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Barbell Logic

May 6, 2019

Starting Strength Coach Jordan Stanton joins the podcast to discuss recent developments in the US Strengthlifting Federation, a variant of powerlifting in which lifters contest the squat, press, and deadlift. Since taking over the USSF in 2018, Jordan has made a number of changes, increasing the number of meets, improving the ruleset based on feedback from lifters and a panel of judges and coaches, and streamlining the meet direction process from equipment to judging to spotting.


The USSF differs from traditional powerlifting in a few important ways:

  1. As noted above, the standing press is substituted for the bench press -- a nod to the defunct clean and press practiced by the great Olympic lifters of yesteryear.
  2. There are no judge's commands. Once the platform is declared "ready," the lifter has 60 seconds to unrack the bar, perform the lift, and re-rack the bar... all on their own time and under their own power.
  3. Lifters weigh out, not in. Immediately following the third deadlift attempt, lifters walk to the weighing area and record their bodyweight, escorted by a judge.
  4. Deadlifts must be performed conventionally, with the knees inside the elbows. This contrasts with the sumo deadlift style which is popular in other powerlifting federations.


These changes eliminate many controversial and downright inconvenient elements of traditional powerlifting. Eschewing judges commands ensures that each lifter has an equal opportunity to complete the attempt, without influence from a judge's command, which may vary in timing, thereby affecting the difficulty of the lift. Furthermore, it eliminates red lights due to the lifter jumping the "rack" command following the completion of a squat. It also eliminates the need for the head judge to call a good lockout at the top of the deadlift, which he is in a poor position to judge anyway. In all lifts, the lifter executes the attempt as best he can, and the judges simply give white or red lights based on the rules.


Weight outs were instituted for the safety of the lifters and to even out the difference between the lifter's weight class and the actual bodyweight at which they compete. In federations with long weigh-in periods, weight can be cut dramatically before the meet and regained afterward, meaning a lifter could weigh in at 198lbs (therefore putting him in the 90kg weight class) but step on the platform at 225lbs or more. Drastic weight cuts can be dangerous, but they also add an element of weight management to the sport which is separate and secondary to the sport's primary contest: strength.


The USSF holds meets year-round across the US, so head on over to the USSF website to view the events and sign up for a meet near you!


You can also follow Jordan Stanton on Instagram at @nextlevelbarbell (the name of his new gym in Portland, OR).


Got a question for Matt and Scott? Email us at and we'll answer your question on an upcoming Saturday Q&A!



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