So What Is It?
In a competition lifters are weighed, then warm up and have three attempts at each lift, with the heaviest successful lift of each type being scored and combined to make a Total score. Referees watch to check the equipment and movement rules are followed and make calls to tell the lifter when to stop and start. Competitors can also be judged on the Wilk's formula, which calculates the weights lifted with the athlete's bodyweight and other factors to be able to compare lifters across weight, age and gender differences.
Participants compete in one of two main categories, Equipped or Raw (also called Classic), and in gender, age and weight classes. Equipped lifters use a variety of special clothing and accessories that can help them move more weight, whereas raw lifters use minimal equipment. In New Zealand, Raw lifting is by far the most popular.
Start with the loaded barbell in a rack. Stand up under the barbell so the bar is across the back of your shoulders with hands holding on each side. Walk backwards away from the rack, then lower your body until your hip crease is level or lower than the top of your knee. Stand up straight again and rack the the bar.
Start with your back on a bench and your feet on the floor. The loaded barbell is on a rack above your head. Get hold of the bar, push it up and out of the rack so that your arms are straight up, then lower the bar until it touches your chest. Push it back up so that your arms are locked out and straight.
The loaded barbell is on the floor. Stand close to it and lower your body to get hold of the bar in your hands. Raise your body, holding the bar until you are standing straight up with your shoulders back.
Who Is Involved?
Recently New Zealand has been doing very well internationally in powerlifting. We have three current world champions! Brett Gibbs in the Junior Mens' 83kg Raw class, Joel Hintz in the Sub-Junior 120kg Raw class, and Trish Muldrock in the 60-69 year olds' Raw 47kg class, as well as a heap of current world record holders.
The International Powerlifting Federation is the largest and most prestigious governing body in the sport, and the one that all (as far as I can figure out) New Zealand competitive powerlifters compete under. The I.P.F. has the most tightly enforced rules, including in and out of competition drugs testing, of all the federations, and is the only one that holds a true World Championship competition.
Age classes in the IPF go from Sub-Junior (14-18), Junior (19-23) Open (any age) and onto four classes or Masters at age 40+. Weight classes under the IPF are for Open men: 59 kg, 66 kg, 74 kg, 83 kg, 93 kg, 105 kg, 120 kg, 120 kg+ and for Open women: 47 kg, 52 kg, 57 kg, 63 kg, 72 kg, 84 kg, 84 kg +. I'm in the under 72kg class, in case you're wondering.
Powerlifting, for various reasons, is not yet an Olympic sport. There are many legitimate international competitions run throughout the year though, including the Oceania, Commonwealth and World Championships.
Why do I Powerlift?
I suppose I'm naturally pretty strong. My parents are both good at lifting heavy things without any specific training, and growing up working on the family farm I always counted strength as a useful quality. Although strong, I was never fast, nimble or graceful and so wasn't good at the multitude of sports I played as a kid, but I did enjoy it.
At age 31 I began CrossFit and found that the heavy stuff is the most fun. I took up Olympic Lifting ("What is Olympic Weightlifting" blog post coming too) and within a couple of months of starting it up as a separate sport, I had qualified for and competed at the 2013 New Zealand Nationals. That's still a highlight of my life - reaching a nationally competitive level in a sport, any sport!
Yeah, basically that ^^
Besides Being Good at it, Why?
The more I do it, the deeper I get into how far my body and mind can be pushed. That is, how further into 'my best' I can go. I think limits may have been reached but then they are broken soon after. I'm pushing my potential as a human.
Powerlifting results can be quantifiably measured. If I can squat more this week than last week, I have improved by an actual number. With my other main activities, mothering and being an artist, there is no concrete way of knowing, one week to another, if I am doing a good job, much less improving. At powerlifting, I put in a measurable amount of work and I measurably improve. It's very satisfying.
I'm not training to 'get toned' or 'get in shape'. That happened about six months into starting CrossFit and has been left behind as a goal a long time ago. I am very aware that I am not building an 'ideal' figure by society's standards, but I love my powerlifters' body. I have big legs, visible abs (on a lean day), shoulders that bust normal clothes and a magnificent butt.
Obviously Powerlifting Will Make Your Life Complete. How Do You Start?
CrossFit incorporates the basic power lifts into their training program. CrossFit has other stuff about it that's way cool too. Find your local CrossFit Box here.
Lots of info about competitive Powerlifting on the International Powerlifting Federation's website.
New Zealand Powerlifting Federation here.
Otago Amateur Powerlifting Association (my club) here.
And have a read of Carli's story. She's a fairly amazing human being. And an inspiring project of her's here.