Weightlifting vs Powerlifting vs Strongman

Jack of all trades, master of none. While this may not be the best in every situation, for me, it works. Throughout my career as an amateur strength athlete I have had the pleasure of competing in weightlifting, powerlifting and strongman.

So, which of these disciplines is the hardest? The most fun? The best for athletes of other sports? Which of these should demand the most respect?

Which sport is the most difficult?

This question is nearly impossible to truly answer, as all three can be insanely difficult and this will vary from athlete to athlete.

Personally, I feel weightlifting has been the most difficult. I tend to get stiff unless I spend a lot of time on mobility, and I am not overly fast. Years back I had the goal of qualifying for Nationals in Powerlifting, Strongman and Weightlifting (Nationals or American Open). The first two came quickly, but this goal of qualifying in weightlifting is proving brutal.

I would give strongman the nod over powerlifting because there are so many different qualities that need to be trained and finding ways to train the events can also prove task worthy. Powerlifting is all about the one rep max, that is the whole freaking sport (I know, so is weightlifting), but strongman needs strength, power, speed and endurance. Some testicular fortitude goes a long way too.

Which of these sports is the most fun?

Easy – Strongman! Every contest is different. Weightlifting, you essentially have two goals – improve your snatch, improve your clean & jerk. Powerlifting has three – improve squat, improve bench, improve dead. Every single strongman contest you enter will be different – and this makes training fun! The monotony of training for the improvement of just two or three lifts can cause burnout fast, but strongman keeps training fresh. The contests also seem to bring more energy and are much more entertaining for the spectators.

Which of these sports has the most carryover to other sports?

Again, tough to truly answer. Much of this will depend on the demands of the sport as well as the needs of the athlete.

Overall, based on many articles, my own philosophy and how I feel when training each discipline; I would have to say weightlifting. However, this is a loaded question. The Olympic lifts without a strength base won’t do much, and if they are not executed correctly, they can put the athlete at risk of getting injured and fail to supply the given benefits. Teach them right, do them right and there is a lot an athlete can get out of these movements and this style of training. I also feel the most athletic when training for weightlifting versus the other strength sports. When training powerlifting I feel the most impressive with a barbell, but only with a barbell. And when training strongman I feel like I would be one helluva moving man, as picking up large, heavy, awkward items comes easier when training strongman.

Which of these sports demand the most respect?

Well…. The World’s Strongest Man has the coolest title. However, I believe the world’s top powerlifter really is the world’s strongest, as powerlifting is measuring one thing – Max Strength!

Maybe it’s because it is the strength sport that I started out with…. Maybe it’s because it is the root of my philosophy when training athletes… Maybe it’s because it’s the one I struggle with the most but weightlifting to me is the most impressive. Watching these lifters take 400+ pounds from the ground to over their head in a single movement still boggles my mind. Seeing the best of the best clean & jerk over 500lbs, I mean WTF – that’s insane! And the female lifters are just as impressive!

So, after what ended up being a long-winded way of saying “I don’t know, it really depends” on most of these questions – here are my awards for these three sports of the sick and twisted iron lovers.

Truly the Strongest – Powerlifting

Most Well Rounded – Strongman

Most Impressive – Weightlifting

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