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Powerlifting Organizations
and Powerlifting Federations

Powerlifting Bench Press Techniques

by: Carl Smith

The number of powerlifting organisations and so-called “federations” increased over the last 30 years of this sport to the point the sport became totally diluted and hardly any athlete received any due recognition.

“In the beginning” there was the AAU and the York Barbell Club. And there was Paul Anderson, the strongest man in recorded history. Olympic weightlifting dropped one lift and powerlifting came on the scene at approximately the same time. The order of lifts was different and super-heavyweights were over 110 kg. Jump to 1972. York Barbell hosted the first unofficial world powerlifting championships. The big names came together. The lifting was breathtaking and the competition fierce. But these athletes became a family learning off each other. This was prior to the fitness and gym industry explosion. Gyms were garages with homemade welded equipment. Protein meant ice cream mixed with milk. Wraps were ace bandages and steroids were not talked about. Out of this grew the USPF and IPF, which went on to be the premiere organisation representing the sport. The evolution of equipment came about and all sorts of tricks were tried. If someone used these tricks today they’d probably be taken out of the warm-up room with men in white coats. (Unfortunately, these antic are again re-emerging within a certain grouping.) But a system was developed with federation structures. This was the accepted pathway until a powerlifter by the name of Ernest Frantz chose not to accept this authority. In hindsight this was inevitable as the IPF was moving farther away from the athlete and more concerned with itself as an Executive. In the early 80’s Mr. Frantz chose to found his own “federation” calling it the APF – American Powerlifting Federation. This drew several or many of the lifters away from the IPF that were also not happy with the IPF and/or were suspended from the IPF for positive doping tests. Frantz wished to expand the APF into an international organisation and took advantage of South Africa’s international sport sanction by inviting them to a “World Championships” in USA. This led to the WPC – World Powerlifting Congress. With IPF’s recognition status the WPC was not given much recognition or thought. Without going into the story, the WPC (or members of it) sued the IPF for suspension of two lifters. From a legal viewpoint this lawsuit was justified. The IPF didn’t even show up in court to defend themselves. The WPC won by default and the IPF was legally barred from any activity in the USA until the matter rectified (large sums of money involved). USA, being at the forefront of powerlifting was left with no official recognised federation activity. This opened the door for an onslaught of organisations with their own agendas and outlooks on the sport. The ones most well known until recently were:

AAU – Amateur Athletic Union. The current AAU is not the original organisation.
World Body – none
European Body – none

WPC – World Powerlifting Congress. Recently “sold”. More information below.
European Body – EPC until 1998
American Body – APF

APA – American Powerlifting Association
World Body – WPA (in name only)
European Body – none

NASA – Natural Athlete Strength Association
World Body – none
European Body – none

WDFPF – World Drug Free Powerlifting Federation
European Body – none

USPF – United States Powerlifting Federation
World Body – none
European Body – none

IPA – International Powerlifting Association
European Body – none

IPF – International Powerlifting Federation
European Body – EPF
Asian, Australian & African Federations exist

WPF – World Powerlifting Federation
European Body – EPC
Member countries in Asia and Africa

Any others not listed are either not full powerlifting organisations (WABDL) or practically unknown. It has been analysed that one of the main reasons for the dilution of the sport in USA was the complete lack of a recognised world federation. The USAPL is the member proper of the IPF, which was legally barred from activity in the USA for approximately 16 years. The USA athletes suffered as they received little or no international recognition. In certain organisations the accepted rules of powerlifting are seldom adhered to and the supportive equipment is at times, in the words of the legendary Brian Smith, “an abortion”. So-called world records are passed for squats 4” high and unlocked bench presses. There is a video of a lifter at a 1995 World Championships where the athlete cannot unrack the squat bar. When he finally did he crashed to the ground in a very ugly scene. This lifter had 5 pair of supportive briefs on. This is even against the rules of that lenient organisation but the lifter was not reprimanded. It is not the intention to simply tell scandalous stories but to point out where the sport has taken us. At least two organisations now have Pro and Amateur divisions. The Pros are not tested but the Amateurs are. What defines a “Pro” in this sport? This is a tactic being used to lock in on certain divisions such as high school, fire, police and military divisions to increase memberships. More members – more $. Rather than quality of lifting commercial gain is now of more concern.

Out of this development only two international federations have survived: the IPF and WPF. It was documented in the course of the break-up of the WPC that organisation is actually not a federation but rather a “corporate entity”, a privately owned for-profit business of Mr. Frantz. This documentation came from his own lawyers. The WPC is reported to now be sold to a person operating a “professional” or “for cash” lifting organisation. This appears to be somewhat similar to professional wrestling. The IPF is the largest federation having the most national affiliates. This is mostly a numbers game as representation at their various world championships gives a more accurate picture. The IPF was legally barred from activity within the United States. The support from the various national sports councils has dwindled or been, in some cases, completely withdrawn. Several of their top lifters are no longer lifting with them, have been either suspended or they have withdrawn completely from the sport. Compare Worlds results from 5 years ago for confirmation. The EPC, European Powerlifting Congress, dissolved its association with the WPC following the 1998 WPC World Championships. In March, 1999 they held a Special Meeting and founded the World Powerlifting Federation. In September, ’99 they received full legal recognition as a “world” federation. It is also the first recognised international federation for the bench press as a single discipline. Therefore, the legal status of the I- & WPF is equal. But, the WPF has recognised status as an umbrella federation to represent the whole of the sport and not just its own fraction. The WPF had to unfortunately dismiss the USPF from its membership at the ’99 World Championships. They were also previously dismissed from the IPF. Once probably the largest and important federation they are now almost non-existent. The WPF rulebook was written taking into account both the experience of the last 30 years and where the sport is going. Bars, benches, suits and shirts are not what they once were. Neither are the 100 metre dash shoes. Modern equipment supports the human strength effort. But the nonsense of the last 15 years will also be set aside. All rulebooks state a squat must be under parallel (hip crease to top of knee joint – not thigh). One centimetre under is just as legitimate as 10 cm. One centimetre above is not under parallel. The WPF has very experienced referees and personalities that have been there from day one and gone through various organisations. There is now the opportunity to come full circle and make powerlifting mainstream again giving lifters their due recognition in a true international environment. The opportunity is being grasped, albeit it slowly and carefully. This is understandable considering all that has recently occurred. The various groups serve a good purpose as they bring a lot of lifters into the sport creating interest and allowing these lifters to show their skills and accomplishments. In spite of the negativity, lawsuits and diversion in the sport, powerlifting can be and is very rewarding. To stand on the platform with a medal around your neck means “Well done”. You aren’t going to pick up $100,000 for a title. But you’ve overcome your own limits and asserted yourself. There is a picture of an 84 year old man standing locked out in the deadlift with 160 kg (352 lbs.) with a big smile on his face. This, to me, says it all.

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