Competition is at the heart of powerlifting. It’s a chance to show off your hard work in the gym, while additionally providing a concrete external goal to work towards outside of university work. While they may seem intimidating initially, the club tries very hard to make competing as accessibly as possible, through running internal mock competitions for novices in Michaelmas term, and providing transport and encouragement to those seeking to compete officially during the year.

The format of a competition is fairly straightforward. Each lifter has 3 attempts to attempt a 1 rep max on the squat, bench, and deadlift, in that order. You are scored based on your total, the sum of your best attempt at each lift. To learn more about competing check out this piece by us, or the “To Compete” series, by our friends over at Powerlifting Mind.

While powerlifting is usually a solo endeavour, being a member of the club offers you the chance to compete as a member of team CUPLC at two key opportunities throughout the year.


Varsity is our annual powerlifting competition versus Oxford. Usually held in the first few weeks of Lent term, its our most important competition of the year. CUPLC is extremely proud of its 9 consecutive years of victory against the enemy.

The Powerlifting Varsity match is a strength match up with a 40 plus year history, though the current format of the match is fairly modern. Organisation of the match alternates between Oxford and Cambridge. Notably, in 2020, Varsity became an IPF sanctioned competition. Prior to 2022, there was a single Varsity match for both male and female lifters. In 2022 the two were seperated, giving our current format.

The current format of the Varsity match is as follows. Each side enters teams comprising 10 men and 10 women. Each teams score is the sum of the IPF GoodLift points of their top 8 lifters.

The Captain’s are responsible for team selection and this is generally carried out on the basis of competition results or gym lifts. An in house “Varsity Trials” competition is normally held towards the end of Michaelmas to facilitate this. As the result of the Varsity Match is decided by GL points, so is team selection, alongside other factors such as attitude to training. Usually several reserves are also selected in case of injury or other unpredictable events in the run up the Varsity match.

Lifting in Varsity is also a requirement to attain our Blue’s standard.

Lively and amusing commentary of previous varsities is presented below. View older matches below.

Blues Standard

We are proud to be a full blue sport. These are awarded to atheletes exhibiting the highest level of university sport. In general, the full blue standard is approximately that of being successful at a national level of student competition, and the half blue standard is that of being successful at county or regional level. Following discussion with the men’s and women’s blues committees, the standard has been agreed as follows.

Upon submission of sufficient evidence to the relevant blues committee, a Full Blue may be awarded to an athlete who fulfils all of the following criteria in a single academic year:

  1. Competes in the Varsity Match 1st team, AND
  2. Competes in at least 1 other IPF affiliated competition, AND
  3. Registers a total in an IPF affiliated competition in the academic year which is greater than or equal to that which:
    • 3A) the university athlete in the top 10% of their weight class got in British Universities in the previous year, OR
    • 3B) is in the top 10% of their weight class when considering all British Powerlifting results from the previous year

For clause 3A in both statuses, this is rounded to the less difficult standard. For example: If 22 competitors compete in the weight class, the standard of a top 3 finish is required for the Full Blue, and a top 7 finish for the Half Blue.

For clause 3B in both statuses, this is rounded to the more difficult standard. For example: If 22 competitors compete in the weight class, the standard of a top 2 finish is required for the Full Blue, and a top 6 finish for the Half Blue.

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the standards in kg are therefore as follows:

Men’s Blues Standard

Weight Class Full Blue Half Blue
-59 472.5 402.5
-66 495 485
-74 590 520
-83 620 560
-93 670 605
-105 717.5 650
-120 735 667.5
120+ 687.5 687.5

Women’s Blues Standard

Weight Class Full Blue Half Blue
-43 227.5 227.5
-47 287.5 285
-52 305 295
-57 360 321
-63 352.5 337.5
-69 400 350
-76 420 380
-84 412.5 375
84+ 430.5 395

British University Championships

The other opportunity to compete for Cambridge is at the annual British University Championships. These are usually held in the Easter Holidays, and one must qualify for them at least 2 months prior. Be sure to check the relevant qualifying total for your weight class. The club will usually advertise and facilitate people looking to do so at an East Mids Powerlifting qualifer competition in January time.

Competition Reports

View all our competition reports here

CUPLC at the British Bench Press Classics

A small team of CUPLC lifters – Suzanne, Lucy and Steve – journeyed to Portsmouth in February (the week after Varsity) to compete in the British Bench Press ...

Varsity 2014

Powerlifting Varsity win for CUPLC

Varsity Report 2013

Powerlifting Varsity win for CUPLC Cambridge 2110.21- Oxford 2056.76