Study: Breakdown of USA Powerlifting Federation Data From 2012 to 2016

There’s no denying that strength sports are growing in popularity, and in my opinion, powerlifting is probably the most widely practiced strength sport today. And while there are no definitive numbers out there proving exactly how many powerlifters are in the United States and world, we are seeing more meets, more spectators in attendance at those meets, and more companies designed to support these athletes.

Those factors alone are great suggestions for how much the sport has grown over the years. Yet, as a journalist and science lover, there’s not too much you can do with guesstimates, and that’s why I like numbers and hard data. The study below offers a cool look at USA Powerlifting Federation’s hard data from competitions between 2012 to 2016.

Research authors sought out two main questions when looking at the competition data and those were: 1) How do raw and non-raw athletes strength compare? and 2) How do men and women’s strength compare?

Below are a few cool points of data researchers shared before diving into different topics explored with the data.

  • 648 USAPL meets were held between January 1st, 2012 – June 11th, 2016
  • 21,953 individual competitors attended meets throughout the timeline
  • Gender breakdown: 6,038 women and 15,856 men athletes

Female:Male Attendance and Strength Breakdown

One of the first pieces of data the researchers looked at was the female to male ratio at meets. Of the total numbers of competitors analyzed (22,552), researchers found that the average ratio between female to male competitors at meets were 1:2.6, aka 10 females per 26 males. Additionally, they noted that women lifted average totals of 281kg and men 461kg.

When breaking down female to male ratios per meet size, researchers noted that as a meet got bigger the ratio decreased. For example, they write that meets with over 400 athletes had a ratio of 1:1.7, which equates to about two women per every three men.

Weight Class Breakdown

Potentially the coolest piece of data was the weight class breakdown. Researchers broke down how many athletes for each gender attended meets, and it’s interesting to assess the number of athletes in each category per the competitiveness we routinely see.

Keep in mind, these numbers will be higher than the total individual count below, as often athletes compete more than once and change weight classes.

Women

-47kg: 587 athletes-72kg: 3,272 athletes
-52kg: 725 athletes-84kg: 2,386 athletes
-57kg: 1,826 athletes84kg+: 2,072 athletes
-63kg: 2,505 athletes

Men

-59kg: 5,471 athletes-93kg: 4,357 athletes
-66kg: 3,839 athletes-105kg: 6,651 athletes
-74kg: 2,501 athletes-120kg: 6,462 athletes
-83kg: 2,390 athletes120kg+: 2,796 athletes

Ratio of Weight to Lift

One of the final categories researchers looked at was the average weight lifters per an athlete’s bodyweight. Keep in mind, these are rough averages, and the data includes all age groups, so realistically, there will probably be higher variance that what’s provided below based on age group, weight class, years lifting, etc.

Female AthletesMale Athletes
Squat: 1.6Squat: 2.1
Bench Press: 0.9Bench Press: 1.4
Deadlift: 1.9Deadlift: 2.4

Wrapping Up

In the study, there are other categories authors dive into that are worth checking out if you’re interested in some of the more detailed topics within the data. All in all, the data was cool because it’s not often you get to see hard numbers on some of these topics. With so many powerlifting federations in the United States alone, it’s tough to gain a full understanding of how much the sport has grown.

Hopefully as time passes, we’ll continue to see comparisons and data points like these analyzed and released!

Feature image from @usapowerlifting Instagram page. 

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Jake holds a Master's in Sports Science and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as one of the full time writers and editors at BarBend. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand. As of right now, Jake has published over 1,100 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake's bread-and-butter. On top of his personal writing, Jake edits and plans content for 15 writers and strength coaches who come from every strength sport.Prior to BarBend, Jake worked for two years as a strength and conditioning coach for hockey and lacrosse players, and was a writer at the Vitamin Shoppe's corporate office. Jake regularly competes in powerlifting in the 181 lb weight class, and considers himself a weightlifting shoe sneaker head. On the side of writing full time, Jake works as a part-time strength coach and works with clients through his personal business Concrete Athletics in Hoboken and New York City.