Different Types of Lifting Styles (Olympic Weightlifting to Calisthenics)

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Different types of fitness goals require different types of lifting routines and methods. For example, if you want to be a strongman or strong woman, prioritizing CrossFit might not be the most suitable road to explore. In this post, we will break down the different lifting methods and explain what type of fitness result you can expect from each. If you want a certain result from your training, identifying and executing the correct approach when you’re just starting out is extremely important. 

How many types of lifting are there?

There are 7 different types of weight lifting methods that are common in the gym these days, but there’s more to it than simply lifting weights and hoping for a physique to be proud of, or being able to perform impressive feats of strength. Let’s get right into it and look at these different types of weight training methods in more detail.

What are the different types of lifting?

Different types of lifting


Bodybuilding focuses on aesthetics as a priority and is probably the most common of weight lifting types used to build muscle size and tone. Like most other weightlifting styles, bodybuilding is performed at varying degrees. Some trainers will acknowledge that they are “bodybuilders” and some will say they are “lifting weights for a body composition change”, or words to that effect.

A simple definition of a bodybuilder is – Someone who trains for muscle hypotrophy and definition by consistently lifting weights with progressive overload to target specific muscle groups. (Hypertrophy means an increase in the size of the cells in the muscle).

Who should try bodybuilding?

Bodybuilder training is for those who aim to increase their muscle mass as a priority, but at its basic level can be a good fit for many trainers. With the goal of muscle growth in mind, training as a bodybuilder will give us several beneficial side effects. We can expect to see an increase in strength and better posture development too.

More advanced trainers will learn to identify imbalances or weaknesses in their physiques and adjust their bodybuilding workouts accordingly. At the highest level of bodybuilding, the trainer will aim for a full body of well-developed, toned muscles with a low body fat percentage. There is a good crossover between powerlifting vs bodybuilding, so it’s not uncommon for powerlifters who decide they want to work more on their physique to transition over to bodybuilding. 


Calisthenics is a form of exercise that uses body weight as resistance and focuses on all-over body strength. This lifting method encompasses progression in mobility, balance, function, strength, and endurance. Although there are plenty of options for training equipment available in order to create a home gym for calisthenics, it is possible to train effectively with no equipment workouts.

Although there is an aspect of repetition in calisthenics workouts (a planned number of reps for certain movements), there is also a creative aspect to this type of training too. There is more freedom to adapt a routine in order to progress. If we compare bodybuilding to calisthenics, for example, we will see that bodybuilding almost always relies on sets and reps of a movement in a training routine. Calisthenics, however, can deviate from this fairly drastically, especially in more advanced training. As well as using sets and reps, calisthenics trainers can learn to develop static holds that engage multiple muscle groups that work to strengthen the entire body. Rather than using weights and lifting equipment, calisthenics workouts can be developed using everyday objects. As long as there is a solid fixed object that can take your body weight and gravity, some kind of calisthenics training can be performed.   

Who should try calisthenics?

Everyone interested in resistance exercise can benefit from calisthenics and bodyweight training but it’s especially great for the beginner to resistance training, even if the goal is fat burning as “newbie gains” will develop quickly. When someone new to training starts an exercise program for the first time, and they are consistent with the training, they will tend to see results relatively quickly. Calisthenics is an excellent starting point for anyone new to resistance training programs as the nature of the training will build strength, tone muscle, and also burn fat.

If core strength is a fitness goal, most, if not all callisthenic movements rely on building core strength. Good core strength is beneficial to everyone, not just for strong stomach muscles, but for lower back and deeper stabilizer muscle development too.

Learning to do advanced calisthenics movements is a good goal – full pullups, handstand pushups, even L sit, front lever, muscle ups, and human flag, and a new trainer to this training style may be inspired to start after seeing someone perform one of these movements, but it should be noted that there is a progression path that leads to these skills.


Powerlifting is a form of weight training that focuses on three compound exercises with heavy weights in a low-rep range. Powerlifting focuses on building strength and bigger one-rep max goals (heaviest lift for one rep per exercise) and competitive lifting at more advanced levels.

The two types of powerlifting (and powerlifting equipment involved)

All that is needed for powerlifting is a barbell with weighted plates, a rack, and a bench. There is specific workout gear designed for powerlifters and this is generally set up to protect joints and aid with the lift. Classic or “raw powerlifting” is done with no equipment or the basic belt, shoes, hand wraps, knee sleeves, and elbow sleeves, but at advanced and competition levels, a powerlifting suit known as a reinforced singlet is worn, wraps are used around the elbows and knees and there are even exercise specific pieces of equipment used such as a bench vest. At this advanced level, the equipment used is designed to allow the lifter to push significantly more weight during the lifts. Training at this level is known as “equipped powerlifting”.

But these things are not necessary when getting started. To progress in powerlifting, correct form during the exercises should be the number one priority, so beginners might start with bodyweight exercise or simply use a lightweight wooden bar in place of a standard weighted barbell.

The 3 different lifts involved in powerlifting

The 3 different lifts involved in powerlifting are:

  • Bench press
  • Squat
  • Deadlift

Unlike other lifting styles, the end goal of powerlifting is to lift as heavy as possible for a single rep. This does not mean that the only training that needs to be done is with single reps. Powerlifter trainers will still perform multiple repetitions during their training to condition and strengthen the muscles that are responsible for the lifts, but this is normally working in the 6 – 10 rep range. Trainers will often aim to test their single rep weight about once per week.

Who should try powerlifting?

People who want to develop whole-body strength as a priority should explore the possibility of powerlifting. Learning to master the techniques and building strength in the 3 main lifts of powerlifting will give a new trainer an extremely good foundation in resistance training. Bench presses, squats, and deadlifts walk hand in hand with other lifting methods. The skills required to perform them, and the exercises themselves, are transferable. They can be used for muscle building or toning, fat loss, and even bodyweight exercise routines if the trainers goal is not exclusively to get stronger.

Olympic weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting is a competitive sport featured in the Olympic games that involves strength. The end goal is to perform two lifts for a single rep each with the heaviest amount of weight on the bar as the lifter is able to lift. The winner of any given competition is decided based on the combined weight lifted correctly during the two lifts.

There are male and female categories and these are subdivided into body weight categories when in a competitive environment. 

Types of Olympic lifts

There are 2 different types of weightlifting lifts in Olympic weightlifting:

  • The Snatch
  • The clean and jerk

Much like other types of weightlifting, the athlete training for competitive Olympic-style weightlifting will use the clean and jerk and snatch routinely in their regular workouts, but they will also work to strengthen the muscles responsible for these lifts. Olympic lifts use a multitude of muscle groups, so they need a good amount of strength, mobility, and conditioning from the trainer in order to successfully complete them, especially when there is significant weight added to the bar. Olympic lifters will often use compound exercises like squats, shoulder presses, deadlifts, etc. as “ancillary” or “accessory” exercises in order to develop their main lifts.

Who should try Olympic weightlifting?

Olympic weight lifting is not recommended for beginner to strength training. A beginner who wanted to get into Olympic lifting would probably be better starting off with powerlifting to strengthen and condition major muscle groups before developing the lifting techniques of the clean and jerk and the snatch.

Seasoned strength trainers might want to try this type of weightlifting as a progression from their usual workout routines, to add another dimension to their training, or if they want to try the competitive side of this sport. Powerlifters may also want to add these lifts to their training program, as the strength and explosive power when it comes to powerlifting vs weightlifting have a strong crossover in their end fitness result.


Strongman lifting is focused on training for full body strength, explosive power, and agility. Professional strongmen are capable of lifting, pushing, and pulling incredibly heavy loads. Training will be focused on compound movements such as the deadlift, shoulder presses, and squats to build strength using various specialized equipment and techniques, but can also be done with dumbbells and barbells. Strongman can be used for trainers who are looking to develop practical strength, but it is best known for its competitive scene. 

At the competitive level, unlike Olympic lifting or powerlifting, strongman has a fairly wide variety of events, and it will see its competitors pitted against each other or the clock in strength and endurance tests. Events that are often seen in competitions are:

Carries or moves– Moving a set load between 2 points, this could be yolk walks, farmers carry, bag carries, etc. But with every carry, the strongman will be under a load that will challenge the full body’s strength and endurance.

Stone loading or loading event – This is moving multiple, large, and sometimes awkward stones from the floor to a high point and is a timed event.

Tire flips – A timed event that involves flipping a large vehicle tire over on itself along a predetermined track.

Deadlift and press events – In the strongman world, an axel bar or log is used in place of regular barbells that are found in most gyms. Think of a large steel tube loaded with weight for a press event and an Olympic bar loaded with large, solid crates on either end for the deadlift event.

Pulling or drag events – heavy sled or vehicle pulls along a set distance. These events are often timed.

Who should try strongman?

You should try strongman if dynamic strength and endurance is your main fitness goal. Some people prefer this type of training as it offers a unique competitive aspect to fitness. Strongman training, when done correctly, will help to develop powerful muscles throughout the body, and will also offer functional benefits.

Starting out with strongman will require the beginner to work on basic compound movements to build a good foundation to work from. so if you are a beginner to fitness, these compound movements will get you ready to progress. People who already play rugby, American football, or other sports like this, will probably find that they progress quickly when starting out, due to the fitness requirements of these team sports.


CrossFit is an exercise method of functional exercise that is often described as “constant varied exercise”, meaning that workouts are not the same each session and there are zero or shorter rest periods when compared to other workout methods. The theory behind this is that, with this type of training, the body is not in a routine and, therefore, is kept in a state of progressive development. Weight lifting of various methods, bodyweight lifting, plyometric, sprint, and endurance activities are utilized in CrossFit sessions. Another key ingredient of CrossFit also includes a focus on high-intensity workouts to increase general strength and stamina.

Who should try CrossFit?

CrossFit works to develop the whole body from a strength and muscle definition point of view, but it also has a focus on the cardiovascular system. If you’re looking for a well-rounded health and fitness workout whilst also aiming to benefit from functional training, this might be the answer.

Although CrossFit training does not set out to build an aesthetically pleasing physique, this will be a positive side effect of the training. Many people already training in this way were drawn to the method, as the workouts showed a varied and fun way to stay in shape with total body workouts and avoided the repetition of a typical gym lifestyle.


Powerbuilding is a type of hybrid between two weight lifting styles. It’s where powerlifting and bodybuilding cross over. The end goal of a power builder is to become as strong as possible, whilst also developing an aesthetically pleasing or bodybuilder physique. The term is relatively new to the health and fitness scene, but this type of training has been practiced for a long time.

Unlike powerlifting, powerbuilders will not stick to deadlifts, bench presses, and squats for their strength training, but they will also seek to increase strength through heavy loads using bodybuilding movements, adding exercises like shoulder presses, bicep curls, and isolation exercises to this strength-building endeavor.

Who should try powerbuilding?

If you are a bodybuilder and are not seeing increases in muscle size as much as you used to, there are many ways to leave this plateau behind. Getting stronger is one possible answer for progression. If you train with a powerlifting mentality and temporarily change the training goal to focus on strength gains, it will challenge muscle conditioning and enable muscle groups to perform better when under bigger loads. This type of short term-term temporary goal to improve a long-term goal can be planned into a training cycle. This is known as periodization.

Our conclusion about the different kinds of lifting

Different kinds of lifting mean different types of fitness results. Before you decide which type of lifting method is for you, you should consider what you’re trying to achieve and what is most important to you. If you want to try losing fat and toning up in general, you should look at a lifting or fitness activity that is best suited to this goal. For this particular goal, I would consider CrossFit or calisthenics and maybe add an extra aspect of cardio to it.

If it’s most important for you to have a strong, balanced physique, especially if you’re wanting to focus on isolating certain muscles for development, it’s a good idea to get into a bodybuilder’s mindset and explore the bodybuilding method.

If you want the best result from your training based on your fitness goal, the training method will be the deciding factor on whether you get there or not. For example: If you want to be super strong and compete in Olympic lifting or strongman competitions, it will not happen if your training is centered around high-rep calisthenics training. You should follow a program designed for Olympic lifting or strongman events respectively.

Results are important to a lot of trainers and this is often the reason that they start lifting in the first place, but workouts have to be something that you enjoy too, especially if you’re new to fitness. In this situation, it would be worth trying out different methods, to see what feels good or what you enjoy the most, then use this as a foundation to start your training journey.

With all of this said, every lifting type and training method has an overlap and a transfer of skill and knowledge. As a personal trainer, I’ve seen people start out as bodybuilders and evolve into powerlifting and strongman trainers, and I’ve seen powerlifters transition into competing bodybuilders. Whichever lifter you decide to be, and the further into it you get, the scope for transitioning or specializing in a single method will be greater.

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