Story: Bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting

Page 3. Powerlifting

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Powerlifting was developed in the United Kingdom and the USA in the 1950s. International powerlifting competitions began in the early 1970s, even before the formation of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) in 1972.

Powerlifting involves three different types of lift:

  • The squat has the weighted bar placed on the lifter’s shoulders while they are in a standing position. The competitor then squats and attempts to stand up again lifting the weight.
  • The bench press involves the lifter lying on their back and taking a loaded bar at arm’s length. The competitor tries to bring the bar down to their chest, then raise it and hold it at arms’ length.
  • The deadlift requires the lifter to lift the barbell from the floor to thigh height, moving from a knees bent to knees locked position with a straight back.

Competitors have three attempts at each type of lift. Athletes compete within different weight categories.

Powerlifting in New Zealand

In New Zealand powerlifting competitions began in the 1970s, but it was only in 1985 that the New Zealand Powerlifting Association (NZPA) was incorporated. The NZPA follows the rules set down by the IPF. These include a strong emphasis on drug-free sport.

The powerlifting national championships are held annually in August, along with a national bench press competition every October. Qualifiers from the provincial competitions are selected to compete in the national championships. Both men’s and women’s powerlifting are divided into a series of weight and age categories. Raw powerlifting is a further category in which the lifter must perform without supportive gear.

A clean winner

Sonia Manaena of Invercargill represented New Zealand at the 2012 World Powerlifting Championships in Sweden. She won the silver medal in the 84+ kilograms category with the gold going to Russian lifter Irina Yaroshenko. Yaroshenko then failed a drug test, leaving Manaena as world champion. Unable to enjoy her triumph in Sweden, Manaena was presented with her gold medal at the Civic Theatre in Invercargill in front of an appreciative local audience.

International record

New Zealand competes in the Oceania, Commonwealth and World Powerlifting Championships. Despite the fact that powerlifting is an amateur sport with a low public profile, New Zealand has a proud international record:

  • Jeff Madsen was among the world's top powerlifters in the 1980s.
  • Precious McKenzie represented New Zealand at the world championships from 1978 to 1980. He won gold medals in the 56 kilograms in 1978 and 1980, and came second in 1979.
  • Cathy Millen was world champion in 1990 (82.5 kilograms), 1991 (75 kilograms) and from 1992 to 1994 (90 kilograms).
  • Derek Pomona was world champion in the 110 kilograms category from 1995 to 1997.
  • In 2012 Sonia Manaena was world champion in the the 84+ kilograms, and Bruce Park was world champion in his category in the over-70-years masters powerlifting.
How to cite this page:

Peter Clayworth, 'Bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting - Powerlifting', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/bodybuilding-weightlifting-and-powerlifting/page-3 (accessed 26 January 2020)

Story by Peter Clayworth, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 27 Jan 2015