T Nation

What is Elite?


I am curious as to what the word Elite means to you when it comes to lifting? Everybody seems to have their own definition and I don't expect we'll get a perfect consensus but I am wondering what that means to you? I am not talking about lifting X weight but in percentage to others, either of the normal population or the lifting population.

For me personally it would generally indicate a lift that is definitely in the top 5, maybe top 10, for the nation in that weight class, comparing lifters to the same standards (gear, drug use, squat depth, etc).

Some people see it as the person that wins Nationals or the best in the country, I see that as too strict. National Champion (or World Champion) - when those titles are actually true - are higher than elite. Elite to me means super good, but it doesn't mean best in the world or once in a generation.

However the strength standards found at exrx.net are good for the normal person - meaning a lay person will likely think that lifter is elite if they hit those numbers, but other lifters will not think they are elite, they are too low some might say.

So what do you think? How many elites are there in each weight class across the country?


I don't think percentages are very useful as a baseline. In terms of percentages, you are strictly comparing yourself to other people rather than genetic potential. This works well when everyone is training correctly and doing what it takes to get stronger. However, this isn't the case. The amount of people in any given weight class who are training properly is variable and changes throughout time. If everyone quit powerlifting except for three guys, and one of them squats 100lbs, while the others only squat 50lbs, does that make him elite? I don't think so. Obviously, this is a rather huge exaggeration, but I think it holds true especially at the very, very light and very, very heavy classes where there are so few true competitors at any given time.

To me, "elite" designations should be based upon Wilks' numbers. That is, relative strength appropriately modeled (read: not linearly). Percentages, IMO, should act merely as a filter. Throughout time, there are going to be improvements in drugs, nutrition, training methodology, and maybe even genetics. When this occurs, it may make sense to raise, and maybe lower, the elite standards from an established baseline to reflect current world conditions.

And on the other hand, I believe it is perfectly reasonable that one generation may only produce a dozen elite lifters while another generation produces several dozen. Should the lifters be punished for being born in a more competitive period? I don't think so.

Again, this is why I think using absolute measurements as a baseline makes the most sense. Percentages can add some degree of finesse, but that is all that I am personally comfortable in using them for.


Hitting a multi-ply elite total....doing it raw.


One thing to keep in mind: top 5 or 10 could mean very different things depending on the country and the federation. Top 5 in the USAPL is probably "elite" but in a smaller country even the best lifter in a weight class may not be elite.
In the CPU (Canada's IPF affiliate) I'd guess that the 5th best male lifter in most weight classes would have a master's total, maybe high class 1. The 5th best female could probably be anywhere from class 1 to nothing (as in their aren't 5 women in the class).
I'd think that maybe the top 2-3 % of competitive lifters could be called elite. I do also think the exrx.net are fair for a typical person.


On one hand, having achievable elite totals is somewhat motivating. However, I do agree that having an elite total doesn't mean one is an "elite" level lifter. Some of the federations set the bar a bit low.

I was talking to a training partner with more experience in powerifting than I have, and he told me they used to redo the elite classification each year based on the totals the previous year. I don't know if it was a percentage or set number, but they would define the elite totals such that top 5 or so percent or X number of lifters would total elite the next year.

I think this would help to keep things more current, based on the evolution (or lack of) in gear, training methods, drugs, the retirement of legendary lifters, and whatever else.


You're elite when adding ten pounds to your total over the course of a year can legitimately be called a victory.


What tim said. Back in the day of one federation maybe 10 guys hit it in a wright class . Elite is tossed around like soccer participation trophies . And the gear was very close to raw.

If you mean generally compared to the regular population , thAts a different story.


True. I was looking at the PSU thread here. Lifting what I did back in the day would qualify me for teenage nationals and collegiate nationals. Wtf??? The totals were higher in the adfpa and the uspf in 1983-1985 with very primitive gear. Like maybe fifty pounds on your total for a lightweight guy.

IMO it's watered down to much. Elite in the USA put you in nationals .


I go by the old uspf standards with my own personal formula thrown in to account for multipl gear. I add two hundred to those totals and if your close I'll say yeah. 181 was 1642. Inzer blasts , supersuits, less effective wraps. You hit 1850, I'd say you're close. 1900, I'd give it to you. 2000 for sure.

So just ask me , tell me what they lifted in and I'll tell you if it's elite. And if you're just hitting those totals and you're usapl and your katana is giving you 150 lbs, you're not elite.

Or do what liquid mercury said. Hit the old uspf standards raw or knee wrap raw . 600-425-600 is elite . I'll even give the raw guy kneewraps and a deadlift suit . I think this would be a close approximation to the 1980s.


Elite should be just that... elite. As in not a large group. I think it should be considered the top 3 in whatever age, weight, and gear class you compete in. Going on relative strength is retarded. Going off of a set total doesn't make much sense either, especially if the top guys are getting hundreds of pounds over it. You compete against other lifters not a chart in a rule book.


I like the idea of changing it slightly every year based on the top competitors at the time. Do any other sports have a good way of determining what is elite or is it just one of those terms that will never have a precise meaning?


I like Jim Wendler's standards


Gymnastics have a standard that they measure elite athletes by. You aren't elite if you can't do X, Y, Z, etc.

As for Tim's question... This oen's always a toughie. IPF Elite totals were originally written for raw (or nearly raw) lifters. In that sense, I feel like those standards should apply to all IPF-affiliated federations for raw lifters and they need a new standard for equipped lifters. Raw Federation has its own standard,which I think is absolutely too low.

I think the top 5% of lifters lifting in the same manner is a good standard, but I don't think it should be an official measure (for the same reason as the guy who bruoght up the Canadians).

Basically, i don't really know.


i would say the elite standards on exrx are accurate. i also look at the elite standards for powerlifting on http://www.rawpowerlifting.com/pdf/RAWClassificationStandards.pdf. i look at my weight, 198, and there is only a 38lbs difference. pretty close to me. enough to say that 1450 for the 3 lifts at 198 are accurate to say elite.

but this is me looking at from a perspective of including everyone, not just competitive powerlifters. that means including the 60+% of overweight people in america. the same ones that cant bench, squat, or deadlift their own bodyweight. or for that matter likely cant do a bodyweight only squat.

if i looked at this from a perspective of only competitive powerlifters i would say its a bit low.

both fit into the definition of elite form the dictionary: the choice or best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons. that is vague enough to say both above view points are accurate.


Elite in any sport is based upon performance and consistency. I would expect in powerlifting that elite would be a lifter who would be head and shoulders above the level of almost any other lifter, or be damned close. Getting a total determined by a federation is only a number and should only be used to set a personal goal. The title of "elite" should only be given to a few, or maybe we should call them super elite so we don't hurt feelings.


i'll keep it simple. in my mind if you can bench 2 X BW, squat 3 x BW and dead 3 X BW all raw.


So this would be 8 times BW. That means a 275lb powerlifter needs a raw 2200 total. That would be a "pro" geared total in most federations. Damn I feel weak.


Your Wilks idea is a good one, the only issue is that each weight class does not have the same number of competitors and it is logical that the more popular weight classes will have those with higher wilks.

I was using a percentage as a way of creating a definition and then getting a number from there, but if you have specific numbers I am happy to hear them.


That would be bad asses but alas almost no one does that and even fewer, if anyone, does it drug free


I generally agree it could vary but I was talking about America, in which we have a reasonably good participation of lifters when looking at all federations as a whole, and PLwatch with their rankings system makes it very easy to see what lifters are hitting what numbers in certain feds.