We went deep into the results of the USAPL Raw Nationals and found some key trends and insights.  Learn the numbers and attempts that go into the best performances for both men and women, and use the information to compare your results with those who competed at the largest powerlifting competition in history.

  • The average lifter made 74% of all attempts; winners made 82%
  • Only 10% of lifters went 9-for-9
  • 17% of athletes missed all their 3rd attempts; 31% missed at least two 3rd attempts
  •  On average for men, the percentage jump between their opening attempt and highest successful lift were:  7% for squat, 6%  for bench, and 7% for deadlift
  • On average for women, the percentage jump between their opening attempt and highest successful lift were: 7% for squat, 8% for bench, and 8% for deadlift
  • Since 2013, there has been a 9% increase on first place totals for men; 18% for women
  • On average for men the breakdown of each lift as a percentage of their total was: 36% squat, 24% bench, and 40% deadlift
  • On average for women, the breakdown of each lift as a percetnage of their total was: 36% squat, 21% bench, 43% deadlift
  • 45% of lifters achieved a wilks between 400-450; 17% between 450 and 500

Read below for a more detailed analysis.

2016 USAPL Open Raw National Championships

The 2016 USAPL Raw Nationals is another indicator that powerlifting is rapidly growing in popularity and competitiveness. Coined the largest powerlifting competition in history, this event hosted 1,063 lifters in total over four days, using 5 platforms at a time on the mainstage. At this event, powerlifting history was made. One example was Ray Williams going 9-for-9 performance, achieving the highest Wilks score of the entire competition, and being the first man in IPF History to enter the 1,000lb raw squat club.

The purpose of this article is to analyze the results of this competition, compare to world record standards, and form conclusions on the factual results. The population of data used in this analysis includes all USAPL Raw National competition results from 2013-2016, filtered to include only the Open class category for simplicity and consistency. The following topics will be discussed along with a detailed analysis of each.

  • Competition statistics
  • Missed attempt analysis
  • Attempt selection analysis
  • Men’s Results
  • Women’s Results
  • Total Composition Analysis
  • Wilks and Bodyweight Analysis
Competition Statistics

Keeping in mind that these results are only inclusive of the Open category, the number of competitors was actually down year over year from 2015 (2016 – 504 lifters vs. 2015 – 560 lifters). Before we get into some of the more positive highlights of impressive lifting, let’s start with the negative results. Bombing is part of the game, and it’s something we shouldn’t ignore when analyzing results. The disqualification ratio was consistent with all previous year’s National results at 4% of all lifters. This metric is lower than the IPF Classic World Champions average which is 5%. This could be from the USAPL Raw Nationals having less of the following factors: pressure, higher levels of refereeing, environmental or cultural changes, and travelling requirements.

The second metric we will highlight is the ‘No Lift’ and ‘Good Lift’ ratios. The Good Lift ratio is the % of successful lifts of the total number of attempts in competition, and the No Lift ratio is the opposite, the percentage of unsuccessful attempts of the total number. The average lifter was able to hit 74% of their attempts, leaving 26% of all lifts as unsuccessful. This ratio is almost exactly in line with the results from our previous World Championships Good Lift ratio of 75%. When we narrow this ratio down to only the 1st place lifters of the USAPL Nationals, the Good Lift ratio jumps to 82% which equates to .82 more successful lifts than the average lifer. The Good Lift ratio for 1st place lifters at the most recent World Championships was 90% (obviously, this competition would be considered much more competitive since it would bring out the best lifters from every country).

The next chart represents the trend overtime of the 1st place lifters versus the average overtime. Notice the green line, which is the Good Lift ratio for the average lifter each year is almost flat. The 1st place women were also able to close the gap on the 1st place men and actually make more successful attempts on average for the first time at the USAPL Raw Nationals.

Good Lift Ratio (Average VS. Winners)

Missed Attempts

The above analysis easily illustrated how important it is to make successful attempts in a competition. The 1st Place winners are making more attempts than the rest of the competition, and are not claiming their title by making only 1st or 2nd attempts. Before we look into the next set of analysis, I thought it would be beneficial to plot the number of successful attempts that competitors are making as an entire population.

Number of Successful Attempts USAPL Raw Nationals

Number of Successful Attempts IPF Worlds


From the above chart we can see that the majority (68%) of the population achieved between 6-8 successful attempts out of 9. Only 10% of lifters went 9 for 9 on successful attempts meaning that 90% of lifters missed at least one attempt. It is interesting when we compare these trends to our most recent World Championships (chart below), the results are almost identical +/- 2%.

Switching focus, when we analyze the attempts that were missed, which if you recall from above were 26% of all lifts in the competition – we can easily identify various trends such as the lift that is most commonly missed, and the relationships between missed attempts between squat, bench and deadlift as well as each attempt.

Missed Attempts


The first highlight that stands out is that 50% of people missed their 3rd attempts. Note that this was not necessarily from the same lifter each time. The analysis forms a staircase based on the attempt number: 1st attempts having the least number of missed attempts, 2nd attempts having the second most, and 3rd attempts having the most. This trend again is very close to other major competitions that we have analyzed. We can only assume that the 9% gap between missed 3rd attempt deadlifts and missed 3rd attempt squats is due to deadlift being the final lift of the day. At this point in the competition you have only one opportunity remaining to claim your position, therefore we can expect lifters to select more risky or unplanned attempts, resulting in a higher No Lift ratio.

Other Analysis: (out of 504 lifter population)

  • Missed all third attempts: 17%
  • Missed at least 2 third attempts: 31%
  • Missed 1st attempt + at least 1 more: 9%

Out of the above statistics, for the most part they are very much in line with results from other major competition such as the most recent World Championships. The only one we see that is slightly skewed is the number of lifters that were able to miss their first squat attempt and then complete the competition without missing another single lift. This statistic was 6% at the most recent World Championships versus 9% at the USAPL Raw Nationals. This could be due to having more less experienced lifters at the USAPL Raw Nationals who are unable to handle the pressure as well, or do not know when to play it conservative when you are having an “off day”.

Attempt Selection

In this next section, we will analyze the attempt selections made by both men and woman for all weight classes and break the analysis into 1st place winners versus the average. The Y-axis represents the increase as a % that is made from a lifters opening attempts to their highest successful attempt. The solid bars represent the attempt increases made by the 1st place winners, and the solid lines represent the average of all lifters. For example, if a lifter selected an opening attempt in the squat of 100kg, and finished with a successful attempt of 115kg on their third, the % increase from their opener would be 15% ((115-100)/100)

Men’s Attempt Jumps


Women’s Attempt Jumps 


Attempt Jump Summary 


At first glance, the above charts are very difficult to understand. The results are very skewed for all weight classes and for both men and women. We could not identify any significant trends or patterns between the two, even when comparing these to the same analysis for most recent World Championships. What we can conclude by looking at the summary of both men and women is that almost all 1st place results finished the day with a larger % jump from their first attempts and final result. This might be since 1st place lifters also made on average 8% more attempts (or 0.82 lifts) than the average lifter. In addition to 1st Place lifters making more attempts on average, they are also likely opening more conservatively than less experienced lifters. Having the ability to choose smart attempts, conserve energy for subsequent attempts and build your way into a 9-for-9 total rather than building your total on openers and second attempts is what separates winners from the rest of the competition.

It is also worth mentioning some of the anomalies of these graphs. First, on the men’s side we have the spike on the 74Kg average ‘Deadlift Increment %’ – this is due to one lifter opening up with 55kg and finishing off with 245kg, which is a 345% jump and skewed the average significantly. The strategy behind this could have been a number of things, such as battling an injury, waiting to see how first attempts go for the competition, confusing the opponents with placings, or human error. Second, on the women’s side we have a massive spike on the 63Kg 1st Place ‘Deadlift increment %’ of 20% – this was due to Jennifer Thompson opening up with a conservative deadlift of 160kg, jumping 32.5kg to finish with a 192.5kg.

The Men’s Category

Men’s Total Trends


Men’s Total Trends Summary


Looking at the above graph it is clear to us that classic lifting is continuing to be more and more competitive each year. The above graph shows us the progression of each total that was required to win each of the Men’s Division weight classes in the last 5-years. The +/- change indicated in the graph/table is the change from that 2032 winning total to the 2016 winning total. Almost every weight class has seen an increase with some as high as 18%. We have also witnessed 2/8 men’s weight class winners set unofficial world records in the total while claiming their title this year, and another 3 weight classes within 10kg of the current world record. As the trends are showing, Team USA will be the team to beat at the next World Championships.

Legend:

  • Avg: The average successful total for each 1st place winner at the USAPL Open Raw National Championships between the years 2013-2016.
  • Max: The heaviest total performed by a 1st place winner at the USAPL Open Raw National Championships between the years 2013-2016.
  • 2016: This was the successful total of the 1st place winner from the USAPL Open Raw National Championships.

Men’s Results (weight class breakdown)


Below displays a graph of all the men’s 1st place results along with the average and max results from 2013-2016; which are referenced in the tables above. The blue dotted line represents the current IPF Classic World Record (as of Oct 23, 2016).

Men’s Results (1st place) 


The next graph illustrates the totals of the 1st place winners from 2016 with a stacked graph splitting out what lifts make up the composition of their total. What we can see from this graph is not only linear increase in totals as we move up through each weight class, but the changes in the % splits of squat, bench press and deadlift as an athlete moves from a light-weight to the heavy-weight category. On the 2016 results, the bench press stays relatively the same in each weight class being around 23% (+/- 3%) of a lifters total. In the 59Kg, the deadlift makes up almost 12% more of a lifters total than of the 120+kg weight class. The squat on the other hand does the opposite, making up more of a heavy-weight total than a light-weight. These results are consistent to our findings on the same analysis performed on the most recent World Championships. We can conclude that heavier lifters have the ability to squat more weight as a % of their total than their deadlift; and conversely light weights typically can deadlift more as a % of their total than their squat.

Men’s Total Composition 

The Women’s Category

Women’s Total Trend 


Women’s Total Trend Summary


The above graph illustrates for us the progression of each total that was required to be crowned a World Champion in each weight class in the women’s division over the last 4-years. The women showed almost double the progression in 1st Place totals since 2013 than the men. Since 2013 we have seen an average of 18% increase across the board in each weight class of the women’s 1st place total, compared to only 9% average on the men’s side. The change indicated in the graph/table is the change from that 2013 winning total to the 2016 winning total. Almost every weight class has seen an increase with some as high as 31%

Legend:

  • Avg: The average successful total for each 1st place winner at the USAPL Open Raw National Championships between the years 2013-2016.
  • Max: The heaviest total performed by a 1st place winner at the USAPL Open Raw National Championships between the years 2013-2016.
  • 2016: This was the successful total of the 1st place winner from the USAPL Open Raw National Championships.

Women’s Results (weight class breakdown)


Below displays a graph of all the women’s 1st place results along with the average and max results from 2013-2016; which are referenced in the tables above. The blue dotted line represents the current World Record (as of Oct 23, 2016).

Women’s Results (1st place)

The next graph illustrates the totals of the 1st place winners from 2016 with a stacked graph splitting out what lifts make up the composition of their total. What we can see from this graph is not only linear increase in totals as we move up through each weight class, but the changes in the % splits of squat, bench press and deadlift as an athlete moves from a light-weight to heavy-weight category. The changes in the composition of a female lifter’s total are very similar to what we saw in the men’s category. The bench press stays relatively the same in each weight class being around 22% of a lifters total. In the 59Kg class, the deadlift makes up almost 10% more of a lifters total than of a 120+Kg, following the same pattern as the men. The squat on the other hand does the opposite, making up more of a heavy weights total than of a light-weight. The same conclusion can be made for the women as the men being that heavier lifters have the ability to squat more weight as a % of their total than their deadlift; and conversely light weights typically can deadlift more as a % of their total than their squat.

Women’s Total Composition 

Overall Total Composition

Total Composition Summary 


Total Composition Chart


The above charts include data from all lifters (not only 1st Place) from each USAPL Raw National Championships dating back to 2013. Analyzing the men’s and women’s total composition year over year and comparing each to the 4-year average, the averages remain almost flat (+/- 1%).

What we can conclude is the following:

  • The squat for both men and women on average has a positive correlation, meaning that as your body-weight increases you can relatively squat more as a % of your total.
  • The bench press is contributing less to the female lifters total composition than the men, while utilizing their deadlift more to build a total.
  • The deadlift follows a negative correlation pattern, meaning that as your body-weight increases you can relatively deadlift less as a % of your total.
Wilks: Comparison by Weight Class and Gender

The Wilks formula allows us to compare lifters across all weight classes and genders. The men and women have different formulas and coefficients that are specific for every bodyweight allowing us to calculate and assign a score to every lifter’s results and compare them on a similar scale. The graph below represents the highest Wilks score achieved this year at the 2016 USAPL Open Raw National Championships by weight class and gender. The top Wilks score by a female was achieved in the 57kg class with a Wilks score of 525.81. The top Wilks score achieved by a male was in 120+kg class with a Wilks score of 581.69.

Top Wilks

The next graph illustrates the increase in competitiveness that is happening every year in the sport. This graph plots the Wilks scores by weight class for every lifter of every USAPL Open Raw Nationals since 2013. Draw your attention to the purple and yellow dots, which represent 2016 and 2015 Wilks scores respectively. You’ll notice that there is a yellow box around a cluster of the purple and yellow dots – what this represents is the structural shift in competitiveness in just one year. This chart shows that the low end of the Wilks scores in 2016 is 350, while in 2015 it was less than 300. It is also important to highlight the number of purple dots that have broken the 500 Wilks milestone, compared to previous years. This is the new standard in order to be crowned a champion at this event – in the men’s division 7/8 weight classes required a +500 Wilks in order to place 1st, and on the Women’s side 6/7 weight classes required a +500 Wilks.

Looking at the Wilks Cohort analysis underneath the scatter plot we have quantified the shifts in Wilks score year over year. Some of the major highlights are that in 2015 only 24% of competitors achieved a Wilks Score between 400-450, while in 2016, 45% of lifters achieved this score. The percentage of lifters who achieved a Wilks score between 450-500 jumped from 9% in 2015 to 17% in 2016.

Wilks Scatter 


Wilks Cohort


In the next two tables we break the 2016 men’s and women’s results into cohorts by weight class to determine which weight classes were the most competitive in terms of Wilks scores. In the men’s division the most competitive weight classes were the 59kg and 120+kg classes with 50% and 77% of all lifters in each class achieving over 450 Wilks points respectively. On the women’s side the most competitive classes were 47kg and the 52kg class with 70% and 83% of all lifters in each class respectively able to achieve over a 400 point Wilks score.

Men’s Wilks Cohort 


Women’s Wilks Cohort


The next analysis is a stacked graph of the times bodyweight (xbodyweight) for each of the highest Wilks scorers for all weight classes at the 2016 USAPL Open Raw National Championships. We included the Wilks score on the secondary Z-axis (white line) to show the relationships between xbodyweight achievement and a Wilks score in order to see how they differ as a lifters xbodyweight ratio changes.

Men’s Wilks


Women’s Wilks


In the above graph we can easily see the decreasing linear pattern from the lighter weight classes to super heavy weight class in xbodyweight total. As a lifters bodyweight increases the xbodyweight multiplier decreases. This may seem fairly obvious because as a result of being heavier in bodyweight, you will need to lift more total weight to have a higher xbodyweight multiplier. What’s interesting is to see how the Wilks score bares almost no connection to what the lifter has been able to achieve as a xbodyweight total. In the Men’s category the lifter who scored the highest Wilks score was the lifter who achieved the lowest multiplier in the xbodyweight total. However, on the Women’s side the lifter who scored highest on Wilks was just shy of having the highest xbodyweight multiplier total. The Wilks formula is not based on published data and has yet to be critically evaluated. Limited studies have been performed on the formula dating back to 1999 which concluded to the following:

  • There is no bias for men’s or women’s bench press and total.
  • There is a favorable bias toward intermediate weight class lifters in the women’s squat with no bias for men’s squat.
  • There is a linear unfavorable bias toward heavier men and women in the deadlift.
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References:
Department of Health and Sport Science, University of Dayton, OH 45469-1210, USA.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [1999, 31(12):1869-1875]

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