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What is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is a sport commonly confused with weightlifting (also known as Olympic powerlifting). It is a strength sport with the basic premise focused on athletes lifting a maximum weight on three lifts known as: the squat, the bench press and the deadlift.

The sport can be traced as far back as ancient Greece and Persia. Powerlifting originated from the concept of lifting heavy stones to prove strength. Since 1981, top athletes compete in the World Games and the sport is under consideration for the Olympics. The main differences between powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting are the lifts, the speed, and attempts.

Powerlifting vs. Weightlifting


In powerlifting, the three lifts used in competition are, as stated before, the squat, the bench press and the deadlift. On the other hand, in Olympic weightlifting, the lifts performed are the snatch and the clean and jerk, which are overhead movements that involve an increased tempo in comparison to the powerlifting lifts, and some might even debate, more skill.


Performing an Olympic weightlifting lift requires a lot of precise timing and speed. The weight has to reach a certain momentum, and to do so, the athlete’s body needs to move in unison, allowing for the best trajectory of the weight upwards.

Powerlifting, on the other hand, requires less coordination, since the lifts don’t require the momentum to lift it overhead.


In both powerlifting and weightlifting, each athlete has a certain amount of attempts at performing a lift. Powerlifting allows for the athlete to perform the lift a maximum of three times, while in Olympic weightlifting, the maximum is limited to only one.

Benefits of Powerlifting

Powerlifting has become a popular sport in recent years, mainly because of the competitiveness and the appeal to young athletes. What most don’t take into account when practicing this sport are its health benefits.

Strength and muscle development

One of the obvious benefits of powerlifting is improving your overall strength and muscle development because the lifts involved in powerlifting are also categorized as compound exercises. This means that when performing the moves, the required motions involve multiple muscle groups, which develop and strengthen different areas of the body.

Weight loss

With physical activity comes caloric expenditure, or fancy talk for fat burning. Powerlifting gives the athlete an edge, though. The compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups, which in turn burn more calories, thus leading to fat loss.

Skeletal Health

Studies have shown that intense exercise, more specifically resistance training, increases bone mass and decreases the risk for bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis.

Basic equipment

Fortunately, powerlifting is a sport that doesn’t require much equipment. At the most basic level, all that is needed to participate are barbells and weights. Beginners typically do not need to purchase these weights as they are accessible in the gym.

As athletes begin to dive into the sport, they typically will purchase various types of supporting equipment to assist with lifts. These accessories include squat belts, knee wraps, shin savers, lifting straps, wristbands, etc.

How to Participate


Powerlifting can be practiced recreationally or competitively. Recreational practice can be done in most gyms, though there are special gyms designed for powerlifting and weightlifting alike. Competitive powerlifting involves meetings, which can be hosted by private companies or organizations, USA Powerlifting Nationals is an example of a powerlifting meet.

Powerlifting Tips for Beginners

When starting with powerlifting, be sure to get instructed and supervised by a trainer to avoid injuries. Starting out with the right equipment such as weightlifting belts is also recommended. Also, note that powerlifting might not be a good first sport if you have no previous experience with any kind of weight/resistance training. Consult with your GP if you have any existing problems before deciding to start with this sport.


USA Powerlifting

Prevalence and Consequences of Injuries in Powerlifting: A Cross-sectional Study