Strength Training vs Bodybuilding Physique (Pictures included!)

There often seems to be great confusion between strength training and bodybuilding. Newbie gym-goers might not even be aware of this confusion. Strength training and bodybuilding are two completely different concepts.

However, since both find their place in the gym, they are often confused with each other.

In case you have heard conflicting information about this matter, you have come to the right place. In this piece we discuss what exactly strength training and bodybuilding are, then we look at some direct differences between the two. Let us get right into it without further ado. 

What Exactly Are Strength Training and Bodybuilding?

We will begin our discussion n by taking a look at both strength training and bodybuilding, one by one. We will try to understand what they are both exactly about.

Bodybuilding: It Is About Muscle Size and Appearance

Put in the simplest of terms, bodybuilding is when someone trains to make their muscles look bigger and more defined. You see that is the ultimate goal of bodybuilding – make your body look the best, which is done by increasing muscle size, improving muscle definition, and cutting down body fat.

Bodybuilding is NOT about getting strong, this is a big misconception.

Because bodybuilding is about looking your best on the stage, bodybuilders often shave their bodies.

Bodybuilders also try to get a well-toned skin color through tanning which would give off the best appearance on the stage. Another common thing bodybuilders practice is vascularity.

It basically means having a lot of superficial and prominent veins. The veins, combined with the muscles help give off a “well-built” and “muscular” look.

The main objective obviously is to increase muscle size. There are many different techniques to achieve this. Bodybuilders try to overload their muscles. This leads to the “pump”. It is basically the point where the blood is bringing more and more glucose to the muscles so they can keep lifting.

The aim here is to cause tiny little damages to the muscles which will then be repaired by the body leading to increased muscle fibers and muscle size.

Defining the muscles well is also important for most bodybuilders. This is done by focussing on different body parts exclusively. When working out, bodybuilders try to keep their weight lower and the number of reps more.

Strength Training: It Is About Muscle Strength and Force

When it comes to strength training, we are talking about developing maximum strength. The diets, exercises, and workouts involved in strength do not focus on increasing muscle size.

That was the case in bodybuilding. Instead, strength training focuses on maximizing the strength output of the muscles. 

Strength training is also known as resistance training. This is for a reason. Activities involved in strength training constantly resist the muscles. Apart from the regular lifting of weights, strength training also involves many other forms of exercises such as calisthenics, isometrics, and plyometrics. 

Apart from maximizing muscle strength, training also focuses on improving other aspects of the human body. These include stronger ligaments and tendons which result in stronger joints.

Increased bone density, increased metabolism, and increased cardiac activity is also seen when training is properly performed. Improving nervous system and motor control is also an objective since that helps in strength output at command. 

Also noteworthy is that the body fat ratio is not a big deal for strength trainers. Remember, unlike bodybuilders, they are not trying to look the best, but to perform the best. 

We saw that the ultimate goal in the case of bodybuilding is to make the body as aesthetically pleasing as possible. In the case of a strength competition, the contestants are required to perform different activities that prove their strength superior to other competitors. Events such as Atlas Stones, Giant’s Medley, and Log lift often form a part of strongmen competitions. 

Strength Training vs Bodybuilding Physique Pictures

For highlighting the differences, we will take famous personalities from both disciplines and try to compare them. It will help us find the differences at the surface level. We will take two sets of people, each set from each discipline with each set having two personalities.

Here we have the first set of personalities: Dexter Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both are professional and famous bodybuilders.

Next up, we take two famous powerlifters:

The differences in the body type and size of the two sets of men are striking. 

Let us first compare the raw muscle size of the bodybuilders and the power lifters.

  • In the case of bodybuilders, we see extremely well defined muscles. The muscles are large and grown to the maximum. We also find a fair amount of vascularity, which is the visibility of superficial veins in the bodybuilders.
  • On the other hand, the strongmen do not possess similarly grown or well defined muscles. Vascularity is also not a major concern for these men. Differences in training and exercise bring about such vast variety in the human body. Furthermore, the powerlifters are MUCH stronger than the bodybuilders.

Next up, the body fat ratio is also a clear difference. The strongmen duo seems to carry a fair bit of fat. Overall, they aren’t too bothered by it.

But for bodybuilders, it makes a world of difference. Since they are trying to achieve maximum aesthetic presentation, their body profile needs to have an extremely low body fat ratio which helps in showing off the well-developed muscles.

Lastly, we will talk about strength in the two groups of men. While it is impossible to ascertain strength through pictures, the strongmen command a greater strength and thrust output than the bodybuilders.

This also gives us a deep look into our body physique: “better looking muscles” do not always mean more strength. 


Strength training and bodybuilding are often confused with one another. While that is understandable, the two fields of physique building could not be more different.

We discussed how bodybuilding focuses mainly on getting an aesthetically pleasing and well-defined profile, while on the other hand strength training puts your body through resistance exercises to increase strength and endurance.

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