What is the Difference Between Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting?

Published 06/27/2021, 3:47 AM EDT

The adrenaline rush of lifting weight heavier than your bodyweight itself is an unparalleled experience by itself. However, attainment of that feeling requires tonnes of discipline and it takes a lifter dedicated years of practice to master a particular lift.


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The pursuit of absolute mastery of a particular lift can only be met when they develop an across-the-body strength, a goal shared by most strength athletes.

However, there are multiple lifts that are contested by strength athletes across multiple sports. The most prominent of these strength sports are Powerlifting and Olympic Weightlifting.


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Due to the similar use of a heavy barbell, people who don’t follow strength athletics as such fail to distinguish between the two. However, they are really different.

In Olympic Weightlifting, the athletes work towards securing a high total in two lifts. The clean and jerk and the snatch. Weightlifting has been sanctioned by the IOC; however, the same can not be said about its counterpart, powerlifting.

In powerlifting, the athlete aims to build a total off of three lifts. The squat, the deadlift, and the bench press.


Olympic weightlifting requires much more flexibility, quickness, precision, and timing. Both the Olympic lifts are the combination of multiple movements and an athlete needs to seamlessly flow from one to another.

The athleticism that is required in pulling off a clean and jerk or a snatch is a spectacle by itself. That’s why it is an integral part of the Olympics. However, powerlifting is all about static strength.

Squatting up and down with a big weight needs the lifter to push off from the hole, that is, below parallel position, to stand back up.

The deadlift is plain and simple at the face of it. Just grip a barbell placed on the floor and stand up with it. However, the pull in itself is an extremely daunting physical test.

Do Olympic weightlifters train the powerlifting lifts?

Olympic weightlifters diligently practice both the aforementioned lifts in training. Squats are essential for developing the quads, while the deadlift is the building block of a strong lower back and traps.

Both of these big muscles are important to push up big weights overhead. However, the same is not applicable the other way around. Powerlifters rarely train the Olympic lifts as it directly impedes their ability to optimize their bench press.


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Even squat varies for both sports. Olympic Weightlifters keep the bar higher on their traps. This directly engages the quadriceps in the lift, for the most part. Powerlifters rest the bar lower on their back. This is to engage the glutes and the quadriceps equally in the lift.

The ultimate goal of practicing either discipline for a strength athlete is to push their bodies into gaining strength. As much as their body can. That is the similarity between the sport.


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Akshit Pushkarna

94 articles

Akshit Pushkarna, who has a Post Graduate Degree in Journalism from Xavier's Institute of Communication, is an MMA writer for EssentiallySports. Before his current role, Akshit worked on the Urban Development beat at the Urban Update magazine. However, combat sports always called out to Akshit, who pursued both boxing and wrestling at a regional level before shifting his focus to MMA journalism.



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