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How to choose a powerlifting federation

Jun 12, 2023 | Powerlifting Basics 101, Powerlifting Competitions

One of the beautiful things about powerlifting is there is a flavor for everybody. Each federation has something unique about it. Most lifters will find the fed that they feel they fit in with the most. 

But what if you are a new lifter who has done a novice comp or two and you’re ready for your first sanctioned meet?

How do you choose a powerlifting federation?

In this article we are going to break down the rules for each federation. We’ll also throw in a pros and cons list for each fed. Keep in mind that these pros and cons are our opinion based off either coaching or competing within these feds. 

We will start with tested federations and then move onto untested. 

By the end, you should have a good idea of what each fed is all about. 

Let’s dive into the tested federations. 

TESTED POWERLIFTING FEDERATIONS

Australian Powerlifting Union –  APU

APU is the biggest of the tested federations in Australia. It’s also our International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) affiliate. So if you have the goal of competing at IPF worlds, this is where you need to be. 

Basic rules of APU

  • All three lifts use a stiff bar
  • Squat out of a combo and you must walk out your squats
  • Only knee sleeves are allowed, no knee wraps (unless competing equipped)
  • Must bench with flat feet

Pros

  • Probably the most competitive of the tested feds currently, being the only way to qualify for IPF affiliated international competition.
  • Refereeing is typically of a very high standard
  • Variety of gyms host APU sanctioned comps

Cons

  • Lots of red tape put up for coaches to register to handle athletes. This means it’s not as simple as picking your training partner to handle you on meet day ($400+ course required to be listed as an accredited coach who can handle at comp)
  • Red tape for athletes, you have to apply to be a member to compete in which they can accept or reject your membership. 
  • Comp registration expensive, especially at international level
  • Elbow depth is a thing
  • 2 hour weigh in (only an issue for those cutting weight)
  • Heaviest weight class for women 84+ (if you’re a 90kg female you might be competing against a 110kg female. There can be a massive discrepancy in strength at these weights)

United States Powerlifting Australia – USAPL(A)

USAPL is new to Australia. The first USAPL comp here in Queensland was held in Nov 2022. 

Even though it’s new it’s gaining a lot of momentum. It has similar standards and rules to APU as it was previously an IPF affiliate. So if you’re looking to compete APU style but with less red tape, USAPL is the go. 

Basic Rules of USAPL

  • All three lifts use a stiff bar
  • Squat out of a combo and you must walk out your squats
  • Only knee sleeves are allowed, no knee wraps (unless competing equipped)
  • Must bench with flat feet

Pros

  • Testing is done more frequently than APU
  • Up and coming fed in aus with big potential for growth
  • Refereeing is typically of a high standard
  • Lots of high competition internationally
  • No elbow depth

Cons

  • As it is new there are not a lot of options currently for competitions
  • Registration is a bit pricey
  • 2 hour weigh in (only an issue for those cutting weight)

TESTED/UNTESTED POWERLIFTING FEDERATIONS

Australian Powerlifting League – APL 

APL is great as it has a little something for everyone. The other great thing about APL is that they have both a tested and an untested division. Which is why they are right in the middle. 

Basic Rules of APL

  • Stiff bar for squat and bench
  • Deadlift bar for deadlifts
  • Squat out of a combo rack, although they are now introducing a monolift division
  • Can wear knee wraps or knee sleeves
  • Heels up or feet flat for bench

Pros

  • Refereeing standard improving but still not quite what it could be
  • Versatile in its classifications (tested vs non tested, wrapped vs sleeved)
  • Uses a deadlift bar
  • Higher level comps often run at good venues
  • Comps always run smoothly and efficiently 
  • 24 hour weigh in
  • Heaviest weight class for women is 110+
  • Introduction of the Zerow Pro which should bolster Aus wide competitiveness

Cons

  • Comps can sell out quick (this can be an issue with all feds however)
  • No international affiliation so no opportunity to compete at an international level
  • Walking out wrapped squats (this should change when the mono division is added)

UNTESTED POWERLIFTING FEDERATIONS

Global Powerlifting Committee – GPC

GPC is one of the bigger and more established federations in Australia. Five years ago it felt like everyone competed in GPC. Recently however with other feds gaining more interest, GPC isn’t as big as it used to be. 

Basic Rules of GPC

  • Uses squat bar and monolift for squatting
  • Can wear knee wraps or knee sleeves (even though sleeves are permitted 99% of lifters wear knee wraps)
  • Can have heels up or feet flat for bench
  • Deadlift bar for deadlifts 

Pros

  • One of the more well known and better run feds
  • Good competition throughout Australia 
  • Heaviest weight category for women is 110+
  • 24 hour weigh in

Cons

  • In QLD the fed has been slowly getting less popular due to other feds coming up
  • Reffing can be inconsistent 
  • Not a lot of options for comps to compete in
  • Potential for international competition not clear 
  • No separate sleeved division
  • Untested fed means if you are a natural lifter, you are likely going up against enhanced athletes 

Council of Australian Powerlifting Organisation – CAPO

CAPO is very similar to GPC in rules. However, CAPO is more fun and isn’t afraid to put on a show. They know how to make the sport more spectator friendly. 

Basic Rules of CAPO

  • Uses squat bar and monolift for squatting
  • Can wear knee wraps or knee sleeves (even though sleeves are permitted 99% of lifters wear knee wraps)
  • Can have heels up or feet flat for bench
  • Deadlift bar for deadlifts 

Pros:

  • Old and well established fed
  • Competitions are well run and often held at venues
  • Good production value in comps (flashing lights etc)
  • Runs a decent array of comps so lots of opportunities to compete throughout the year
  • Heaviest weight category for women is 110+
  • 24 hour weigh in

Cons:

  • Lesser known international affiliate
  • No separate sleeved division
  • Untested fed means if you are a natural lifter, you are likely going up against enhanced athletes 

If you are struggling to decide which fed is right for you, click here to book in a chat with one of our coaches.

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