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Feeling a little bored or unmotivated in the gym? If your workouts have been lacking direction, you may benefit from a more specific goal-oriented style of training. The fitness world offers a wide variety of training styles, but the most common formats are bodybuilding, powerlifting and weightlifting. But what exactly are the differences between them?

Bodybuilding focuses on hypertrophy, or muscle growth. Each workout typically focuses on a specific muscle group and incorporates more single-joint exercises such as bicep curls. Training is going to consist of 8 to 12 or 12 to 15 reps for 3 to 6 sets with 45 to 90 seconds of rests. Bodybuilders often “display” their hard work by posing onstage in front of a panel of judges.

The main goal of powerlifting is strength, or trying to lift the most amount of weight in one rep. Workouts focus on multi-joint, full body exercises such as the “Big Three” - back squat, bench press and deadlift. The rep scheme is 1 to 5 reps for 3 to 5 sets with 3 to 5 minutes of rest. In competition, powerlifters compete against other individuals in their weight category to lift as much weight as possible in each lift.

Not to be confused with just “lifting weights,” Olympic weightlifting focuses on strength at high speeds. The primary exercises are the snatch and the clean and jerk. Both are overhead lifts and are very technical. Therefore, training places a big emphasis on technique, mobility and speed. Training protocols suggests 1 to 6 reps for 3 to 5 sets.

These are general guidelines and are not set in stone. All three formats have overlap and incorporate principles from one another. Try them out to see which one is the best fit for you!

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