am biased, for I'm a novice competitor, but I have dabbled in CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, and Strongman as well over the last few years.

    Bodybuilding is a sport that focuses on hypertrophy (muscle-building) and aesthetics. While building strength is most definitely a component, you will not have to lift to your maximal potential to get results. Many movements involve lower weights, higher reps, and an emphasis of "time under tension". While I love lifting, I'm not nearly as disciplined to dial in my nutrition in such an ability as a bodybuilder. You will isolate specific areas, such as biceps, triceps, traps, delts, hamstrings, calves, etc. There is a lot more variety of movements that you can do with bodybuilding-style training, if that is what you'd prefer. There is a benefit to incorporating a mix between bodybuilding movements and powerlifting movements for sure.

    Olympic weightlifting is a sport that focuses on dynamic, explosive movements. I've only had about 8 weeks of instruction with olympic lifting with a coach and I honestly felt like it'd take me almost a year to get through the basics/gain proficiency. Olympic weightlifting is *VERY* technical and if you learn the movements early on with improper form/unsafe practices, it might not catch up to you until you build a decent amount of strength and you will either stay plateaued or you'll get injured. With proper instruction, patience, and form, I think Olympic weightlifting would be a great medium. I personally wouldn't recommend it for a beginner right off the street. I'd want you to have some barbell experience and general gym knowledge for at least 6-12 months before entertaining these lifts. But that is only my personal opinion, and I am not a certified coach/gym owner/etc.

    Tbh, the whole line of "powerlifters are fat" is a myth, depending on whom you talk to. I had once lost 40 lbs in 2014 due to running. I lost an additional 10 lbs in 2015 when I started incorporating lifting and CICO. If you dial everything in, you can be at a healthy weight while powerlifting.

    In 2017, I used to sleep a lot and I justified eating whatever I wanted when I first started competitive powerlifting, because I got huge newbie gains during my first year of going into competing. I ate like an @$$hole and it eventually caught up to me. I blew up like a balloon not because of lifting, but because I was reckless with my nutrition. Between a bad breakup and some other relationships after that, I pretty much let myself go.

    I still primarily prefer powerlifting, but my focus as of right now is weight-loss. If you'd like to learn how to begin to strength-train, I'd highly recommend downloading the Stronglifts 5x5 app. It's free and it will have you in the gym 3 days a week. It has videos on how to do all of the movements and you will start with the empty barbell on all movements but deadlifts. It tells you how many sets and reps to do, as well as how long to rest for. When I was at my lowest weight and using this program, I finally started to get a 4-pack for abs. And it was purely from front squats and back squats ---developing core stability. I did not do a single crunch or sit-up during my first year of using StrongLifts.

    Feel free to add me, comment, or DM me if you have any questions!

    -Sarah
  • parkerpowerliftparkerpowerlift Posts: 159Member Member Posts: 159Member Member
    I love Olympic lifts! They are so challenging and technical for me. I am about 2 years in to learning the lifts and am heading to my first meet in Feb :). Using My Fitness Pal with a dietitian to work on my strength to wt ratio. I feel like you don't have to be a certain age or body type to learn the lifts, you just need to have a passion for it and keep coming back for more, even on the frustrating days. I'm a 43 yo homeschool mom and plan on Oly lifting as long as God allows me to :)

    That is super awesome! I love that you've kept up with Olympic lifting for this long while juggling being a parent! I just became a foster mom last month and I've struggled SO much with trying to navigate work/school/home/gym life!
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