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In the uplink of orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA) systems, rate adaptation may not be exploitable mainly because of severe inter-carrier interference (ICI). In this study, the authors propose a novel hybrid link adaptation that simultaneously uses power adaptation for ICI adjustment and rate adaptation for capacity improvement in the uplink of OFDMA systems. The proposed hybrid link adaptation determines a maximum allowable transmission power according to the channel gain and velocity of each user, enabling all users to have a guaranteed loss of carrier to interference ratio (CIR). Moreover, the proposed hybrid link adaptation adjusts the transmission rate according to CIR of each user, while keeping the maximum allowable transmission power unchanged. The performance of the proposed hybrid link adaptation is analysed in OFDMA cellular uplink systems. Finally, the analytic results are verified by computer simulation.