Sport week: Introduction to powerlifting

Find out more about one of the fastest growing sports on the Paralympic programme. 20 Jun 2016 By IPC

Powerlifting is the ultimate test of upper body strength and can see athletes lift more than three times their own body weight.

The ‘world’s strongest Paralympian,’ Iran’s Siamand Rahman holds the world record for the biggest lift in Para powerlifting at 296kg. That is the equivalent of two refrigerators.

However Egypt are the most successful country overall, with 59 medals since 1964.

The sport evolved from the original inclusion of weightlifting at the Paralympic Games, after it gradually introduced more impairment groups and rules that brought it closer to powerlifting for able-bodied athletes. At Barcelona 1992 just powerlifting appeared on the programme and has been a popular fixture ever since.

Para powerlifting is one of the fastest growing sports on the Paralympic programme and is open to male and female athletes with:

Impaired muscle power

Impaired passive range of movement

Limb deficiency

Leg length difference

Short stature




More information about classification in powerlifting will be published later in this series of Sport Week.

All eligible athletes compete in one sport class, but in different weight categories. The weight categories were changed after London 2012, which is why fans will notice that for Rio 2016 they are different.

The sport is governed by the IPC and co-ordinated by the IPC Powerlifting Sport Technical Committee.


The bench press is the sport’s single discipline, with 10 different categories based on body weight.

Men compete in the up to 49kg, 54kg, 59kg, 65kg, 72kg, 80kg, 88kg, 97kg, 107kg and over 107kg divisions.

Women compete in the up to 41kg, 45kg, 50kg, 55kg, 61kg, 67kg, 73kg, 79kg, 86kg and over 86kg divisions.

After receiving the signal ‘start,’ competitors must lower the bar to the chest, hold it motionless on the chest and then press it upwards to arms’ length with locked elbows. When held motionless in this position the audible signal ‘rack’ shall be given and the bar can be placed back on the rack. One spotter stands beside the rack on each side to ensure the bar is returned safely, and also to support the bar should an athlete not be able to complete their lift.

An immediate decision on the legality of the lift is given by the three nominated international referees through a system of white and red lights. Two or three white lights indicate a good lift.

Athletes are given three lift attempts, and the winner is the athlete who lifts the highest number of kilograms. Competitors are allowed a fourth lift if they wish to attempt a record.

Athletes must be at least 14 years of age and have the ability to fully extend the arms with no more than a 20 degree loss of full extension on either elbow when making an approved lift.

At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, more than 180 athletes from 60 countries will compete at the Riocentro – Pavilion 2.

Useful links

IPC Powerlifting’s website

Editor’s note: Each sport on the Rio 2016 Paralympic programme will have a dedicated week of featured content published on Every week a new sport will be featured and the series will run until September’s Games, helping the public understand more about the 22 sports being contested in Rio.


Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs)

The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.

Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.