Powerlifting is a strength sport, consisting of three events: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. The maximum weight lifted in each event is totalled for a final score; lifters compete in bodyweight classes. Powerlifting is of relatively modern origin, with the first formal competitions occurring in the mid 1960s. It is open to both men and women. Powerlifting, like weightlifting, offers weight categories allowing athletes to display relative strength.
In contrast to classical Olympic weightlifting events, where an athlete raises a barbell from the floor to over his head, powerlifting movements are shorter. While both disciplines demand high levels of force production, weightlifting actually focuses more directly on the rapid force produced by dynamic efforts, meaning that “powerlifting” is really something of a misnomer. The two sports are largely separated by geography, with Olympic weightlifting being more popular in Eastern Europe and Asia (Russia, Turkey, Iran, China, and others), while powerlifting is more popular in Western Europe and North America. However, support for powerlifting is growing worldwide, with Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Indonesia, and Taiwan producing World Champions and World Record holders.
The athlete stands under a racked barbell which is loaded with weight. Grabbing the bar from behind, the bar is put onto the top of the back, resting on the trapezius. The athlete walks clear of the rack (unless competing in a federation using a “monolift”, a device which supports the bar in place until the lifter is ready), and squats down until the top of the thigh at the hip joint is lower than the top of the knee. Although the bottom position is sometimes described as having the thigh “below parallel” to the floor, the lower thigh may not necessarily appear to be beneath parallel. The lifter then stands up again, and carefully returns the weight to the rack. Disqualification results from the bar making any downward movement after the lifter has started upwards, if the spotters touch the bar in any way, if the lifter does not descend far enough, or if the lifter makes no effort to re-rack the weight under his or her own power.
The athlete lies on a bench. A loaded barbell rests on stands built into the bench above the eye level of the lifter when lying supine on the bench. The athlete removes the bar from the supports with the aid of one or more spotters, lowers it to the chest, pauses, and then presses it up to the full extension of the arms, then carefully returns the weight to the rack. Disqualification results if the bar is placed too low on the body (varies by federation), if the bar does not pause on the chest before being lifted upward (in some federations, an explicit “press” command is given, and the athlete cannot lift upwards until it is given), if the bar fails to touch the chest, if the bar hits the uprights of the rack on the ascent, or if the bar makes any downward motion during the ascent. In addition, the lift is nullified if the feet move during the lift, if the buttocks lift off the bench, or if the body makes any extraneous movement during the lift.
A loaded barbell is placed on the floor. The athlete reaches down, grasps the bar, and lifts it until the legs and back are straight and upright, and the chest proud. The bar is then returned to the floor in a controlled manner. The end of the lift is referred to as ‘locking out’, which means to straighten the back and lock the knees into a balanced position. Disqualification results from the athlete failing to stand completely upright, or if the bar makes any downward motion during the ascent, or for using the thighs to assist the lift (hitching). Many judges have been known to disqualify lifters who drop the bar to the floor after the lift is finished, due to the danger involved in dropping such a heavy amount of weight and the fact that it damages the floor of the gyms that meets are commonly held in.
Powerlifting and the Olympics
Due to the popularity of the sport, the International Powerlifting Federation has an application in place to become IOC recognised. However, powerlifting is a part of the World Games, which is patronized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) runs worldwide events and aims to standardise an international competition, and is at the forefront of these kinds of efforts.