What Are the Powerlifting Weight Classes and Why Are They Important?

Weight classes in powerlifting ensure fair competition so that a 130-pound person isn't competing against a 250-pound person.
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If you've been lifting weights for a while and are looking for a new challenge, you might want to give powerlifting a try.

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Powerlifting is a weightlifting sport that consists of three lifts: the squat, bench press and deadlift. It was first an organized sport with a world championships in 1964, held in York, Pennsylvania, according to the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). The goal? To see who can lift as much weight as possible for one rep of each move.

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However, powerlifting involves more than just that — you must also compete within a weight class. As the name suggests, your weight determines which category you fall into. Powerlifting is divided up into weight classes so that a 130-pound person isn't competing against a 250-pound person, for example.

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Weight classes remain basically the same for men and women, but women have lighter classes and men have heavier classes. In the middle weight categories, the classes are identical.

Below, we'll go through everything you need to know about the weight requirements of powerlifting so you're armed with all the knowledge you need if you want to get into the sport.

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A Quick Note on Language

Here at LIVESTRONG.com, we carefully consider language surrounding sex and gender. We typically avoid language that implies a sex or gender binary in favor of inclusive language. However, the IPF categorizes weight classes into "men's" and "women's," so we've used those terms below.

Men's Classes in Powerlifting

Below are the men's powerlifting weight classes, according to the 2023 IPF Technical Rules Book. The IPF lists them in kilograms (kg), but we've also listed the men's powerlifting weight classes in pounds.

Most competitors climb several weight classes for powerlifting over the course of their competitive years. This is due to both the nature of powerlifting training, which promotes muscle growth, and the fact that powerlifters spend far more time building strength and less time building muscle than bodybuilders.

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Men's Powerlifting Weight Classes

53 kg/116 lbs

59 kg/130 lbs

66kg/145 lbs

74kg/163 lbs

83 kg/182 lbs

93 kg/205 lbs

105 kg/231 lbs

120 kg/264 lbs

120+ kg/264+ lbs

Source(s): IPF

Women's Weight Classes in Powerlifting

Below are the women's powerlifting weight classes, according to the 2023 IPF Technical Rules Book. The IPF lists them in kilograms (kg), but we've also listed the women's powerlifting weight classes in pounds.

Women's Powerlifting Weight Classes

43 kg/94 lbs

47 kg/103 lbs

52 kg/114 lbs

57 kg/125 lbs

63 kg/ 138 lbs

69 kg/152 lbs

76 kg/167 lbs

84 kg/185 lbs

84+ kg/185+ lbs

Source(s): IPF

Making Weight

Each weight class, with the exception of the unlimited class, has an upper limit. The men's 116-pound class will have no one in it weighing 116.5 pounds. Anyone over 116 pounds must lift in the next category.

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Weigh-in to figure out which weight class you're competing in can occur anywhere from 24 to 48 hours before a meet in some competitions, to only two hours before a meet for International Powerlifting Federation championship meets, per the IPF. The longer the time between weigh-in and competition, the easier it is to make weight.

Strength-to-Weight Ratio in Powerlifting

Your strength-to-weight ratio is your strength divided by your body weight.

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Using established records as the limit and the top weight for each class, men can lift 8.9 times their bodyweight on average when setting a world record. The highest ratio is in the lightest weight class, where Andrzej Stanaszek of Poland achieved 10.6 times his bodyweight, according to ‌Powerlifting Watch‌, a popular powerlifting publication. The lowest ratio is in the heaviest weight class, where John Cole of the U.S. totaled 7.7 times his bodyweight in competition.

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Women can lift a total of 6.8 times their bodyweight when setting a record. Unlike men, for women the highest ratio is in the middle-weight class, where Carrie Boudreau of the United States totaled 7.6 times her bodyweight, according to ‌Powerlifting Watch‌. Like the men, the women's lowest strength-to-bodyweight powerlifting total occurs in the heavyweight class, where Shannon Nash of the U.S. totaled 6 times her bodyweight.

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