T Nation

Bench Press Competition

I competed in my first benchpress competition today, and it raised a few questions in my mind. It was held at the university where I attend, and there was quite a poor showing of contestants (about 15 overall), so I won my weight class (220+) by default. I got a little trophy that I thought was funny. It’s one of those ubiquitous “muscular man” trophies given away at all bodybuilding competitions, but what I found funny is the fact that he’s wearing a weight belt.

Anyway, on to my question. Why are contestants split up on the basis of their weight? I mean, it seems obvious, at first glance, that a 250 lb lifter and a 150 lb lifter shouldn't be competing against each other, but should a 6'4'' 180 lb lifter be competing against a 5'4'' 180 lb lifter? If you look at it one way, the 6'4'' lifter would have the same body mass to help him (or her) move the weight a greater distance than the shorter lifter. Would something like BMI be a better separating factor for lifters? And do you think (or could anyone supply sources pertaining to this) that the weight one lifts corresponds more to one's BMI than their overall weight (given similar body compositions)? I know this beckons back to "tall" and "short" classes, but I don't know how fair those are either. I'm not suggesting that BMI should be used, I was just wondering if there are better systems than weight classes for separating lifters. I was also looking for clear-cut reasoning for why, exactly, weight is used.

I was also wondering about the prevailing thoughts on sex before (or during) a competition and how it would affect one's performance. Also, for men or women, would masturbation be better or worse than sex in this case? There must be different psychological reactions to both events (sex and masturbation), but perhaps not.

Ive thought the exact same thing about using BMI instead of weight. I think it would be good. Although the BMI maybe relatively useless when determining the health of an individual i think that it would be good when comparing strength of individuals. Better than just using weight anyway.

The 6’4" lifter should bulk to 200+ if he wants to be competitive. The lower weight classes favor shorter lifters. If you are tall, go heavyweight. Same with fighting.

Another question. Is it then useful to compare two lifters’ weight lifted to weight of lifter ratios if they are of uneven heights?

This kind of problem is something that you will see mostly in lower levels of competition. As ko said, if someone wants to move up to the elite level they neeed to utilize proper nutrition and training to get up the right weight class for their body type.Competition is not only about how you do in the actual meet but how well you have prepared and if you are not in the right weight class you have not prepared correctly and have no excuse for doing poorly against those who have come prepared. In most NOVICE classes in powerlifting they will determine the winner by multiplying their total and a coefficinet that is determined by their exact weight at the weigh in.

So you’re saying that at the elite level, comparisons aren’t made between athletes in different weight classes? I figured out what you and ko are saying real quick. I’m a taller lifter and realized the only way for me to do real well would be to compete just about as heavy as I could. I’ve just always thought the “lifter A squatted 2.3 times his body weight” is an incomplete way of comparing performances. It’s good to know that that’s not a common comparison. Thanks for the help.

A problem with the BMI is that with a lift like the deadlift, higher bodyweight can give a lifter a little more leverage.

How does the higher bodyweight give the lifter better leverage? Also there is a big difference between finding what is fairest for a novice university BENCH PRESS comp and what happens in fighting.

It is different(to a point, ever see a 6’lightweight), and actually it is the opposite, but still valid. If you allow a taller fighter with a longer reach to fight a shorter fighter based on BMI, the taller fighter has the advantage.

A heavier lifter has more weight keeping his feet on the ground.

I not sure about this, but I believe many powerlifting competitions utilize a formula to determine overall champs, but there is some debate as to the efficacy of these formulas. It is thought that they favor the heavier competitors. As for the other topic, shooting your load is shooting your load.

Actually a heavier lifter may be at a disadvantage during lifts like the deadlift and the squat. The more upper body weight a lifter has the more weight they have to lift during the lift. This is why you will see a lot of skinny guys with long limbs pulling heavier much heavier deadlifts, although they will generally squat much lighter because they do not have enough girth to stabilize themselves. Heavier lifters will usually do better in the bench press because they are better able to stabilize themselves on the bench and with a massive upper body they will have a shorter distance to press.

I have to disagree with the opinion that the reason taller slimmer people can deadlift alot is because of a lack of bodyweight that they have to move…I have been around Powerlifting for a very long time, and have competed with, and trained with some of the best lifters on the planet. I realize I have a alot to learn still, but here is my experience on the subject…There are three lifts in Powerlifting, and different body types do better for different lifts in alot of cases. The main reason that tall people pull on average better than shorter people is that the leverage for deadlifting is incredible for tall people. For example, a short person must almost put their ass on the floor to get into position, while a taller persons hips are alot higher at the beginning of the lift. A shorter person usually has shorter arms in proportion to their body, making their lock out actually higher than some taller people whose knuckles drag on the ground. As far as being too fat, yes the belly can get in the way, but I have to say their have been damn few people who lifted more than 800lbs under a bodyweight of 200lbs. Bob peoples did it, and so have some others, but its relativley rare…As far as what KO said about larger body weight people having better leverage, I am certain he is refering to the fact that the deadlift is a lot like a teeter totter if you weigh 300lbs, and as you arelifting, you pull back AND up, your bodyweight will help pull the bar off the floor alot better than if you weigh 198lbs…

“A heavier lifter has more weight keeping his feet on the ground.” Sorry I dont understand when durring a deadlift do your feet want to come off the ground? Am i missing something.

I didn’t mean to imply that the only reason that skinny guys pull heavy is because they are lifting less bodyweight most of the good pullers have longer limbs and better leverage. And of course a lot of big guys pull heavy too but as an example of what I am talking about I saw a 5’6 140lber almost pull 500 lbs over the weekend that would be the equivalent of seeing a superheavy pull over 1000lbs. Now do you think this kid would have been able to pull that much if he had an extra 40 lbs of fat on his upper body that he had to stand up with along with the weight- maybe not. In the squat you are lifting approximately 70%of your body weight along with the weight on the bar I am not sure how much you are lifting with the deadlift but it has to be somewhere in that range. With that in mind it seems obvious that this has some affect on the amount of weight you can lift. It is probably not going to be a problem if you are at your optimal weight, but if you are too fat it will make a difference.

What powerlifter said.

This is similar to the categories that are emerging in running and triathlon – “Clydesdale” and “Athena.” These are basically categories based on weight. It’s pretty obvious that some one who weighs 220 lb is at a disadvantage to some one who weighs 150 in running and (hilly) cycling. But at the elite level, there is only one distinction – who crosses the finish line first. My take on all this? Deal with it. You are really only there to compete against yourself, even if you’re at the top of the class. Don’t sit there and bemoan the fact that you’re not physically suited to be world class at whatever endeavor you’ve chosen.

Brider, I completely agree with what you’re saying, but I do have a question. Should the only thing that matters at the elite level of powerlifting be the weight lifted, without reguard to competitor size (analagous to the runner crossing the line)? My original intent of this post was just to find out in what ways powerlifters are compared and the actual reasoning for why those standards are used.

I had never really given much thought to powerlifting before solely on the basis that I figured I would suck at it, but now, even though I still think I would suck at it, I think it would be a lot of fun for a myriad of reasons.

Well, my point really is that if you’re not going to get a top podium spot, you’re really just there to compete against yourself – outdo what you did last time. Powerlifting is one of those sports where there’s not so much variation (you don’t have considerations like weather and terrain to taint results at different competitions), so one meet is very comparable to another. I’m not saying that powerlifting should necessarily boil down to whoever hoists the most iron, but even within the various weight classes, we’re all just trying to pull more than we did previously.