Strength in Absolute Terms, First
We all know that powerlifting is a game of numbers. So is CrossFit, Strongman, Olympic weightlifting, and just about any type of competitive strength sport you can think of. There is some form of gauge for each discipline. In powerlifting we look specifically at weight (MASS) moved in the three lifts. If you live in Trumpland, we call those pounds. If you live somewhere else you go by kilometers, or something like that. Either way, the basic concept doesn’t change: We have a defined and specific measurement for our sport. This means we get to know how strong we are, which is pretty cool.
Those pounds, or kilos, are great tools for measuring yourself in “absolute” terms. Absolute strength is defined as “the maximum amount of force exerted, regardless of muscle or body size”. Is your current self stronger than your past self? Is your future self going to be stronger than the current you? As long as we are looking at absolute strength it’s pretty simple to come up with answers. If your lift went up five pounds over X period of time you win! If it went down five pounds over X period of time you lose!
For most people this measurement is enough. For the high school athlete trying to get stronger for sports, or the man or woman in their first year or two of strength training, just focus on the absolute strength. No more than that is necessary when you’re getting started or when you are just trying to become less weak/more badass. Not everyone will like to hear that because it is too simple. Those over thinkers say "simple isn’t complicated enough, so it can’t wok."
Admittedly, this simplified method does make a couple of assumptions. Moving your bench, squat, or deadlift up by five pounds is great, but probably not if you had to gain fifteen pounds of body fat to do so (especially if you’re already carrying more than your fair share of Big Macs and Taco Bell around in your midsection). The other assumption is that the gain in absolute strength does not come at the sacrifice of proper form or technique.
If you’re not a competitive powerlifter, or don’t think of your squat, bench, or deadlift numbers like a powerlifter would, you can stop reading here. You understand absolute strength now, and you are free to carry on in your pursuit of strength. Maybe you can go spend some time browsing our apparel we have for sale on the website….. Or look up more porn. Your call.
Is Wilks scoring helpful or not???
Okay good you kept reading. I guess that porn can wait...
The Wilks scoring is a coefficient formula that can be used to measure the strength of a powerlifter against other powerlifters, regardless of bodyweight. So the question is; Are measurements like Wilks, that are beyond the scope of absolute strength, useful if you powerlift competitively? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s something that really depends on the individual lifter and his or her goals. Some powerlifters have the goal of improving absolute strength at almost any reasonable cost. If that’s your goal, that makes a lot of damn sense to just stick to that absolute measuring stick. It’s not broke, so don’t fix it.
Alternatively, some powerlifters have goals of cutting to a lower weight class or moving up in weight. Those bodyweight goals are usually accompanied with lifting goals of maintaining a certain level of strength in a cut, or gaining a certain level of strength in a bulk. So is this when Wilks coefficient scoring is helpful? Maybe. Maybe not. It still depends on what the individual lifter cares about! If you have goals of a particular bodyweight accompanied with set squat, bench, and deadlift numbers, those numbers could be all the measuring you need.
There is one group of powerlifters that can without a doubt benefit from the utilization of the Wilks scoring tool…. anyone that wants to or needs to compare themselves directly against OTHER lifters of different bodyweights. Wilks is the measuring tool for that comparison. Not to say that it is necessarily a perfect measure, but that is the purpose of the tool, and it is about as effective of a tool as there is for it. This is how you would determine a best overall lifter in a meet filled with several competitors in several different weight classes. Which is "more impressive", a 1200 pound total by a 150 pound lifter, or a 1500 pound total by a 220 pound lifter? Wilks scoring is a way to find the answer, if you think you need an answer.
Side Notes & Finale
There are other tools out there with a similar purpose to the Wilks scoring system. Different powerlifting federations have used other methods, and those could be just as effective. The term “Wilks” in this article could be interchanged with the scoring systems used in those federations, and this article would still carry on the same intended message. The old "times bodyweight" method is NOT good for the comparison of one lifter to another across weight classes. Times bodyweight has a place, and it can be fun, but it is not an effective or accurate tool for this. It is simply far too skewed, and that is why other systems like the Wilks scoring exist.
The point is that there is not one perfect measuring tool for determining success or progress in the sport of powerlifting. It ALWAYS depends on the goals of the individual powerlifter. Lifters must first have defined goals, then a measuring tool can be used to determine levels of success. If you don’t have goals, you don’t know how to measure your progress, or lack thereof. And if you can't measure yourself, then what is the point? You might as well go spend your time catching Pokémon and VD instead, or whatever it is you crazy kids are into these days.