Powerlifting is a strength sport that tests athletes with three events: bench press, deadlift and squat. The athlete who lifts the most for a total weight during these three events wins. Each athlete makes three attempts at each event, and the highest successful lift will count toward the total. Athletes generally compete within classes split by age, weight and gender. The weight lifted relative to the athlete’s body weight matters. Within a class, ties are broken by calculating a score based on this relationship, and overall best lifter awards are won by the athlete with the highest weight lifted to bodyweight ratio.
Powerlifting differs from Olympic weightlifting in the movements completed in the events. Olympic weightlifters compete in the snatch and the clean and jerk. Powerlifting differs from bodybuilding, because bodybuilding focuses on aesthetics. The goal in powerlifting is to be strong, not to look strong. A great aspect of the sport is the relative ease with which we can adapt these movements to different ability levels and physical restrictions.
In the squat, the athlete loads the barbell onto the back, and upon appropriate commands, must lower themselves to a position in which the hip is below the knee (called “breaking parallel”). The athlete must then stand straight again, bearing the weight until the command to re-rack is given.
In the bench press, the athlete lies with back, head and buttocks on the bench. Feet must be flat on the floor without movement. Upon the start command, the athlete lowers the weighted barbell to the chest and pauses motionless until command to press is given. The athlete must then press the barbell until the elbows are locked straight above them and the command to rack the weight is given. At no point during the lift can the head or buttocks leave the bench or the feet from the floor.
In the deadlift, the athlete must lift a weighted barbell from the floor until their body is erect with shoulders back and straight. The barbell may not be drug up the body or use the thighs for support of the weight in the movement. The athlete must stand erect until the down command is given and then lower (not drop) the barbell to the ground. This movement can be done with feet together and arms outside the leg in a traditional position, or with feet spread wide and arms inside the leg in a sumo position.