The purpose of this study was to measure and analyze kinematic differences between competitive collegiate (CLG, n = 9) powerlifters, competitive high school (HS, n = 9) powerlifters, and novice (NV, n = 11) powerlifters during a maximal squat to determine the effect of skill level on performance. All powerlifters performed 3 squats, with the final squat being their 1 repetition maximum. Kinematic data (descent, ascent, total lift times, knee angle magnitude, knee angular velocity, and knee angular acceleration) was measured using 2-dimensional motion analysis equipment. Differences in mean peak kinematic values between the 3 groups were analyzed using a 1-way multivariate analysis of variance, p <or= 0.05. Differences were found between the NV and HS in the time to ascent, the total lift time, the normalized time to peak (NTTP) in knee angular velocity from the "sticking point" to the "lockout," and the NTTP in knee angular acceleration during the ascent. A difference was found between the CLG and HS in the peak knee angular velocity between the bottom of the lift and the sticking point. Differences were also found in the rate of acceleration upward after coming out of "the hole" between the CLG and NV and CLG and HS. A difference was found in the rate of peak deceleration upward to the sticking point between the CLG and NV. To avoid injury and to achieve optimum results in powerlifting, lifting technique must be optimized. The HS and NV accumulated several significant differences in NTTP during the ascending phase. However, the major finding between the 3 groups was in the rate of acceleration upward after coming out of the hole. Coaches should focus their training programs on increasing strength in unskilled powerlifters for the purpose of increasing acceleration from the bottom of the lift.