First off, powerlifting is a sport where you attempt to lift maximal weight on the squat, bench press, and deadlift, while strongman competitions are less universal or regimented but still basically involve displaying feats of crazy raw strength. You could be doing presses, deadlifts, and squats, but depending on the strongman competition, you could also be pulling vehicles, walking while carrying super heavy things, or lifting super heavy stones off the ground.
We’ve talked about powerlifting a few times in this blog, so let’s get a little bit deeper into what strongmen competitions are. The biggest strongmen competitions right now are the World’s Strongest Man (or the World’s Strongest Woman), the Arnold Strongman Classic, and the Strongman Champions League. These are international competitions, and the events vary but generally, you’ll find the aforementioned Vehicle Pull, Farmer’s Walk, and Atlas Stones being performed.
A little bit more on these displays of raw strength:
Vehicle Pull – a competitor pulls a heavy vehicle such as a truck, bus, or plane. Variations of this may have competitors harnessed to the vehicle while they pull on a rope.
Farmer’s Walk – you walk a certain distance while lifting very heavy weights. This is a fairly common type of exercise, and you may even see this performed at the gym. An iteration of this in the World’s Strongest Man competition is the Fridge Carry, in which you have to carry two fridges connected by a crossbar along a 30 metre course within 60 seconds (a version you probably won’t see at the gym).
The Atlas Stones – super heavy round stones are lifted off the ground and set on a platform.
Who can join these events?
It depends on the federation, but basically men and women of any age and size can be powerlifters and strongmen or strongwomen. There are different weight classes so you can go in pretty much in equal footing with everyone else.
So which one makes you stronger?
In powerlifting, you lift the heaviest weight possible throughout the 3 main lifts. You focus on strength, power, one rep maximum, and have fewer motions or movements to deal with.
In strongman, you focus on strength, power, endurance, and likely have to perform way more motions or movements to finish the contest.
So which strength sport makes you stronger is tough to gauge objectively since they test different disciplines and skills – some athletes may even compete in both sports, and find different levels of success in each one.
The strength and movements you’ll practice in strongman would maybe be more useful in the real world, but it’s easier to train for powerlifting since you’ll find the equipment you need in the average gym (not entirely sure where you can pick up giant round stones to practice for Atlas Stones).
That said, many people find strongman competitions to be more fun and exciting since it’s way more varied than the set events you’ll find in powerlifting.
Either way, both powerlifters and strongmen are ridiculously strong and can lift massive amounts of weight! Check out this video from the awesome people from Strength Wars of a powerlifter and a strongman competing against each other – it gets pretty close!
Whatever type of training you end up with, help yourself stay free from injury by using the proper gym gear and accessories.