From the mid 1800’s strength sports weren’t so much of a sport as an act of showmanship. Strongmen would show off their prowess in front of large crowds performing lifts such as the bent press.
Overtime, as these acts became more formalised it became a competitive sport known as weightlifting. It wasn’t without it’s complications though as each nation would have their preferred lifts. For example the Russians opted for lifting a kettlebell kind of weight for reps whereas the Scottish would throw heavy objects.
It wasn’t until 1896 that weightlifting became an Olympic sport comprising of three main lifts; the snatch, clean and jerk and the clean and press. However, in 1972 the clean and press was removed as an Olympic lift due to safety concerns and the fact that it was a difficult move to effectively judge.
During other weightlifting competitions there were many different kinds of lifts; swings, presses, lifting with fingers, one and two-handed jerks and many more. In time though, many of these were removed from competitions for varying reasons. Some were a test of flexibility or endurance as opposed to strength and thereby deemed inappropriate to be included.
Within these lifts included some movements known as ‘odd lifts’. Odd lifts comprised a number of strength feats including squat, deadlift and bench press. During the 1950’s and 60’s bodybuilding and the core exercises used for it’s training (typical powerlifting moves) started to gain popularity in the UK, USA and Australia.
The evolution of powerlifting itself didn’t come about until the 1960’s between the USA and the UK. The UK was slightly different however, as the moves comprised squat, bench and curl. The curl was later dropped in favour of the deadlift and to fall in line with the USA.
The first world powerlifting championships were held in 1971 but it was slightly marred by the lack of regulations. Because of this, the International Powerlifting Federation was founded who rolled out the standard rules of powerlifting we know today. Not long after, in 1978, competitions for women were also included.
It’s interesting to see how far strength sports have come and also to see that some of the age old moves from the early strongman days are now some of the most popular exercises to be carried out in a gym.