How Strong are Professional Bodybuilders

Ahh the famous Bpowerlifters versus bodybuilders who is stronger?odybuilders vs Powerlifters debate. Common sense says that powerlifters are stronger and that bodybuilders are bigger. Sounds good right. But let’s explore those claims in a little more detail right away.

You may hear that subject a lot from bros in your gym. But yo pro bodybuilders are juiced up to hell and they’re not even that strong. ”It’s all pump and steroids man!” Well this is somewhat true but at that same time not even close to reality. Yes you will hear guys like Kai Greene and other bodybuilders tell you that building muscle size and definition for the scene has nothing to do with lifting heavy weights. We’re not powerlifters they say. It’s all about technique, contraction, time under tension and breaking the muscle down so that it grows back bigger. Here’s a video of Kai Greene stressing the fact that it’s all about stretching and contraction.


Kai Greene : we’re not powerlifters



A few examples of how heavy bodybuilders can lift :

Before we discuss this topic even further let’s look at a couple examples proving that BB’ers aren’t that weak sauce.
Here we see Ronnie Coleman now squatting 800 pounds for 2 reps. Yes he was using a suit. In case you didn’t know Big Ron comes from a powerlifting background. If you don’t believe me do a quick search on youtube and that’ll convince you. Think they’re fake plates? Watch this olympic bar bend.


Ronnie Coleman performing a 800 pound squat for two repetitions (reps)
Same man deadlifting 800 pounds again for two reps. Check it out on youtube.
Bodybuilders are strong too : 800 pounds deadlift for reps
Ronnie again benchpressing 495 lbs for 5 reps with very little help. You tell me that isn’t strong!
Ronnie is also a strong powerlifter - bench pressing 495 lbs for five repetitions
Here Jay Cutler benchpressing 405 lbs for high reps on the incline bench like it’s nothing.
Jay Cutler, bodybuilder, doing 405 pounds on the incline bench for high reps
On top of that, according to muscle tech‘s website here are Jay Cutler’s numbers :
  • Benchpress (1-rep max.) : 550 pounds;
  • Squat (1-rep max) : 700 pounds;
  • Deadlift (3 reps) : 675 pounds.

Back to the powerlifters vs bodybuilders debate :

So what does that tell you? And by the way there’s a ton of other vids/pics of other less known bodybuilders who are super strong and lift a ton. The guy mentioned above are really strong. Period. Yeah the heaviest deadlift is in the early thousand pounds, the unassisted benchpress record is in the 700′s and the heaviest squat is in the early thousand as well. But man if you can bench press 500 for a couple reps, you are not THAT far from 700. Yeah the increments are hard to attain at this level but it’s really not that far.
Image if these professional bodybuilders trained like powerlifters and only focused on strenght. The results would be truly amazing. What you might not have realized is that pro BB’ers will often go in caloric deficit for upcoming competitions just to lose that extra subcutaneous fat.
If they kept eating normally (relatively, hey :p) they could train even harder and get better results strength wise. But the powerlifter doesn’t have to do that because he doesn’t mind gaining some fat here and there.. all he wants to do is get stronger and he cannot afford to put his body into a catabolic state in no circumstances.
Yes bodybuilders will do low rep range heavy lifting from time to time as part of their program but this is really not their focus. All they want is gain muscle mass. They couldn’t care less about strength or anything else. So in my opinion, they’re really not that far from powerlifters and they could probably get there if they trained for it.

Strongmen vs bodybuilders

Mariusz Pudzianowski is a strong man but could probably be a bodybuilder as well!This is where the difference is. Previously I told you that BB’ers weren’t that far behind powerlifters, but this simply doesn’t hold true in the case of strongmen. The world’s strongest men, like Hugo Girard, Mariusz Pudzianowski, Brian Shaw and many others are way stronger than bodybuilders. Why? Because they have functional strenght

That means they’re not only good at doing the main three lifts (squat, benchpress and deadlift) that are somewhat imaginary and movements that you never replicate exactly in real life, but they convert their strength into functional movement like lifting heavy rocks, throwing barrels very high, carrying super heavy logs and so on.

That kind of movement requires strength from the main muscle groups of course but also a lot of stabilizer muscles that don’t really help a bodybuilder win contests. You might have an argument that Mariusz, even being the strongest man in the world for a while, could do well in BB’ing and I would have to agree. That guy is a machine.

A little summary of what I’ve just said
  1. Bodybuilders are not as strong as powerlifters in the 3 main lifts, but they could be pretty close if they focused on it;
  2. BB’ers are strong;
  3. Strongmen are way stronger than a body builder.



  1. Tay says

    So basically, you are saying that bodybuilders are strong, but could be stronger if they trained for powerlifting instead? I don’t think many people would argue there.

    Thanks for the info about how much some top bb guys can lift. You should do an article showing the difference in physique and strength between the best bb and powerlifters.

  2. Mark says

    This article is terrible. Obviously, if bodybuilders trained like powerlifters they would be..wait for it… Powerlifters. If powerlifters trained like bodybuilders… Oh my god… They’d be fucking bodybuilders. And you are completely wrong about powerlifters not caring about fat and only caring about the lifts.. That’s why weight classes are a thing in powerlifting. Does bodybuilding have a dozen weight classes? Nope. So I guess you might say its bodybuilders who want the mass, actually. Good job writing an article based on YouTube videos with writing that makes it clear you don’t know shit about weightlifting.

    • Mark says

      Woke up on the wrong side of the bed.. I’m sure you know some stuff about fitness. But dude.. You definitely need to be careful with the claims you make if you aren’t totally sure of their accuracy, and it’s clear if you knew even a decent amount about PL you wouldn’t make such erroneous claims.

      • says

        Would you care to expand on these erroneous claims? I hope you didn’t misinterpret my article.. I know powerlifters are stronger than bodybuilders, and sometimes way stronger. But the difference is not as bad as people think it is.. I’ve heard a trainer once say powerlifters were 3 times stronger than bodybuilders.. I was like what the f**k!!??.

        If IFBB pros trained for strenght and cut out contest prep and everything they probably still wouldn’t beat top level PL’ers but they wouldn’t be so far behind.

    • says

      Mark I think you got my article totally wrong. I’m comparing heavyweights here… as for the writing I’m not so ignorant about the sport.. I’m just not perfectly bilingual (I speak French)

  3. Hunter says

    Bodybuilding helps sports such as wrestling and football so much more than powerlifting it isn’t even comparable, you gain much more usable muscle that won’t wear out after the first quarter or minute of a wrestling match

    • says

      you want to know how lifting works here is what happens bodybuilders are not as strong because they are building muscle you don’t require muscle for strength muscle and strength are two completely different things you have you ever seen people huge arms with no definition that’s strength the more definition you have its very likely your not very strong because to have strength your body burns energy like ape shit crazy so they need that weight to have the energy to use there strength power lifters don’t build muscle they train the muscle how there body how to use the muscle they already have its like picking a lock to a door once you pick the lock you have what was already there while bodybuilding is basically not opening the door and building your own stuff

  4. Davissp2 says

    Bodybuilders do more reps than PL’s because increased time under stress causes more muscular breakdown leading to more mass after recovery. Power lifters focus on heavy weight. With that being said, I’d like to point out that power lifters train their central nervous system just as much as their muscle. Fast explosive reps are major contributors to the heavy weights power lifters put up and the CNS is is what allows those explosive reps.

    Now most power lifters will out perform most bodybuilder sin a 1 rep max contest but… Given a lower but standard weight, say 300 lbs, most bodybuilders will be able to do more reps than most power lifters. However, there are always outliers.

    Now about strongmen, Where is the quantifiable evidence for them being the strongest? Natural vs unnatural movements hardly counts. How is pulling an 18 wheeler a “Natural” movement? I would argue that strongman is more a test of endurance with awkward heavy weights than an actual test of max strength.

    At least bodybuilding and powerlifting are similiar enough (use same equipment and exercises) to compare. Strongman is impossible to accurately compare against the other two.

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