Differences in strength performance between novice and elite athletes: Evidence from powerlifters
The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research
National Strength and Conditioning Association
Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research / School of Medical and Health Sciences
Strength forms an integral part of many sports. In particular, powerlifting success is determined solely by maximal strength, providing a unique opportunity to investigate the differences and potential factors influencing novice and elite competitors. We evaluated performance from 2,137 competitors between local (LOC), national (NAT), and international (INT) competitions. Results were analyzed by using the total (TOT) competition score within weight classes and age categories. Cohen's d effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals were used to detect differences within categories between LOC, NAT, and INT competitions. The coefficient of variation (CV) was used to determine the absolute variability. A moderate to large increase in performance was observed for all weight classes between LOC and NAT (men; d = 0.76, women; d = 1.09). No meaningful differences were observed between LOC and NAT, and NAT and INT when compared using age. No meaningful differences were observed between NAT to INT competitions when compared using weight classes. The CV was not different across competition level (CV = 17.4-22.9%) categories. Several internal (athlete) and external (environmental) factors are likely to explain these findings. Therefore, factors such as training experience, performance variability, body composition, anthropometric characteristics, and competition pressure that may influence strength performance should also be considered in both training phases and during competition. Collectively, the results offer novel information regarding the difference in strength performance between novice, subelite, and elite strength athletes. Strength and conditioning professionals should consider these factors when working with various athletes where maximal strength is an important determinant of success.