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What Is Powerlifting?

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

Powerlifting is a sport that's taken off worldwide over the past 5 or 6 years, thanks in part to the rise of social media platforms and the growing popularity of sports like Crossfit. Powerlifting is considered by many to be the "true" test of strength, as it tests a person's strength in 3 different ways with a barbell; the Squat, Bench Press and the Deadlift.

From the IPF Technical Rules: The barbell back squat, barbell bench press, and barbell deadlift.

Before we go any further. Powerlifting is not weightlifting. If you're looking for information on the sport in which you throw weights above your head, this is probably not the article for you.

Sometimes it's hard to get across what Powerlifting is to friends and family members so we've put together this basic guide to help get across, or learn what it's all about!


The Basics:

Powerlifting is a sport comprised of 3 lifts with a barbell; the back squat, the bench press and the deadlift. The objective of Powerlifting is to put the greatest total of these three lifts combined.

Best Back Squat (KGs) + Best Bench Press (KGs) + Best Deadlift (KGs) = Total (KGs)

From left to right: The Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift


The Competition:

Firstly, you've got to weigh in. If you're lifting in an IPF/NZPF competition that will happen 2 hours before the competition starts.

In a Powerlifting competition, there are three rounds, each with 3 attempts meaning you get 9 total lifts across the duration of the competition. Each round is dedicated to a single lift (I.E the squat) and the goal of each round should be to successfully lift the weight possible.

In short:

1. Weigh In

2. Roughly 2 hours

3. Squat - 3 Attempts

4. 10-minute break

5. Bench Press - 3 Attempts

6. 10-minute break

7. Deadlift - 3 Attempts

8. Prize Giving


The Weight Classes:

For all intents and purposes, we'll be talking to IPF weight classes.

Although Powerlifting is ultimately about lifting the most amount of weight possible, it's split into different weight classes so no matter what size or shape you are, there's a weight class that will suit you!

There are 9 men's weight classes and 8 women's weight classes:

Men: 53kg, 59kg, 66kg, 74kg, 83kg, 93kg, 105kg, 120kg, 120kg+

Women: 43kg, 47kg, 52kg, 57kg, 63kg, 72kg, 84kg, 84kg+

Powerlifting isn't just for bigger people. Multiple time world champion in the 59kg category Sergey Ferdosieko often totals over 11x his body weight.


The Age Classes:

Splitting competitors into age categories allow you to better assess someone's abilities versus their peers. Age classes aren't used at every competition and you'll often see top lifters competition together regardless of how old they are.

In total there are 8 age classes:

Sub-Junior: 14 - 18

Junior: 19 - 23

Open: 24 - 39

Masters I: 40 - 49

Masters II: 50 - 59

Masters III: 60 - 69

Masters IV: 70 - 79

Masters V: 80+

Note: Junior and Masters lifters can choose to lift as Open lifters



There are multiple kinds of powerlifting but there are two forms that are most well know; Raw and Equipped.

Raw (also known as classic) Powerlifting is the most popular form of powerlifting and is likely what you'll encounter first. Raw powerlifting is characterised by its lack of supportive equipment. Lifters are required to wear a lifting singlet (usually made of polyester & spandex) and can choose to wear a belt, knee sleeves and wrist wraps.

Equipped (also know as geared) Powerlifting utilizes supportive equipment to allow the user to lifer more weight. Common pieces so equipment include; squat suit,s bench shirts, deadlift suits, and knee wraps. Equipped lifting is often considered to be as much about skill in the equipment as much as it is strength. It's not uncommon to see people lifting more than 20% above their raw max.

Team USA Lifter Blaine Sumner squatting at the 2019 IPF Equipped World Championships. Not the use of knee wraps and squat suit.


The Other Stuff:

Sadly, powerlifting isn't quite as easy as we've made out above. There are a whole lot of specific rules related to competition schedule, equipment, and rules specific to each lift.

If you want to expand your knowledge of the technical rules, we suggest you read the IPF technical rules.

If you want to get amongst Powerlifting here in New Zealand, check out the New Zealand Powerlifting Federation and find out when there will be a competition in your area!


After some new Powerlifting Gear and live in Australia or New Zealand?

Head to and use the code NSBB2021 for 10% off A7 and all other equipment!

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