Powerlifting is a bench-press competition – the ultimate test of upper-body strength.
With athletes from more than 100 countries now involved in international competition, it is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports. The bench-press contest offers a tense and dramatic sporting spectacle, as athletes battle to lift more weight than their rivals.
Thursday 30 August – Wednesday 5 September
Number of competitors
200: 120 men and 80 women
Each country is limited to a total of 16 athletes (eight men and eight women), with a maximum of one athlete in each event.
Competitors are classified by bodyweight alone: athletes with different impairments compete for the same medals.
Number of medal events
20: 10 men’s and 10 women’s weight categories. Within each event, athletes are split into two groups, Group A and Group B; both groups compete for the same medal within their weight category.
Field of play
History of Powerlifting at the Paralympic Games
After its initial introduction to the Paralympic Games at Tokyo in 1964, when it was billed as Weightlifting, the sport now known as Powerlifting underwent a major transition. It expanded to include athletes with cerebral palsy or spinal injuries, lower-limb amputees and ‘les autres’ (‘the other’ disability groups). Women made their Powerlifting debut at Sydney 2000 and the sport has continued to grow at a rapid rate ever since.
In Powerlifting, athletes must meet a minimum eligibility criteria based on their impairment. They are then grouped by bodyweight for competition, which means athletes with different impairments compete for the same medals. There are 10 different weight categories for men and for women.
Powerlifters must lower the bench-press bar to their chest, hold it motionless, and then press it upwards to arm’s length while keeping their elbows locked. Athletes are given three attempts, and the winner is the athlete who lifts the largest weight (measured in kilograms).
For a complete set of rules, please refer to the website of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Powerlifting, governing body for the sport.
Each lifter is allowed three attempts at each weight. In the event of a tie, the athlete with the lowest bodyweight wins.
Three referees judge the success of each attempt, indicating with either a red or a white light.
Loaders are responsible for ensuring that the bar is in the right position and loaded with the correct weights. They must never touch the bar during the lift attempt.
Keys to success
While strength is obviously a key quality for a successful lifter, the winning lifters also have excellent technique. A good lift must be judged successful by at least two of the three referees.
Breaking the rules
As well as not being able to lift the weight required, the judges will penalise illegal or incorrect technique. For example, it is judged a time-out if the athlete fails to start the lift within the allocated time, an athlete’s head may not lift from the bench, and hands must not be more than 81cm apart.
Bench – the bench stands no more than 50cm high and must be at least 61cm wide.
Commencement and completion – the start and end of each lift, indicated respectively by a downward or upward arm motion from the chief referee.
Platform – the field of play, measuring at least 2.5m x 2.5m and no more than 4m x 4m.
If you want to find out about Powerlifting in your country, including clubs, facilities and coaching schemes, check the website of your National Governing Body. To find out how you can get involved in Powerlifting in the UK, go to thegamesandbeyond.com
For more information on the Powerlifting competition at London 2012 and the rules of the sport, go to the website of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Powerlifting, governing body for the sport.