I've discovered that there's something called a Wilks score used to compare lifting results for different weight classes and I went ahead and started testing it using values obtained from Male Strength Standards table. I used this calculator and I was summing bench, squat and deadlift values. The results seem to favor heavier lifters for the same category. Here's a random sample of results:

  • Beginner 50kg - 103.34 points
  • Beginner 100kg - 107.72 points

  • Intermediate 70 kg - 248.05 points

  • Intermediate 110 kg - 297.78 points
  • Intermediate 130 kg - 327.48 points
  • Elite 80 kg - 407.57 points
  • Elite 90 kg - 416.24 points
  • Elite 100 kg - 429.06 points

Is this metric biased towards heavier lifters or is the table not reliable?


Although the Wilks score is biased in certain areas, your logic here is incorrect.

The Wilks score is used to balance out lighter lifters and heavier lifters. If you input the same total weight, the lighter body-weight will have the higher Wilks score. For example:

 66 kg Male lifting 600 kg = 471.12 Wilks
 83 kg Male lifting 600 kg = 400.50 Wilks
105 kg Male lifting 600 kg = 358.56 Wilks

You can see that the Wilks score is higher for the lighter lifter that is able to lift the same weight. This becomes useful when trying to ask who is stronger in competition?

 66 kg Male lifting 600 kg = 471.12 Wilks
105 kg Male lifting 790 kg = 472.10 Wilks

From the above you can see that with an additional 40 kg of body mass you need to be able to lift 190 kg more as a 105 kg male in order to win against this 66 kg male.

The tables provided by Strength Standards are broken up into columns (stronger than 5%, 20%, 50%, 80%, 95% of lifters) based on user-provided input. A lifter can fall into multiple columns though (e.g. advanced in the deadlift but a novice in the squat). The columns also cover a range: a 70 kg intermediate male bench press is actually shown as 85 to 111 kg.

In my opinion, this isn't a good dataset to look at the validity of the Wilks formula; especially since most people complain that it favours lighter lifters. I don't know what kind of dataset you would need but openpowerlifting.org has a lot of information available.

I've still been curious about this because I know that the IPF recently ditched the Wilks formula and made its own: IPF points. This was a pretty cool analysis of the two and it does show that the Wilks formulas is biased for heavier males and for lighter females. The author also used the numbers from openpowerlifting.org as a reference.

  • I understand the purpose, I'm just not sure if it scales properly. According to the linked table a 70 kg lifter with bench/squat/deadlift equal to 85kg/113kg/133 kg and a 100 kg lifter with bench/squat/deaflift equal to 122kg/160kg/184kg are both "Intermediate" but theirs Wilks scores are 248.05 and 327.48. So either the table or the score is incorrect and I'm trying to figure which one is. And I consider a single research to not be conclusive, you need a repeated experiments to confirm something and eliminate biases, statistic noise, problems with chosen sample etc. – Presto Jan 26 '20 at 16:30
  • The table is a standard deviation for the entries that users have provided; that's all the names separate. The "intermediate" category is also a range between the start and the end being just before "advanced". The table also doesn't consider what a lifter can really do. My deadlift falls under advanced, my squat under intermediate, and my bench under novice. The table isn't incorrect but it's not providing the information you're looking for. – C. Lange Jan 26 '20 at 17:44
  • @Presto - check out the edit I made and the article I linked. I think you'll find that really useful. The table from Strength Standards is still not reliable but the formula is biased. – C. Lange Jan 28 '20 at 16:08

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