To truly understand what a powerlifting is first you need to understand what it was. Back in the day, when powerlifting was not yet introduced and established as a sport, there were events called the odd lifts. This sport resembled very much today’s Strongman and Olympic Weightlifting events. It consisted of a group of lifts, which were not necessarily the same every time. Sometimes there were deadlift and curl meets, on other occasion there was squat, bench press and a continental clean and jerk. Additionally it all depended on which part of the country you are in. There were a lot of strong and powerful men and women who were unable to officially prove their worth in the community of other strength athletes, like Olympic lifters.
Eventually, popular odd lifts needed a more consistent and legalized form of measuring the strength of powerlifters. And so the powerlifting was born. Powerlifting is a strength sport, consisting of three weight lifting events: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. In each event, a powerlifter is allowed three attempts. The heaviest successful lift is then taken from each one of the events and added to a total. Awards are given to the highest total score depending on powerlifter’s weight class, age and gender. If two or more powerlifters have the same total, the award goes to the lightest of them. If a lifter can’t complete one lift, i.e. it has all three attempts unsuccessful in a single event; he or she is disqualified from the rest of the competition.
From that day on powerlifting has seen nothing but progress and acceptance of athletes and legal instances throughout the World. It grows more and more popular every day. In the beginning, USA, United Kingdom and Russia were the only countries that had powerlifting competitions held on a regular basis. Like wildfire, once established, this sport spread to all 4 corners of the Earth. Now we have federations in almost all countries and thousands of powerlifters ready to attend meets and to compete. Paralympic Games and World Games embraced the sport of powerlifting since 1984.
Although the three lifts basis of the sport is respected everywhere, different federations may have completely different rules. The original powerlifting form of competing was best captured and practiced by the International Powerlifting Federation, also known as the IPF which is an international governing body for this sport. There will always be ongoing debates, but the IPF is considered as a firm standard when it comes to proper form and depth of the lifts, as well as drug free competition and lifting gear (apparel) rules. IPF is the only federation that holds competitions on every continent, except Antarctica, and therefore it is considered as the unofficial powerlifting World championship.
In difference to traditional way of strength training, that dictated low number of repetitions and forced maximal weights, which is common in bodybuilding, powerlifting focused on developing explosive power as well. Training routines and methods evolved to comprise many different performances, such are explosive strength and maximal strength. Various ranges of possible exercises can be applied in the workouts to achieve the ability which is needed for powerlifting. Worldwide accepted method of training that is worth mentioning is Louie Simmons’s Westside Barbell which, amongst other things, defined how a successful bench press form should be executed.
Depending on the federation, special powerlifting clothes is allowed or not to be worn by the lifter. For example, 100% Raw Federation (RAW) allows no supportive gear whatsoever, which lowers down the weight lifted, while IPF, USAPL and ADFPF allow squat suit, bench shirt and deadlift suit. Requirement is that all suits need to be made from single-ply polyester material. On the other hand, federations like WPC, WPO, APF, IPA, APA allow use of double-ply (double layer) or multi-ply suits and shirts made from variety of materials life denim, canvas and polyester. All federations, except the RAW, allow knee wraps to be worn during squats and wrist wraps during all three events. Powerlifting belt is a mandatory piece of equipment worn to both provide help during lifting and as a measure of precaution to prevent any possible injuries.
Powerlifting, as we know it today, has not been like that in the early years. Competitions were held rarely and the audience following such strength demonstrations was low in numbers. Pioneer such is Paul Anderson and his successors Rickey Dale Crain, Lee Moran, Dave Waddington, Ed Coan, Kirk Karwoski, Bev Francis and Rebecca Swanson showcased and presented these lifts to a broader auditorium, which help the sport get established all over the World. Let us pay respect to those that served and still serve as an inspiration and constant motivation to us in the chase of higher results and goals in powerlifting as well as in life. Guys and girls, this one goes out to you.