In powerlifting, the same weight can mean different things.
When a 200-pound athlete and a 400-pound athlete both max their deadlift at 500 pounds, it’s generally understood that the 200-pound athlete made a more impressive lift.
Intuitively we know that a big guy and a little guy (or gal) maxing at the same weight means the little guy is stronger, but what about if a 200-pound lifter and a 202-pound lifter can pull 500 and 502 pounds, respectively? Are they about even? Is there a way we can figure this out and rank every lifter of every weight class to decide who is strongest relative to their size?
Enter… math! This conundrum of ranking athletes of different weights was tackled by Robert Wilks, the CEO of Powerlifting Australia. He came up with the following formula with the intent of leveling the playing field between men and women of different weights. It looks like this:
The values for men are:
Values for women are:
[A similar formula was devised to measure strength in Olympic weightlifters. Read this article to learn how the Sinclair Coefficient became one of the most important numbers in weightlifting.]
Before the Wilks score, certain powerlifting federations used other formulas like the O’Carroll and Schwartz formulas. Even today, many federations use different formulas like the Glossbrenner coefficient and the Siff coefficient.
But even though it’s not perfect — one criticism is that there may be an unfavorable bias toward heavier men and women in the deadlift — the Wilks Coefficient is widely used in powerlifting meets around the globe, most notably by the International Powerlifting Federation. Until the Wilks is dropped for a better formula, it’s the international language of powerlifting.
That’s why we decided to put together this infographic of the best Wilks scores of all time. Are you surprised by anyone on this list?
Featured image via @thevanillagorilla92 on Instagram.