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Bodybuilding vs. Physique — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Urooj Arif — Updated on May 15, 2024
Bodybuilding focuses on building muscle mass and overall muscle definition, while Physique emphasizes a lean, athletic build with balanced muscle development and aesthetics.
Bodybuilding vs. Physique — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Bodybuilding and Physique


Key Differences

Bodybuilding is primarily about increasing muscle size and definition. Competitors in bodybuilding aim to showcase massive muscle growth, often achieved through intensive strength training and strict dietary regimens. Physique, on the other hand, prioritizes a leaner and more aesthetically pleasing body. While muscle development is important, the emphasis is on a balanced, athletic look.
In bodybuilding competitions, participants display their physiques through a series of mandatory poses that highlight muscle size and definition. Judges assess the overall muscle mass, condition, and vascularity. Conversely, physique competitions typically involve less intense posing routines, with athletes often wearing board shorts, emphasizing a beach-ready, athletic appearance.
Training for bodybuilding often includes heavy weightlifting and high-calorie diets to promote muscle growth. In contrast, physique training involves a combination of strength training and cardio, aiming to maintain a lower body fat percentage while still building a balanced muscle structure.
Bodybuilding diets are usually high in calories and protein to support muscle hypertrophy. Physique diets, however, focus on maintaining a lean physique with a balanced intake of nutrients to support muscle maintenance and fat loss.

Comparison Chart


Muscle mass and definition
Lean, athletic build

Judging Criteria

Size, symmetry, vascularity
Symmetry, overall appearance

Competition Attire

Minimal clothing to show muscle
Board shorts, less revealing


Heavy weightlifting, high-calorie diet
Strength training, cardio, balanced diet


High calories and protein for hypertrophy
Nutrient balance for lean maintenance

Compare with Definitions


Building muscle through resistance training and nutrition.
John started bodybuilding to increase his muscle size.


Combination of strength training and cardio.
His physique routine includes both weightlifting and running.


Regimen of intense strength training and dietary plans.
His bodybuilding routine includes daily gym sessions and meal prep.


Focus on lean, athletic muscle development.
Mark trains for physique competitions to maintain a balanced look.


Competitive sport focusing on muscle mass and symmetry.
Lisa competed in her first bodybuilding competition last year.


Competitive category emphasizing aesthetics and symmetry.
She prefers physique contests for their emphasis on overall balance.


Emphasis on muscle hypertrophy and definition.
Bodybuilding requires dedication to achieve muscle hypertrophy.


Judging based on proportional muscle and leanness.
Physique competitors are judged on their overall muscle symmetry.


Poses and routines to display muscular development.
During bodybuilding contests, participants perform set poses.


Less muscle mass compared to bodybuilding.
In physique, athletes aim for a toned look rather than bulk.


Bodybuilding is the use of progressive resistance exercise to control and develop one's muscles (muscle building) by muscle hypertrophy for aesthetic purposes. It is distinct from similar activities such as powerlifting because it focuses on physical appearance instead of strength.


The body considered with reference to its proportions, muscular development, and appearance
"a short man with ... the physique of a swimmer" (John le Carré).


The process of developing the musculature of the body through specific types of diet and physical exercise, such as weightlifting, especially for competitive exhibition.


The natural constitution, or physical structure, of a person.


A sport in which the aesthetics of muscular development is the basis for competition.


(bodybuilding) The trained muscular structure of a person's body.


(dated) Work done to construct or repair the body of an automobile.


The natural constitution, or physical structure, of a person.
With his white hair and splendid physique.


Exercise that builds muscles through tension.


Constitution of the human body


Exercise that builds muscles through tension


Alternative names for the body of a human being;
Leonardo studied the human body
He has a strong physique
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

Common Curiosities

What is physique?

Physique refers to a lean, athletic build with balanced muscle development, often highlighted in specific fitness competitions.

What is bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding is a sport focused on increasing muscle mass and definition through resistance training and diet.

How does training differ between bodybuilding and physique?

Bodybuilding emphasizes heavy weightlifting for muscle growth, while physique training combines strength and cardio for a balanced look.

Can women compete in bodybuilding and physique?

Yes, both men and women can compete in bodybuilding and physique categories.

What do judges look for in physique competitions?

Judges focus on overall appearance, symmetry, and a lean, athletic build in physique competitions.

What attire is worn in bodybuilding competitions?

Competitors wear minimal clothing to showcase muscle definition.

Is cardio important in bodybuilding?

Cardio is less emphasized in bodybuilding compared to physique, where it is crucial for maintaining leanness.

How do physique competitions differ in posing?

Physique competitions have more relaxed posing, emphasizing overall aesthetics rather than muscle size.

What is the primary goal of physique competitions?

The primary goal is to achieve a lean, balanced, and aesthetically pleasing body.

What do judges look for in bodybuilding competitions?

Judges assess muscle size, symmetry, and vascularity in bodybuilding competitions.

How do bodybuilding competitions differ in posing?

Bodybuilding competitions have intense posing routines to highlight muscle definition.

What type of physique is rewarded in bodybuilding?

A physique with maximum muscle hypertrophy and clear definition is rewarded in bodybuilding.

What attire is worn in physique competitions?

Physique competitors typically wear board shorts, emphasizing a less revealing, beach-ready look.

Are there different levels of competition in bodybuilding?

Yes, bodybuilding has various levels, from amateur to professional competitions.

How do bodybuilding diets differ from physique diets?

Bodybuilding diets are high in calories and protein for muscle growth, while physique diets focus on nutrient balance for a lean physique.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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