If you’re a powerlifter, your weight and sex can give you an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to lifting heavy weights. Essentially you’ll lift more if you’re heavier, and a man will lift more than a woman.

So how do we rate the lift of a 130lb female against a 260lb male? All other things being equal, the 260lb male will lift far more than the 130lb female. That’s just the way the physics and mechanics of this sort of thing goes.

We could go with multiples of body weight and that does even things out a bit, but powerlifting has come up with its own handicap system based on something called the Wilks Score.

This is just a formula into which you plug your body weight, sex and the weight you lifted, and it spits out your Wilks Score at the other end.

The way to go about calculating it is as follows. First calculate each of the following individually:

NB: (‘bw’ is your body weight in kilograms and ‘^’ means to the power of)

For men …

  • 16.2606339 x bw
  • -0.002388645 x bw^2
  • -0.00113732 x bw^3
  • 0.00000701863 x bw^4
  • -0.00000001291 x bw^5

Then add all those individual results together and subtract 216.0475144.

Now divide 500 by the result you got.

Now multiply the result by the weight you lifted (in kilograms). That’s your Wilks Score.

For women …

  • -27.23842536447 x bw
  • 0.82112226871 x bw^2
  • -0.00930733913 x bw^3
  • 0.00004731582 x bw^4
  • -0.00000009054 x bw^5

Then add all those individual results together and add 594.31747775582.

Now divide 500 by the result you got.

Now multiply the result by the weight you lifted (in kilograms). That’s your Wilks Score.

Age

The Wilks Score alone doesn’t account for age but in competitions with a masters or a junior category we might well want to.

Muscle mass and testosterone are at their peak between the ages of 23 and 40. People outside that age band need a bit of help and the way to do that is to take the Wilks Score and multiply it by an age-related number as set out below (age is on the left and the multiplier is to the right of it):

For people aged under 23 …

  • 14: 1.23
  • 15: 1.18
  • 16: 1.13
  • 17: 1.08
  • 18: 1.06
  • 19: 1.04
  • 20: 1.03
  • 21: 1.02
  • 22: 1.01

For people aged over 40 …

  • 41: 1.01
  • 42: 1.02
  • 43: 1.031
  • 44: 1.043
  • 45: 1.055
  • 46: 1.068
  • 47: 1.082
  • 48: 1.097
  • 49: 1.113
  • 50: 1.13
  • 51: 1.147
  • 52: 1.165
  • 53: 1.184
  • 54: 1.204
  • 55: 1.225
  • 56: 1.246
  • 57: 1.268
  • 58: 1.291
  • 59: 1.315
  • 60: 1.34
  • 61: 1.366
  • 62: 1.393
  • 63: 1.421
  • 64: 1.45
  • 65: 1.48
  • 66: 1.511
  • 67: 1.543
  • 68: 1.576
  • 69: 1.61
  • 70: 1.645
  • 71: 1.681
  • 72: 1.718
  • 73: 1.756
  • 74: 1.795
  • 75: 1.835
  • 76: 1.876
  • 77: 1.918
  • 78: 1.961
  • 79: 2.005
  • 80: 2.05
  • 81: 2.096
  • 82: 2.143
  • 83: 2.19
  • 84: 2.238
  • 85: 2.287
  • 86: 2.337
  • 87: 2.388
  • 88: 2.44
  • 89: 2.494
  • 90: 2.549

What you’re left with a score that allows you to compare yourself fairly against others, regardless of your body weight, sex and age.

This is how, at 132lbs, Jennifer Thompson is one of the best lifters in the world.