Powerlifting is a strength sport. It resembles the sport of Olympic weightlifting, as both disciplines involve lifting weights in three attempts. Powerlifting evolved from a sport known as 'odd lifts' which followed the same three attempt format but used a wide variety of events akin to Strongman events. Eventually odd lifts became standardized to the three events squat, bench press, and deadlift. They can compete raw or equipped (that is, with or without certain supportive equipment).
Powerlifting requires specialized training techniques that are focused on strength and explosive power. Traditional training methods dictated low repetitions with maximal weight. These practices are still true today, however, training methods have advanced to include emphasis on explosive power. This may be achieved through dynamic exercises which utilize lighter weight and alternating repetition patterns.
The squat, bench press and deadlift are the three main lifts in competition. In order to maximize their effectiveness at these lifts athletes typically train with a cyclical routine. A common split is to give each of the three lifts a day where exercises designed to increase that lift are performed or to treat the deadlift and squat as one lift and perform upper and lower body sessions, however there are many different methods. Training consists of mostly compound lifts (a compound lift being any movement across multiple joints) in the 1-5 repetition range.
Using a lower repetition range allows for the use of a higher weight and higher maximum force development. This occurs because usage of a higher weight (80-100% of maximum) will ensure that the limitation of weight lifted is limited by neural efficiency (how many muscle fibres the nervous system can trigger), rather than by exhaustion of the muscle fibers in the area. Higher reps in the 6-12 range are used for hypertrophy (size building/bodybuilding) and the 12-20+ range is typically used more for endurance athletes. It is not necessary to train for size or endurance because neither matter in a competition.
A well known training method is known as the Westside Barbell method developed by Louie Simmons, or the high volume routines developed by Boris Sheiko. Other approaches to powerlifting training include Mike Tuscherers RPE-based training, and the classical progressive overload approach. Western linear periodization was a powerlifting staple in the USA before the Westside Barbell method gained popularity. Among many elite-level powerlifters in the US, hybrids between Westside and russian accumulation/intensification methods are popular. The programs also tend to be very personalized.