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Most people are content just going to the gym and getting a good workout. Others don’t feel satisfied so easily. Strength training has spawned numerous strength-based activities—both traditional and modern—that gear athletes towards competitions. But given the number of strength and fitness competitions out there, how do you tell which strength sport is right for you? Read this guide to learn about the four most common strength training sports and what to expect in each one.
Powerlifting is a strength-based competition in which participants perform three attempts in the bench press, squat, and deadlift to see who can lift the most weight in total. Each attempt is a test of strength, power, and form. Competitions sort athletes by weight class. There are also “classic” (equipped) or “raw” (unequipped) competitions. Equipped powerlifting allows for supportive accessories, like bench shirts, while unequipped does not. When you begin powerlifting, you should learn how to prepare for your first meet. Start local, train for it, and keep your body fueled and hydrated.
Unlike powerlifting, bodybuilding is a strength sport that judges appearance. While bodybuilders must train hard and heavy at the gym, the actual competition does not test their power or athletic prowess. Instead, bodybuilders must use tanning oil, shave their body hair, and stand next to each other in various poses for judges to see who has the best body. Judges look for symmetry, muscle density, and shape in their scoring. Whoever has the lowest score wins the competition.
Olympic weightlifting is another type of strength sport in which athletes perform various lifting movements at the heaviest weight possible. Although similar to powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting incorporates different lifts. Instead of the bench press, squat, and deadlift, weightlifters perform the snatch, clean and jerk, and clean and press. These movements typically involve more dexterity and mobility. Although you may have trouble figuring out how to tell which strength sport is right for you, Olympic weightlifting is a great activity for those who want to lift heavy with fast, fluid motions. It’s more functional than powerlifting and strongman and more athletic than bodybuilding.
Finally, strongman, or World’s Strongest Man, is a competition derived from circus performers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Strongmen compete in a wide variety of events, like Atlas stones, axle press, log clean and press, duck walk, dumbbell press, Viking press, and more. Strongman competitions are unconventional, but strongmen are some of the most powerful athletes in existence. They must continually eat tens of thousands of calories and train under strenuous movements to build muscle mass and body weight.