Authors: Dr. Mark Chen1, Dr. Andrew Richardson2

1School of Health and Life Sciences, Teesside University, UK (corresponding author)
2Population and Health Sciences Unit, Newcastle University UK

Corresponding Author:

Corresponding Author: Mark Chen
Campus Heart, Southfield Road, Middlesbrough
TS1 3BX, Tees Valley

Dr Mark Chen is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at Teesside University and is a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society (BPS). Dr Chen’s research interests include psychological consequences of sports injury and attentional aspects of sports performance.

Dr. Andrew Richardson is a Chartered Heath and Activity Practitioner with the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) and is currently a Research Associate within the Population and Health Sciences Institute at Newcastle University. Andrew’s other research interests include body image, performance enhancing drugs, transgender sport, esports and public health..

Male Competitive Powerlifters relationship with Body Image: Utilising the Multidimensional Body Image Self Relations Questionnaire (MBSRQ).


Purpose: There is growing evidence to suggest that competitive male athletes in aesthetic sports that scrutinize their body image may experience undesirable mental health outcomes. However, there is limited research to address these issues in strength sports, particularly the sport of Powerlifting. Methods: This study employed the Multidimensional Body Image Self Relations Questionnaire (MBSRQ), which recruited 365 male participants across the following subgroups. Powerlifters (P) (n = 133), Active Subjects (AS) (n = 79), Appearance Based Sports (ABS) (n = 68), Strength Sports (SS) (n = 47) and Other Sports (OS) (n = 38). Results: One–way ANOVA showed significant (p < 0.05) results between all groups across six of the nine MBSRQ subscales. Post hoc comparisons found nine significant results with the powerlifting group achieving two of them against OS (p < 0.01) and AS (p < 0.01) groups respectively. Conclusions: Overall, the results showed that male powerlifters expressed their bodies-as-function rather than their bodies-as-object with regard to health evaluation and fitness orientation. This is supported by their stable and balanced scores across the MBSRQ subscales which indicates they have healthier and lower perceptions of negative body image concerns. The powerlifters results implied that a focus on objective performance improvement and maintaining a healthy body to prevent injury had body image benefits. Applications in Sport: The study concludes that male powerlifters present healthy body image perceptions compared to the other males in their respective sports and focus on their body functionality objectively rather than the subjective perception and presentation of their body image.

Keywords: Powerlifting, Body Image, Weight Classed Sports


For this paper, the definition of Body image is referred to as “relating to a person’s perceptions, feelings and thoughts about his or her body, and is usually conceptualized as incorporating body size estimation, evaluation of body attractiveness and emotions associated with body shape and size” [1-2]. There has been extensive work conducted on the influence of body image in the media [3], in Western culture [4] and job roles such as the fitness industry [5]. Other comparisons include comparing body image within a range of demographic factors such as between athletes and non-athletes [6], age [7], nationality and ethnicity [8]. Cash and Pruzinsky [9] have defined five dimensions of body image, which work together to create an overall body image. However, these dimensions fails to mention the broader cultural and social contexts that influence body image [10]. They suggested that athletes dealing with sporting and societal pressures may experience adverse outcomes such as eating disorders or a negative perception of their body image. Such factors may lead to these pressures as a result of media and advertisements [11], supplements [12] and the use of image and performance-enhancing drugs [13].

Background of Powerlifting

Powerlifting athletes are scored on objective performance measures rather than appearance evaluations. Powerlifting tests athletes on their objective strength and has traditionally been male-dominated [14]. However, in the last twenty years, female participation has significantly increased [15]. Richardson and Chen [16] state that powerlifting is a competitive strength sport comprising three techniques: the Squat, the Bench Press and the Deadlift [17-18]. The aim is to lift the most weight across the three movements for nine attempts [18]. Sports similar to powerlifting that heavily rely upon strength include Olympic weightlifting [19], strongman [20], highland games [21] and the shot–put [22], to name but a few examples. Not all of these sports mentioned have a weight class or a weight requirement, but for those that do, depending on the rules of the competition, this weight requirement may be evaluated within twenty-four or even forty-eight hours prior to the event [23]. Weight classes help ensure fairness in competition and increase the pre-competition demands of participants to enter the weight category that maximizes their advantages. Experts argue that making weight places psychological demands on athletes who may be inclined to make drastic weight cuts to gain a competitive advantage [24]. However, as powerlifters are evaluated on the amount of weight lifted, the training is based on objective scoring criteria. As scoring is objectively determined, and not a third party as in aesthetic sports, this has important implications for positive psychological adaptations [25].

Theoretical models and frameworks

Theoretical models of body image, such as Objectification theory, focus on the impact on men of a culture that increasingly objectifies men’s bodies. It suggests that men, like women, may experience self-objectification [26]. For men, the dual focus on both leanness and muscularity characterizing the male body ideal may motivate a particularly maladaptive set of behaviors designed to achieve these goals, such as rigid exercise routines, hidden use of image and performance-enhancing drugs (IPEDs) [27]. Subsequently, the literature has claimed that men may suffer from body image concerns and dysfunctional behavior [28]. Some research argues that young men experience societal pressure to achieve the muscular mesomorphic body shape, and this behaviour leads to a drive for muscularity [29].

Further, studies have demonstrated that sociocultural pressures mediated by social comparisons and internalization of muscular and low-fat ideals are associated with men’s body dissatisfaction and drive for muscularity, which might lead to disordered eating [30]. Most research has focused on aesthetic sports such as bodybuilding [31-32]. These explanations fail to consider how individuals think, feel and behave concerning their body functionality [33]. How powerlifters think, feel, and behave about their body functionality in a sport concerned with achieving objective demands is essential to achieving a more complete and holistic understanding of body image in this context [34].

Theoretically, the subjective perception of muscularity depends on the individuals’ perception of body image, which for powerlifting tends toward a functional muscularity rather than aesthetic muscularity due to the sport’s rules. Critically, the self-objectification model does not consider the functionally orientated nature of sporting competition and its impact on male psychology [35]. Therefore, the athletes have a strong sense of control and need to prepare, train and diet concerning maximizing objective performance criteria, not gaining approval from judges based on aesthetics. The environmental demand to achieve an objective standard has essential implications for broadening body image, as Ginis et al., [36] reported. They found that the idea of muscularity and physical competence in men [37] are central to their evaluations of their bodies.
According to Conceptualisation theory, men are socialized to focus more attention on their body functionality than body-as-object (image) [38]. Therefore, powerlifting males are likely to value the functionality of their body over appearance, not only due to socialization processes that favour the achievement of tangible performance-based outcomes [39-40] but also due to the specific environmental demands of powerlifting which reward objective performance results. In contrast, perceptions of leanness and body fat percentage are less relevant to powerlifters performance. Franzoi [38] defined body-as-process as comprising physical capabilities and internal processes, which is similar to body functionality. The demand for functionality adds sources of experience, such as training to execute specific external and internal demands, that requires knowledge of body functionality (movement) and is, therefore, adaptive for how male powerlifters individuals think and feel about their body image [38].

For example, Richardson and Chen [16] found that female powerlifters, despite presumably having been socialized to experience higher levels of self-objectification and greater body-as-object identification than men, as predicted by self-objectification theory, nevertheless enjoyed their appearance in their sporting environment, indicating that it was not a source of anxiety, presumably due to the enjoyable experience of functional powerlifting training and competition reward. This was evident in other studies using smaller sample sizes and qualitative interviews in the same sport and sex [14 & 41]. Bordo [42] found that individuals who presented with large muscular physiques symbolized strength and masculinity.

Competition achievement and social reward within a sport based on tangible athletic goals [43-44] and psychological characteristics such as aggression when preparing to lift [45] will strongly mitigate against excessive rumination around body appearance and identity. Further reasoning supports the powerlifting community’s emphasis on body functionality [46-47]. From this perspective, male powerlifters likely develop a functional appreciation of their body that is valued separately from its appearance. This construct of functionality appreciation has only recently been investigated in the context of positive body image. It is positively associated with positive body image facets, such as body appreciation [48].

Franzoi [38] proposed that individuals hold more positive attitudes toward their body functionality than their body image. Therefore, it can be predicted that males with this orientation will hold performance adaptive attitudes toward their bodies. Body conceptualization theory offers a rationale for the body functionality being adaptive and reflective of positive male body image and improved mental health, compared to a body image orientation. This theorizing gives scope that negative body image attitudes can be adaptive and motivational within a performance-based environment based on objective rather than subjective and image-based criteria. For the male powerlifters, this would be the performance their bodies execute to meet the environmental needs (e.g., the sporting demands of their event). For example, Gattario and Frisen [49] found that males stated that finding a social context in which they found belonging and acceptance that allowed them to develop agency and empowerment allowed them to move from a negative to positive body image. With this logic, it could be predicted that competitive powerlifters will differ in their positive body image compared to individuals who are active but don’t compete.

Nevertheless, functionality measures have focused predominantly on physical capacities and internal processes and have typically concerned physical strength and muscularity. These aspects of body functionality can be conflated with physical appearance and are accentuated by male appearance ideals and the male gender role emphasizing dominance, power, and strength [50-51]. There has been some research into the body image perceptions of athletes in strength sports. Goltz et al [52] divided 156 male athletes into weight-class sports, endurance sports and aesthetic criteria sports and found no differences in body shape concerning self-depreciation due to physical appearance. Richardson and Chen [16] found no association between negative perceptions of appearance for female powerlifters compared to aesthetic sports individuals. These results suggested that the powerlifting group had contentment with their appearance, perhaps due to the decreased emphasis on body image compared to the increased emphasis on body functionality and focus on improving their skills and strength for their sport.

Apart from these few studies, research has yet to be done on body image and functionality in male powerlifting. The association of the physical body with functional sporting competition achievement based on objective standards may reduce the potential for internalizing negative body image and lead to healthy adaptations based on physical demands. This research will explore what functionality means for male powerlifters and how this impacts body image and functionality. This study aims to compare the body image of male powerlifting athletes against other subgroups of male athletic participation. The aim is to examine if male powerlifting athletes express different body image satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their body image and weight compared to subgroups of active and or sporting males.

Aim and Objectives of the Study 


To compare the body image differences of male powerlifters against a range of male athletic subgroups. 


● The first objective was to determine if the powerlifters have significantly lower scores regarding their bodyweight perception when compared to other male groups in the study.

● To determine if powerlifters present an emphasis on body-as-process rather than body-as-object.


Participant Information

An opportunity sample of 365 males was recruited through Facebook and Instagram. The recruitment period lasted three weeks in length and generated the following subgroups. There were 133 Powerlifters (P), 79 Active Subjects (AS), 68 Appearance Based Sports (ABS) participants, 47 Strength Sports (SS) participants and finally, 38 Other Sports (OS) participants within their respective subgroups. The group sample means and standard deviations for their age were 28.65 (± 7.44), height was 178.58cm (± 13.3cm), and their weight was recorded at 89.99kg (± 18.20kg). 

Within Table 1.0, each subgroup’s means and standard deviations were recorded for their age, height, weight and the length of time they have spent training. The powerlifting (P) group mean age was 27.71 ± 6.86 years, the mean weight was 92.73kg ± 21.24kg, and the mean height was 176.67 ± 15.27cm. Appearance Based Sports (ABS) group mean age was 28.04 ± 7.59 years, mean weight was 86.89 ± 14.55kg, and height was 177.11 ± 12.32cm. The active Subjects (AS) group’s mean age was 30.30 ± 8.19 years, the mean weight was 84.99 ± 12.81kg, and the mean height was 179.85 ± 14.91cm. The strength Sports (SS) group’s mean age was 29.19 ± 7.26 years, the mean weight was 97.41 ± 20.11kg, and the mean height was 181.69 ± 7.02cm. In the final subgroup Other Sports (OS) group, the mean age was 28.95± 7.49 years, the mean weight was 87.19 ± 15.53kg, and the mean height was 181.47 ± 7.87cm. No ethnic identity data was recorded. The study was conducted after obtaining ethical approval from the Teesside University School of Social Science Business and Law Ethical Approvals Committee. 


Multidimensional Body Self Relations Questionnaire (MBSRQ): The MBSQR measures Body Image divided into cognitive and behavioral components [53]. Items are ranked on a 1 to 5 Likert scale, where 1 = Definitely disagree, and 5 = Definitely agree. The MSBRQ subscales include Appearance Evaluation (AE), Appearance Orientation (AO), Fitness Evaluation (FE), Fitness Orientation (FO), Health Evaluation (HE), Health Orientation (HO), Illness Orientation (IO), Body Areas Satisfaction (BASS), Overweight Preoccupation (OWP) and Self-Classified Weight (SCW). Illness Orientation is not included as a separate subscale, as it is already reliably accounted for under Health Orientation. The MBSRQ is significantly evidenced in Body Image research [9 & 53] as a well-validated measure [54] through comparison with other tools of Body Image. The MBSRQ has a proven reliability and validity record for body image research [53]. The composite reliability was calculated using an SPSS Omega Macro [55] and is within the acceptable range (Cronbach’s omega = 0.79). The primary author constructed demographic questions to collect information about the participant’ background. These questions included (but were not limited to) sex, age, height, weight, and years spent training. 


Both the MSBRQ and Demographic Questionnaire were developed using Google Documents. Data gathered was stored under the General Data Protection Act [56]. Participants were assigned to groups 1.00 (Powerlifters – P), 2.00 (Appearance Based Sports – ABS), 3.00 (Active Subjects – AS), 4.00 (Strength Sports – SS) and 5.00 (Other Sports – OS), based on their answers from the demographic questionnaire. Participants were given no monetary or external incentive to take part. Participants read the pre-questionnaire information, participant information form and questionnaire instructions. Once read, participants were prompted to check a box that confirmed their consent to the study. All participants completed the questionnaire individually and received no communication from the researcher during data entry. A glossary was provided for technical terminology. Demographic questions were formatted as short answers, rating scales, and multiple-choice. Participants were informed they could opt out anytime during the study for any reason. In total, the questionnaires took about 10-15 minutes to complete.

Data Analysis

An independent group design was used to investigate the differences between the MBSRQ scores of the four. The dependent variables measured the differences in body image between the groups across nine subscales. All data were analyzed using Microsoft Excel version 2016 and Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) Version 27. Means and Standard Deviations were calculated for all the subscales. Data were checked for equality of variance between groups and assumptions for the one–way ANOVA where the alpha value was set at 0.05. Post hoc tests were calculated to compare the powerlifting group with the other three groups across the MBSRQ subscales. The post hoc alpha values were corrected for type one error rates using p < 0.01. To estimate the effect size of post hoc mean differences between groups, the Cohens d statistic size was interpreted using the following guidelines: .00-.2 (small), .40-.79, (medium) and .80 + (Large) [57] and 95% Confidence Intervals (CI) were reported. The Hedges g statistic was used if one or both groups being compared had n < 20, otherwise, Cohens d was reported.


The descriptive statistics associated with the MBSRQ scores across the five groups are reported in Table 2.0. It can be observed that the powerlifting group was associated with higher, consistently stable and healthy body image scores in comparison to the other four male sub-groups. Six of the nine MBSRQ subscales reported p-values below 0.05.

The descriptive statistics associated with the MBSRQ scores across the five groups are reported in Table 2.0. It can be observed that the powerlifting group was associated with higher, consistently stable and healthy body image scores in comparison to the other four male sub-groups. Six of the nine MBSRQ subscales reported p-values below 0.05.


Below are the graphs of the nine subscales from the MBSRQ presented to showcase the differences in mean scores for each domain of body image.

This study aimed to compare the body image of male powerlifters with sporting and physically active males. There were multiple significant results across six of the nine MBSRQ subscales between the groups. Overall, the results of this study suggest that male powerlifters have a healthy relationship with their physical body when compared to all other groups. The powerlifters on average, evaluated both their health and fitness orientation were higher compared to both physically active males and males in other sports. Comparing the groups anthropometrics, all groups expressed similar heights, weights and mean age. Most participants from the powerlifting group were in the late twenties, average weight at 92.73kg and standing around 178cm in height. Nolan, Lynch and Egan [58] used a male sample that was comparable to the current study in size and age. Other studies recruiting male powerlifters all had smaller sample sizes and younger age ranges [59-60] compared to the current study.

The first objective was to determine if the powerlifters had significantly lower scores regarding their bodyweight perception when compared to other male groups in the study. There was no evidence to support this prediction, as the powerlifting group levels of overweight preoccupation and self-classified weight area satisfaction were not significantly different from the other groups. The Powerlifting group had scored 2.49 for the OWP subscale which was higher than both SS and OS groups but lower than AS was the powerlifting and ABS groups. This would appear to indicate that the male powerlifters either do not ruminate on their body-as-object to the detriment of their mental health or that the nature of engagement with the powerlifting competitive demands lends itself toward a functional conceptualization of the body over an image-based focus [61]. These results taken together do not imply that powerlifters demonstrated a negative perception of their body image. Rather, the results suggest that powerlifters link their body image toward objective performance related goals. Although, this is speculative, the intense regime of powerlifting training for competition would result to improved perceptions of body image due to perceived changes in strength over time.

Theoretically, powerlifters interpreting their body-as-process rather than the body-as-object is consistent with larger differences in Fitness Orientation, Health Evaluation and Overweight – Preoccupation compared to the sport male and physically active male groups. These subscales relate more to objective performance concerns, such as physical capacity, rather than the subjective interpretation of body image, thus appear to be accentuated by perceptions of power and strength [50-51]. Fitness orientation refers to, “Extent of investment in being physically fit or athletically competent. High scorers value fitness and are actively involved in activities to enhance or maintain their fitness. Low scorers do not value physical fitness and do not regularly incorporate exercise activities into their lifestyle” [53]. Richardson and Chen [16] found their sample of female powerlifters scored the highest out of this subscale when compared to other groups.

Health Evaluation is defined as, “Feelings of physical health and/or the freedom from physical illness. High scorers feel their bodies are in good health. Low scorers feel unhealthy and experience bodily symptoms of illness or vulnerability to illness” [53]. Richardson and Chen [16] found that their sample of female powerlifters scored the highest on this subscale compared to other sporting females.

Overweight preoccupation reflects “fat anxiety, weight vigilance, dieting, and eating restraint.” [53]. Richardson and Chen [16] found, for their powerlifting group, very stable scores around the normative values with little deviation from the mean, therefore indicating that the group were happy and content with their weight for the function of powerlifting. The Powerlifting group had higher OWP compared to the other two groups but not low enough to indicate extreme weight cutting, dieting or weight anxiety, Although, the nature of powerlifting does require some weight monitoring due to the weight classes requirement, the score was not concerning. An individual-by-individual analysis would need to be considered to accurately assess if an athlete is expressing extreme body weight anxiety or concerns.

Certainly, this does contrast with the findings of the Active subjects (AS) group who had a moderate effect size of greater overweight preoccupation (OWP) and self-classified weight (SCW) compared to Other Sports (OS) and Strength Sports (SS). These difference of the control group (AS) adds further weight for the difference between the powerlifters and the other groups body image. The active subjects were composed of individuals who don’t compete in any sport, but their recreational exercising still did not prevent them from having pre-occupation with their physique. Male exercisers can be as pre-occupied with outward appearance as women due to their motivation for muscularity [62] and also as non-athletes they may lack the functional body appreciation that male athletes possess [63].

The second objective was to determine if powerlifters present an emphasis on body-as-process rather than body-as-object. Theoretically, body functionality can be understood in contrast to appearance ideals and gender roles for men, which emphasise the importance of physical strength, prowess, and bodily control [64]. The absence of negative body image perceptions in the males only lends indirect evidence for a higher emphasis on functional cognitions related to objective performance. There were two significant differences between powerlifters with OS and AS in health evaluation and fitness orientation. There was a moderate effect size difference for health evaluation, with the powerlifting group showing more robust health behaviours than the other sports group.

The other sport group was the smallest group (n=31) and consisted of people who recreationally participated in a variety of sports of which Soccer, Cross fit and Athletics were the most numerous. The health cognitions of the powerlifters place an emphasis on being prepared to execute maximum effort in their training and respecting the possibilities and limit of what they can achieve [65]. Compared to sports such as Athletics and Soccer, which place more emphasis on diverse interceptive open skills in a changing environment and / or endurance, Powerlifting requires maximum and intense concentration to prepare for one explosive movement. Therefore, the powerlifters need to have a healthy attitude toward diet, for example, as performance is related to performing at their physical limits but is not essential for skilled footballers. These results contrast with Goltz et al., [52] who found no differences in self-depreciation due to physical appearance in comparing weight-class sports, endurance sports and aesthetic criteria sports.

The powerlifting group also showed stronger fitness orientation compared to the active subjects groups. This may mean that the powerlifters monitoring of their pre-performance health results in stronger fitness evaluations compared to individuals who only exercise and also individuals in sports with less physically explosive demands [65]. This seems to reinforce the first finding, that male powerlifters have a positive rather than negative view of their body image, in terms of the value they place on health and fitness related cognitions to help prepare for competition. The fitness-orientation aspect can be interpreted for body functionality qualities, as this subscale would support behaviours and cognitions conducive to maintaining good physical condition and a positive view of the body [66]. An explanation in terms of body conceptualization theory is that the functionality of powerlifting competition allows the participants to engage in a wider range of strategies to maintain fitness rather than being concerned with aesthetics, compared to individuals who only exercise [49].

Comparing this to the appearance-based sport (ABS) group, they too also undergo intense and regimented training, as competitors will need to ensure they are in the best condition for competition, although still based on aesthetics. However, where the ABS group differ from the powerlifters is a moderate effect size for overweight preoccupation compared to the OS group. There was also a moderate effect size for self-classified weight compared to the strength sports group. These two subscales are more in line with previous findings [67], in that aesthetic sport participants need to put more effort in body monitoring and judgements related to weight loss or gain. In powerlifting, research has shown that to overcome confounding issues that may affect athletic performance, athletes reported that the following factors help relieve or reduce competition day stressors include, the coach, mental attitudes, technical instruction, training partners and social isolation [67]. When comparing between sexes, the results revealed no fundamental difference in these confounding factors by male and female powerlifters [66]. Within both studies, it was noted that there was no mention of body image when competing to be a compounding factor, which supports the current findings. Nevertheless, the powerlifters body image or perception of their own image was not given as an option in their studies so results may have been different if participants had been given an option to select.

The AS group reported two medium effect sizes against the other sports group and strength sports group, which were in the overweight preoccupation and self-classified weight subscales, but the powerlifting group scored a moderate effect size against the AS group in fitness orientation. The reason for this can be linked to multiple variables. Firstly, the AS group participants as stated earlier in this manuscript are not training to improve their performance within a specific sport or event. They are active males who are training but with no sport specific goal in mind. Hence, these individuals may be more critical of themselves when it comes to focusing on their bodyweight. This can be easily demonstrated in the subscale of SCW where the AS group scored the lowest when compared to the OS and SS groups. As individual in these sports may compete at a weight they are comfortable at, this yields them the best performance advantages when in competition.

Notwithstanding, the AS group did score closer to a mean normative value for their OWP subscale and scored higher than both OS and SS groups. The reason may be that higher scores focus more on weight vigilance and weight anxiety. However, the OS and SS groups scoring lower than AS and having low OWP scores indicates that their sports don’t require, or these athletes didn’t express any worry about their weight when competing.

Nevertheless, there is research to suggest that those who train for body image and pursue masculine muscular ideals may be motivated for these appearances through unhealthy means. These include self – blame and or internalised shame as reported by Larison and Pritchard [68] found that men who scored higher on these variables also reported higher levels of eating disorder symptomology. Yet, in the same study, those same men who scored higher for internalised shame also scored higher on the drive to be more muscular. Finally, Swami and Bedford [69] found that men’s drive for muscularity was significantly predicted by neuroticism and their drive for body appreciated was significantly predicted by neuroticism and extroversion when considering BMI and subjective social status as drivers. However, in other studies the opposite findings have been reported. Reina et al., [67] also reported that males in non-aesthetic sports were more dissatisfied with their body image and were 1.5 times more likely to use exercise to lose weight than non-sport participants.

The MBSRQ is a valid and reliable and well stablished body image assessment tool and is appropriate for out study [53]. Nevertheless, the MBSRQ does not measure disordered eating or specific ideals of muscularity as compared to other aforementioned assessment tools. The powerlifting group in this study as in the female study by Richardson and Chen [16] is centred around one sport and unlike the other groups they are made up of multiple sports. Ultimately, this will have impacted their scores within their groups and comparing between groups. The powerlifting group as a whole had more training experience than the other groups which is reflected in their larger sample size and more stable scores which has to be factored into the analysis.

In summary, the findings report the powerlifters presented with stable and positive outlooks and evaluations of their body image. This highlights a productive relationship with their own body image and their sport of powerlifting as a body-as-function role instead of body-as-object [47]. Comparing the powerlifters with other sport groups showed similar results. The powerlifters presented with significantly (p < 0.05) better scores for HE and FO subscales in the MBSRQ when compared to the AS and OS groups. The majority of the groups displayed stable MBSRQ subscale scores and healthy outlooks on their body image. The study found that powerlifters did not express or display any extreme perceptions of their body image despite them competing within a defined weight category. These results also find that the athletes recruited for the powerlifting group train for performance and are less concerned about their body image. By positioning their focus on objective performance (lifting as much weight as possible) this appears to have psychological benefits which helps negate negative body image as recorded in the female samples of Richardson and Chen [16] and Vargas and Winter [14]. Future research should focus on qualitative interviews with male powerlifters and additional sports to understanding the relationships between their body image and their sport.

The majority of previous research concerning male body image is associated with negative behaviour outcomes such as aggression, violence and or the use of PEDs [70]. This study has taken a different approach to show strength training for males has a positive outlook on their body image helping to create healthy and stable relationships with their mental health using an objective measurement. In this instance, it is the sport of powerlifting that focuses the athletes on the performance to lift as much weight as possible across three events.

Competing in a weight class sport does not necessarily produce extreme group scores and or undesirable behaviours concerning their bodyweight or body image. This implies that strength training methods such as powerlifting for males (and females as shown in Richardson and Chen [16] when seeking to improve their health and fitness are beneficial. The focus on objective strength gains via tracking their lifting through increments using progressive overload allows positive body appreciation. As a positive by-product, they will also develop improved physique through increased levels of physical activity and adherence to a training program. Furthermore, by seeing continued progressions through improving their technical proficiency doing the movements and increased muscle hypertrophy will lead to a better outlook on their mental health and body image. As they are viewing their body for its function not as an object they place less emphasis on subjective body image changes but rather on performance. In populations that include body image disorders and eating disorders, using this form of training will help support clinicians in helping return their patients to exercise routines to support a holistic recovery pathway [71].

Author roles
Dr. Mark Chen: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal analysis, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing, Supervision, Project administration.

Dr. Andrew Richardson: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal analysis, Data curation, Writing – review & editing, Project administration.

Conflict of Interest Statement:
The authors declare that have no conflict of interest when writing and or submitting this manuscript for peer review publication to The Sport Journal.

No funding was sought or requested for the formation of this manuscript


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