The sport of powerlifting involves more than just competing in the squat, bench press and deadlift -- you must also compete within a weight class. 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. Consult a health care practitioner before engaging in athletic training.
Weight Class History
Powerlifting was first an organized sport with a world championships in 1964, held in York, Pennsylvania. At the time, the organizers used the same weight classes as in Olympic weightlifting. This was not only for convenience but because many powerlifters were converted Olympic lifters and everyone was used to it. At the time, the upper limit for men's heavyweight class was 242 lbs., with anything over that being the unlimited, or super-heavyweight class. Later, the organizers added two additional heavyweight classes for men, with the upper limit being 319 lbs. Anyone over 319 lbs. lifted in the unlimited category.
Each weight class, with the exception of the unlimited class, has an upper limit. The men's 114 lbs. class will have no one in it weighing 114.5 lbs. Anyone over 114 lbs. must lift in the next category. Weigh-in can occur anywhere from 24 to 48 hours before a meet in some competitions, to only two hours before a meet in International Powerlifting Federation championship meets. The longer the time between weigh-in and competition, the easier it is to make weight. If you are a novice competitor, avoid doing anything to cut weight for your first competition, you have enough to worry about with lifting.
The standard for men's weight classes are 114 lbs., 123 lbs., 132 lbs., 148 lbs., 165 lbs., 181 lbs., 198 lbs., 220 lbs., 242 lbs., 275 lbs., 319 lbs. and super-heavyweight or unlimited class. Most competitors climb several weight classes 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.
Women's Weight Classes
The standard for women's weight classes are 97 lbs., 123 lbs., 132 lbs., 148 lbs., 165 lbs., 181 lbs., 198 lbs. and anyone over 198 lbs. lifts in the unlimited category. While both men and women restrict their weight to make the limit for the class they are competing in as long as possible, women do not climb weight classes as quickly as men. This is secondary to the fact that women produce far less testosterone and do not build muscle as quickly as men, according to a 1994 study published in the "Journal of Applied Physiology."
- International Powerlifting Federation: Technical Rulebook
- Journal of Applied Physiology; Successive Time Courses of Strength Development and Steroid Hormone Responses to Heavy-resistance Training; R.C Hickson, et al.; February 1994
- Muscletown USA: Bob Hoffman and the Manly Culture of York Barbell"; John D. Fair; 2008
- "The Westside Barbell Book of Methods"; Louie Simmons; 2008