By Andrew Richardson Uploaded 30th May 2013
Don't let the name fool you Powerlifting isn't a Power sport, it is a strength sport. Weightlifting, Shot putting are power sports. This article will help to explain the common misunderstanding that powerlifting is a power sport.
Powerlifting consists of 3 strength events, Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift all requiring the athlete to lift a heavy weight (close to their personal best, so maximal effort) 9 times ( 3 times for each event ) with a lengthy rest period between each event and a shorter rest period between each lift.
Usually when going for a max lift it is a struggle (this will be discussed more in depth further on in the article). Strength athletes I find/believe work with the line "longer time under tension" when compared to Power athletes. There objective is to move a heavy object that's it doesn't matter how long it takes as long as they move it.
Muscular strength is defined as the ability of the muscles to exert a force. Strength can be split into many different forms as shown below:
-Absolute Strength (Maximum force that can be exerted regardless of body weight/size). So going for a new deadlift PB for 1 rep (1RM repetition maximum).
-Dynamic Strength (ability to exert muscular force repeatedly) Rowing a regatta event (about 1000m).
-Elastic Strength (similar to power) doing a box jump.
-Static Strength (ability to exert a sustained force without significant movement). Gymnastics crucifix hold.
-Explosive Strength (ability to exert a maximal force quickly in one action). Javelin or shot put.
-Strength Endurance (ability of a muscle to resist fatigue while exerting a force). Marathon running.
-Relative Strength (maximum force that can be exerted in proportion to body). Boxing, judo sports with weight classes.
Powerlifting uses absolute strength and relative strength because in a powerlifting meet you are are trying to max out (absolute strength) so you can lift the most weight possible in one effort which is possible due to our size and weight (relative strength).
Power is defined as strength multiplied by speed (in basic terms). From those definitions of strength I have mentioned it is closely related to elastic strength and explosive strength due to their quick contractions produce a fast and larger force.
Both the Strength athlete and Power athlete uses the ATP-PC energy system when carrying out their activities as both are of high intensity and of short duration.
They both cause hypertrophy of the muscle fibres (to an extent) increase phospho-creatine stores, increase the strength and speed of contractions. Both use Type IIB fibres and cause Type IIA to take characteristics of Type IIB fibres.
The difference really is time under tension and how the movement is carried out. Powerlifting usually involves trying to lift a weight close to your personal best or more, which is going to challenge the athlete physically and mentally, as I have mentioned earlier on so this will be a very strenuous lift taking a longer time to lift it.
Take as an example Austin Hickey's squat at the Irish Nationals which was a brutal 8 seconds from the bottom to the lockout to lift that weight (pure strength not power, this is an extreme example).
Look at the past European 2013 weightlifting championships there you saw "powerful lifts", as the lifters lifted the weight very quickly with immense speed. Snatch 1-2 seconds if not less. Clean and jerk for each part 1-2 seconds as well.
A weightlifter also goes for new 1RM and try's to max out (which are both physically and mentally strenuous) but would you call it absolute strength if its done fast?
When you watch a weightlifter squat and powerlifter squat two different styles for 2 different components of fitness for their sport. Weightlifters use momentum and bounce to lift the weight, this is to increase speed so they can lift the weight. Powerlifters is generally slower when squatting (again longer time under tension) as we just have to break parallel when the hips get below the knees.
However I will say we need to do both in our training to make us good powerlifters/weightlifters. Powerlifters need to do power training to produce faster contractions so to increase the speed of our lifts.
Weightlifters need to increase their strength so they can lift a heavier weight. By doing so will make them faster as they are now moving a heavier object at the speed they usually lift at.
I am on my final week of speed training then I will be going onto a 3 week cycle of heavy block/board work.
Hope this cleared up the difference between a power athlete and a strength athlete.
Remember powerlifting isn't a power sport!
Referencing is from Pe AS/A2 Edexcel Textbooks and past papers
Powerlifting is Not A Power Sport
Andrew is an 18 year old student at Coleraine Academical Institution. The Irish National Champion U90kg T3 class. He aims to pursue a degree in Sports Science.