Part 1: Female Masters Powerlifting Survey Results (the quantitative portion)


A few months ago, I put together an informal online survey of female masters powerlifters. I was curious about how different people within a similar age demographic approached the sport, what drew them to it, and what obstacles and fears they faced each time they stepped up to the bar to train or compete. I was also curious about how they train, how they recover, and what resources they use to do so.

There were 48 respondents from all over the world. It took me a while longer than I had hoped to put the results together, but here they are, or at least here is the first part. This is the quantitative information. The subsequent (and frankly more interesting) parts contain the qualitative information, and are still in progress, but should be finished shortly.

The picture painted by both types of information has been illuminating, to say the least. Only a few years ago, female masters lifters were few and far between. In recent years there has been a surge in the popularity of lifting and the quantitative information reveals that those who pursue it are dedicated, serious, and meticulous in their training and recovery.

It has been an interesting study. Many, many thanks to all of those who participated, to the Iron Sisters for spreading the word about the survey, and to all those who have helped shape lifting for women over the past years. It makes a difference.

In case you missed the others, here are all the posts in this series:

  1. Part 1: Female Masters Powerlifting Survey Results (the quantitative portion)
  2. Powerlifter Survey Part 2: training volume, injury, and fear
  3. Powerlifter survey part 3: Age is just a number
  4. Powerlifter survey part 4: experiences & body image
  5. Powerlifter survey part 5: I have no more words

1. How long have you been formally training for powerlifting?

Responses ranged from 5 months to 20 years

Average 4.6 years

2. How long did you strength train before that?

Responses ranged from 0 to 20 years

Average 4 years

Do you train primarily alone or with training partners? 

(Note: the total here is greater than 48 as some respondents indicated multiple options)

  • most often only alone: 9
  • sometimes alone:11
  • with husband: 1
  • sometimes with training partner: 15
  • with a group: 10
  • with a coach: 7

Additional comments:

Of those who trained alone, about half indicated that it was primarily due to circumstance. A few commented that it was not their preference. Additionally the following comments were made:

  • Through the years have trained off and on with partners…almost all males as I feel they challenge me more to keep up to them.
  • Been training mostly with training partners since, but most are male.


What is the highest level of competition in which you have competed?

world-level competition: 23
provincial meet: 4
national competition: 9
local meet: 7
regional competition: 5

How old are you?

Age range: 40-66

Average: 48.4 years

M1: 28
M2: 9
M3: 11
M4: 0

How often do you train each lift per week? (Squat, bench & deadlift)

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.55.04 PM

Most people indicated a range, often varying by a session a week of a lift. The graph above indicates the number of people who trained each lift 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 times per week.

As you can see, deadlifts were most commonly trained once per week.

Squats seemed to be most commonly trained twice and bench ranged closely from one to three times.

None of this should be taken as a best practice, simply as a sign of what people seem to be doing. As with any training program, what suits an individual may deviate significantly from what a group is doing, hence the groups on either ends of the range.


What is the approximate tonnage of each lift per week during a heavy volume period?

People who did not answer the question, do not use tonnage as a metric, or whose coach programs for them and they have not asked: 26

Results were given primarily in pounds and have been converted to such where necessary.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.56.21 PM

What is your weight class?

52kg: 3
57kg: 3
63kg: 12
72kg: 6
84kg: 12
84+kg: 12

How many rest days do you take each week?

1 rest day: 6
2 rest days: 20
3 rest days: 14
4 rest days: 8

Do you have a coach?

yes: 30
for programming only: 11
no: 7

What recovery protocols do you use?

Participants were given the option of choosing multiple answers. Intriguingly, Aras Kvedaras was named frequently as a separate option.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.34.22 PM
How often do you use the above recovery tools?

(not all respondents answered this question and the frequency appears to related to the type of treatment used, with self-administered being used more frequently)

Rarely: 8
a few times per month: 14
weekly: 1
4-5 times weekly: 5
2-3 times weekly: 7
daily: 7

Do you follow a special eating plan or diet?

The majority of masters lifters pay fairly close attention to their nutrition, being conscious of weight class requirements.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.34.31 PM


The next posts will look at the verbal responses of participants to qualitative questions; it will present the whys rather than the whats. Stay tuned.


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