Member of Team USA Competes in Paralympic PowerliftingMember of Team USA Competes in Paralympic Powerlifting


Paralympic powerlifting debuted at the Stoke Mandeville 1984 Games. The sport is similar to able-bodied, non-Olympic powerlifting except that it does not include squat and deadlift, which are standard in able-bodied competition. Rather, Paralympians focus on one event: the bench press.

The goal of Paralympic powerlifting is to bench press as much weight as possible. Despite its simplicity, the sport has grown wildly since its introduction in 1984; at the Paralympic Games London 2012, 200 athletes competed in 20 medal events. And it’s no wonder audiences are paying attention too—these athletes have been known to lift more than three times their body weight! Bench pressing records have reached up to 295 kilograms (650 pounds).

Both men and women compete by weight class. Paralympic judges make immediate decisions on a lift once the athlete’s arms are evenly extended with locked elbows. Each athlete can attempt the lift three times, and the heaviest lift is used for scoring.



Powerlifting debuts at the Stoke Mandeville Paralympic Games

Women compete in Paralympic powerlifting for the first time at the Sydney Paralympic Games


Paralympic powerlifting consists of one event: the bench press. Men and women compete separately in 10 divisions determined by body weight.

Athletes remove the bar from its resting place, lower it to their chest, hold it motionless and then press it up until their arms are equally extended with locked elbows. Each athlete attempts the lift three times, and the one who lifts the most weight wins.


Equipment for Paralympic powerlifting includes the bench, rack uprights, bar, discs, collars and scales to check the weight of athletes.

Some athletes use a strap around their upper and/or lower legs for extra security. It is also standard for athletes to bandage their wrists and coat their hands with magnesium powder.


Who can compete: Though the sport was initially only open to those with spinal cord injuries, now those with impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertoniaDefinition: Abnormal increase in muscle tension that reduces the ability of a muscle to stretch., ataxiaDefinition: A lack of muscle control during voluntary movements. and athetosisDefinition: Condition in which abnormal muscle contractions cause involuntary writhing. are eligible to compete.

Throw your weight around: Eligible athletes in powerlifting are grouped for competition based on body weight.

For your protection: Unlike in able-bodied weightlifting, in Paralympic powerlifting two assistants stand on either side of the bench for safety reasons.

Athlete Spotlight:

Jacob Schrom

Jacob Schrom was driving a truck for his family’s landscaping business when the brakes failed. He was thrown from the truck and pinned beneath the vehicle, resulting in the amputationDefinition: Amputate: to cut (as a limb) from the body. of his right leg above the knee. Though he felt anxious during his recovery, he never doubted his physical abilities; Schrom knew he had to be active. He discovered videos of amputee powerlifters online, and he saw his path forward.

From taking first place at the 2010 world championships in the junior 90-kilogram division in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to more recently winning gold in the 88-kilogram division at the 2015 IPC Open Americas Championships in Mexico City, Mexico, Schrom has enjoyed a steady stream of successes over his years as a powerlifter.

While attending Penn State University, Schrom established the Nittany Valley Amputee Support Group, and he continues to volunteer as a trained peer visitor with the Amputee Coalition of America.

When he isn’t lifting weights or volunteering, Schrom works full time for the family business in landscape design, sales and project management.

Althete Spotlight Jacob Schrom


Paralympic powerlifting competition is open to male and female athletes with physical impairments, including amputationsDefinition: Amputate: to cut (as a limb) from the body., spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsyDefinition: Damage to the central nervous system., traumatic brain injuries and short stature. Paralympic powerlifters compete in the same sport class but in separate weight classes, just like their able-bodied Olympic counterparts.

Note: The models presented below are examples. A classification evaluation must be performed to determine an athlete’s sport class(es).

Physical Impairment

Visual Impairment

Intellectual Impairment

Powerlifting athletes have impairments that affect their lower limbs or hips, prohibiting them from competing in able-bodied (standing) weightlifting. Regardless of impairment, all powerlifters must adhere to safety regulations, for example, the ability to independently grip and lift the bar and extend the upper limbs in full.



Impairment Severity Scale