As a refresher, powerlifting involves the 3 compound lifts: back squats, bench presses, and deadlift. In a sanctioned powerlifting competition, the athlete has 3 attempts per lift to lift the maximum amount of weight while following the referee’s commands and the federation’s rules and regulations. Since powerlifting is just one of the many sports weightlifting, it isn’t as widely popular or well-known. Powerlifting is not in the Olympics. Instead, countries will have their annual national competitions and the chosen country will host the annual world competition bringing powerlifters together from all over the world.

Ron Judge with well over 500lbs (227.5kg) on his back

In all federations, across the world, there are over 370,000 registered powerlifters. Yet, powerlifting only started in the 1950’s – that’s 70 years ago, it hasn’t even been a century. There are about 66 countries participating with registered powerlifters, representing ⅓ of the world.


In 2017, in the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), there were a little over 1100 athletes who competed in sanctioned events. In 2018, that number increased to a little over 1300 athletes and in 2019, there were over 1600 athletes who competed in sanctioned events. The numbers of competing athletes continued to rise (with exception to 2020 since competitions practically came to a halt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic). 

The real question is why are people gravitating towards powerlifting!

It’s in the name – for power from lifting. Powerlifting focuses on building strength, unlike bodybuilding which focuses on refining aesthetics from building muscle mass. Reminder: muscle mass does not always equate to muscle strength. Since the focus of powerlifting is NOT aesthetics, there’s a lower prevalence of a broken relationship with food, body and self. Most experienced and competitive bodybuilders will tell you that the half the battle is your relationship with food, body and self. Most people looking to start lifting weights aren’t always exactly aligned with food restrictions nor is their focus on what they see in the mirror.

Now Olympic weightlifting is also strength-focused, however, powerlifting movements are simple in comparison. Olympic weightlifting calls for the clean and jerk, and the snatch – exercises that require lifting the weight over the head. It can be frightening for most people looking to start lifting weights which is also one of the reasons why powerlifting is often favored. With that said, it’s more difficult to start learning olympic weightlifting alone therefore usually hiring an experienced Coach is an added and required investment. There’s a lower barrier when it comes to starting and continuing powerlifting in comparison to olympic lifting, even when the main goal is strength.

And a few weeks ago, I asked my social media followers, “Why do you lift weights?”. Please note that all the answers came from competing powerlifters.

  • “Because I love growing stronger physically and mentally as I push my limits.”


  • “[Powerlifting] gives me purpose and drive. It’s always there for me. It shows me I’m capable of so much.”

  • “To be the strongest version of myself, mentally and physically.”

Seeing a trend? Powerlifting builds strength, physically AND mentally. The sport requires structure, discipline and a strong mindset. We’re walking into the gym 3-4 times a week, almost doing the same lifts at varying intensities and volumes – it can get repetitive and boring. But we understand that it’s in the boring that we grow and set PRs (push limits). And it’s in those PRs, whatever that may be, that we recognize how much we’re capable of and how our limit is more than we expected.

Mark Tobias deadlifting 257.5kg
  • “It makes me happy and grounded.”

  • “Community, build self-trust to show up and work, reminds me how far I’ve come. And it’s f***ing fun!”

Not only does it affect our body and mind, but it clearly uplifts our emotional wellbeing. Personally, I entered powerlifting to gain strength, power and self-confidence because I felt that I needed to speak up for myself and reach for whatever makes me happy. It made me feel capable. It made happiness accessible. But I didn’t expect the impressive community or the progress.

  • “For the booty gains! Duh!” 

  • “So I can eat more!”

At the end of the day, powerlifting is still a type of resistance training so it plays a role in physical fitness and improving our metabolism.

We lift for ourselves. So lift for you.