Skip navigation

  About Us  
  What is Powerlifting
  Powerlifting consists of the three powerlifts: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. The sport didn't become organized until the late '60s even though lifters had been performing the powerlifts--called the "odd lifts" in the old days--for some time before that. Powerlifting is NOT an Olympic sport at present; the lifting that is done in the Olympics is "weightlifting," a sport that consists of two overhead lifts: the snatch, and the clean and jerk. Other than the obvious differences in how the powerlifts and the Olympic lifts are performed, powerlifting and weightlifting differ in that the powerlifts test maximal, or "limit," strength while the Olympic lifts test explosive strength. This is not to say that speed is not an important element of powerlifting; it is simply to point out that weightlifting depends much more on speed of movement than does powerlifting.

Bench Press >

< Squat


< Deadlift


Traditionally, powerlifting competitions--usually called "meets"--consist of all three powerlifts. Lifters are allowed three attempts at each lift, and their heaviest squat, bench press, and deadlift are added together for a "total." Powerlifting purists, in fact, use this to define powerlifting itself, insisting that powerlifting is "the squat, bench press, and deadlift for a total." Fortunately, powerlifting leaders have been more flexible and creative in their thinking, and today lifters can find bench press meets, deadlift meets, push/pull meets (bench press plus deadlift for a total), and even the occasional squat meet, as well as the traditional three-lift--or "full power"--meet. This range of meet types is very important to the growth of the sport. After all, not everyone can train all three lifts, whether due to physical limitations--often caused by injury or disability--or time constraints. Some lifters may lack the equipment to adequately train one or another of the powerlifts (in fact, some commercial gyms don't allow certain lifts, especially the deadlift). And some lifters prefer to concentrate on the one or two lifts that they enjoy most. This variety of meet types has brought a high level in inclusivity to the sport, enabling more people than ever to participate in powerlifting.

Nearly anyone can become a powerlifter. Most powerlifting federations welcome lifters of all ages, with teenage divisions for lifters as young and twelve and thirteen, and masters divisions for lifters over the ages of seventy and eighty. There are also divisions for Special Olympians and disabled lifters. Weight classes range from 105 pounds to super heavyweight, offering lifters of all sizes a chance to compete against others near their bodyweight. Powerlifting truly is a sport for everyone, as well as the sport of a lifetime.



Page maintained by Department of Sports & Fitness

Last updated or reviewed on 9/27/13

   Click here to print this page

Find us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   Read Skyline   Join us on LinkedIn   News RSS   Events RSS