USA Powerlifting Launches Four New Lifting Categories in 2021

USA Powerlifting Launches Four New Lifting Categories in 2021

We are proud to announce that after much planning across the Executive Committee, Technical Committee, and numerous other individual efforts, we are launching four new competition categories. The Adaptive Athlete, MX, Para Bench, and Raw With Wrap categories. These categories will be in effect January 1, 2021 and available to athletes 14 and over at the Local, State, and Regional level. Below you will find more detailed information on each of the new categories.

Adaptive Athlete: The Adaptive Athlete category is intended for those athletes who physically are unable to adhere to 100% of the technical rules of performance as defined in the USA Powerlifting rulebook and would therefore be ineligible to compete. Examples of such situations include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • amputated limb(s)/hand(s)/finger(s)/foot/feet/toe(s) with or without use of prosthetic device(s)
  • inability to fully extend elbow(s) in the bench press
  • inability to fully extend knee(s) in the squat and/or deadlift
  • inability to rest head on the bench in the bench press
  • inability to place one or both feet flat on the ground/blocks in the bench press
  • inability to grasp bar without an assistive device
  • inability to grasp bar in accordance with the rules

More in-depth information and details about the Adaptive Athlete Category can be found here.

MX: This new category provides dedicated competition space for any and all athletes no matter how they identify. Competitors who elect to compete within the MX Category compete across 14 weight classes in the Sub-Junior, Junior, Open, and Masters I-IV age categories.

MX category athletes follow the same rules of competition and are held to the same anti-doping requirements as all other categories. 

Looking forward, we are working to ensure MX athletes will have a path to compete at a higher level. Starting in 2022, MX athletes will compete at Nationals and with that, have a path to international competition and the opportunity to represent the United States abroad. 

The weight classes, which align with the LGBT Powerlifting Union’s MX category are as follows:















Go here for further details and FAQ for the MX category.

Para Bench: Earlier in 2020 we sent a team of our technical experts to study and learn from the US Para Powerlifting organization on how to prepare USA Powerlifting for this new category.

The Paralympic category in USA Powerlifting applies only to the bench press and the category is officially called “Para Bench.” The Para Bench category is open to male and female athletes with one or more of the 8 eligible physical impairments, as defined by World Para Powerlifting, if these impairments have a certain severity that impacts sport performance. There is an official table with a list of eligible impairments available at the link provided at the bottom of this section.

All Para Bench athletes have an impairment in their lower limbs or hips, which would prohibit them from competing in able-bodied powerlifting. For example, athletes with a single or double amputation through or above the ankle or stiffness of the knee joint would be eligible to compete. If an athlete does not have one of the impairment types listed, he or she may petition for a waiver that would allow him or her to compete in the Para Bench category with his or her impairment provided it is in the spirit of what the Para Bench category is intended to represent. USA Powerlifting have been adapted from World Para Powerlifting with some modifications to increase accessibility for athletes.

For a list of eligible impairments as well as more information click here.

Raw With Wraps: This division allows lifters to wear knee wraps that are in accordance with the technical rules; all other rules for raw lifting will be in effect.

Lifters can qualify to compete at Open (Equipped) Nationals, not Raw Nationals, if they meet or exceed the existing Open (Equipped) Category qualifying totals as given on the national website. There will, however, be no separate Raw With Wraps division offered at Open (Equipped) Nationals.

State and American records will be established for this division. Record standards will be set using the existing current raw records in the squat, bench, deadlift and total as of January 1, 2021. Raw with Wraps competitors must beat this record standard to be awarded a new Raw With Wraps record. 

More details can be located here.

In Closing

We are excited to bring these four new categories to our members and offer more competition space for everyone. Our top priority remains, as it has been since our founding as the American Drug Free Powerlifting Association in 1981, to provide the premier drug free, fair play powerlifting platform in the United States.

In addition to our Mission and vision, we are also committed to upholding our Code of Conduct – especially nondiscrimination, professionalism, and respect. Our organization is a true microcosm of our great country and even through our differences, we remain family – it is what makes the sport of powerlifting so great. 

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, and we remain forever grateful to the athletes and for the hard work and dedication of our volunteers, meet directors, state chairs, referees and countless others who have helped and continue to help USA Powerlifting. 


The published rules for these new categories are published under the USA Powerlifting Rules & Bylaws page on our website.

Please read and review each of the published criteria for the new categories; links are placed under each in this announcement. If you are unable to find the answer to your question, please submit your question here: [Submit Questions]

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