Always be careful while lifting weights, power lifter Jason Belt let things get a little bit too intense and his bicep goes kaboom!
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Powerlifting is a strength sport that consists of three attempts at maximal weight on three lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. As in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, it involves the athlete attempting a maximal weight single lift of a barbell loaded with weight plates. Powerlifting evolved from a sport known as “odd lifts”, which followed the same three-attempt format but used a wider variety of events, akin to strongman competition. Eventually odd lifts became standardized to the current three.
In competition, lifts may be performed equipped or un-equipped (typically referred to as ‘raw’ lifting or ‘classic’ in the IPF specifically). Equipment in this context refers to a supportive bench shirt or squat/deadlift suit or briefs. In some federations, knee wraps are permitted in the equipped but not un-equipped division; in others, they may be used in both equipped and un-equipped lifting. Weight belts, knee sleeves, wrist wraps and special footwear may also be used, but are not considered when distinguishing equipped from un-equipped lifting.
Competitions take place across the world but mostly in the United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Colombia, Iceland, South Africa, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, Taiwan, Japan and Ukraine. Powerlifting has been a Paralympic sport (bench press only) since 1984 and, under the IPF, is also a World Games sport. Local, national and international competitions have also been sanctioned by other federations operating independently of the IPF.
The roots of powerlifting are in traditions of strength training stretching back as far as Greek and Roman times. The modern sport originated in the United States and the UK in the 1950s. Previously, the weightlifting governing bodies in both countries had recognized various ‘odd lifts’ for competition and record purposes. During the 1950s, Olympic weightlifting declined in the United States, while strength sports gained many new followers.
In 1958, the AAU’s National Weightlifting Committee decided to begin recognizing records for ‘odd lifts’. A national championship was tentatively scheduled for 1959, but it never happened. The first genuine national ‘meet’ was held in September 1964 under the auspices of the York Barbell Company. Ironically, Bob Hoffman, the owner of York Barbell, had been a long-time adversary of the sport. But his company was now making powerlifting equipment to make up for the sales it had lost on Olympic-style equipment.
During the late 1950s, Hoffman’s York Barbell Company, his influence in Olympic lifting and his predominately Olympic-lifting based magazine Strength and Health were beginning to come under ever-increasing pressure from Joe Weider’s organization. As America’s (and Bob Hoffman influence in the world of weightlifting was declining and in order to combat the growing influence of Weider, Hoffman started another magazine, Muscular Development, which would be focused more on bodybuilding and the fast-growing interest in ‘odd-lift’ competitions. The magazine’s first Editor was the world-renowned John Grimek.