What is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is a competitive sport involving the lifting of weights. A Powerlifting contest consists of three types of lifts; the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. The winner of the contest is the competitor who has the largest total (squat + bench press + deadlift = total). The three lifts combined use virtually every muscle in the body and it is generally considered, therefore, that Powerlifting is an excellent test of overall body strength.

Although the individual lifts (or variations of them) have been practised for at least 4500 years, the official sport of Powerlifting, with all its rules and regulations, is a relatively recent sport. Powerlifting was officially born in the early 1960’s. The first championships were held in 1971. Such has been the growth of the sport in its 25 year history that it is now the most popular lifting sport in the western world, overtaking the perhaps more publicised sport of Olympic Weightlifting (consisting of two lifts, the snatch and the clean & jerk)


Performed in one form or other since the time of the ancient Greeks. It was a particularly popular leg strengthening exercise amongst wrestlers in ancient Greece, India and Japan. The modern squat is still the primary leg strengthening exercise for all sports. The squat, in more or less its modern form, was first used in a strength contest in 1919 when Karl Moerke defeated Herman Goemer in a professional strongman challenge. The squat was introduced to the U.S. in 1920 by Henry Steinborn. It quickly developed into a major lift in strength contests. In Powerlifting contests the squat is the first lift performed.

The bench press is the newest of the competitive lifts. Invented in the early part of the 20th century it did not become popular until the 1940’s. Despite its late start the bench press has become the most popular lift of modern times. It is the major strengthening (and size increasing) exercise for the upper body. The bench press is employed by almost every weight trainer regardless of sport. In Powerlifting contests the bench press is the second lift performed.

The deadlift is the most basic and natural of all lifts. Historians believe that crude forms of the deadlift, involving the lifting of stones and logs, date back to prehistoric times. In fact deadlifting shares with foot-racing the honour of being the oldest known competitive sport. Deadlifting is the major strengthening exercise for the back. In Powerlifting contests the deadlift is the third (and last) lift performed.
In Powerlifting there is no prize for the best squat, the best bench press or the best deadlift (although world records are recognised in each lift). It is the total that determines the winner. This is because Powerlifting seeks to develop a balanced strength and therefore it discourages specialising in one lift at the expense of the others. In a Powerlifting contest each lifter is allowed three attempts in the squat, three attempts in the bench press, and three attempts in the deadlift. The heaviest successful attempt in each lift is added to produce the total. If a lifter fails to achieve at least one successful attempt in each lift then he or she is disqualified and is given no total.

In many sports today, athletes are tempted to turn to artificial and often unhealthy means of improving their performances. Powerlifting is no different. Most competitive powerlifters at some time have been faced with this respect, integrity and concern for their s commitment to these ideals.

wide drug free powerlifting movement. The DFPA upholds high standards of drug testing, with targeted, no-notice out-of-competition testing and extensive in competition testing. The penalties for a positive test are the most severe possible, a life-time ban on competition and membership. All new lifters sign statutory declarations about previous drug use and agreement to the testing procedures.

When you enter a Drug Free Competition, you know you are competing against lifters who, like yourself, have made a firm and public commitment to honest and clean lifting.

Competitions are run by current and recently retired lifters who understand what lifters need and want. Likewise all office bearers of the Association at every level are volunteers, with the interests of drug free lifters as their main concern.
The Federation aims to support and provide competition for lifters who want a level playing field, to encourage healthy and fit lifestyles where competition is keen and part of a balanced life view and to affiliate with other drug free and natural sports associations.
Australian Drugfree Powerlifting Federation has stringent drug testing policies that conform with the World Drug Free Powerlifting Association and follow International Olympic Committee testing procedures. Any full financial member of Australian Drugfree Powerlifting Federation or any affiliated State body can be tested. Testing is not necessarily random and individual athletes can be targeted. Testing can be done both IN and OUT of
COMPETITION. Grounds for testing are at the discretion of the State and National Drug Control Officers. For in-competition testing lifters are notified by a chaperone/test collector after their last lift and asked to participate in a drug test. All world record breakers and a minimum of 10% of all lifters in a State, National or International competition are tested. NO PRIOR NOTIFICATION is given to the athlete of an out-of-competition test. Test Collectors will have identification or written authorisation from the Drug Control Officer. REFUSAL to participate in a drug test will be deemed as a POSITIVE RESULT and appropriate action taken.Australian Drugfree Powerlifting Federation does full IOC testing including anabolic steroid testing. Banned substances are those banned by the IOC and the Australian Sports Drug Agency (ASDA). They include:

  • STIMULANTS: these act on the central nervous system to speed up parts of the brain and body. Examples are amphetamines, caffeine. Adverse effects include anxiety, tremor, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure.
  • ANABOLIC AGENTS/STEROIDS: these are usually artificial versions of the male hormone testosterone. They help build muscle and aid in recovery from training and injury. They have many detrimental and irreversible side effects such as liver damage, liver cancer, high blood pressure, mood changes, development of male characteristics in females (e.g. voice change, loss of breast tissue, increased facial and body hair, decrease in breast tissue etc.). Examples include methandrostenolone (Dianabol) and nandrolone decanoate (Deca-Durabolin).
  • DIURETICS; these help the body to lose water and salt.
    Examples are frusemide (Lasix/Urex) and spirinolactone (Aldactone). Adverse effects off this drug group include dehydration, salt imbalance, dizziness, cramps, nausea and with excessive dehydration even circulatory collapse is possible. NARCOTIC ANALGESICS; these are pain killers. Examples are dextropropoxyphene (Di-Gesic) and oxycodone (Endone). Adverse effects include respiratory problems, sedation and addiction.
  • PEPTIDE HORMONES and ANALOGUES: these agents include growth hormone, corticotrophin and erythropoietin. They can adversely affect growth and production of red blood cells. Growth Hormone abuse can cause severe side effects including heart disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, thickened bones and enlargement of the jaw, fingers, toes and nose. Dangers of erythropoietin include overloading the heart.

Positive tests are considered by the Executive of Australian Drugfree Powerlifting Federation/ affiliated State body. A positive result imposes a life time ban on being a member and participating in Drug Free Powerlifting sanctioned competitions. Any lifting records set by the athlete testing positive are cancelled from the record books. The Association has provisions for athletes taking medications for health purposes under medical supervision.
In Australia, competitions are held at the local, State and National level. Most lifters qualify for these competitions through meeting qualifying standards. Less experienced lifters are aided in gaining competition experience through novice and qualifying competitions and may be accepted for entry to other competitions. At the beginning of each year a calendar of events is set and is available to members. Australian lifters have represented their country in international competition conducted by the World Drug Free Powerlifting Association.

Powerlifting is a very fair sport because a smaller or older competitor does not have to compete with a heavier or younger lifter. Each lifter enters in a bodyweight and age group classification. The bodyweights are:
Men Less than 52.00 kg, 56 kg, 60 kg, 67.5 kg, 75 kg, 82.5 kg, 90 kg, 100 kg, 110 kg, 125 kg, 145 kg, Over 145 kg.
Women Less than 44 kg, 47.5 kg, 50.5 kg, 53 kg, 55.5 kg, 58.5 kg, 63 kg, 70 kg, 80, kg, 90 kg, Over 90 kg

The age groups for both men and women and all weight classes are:
Open (senior) From 14 years upwards
Teenage T1 From 14 to 15 years
T2 16 to 17 years
T3 18 to 19 years
Junior From 20 years up and including 23 years
Junior Master From 35 to 39 years
Master M1 From 40 to 44 years
M2 From 45 to 49 years
M3 From 50 to 54 years and so on in five year increments.
Age is the lifter’s age on the day of competition. Lifters may enter the senior as well as their own age category, but only one weight category.

lift according to the rules of lift and red for a lift that does not meet the rules) or by raising their hand if they see an infringement. If at least two of them consider the lift to have not met the rules, the lift is not considered legal and is not counted as part of the total for that lifter. To assist new lifters, below are the descriptions of the lifts and the rules for disqualification.

Squat: Performance
The lifter shall face the front of the platform in an upright position with the top of the bar not more than 3 cm (1.8 inches) below the top of the anterior deltoids. The bar shall be held horizontally across the shoulders with the hands and fingers gripping the bar and the feet flat on the platform with the knees locked. The lifter shall not touch the collars, sleeves or plates at any time during the performance of the lift. However, the edge of the hands gripping the bar may be in contact with the inner surface of the inside collars After removing the bar from the racks the lifter must move backwards to establish a starting position. The lifter shall wait in this position for the Head Referee’s signal. The signal will be given as soon as the lifter is motionless, erect with s signal shall consist of a downward movement of the Before receiving the starting signal the lifter may make position adjustments within the rules without penalty. Upon receiving the Head Referee’s signal, the lifter must bend the knees and lower the body until the TOP surface of the legs at the front of the hip joint are lower than the top of the knees.The lifter must recover at will, from the deepest point of the squat, without double bouncing or any downward movement once the upward motion has started (stopping is permitted) – to an upright position with the knees locked. When the lifter is motionless, the referee will give the signal to replace the bar. This signal will be given when the lifter is in the apparent final position as best determined by the Head Referee (even if the final position is not correct according to the rules). The signal to replace the bar will consist of a backward motion of the hand and the audible command “Rack”. signal, the lifter must make a bona fide attempt to return the bar to the racks. The attempt is indicated by a minimum of one step towards the racks, the lifter may then request aid to rack the bar if necessary. Designated meet spotter/loaders may not be replaced unless approval is secured from the Head Referee. The lifter may enlist the help of the spotter/loaders in removing the bar from the rack; however, once the bar has cleared the racks, the spotter/loaders shall not assist the lifter any further with regards to proper positioning, foot placement, bar positioning, etc.
Squat: Reasons for disqualification
1. Failure to observe the Head Referee’s signals at the commencement or completion of a lift.
2. Changing the position of the hands laterally In or out on the bar alter receiving the signal to commence the lift. (Opening & closing of the fingers Is allowed.)
3. Double bouncing or more than one recovery attempt at the bottom of the lift.
4. Failure to assume an upright position with the knees locked at the commencement and completion of the lift.
5. Any shifting of the feet laterally, backward or forward, during the performance of the lift. The toes and/’or heels may come up off the platform, but must return to the same position.
6. Failure to bend the knees and lower the body until the top surface of the legs at the front of the hip joint are ).
7. Changing the position of the bar across the shoulders after the commencement of the lift. This applies to the intentional or unintentional rolling of the bar to aid the performance of the lift, not to a minute amount of position change which would not aid the lifter.
8. Contact of the bar, plates or lifter by the spotter/loaders between the referee’s signals.
9. Contact of elbows or upper arms with the legs during the squat.
10. Failure to make a bona fide attempt to return the bar to the racks.
11. Any intentional dropping or ‘dumping’ of the bar.
Bench Press: Performance
The front of the bench must be placed on the platform facing the Head Referee. The lifter must lie on his back with head, shoulders and buttocks in contact with the flat bench surface. The shoes must be flat on the floor or flat on the built up surface. This position must be maintained throughout the attempt once the “Clap” signal has been given. To achieve firm footing the lifter may use plates or blocks, not exceeding 30 cm.(11 .81 ins.) In height, to build up the surface of the platform. Whichever method Is chosen, the entire foot must be flat on the surface. If blocks are used, they shall not exceed 45 cm x 45 cm. (17.7 x 17.7 Ins.) in length & width. The lifter may lift to self, or enlist the help of either the spotter/loaders or the personal coach in removing the bar from the racks. The lift-off must be to arms length and not down at the chest. (Personal coaches who appear on the platform must be at least Associate members of the Association.) The spacing of the hands shall not exceed 81 cm. (31.9 Ins) measured between the forefingers. A reverse grip Is permitted provided that the distance between the little fingers does not exceed 81 cms. After receiving the bar at arms’ length, the lifter shall lower the bar to the chest and await the referee’s signal. Before receiving the starting signal, the lifter may make any position adjustments without penalty. The signal to commence the lift, shall be a clap of the hands when the bar Is motionless on the chest. (Known as a After the signal to commence the lift has been given, the bar is pressed upwards to straight arms’ length and held motionless until the audible command “Rack” is given. The bar is allowed to stop during the upward movement; the bar is not allowed any downward movement during this phase of the lift.
Bench Press: Reasons for disqualification
1. Failure to observe the referee’s signals at the commencement or completion of the lift.
2. Any change In the elected lifting position during the lift proper (i.e. any movement of the head, shoulders, buttocks or feet from their original points of contact with the bench, floor or blocks or lateral movement of the hands on the bar once the “Clap” signal has been given.
3. Heaving or bouncing the bar off the chest.
4. Allowing the bar to sink into the chest after receiving the referee’s signal.
5. Any uneven extension of the arms at the completion of the lift.
6. Any downward movement of one or both hands during the upward movement .
7. Contact with the bar by spotter/loaders between the referees signals.
8. Any contact of the lifter’s feet with the bench or its supports.
9. Deliberate contact between the bar and the bar rest uprights during the lift to make the press easier.
Deadlift: Performance
s feet, gripped with an optional grip in both hands, and lifted upward until the lifter is standing erect with knees locked. The bar may stop but may not go down during the upward movement. On completion of the lift, the knees shall be locked in a straight position and the shoulders held in an erect position (not forward or rounded). Shoulders do not have to be thrust back past an erect position, if they are thrust back in that manner and all other criteria is acceptable, the lift is legal. The bar is to be held motionless in the upright position until the Head Referees signal which shall consist of a downward movement of the hand and the audible command “Down”. The signal will not be given until the bar is held motionless and the lifter is in the apparent finished position. Any raising of the bar from the platform – or any deliberate attempt to do so – will count as an attempt.
Deadlift: Reasons for disqualification
1. Any downward movement of the bar during the upward movement.
2. Failure to stand erect with the shoulders in an erect position.
3. Failure to lock the knees straight at the completion of the lift.
4. Supporting the bar on the thighs during the performance of the lift. This will be determined by any attempt at secondary knee flexion. As the bar is raised from the platform, the knees must extend without additional flexion taking place at the knees at any time during the upward movement of the bar.
5. Any lateral movement of the feet, or stepping backward or forward.
6. Lowering the bar before receiving the Head Referee’s Signal.
7. Allowing the bar to return to the platform without maintaining control with both hands.
General Rules
The use of grease, oil or other lubricants on the body, lifting clothing or personal equipment is forbidden. Talcum powder, liquid or solid chalk (magnesium carbonate), or resin can be used. No foreign substances can be applied to any personal equipment. The costume, with the exception of the belt may not be adjusted on the lifting platform. Prosthetic devices are considered to be approved equipment providing they are not performance enhancing.
General Information
There are few formal requirements on what new lifters can wear in a qualifying competition. Details of allowable lifting attire for State and National Championships are available from the DFPA
website. All personal equipment must be clean, in neat and tidy condition and must not bear any sponsorship or logo.

Most competitions start at 10:00am, with weigh-in from 8:00am. Competition details are published in the annual calendar and National Newsletter or are available from the DFPA website.
Lifters wishing to become members are required to sign a declaration abut previous drug usage, provide two passport photographs and evidence of age and complete a short Registration Form.

ADFPF welcomes like-minded individuals who want to show their support for drug free sport by helping in any way; competition organisation, publicity, recruitment, coaching of new lifters, refereeing, administration or any other way you think you can make a contribution. Contact the ADFPF for further information