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Posted by on Jun 12, 2013

Powerlifting 101 – What is Powerlifting

Powerlifting 101 – What is Powerlifting

Welcome new lifters, parents, and news media to We are here to help provide consistent, quality information about the sport of Powerlifting.  What is Powerlifting?

What is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting 101 – The Basics

If you are completely new to this sport, you are in the right place. In this post, we will discuss the very basic information about Powerlifting. I will keep each lesson short and to the point. Move at your own pace.

The Lifts. In the sport of Powerlifting we conduct 3 lifts: Squat, Benchpress, and Deadlift. This is different from what you may have seen on TV, which is Olympic Weightlifting (lifts over the head).

⁃ The Squat – With the bar and weights on the lifters back, the lifter squats down to legal depth and back up.
⁃ The Benchpress – While laying on a bench, the lifter takes the bar and weight down to their chest (motionless) and then pushes it back up.
⁃ The Deadlift – The easiest of the three, the lifter picks up the bar and weight to a full standing position.

Jordan Dunn

IPF Junior World Champion Jordan Dunn

The Order. Lifting goes in the order of the lifts above. A lifter is allowed 3 attempts for each lift. The lifter (or coach) chooses the weight for each attempt. For example, a lifter may choose to start at a weight of 300lbs in the squat. We will refer to this as the “opening or first attempt of the squat”. If successful, the lifter will increase the weight and attempt 2nd and 3rd attempts in each lift. Competitors also choose their attempt weights. Attempts are completed in the “rounds” system. In other words, each lifter does attempt 1 (lightest amount of weight first) and then all lifters complete attempt 2.

Blaine Sumner

Blaine Sumner squatting 871lbs with only a belt!

The Judges. Each lift is “judged” based on criteria set forth through the rules of the sport. Each lift has particular rules. 3 judges independently “vote” as to whether the lift met the criteria. They “vote” at the same time, and the results are usually indicated with a lighting system.

⁃ “Good Lift” – This means the lift met the criteria by a majority of the judges. 2 out of 3 white lights, a majority, is considered a good lift. Most lifts are decided by unanimous decisions of 3 white lights. The lifter will then get credit for that weight lifted on his or her scorecard.
⁃ “Bad Lift” – Alternatively, if a majority of the judges determine just one criteria was not met, the lift will be deemed bad. A red light will be given by the judge. The lifter will not get credit for that lift, and then has the choice of repeating the same amount or higher weight. The lifter may not choose to lower the amount of weight.

The Placing. For each lifter, the highest weight lifted per lift will be added to calculate a “Total”. Placings are given according to the highest totals. Before the competition, each lifter is weighed on a scale to determine weight classes. So, lifters lift against others of the same “body weight”. If lifters tie in total, the lighter body weight lifter is ranked higher. Learn more about Weight Classes and Divisions.

The Purpose. This is the important part. Powerlifting is a sport that demonstrates pure strength. Many lifters compete to see how strong they are compared to other athletes of similar age and body weight, and record improvement over time. If you ask a veteran powerlifter (men and women), they will tell you they lift because it is fun, the people involved are nice and very helpful, and most importantly it can improve attributes in other areas of life.

Cheryl Anderson

Cheryl Anderson excited after a huge deadlift!

There you have it. The quick and easy! In Powerlifting 102, we will discuss in greater “depth” each lift and reasons for disqualification.

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