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a guide to your first powerlifting competition

Powerlifting Squat
Photography By Flownamix®

So, you've been strength training for a while and decided to take the leap into booking your first powerlifting meet? Congratulations! Welcome to one of the most rewarding sports & communities that surrounds the gym & lifting weights. No doubt you feel nervous? Maybe a little anxious or even the sense of you don't belong? Yup. All valid feelings which every novice powerlifter may feel before prepping for their first time. Don't worry. With this guide to your first powerlifting competition, I aim to iron out any questions you have in regards to stepping up there for the first time.

What weight class?

Before you enter, you will choose what weight category you will enter. if you're a male competitor, you will be either 53kg (usually sub-juniors), 59kg, 65kg, 74kg, 83kg, 93kg, 105kg, 120kg and 120kg+.

If you are a female competitor, your weight categories are as followed: 43kg (oftentimes sub-juniors), 47kg, 52kg, 57kg, 63kg, 69kg, 76kg, 84kg, 84kg+.

My honest advice is, don't diet harshly for your first competition. Rather, focus on getting familiar with the skill, the experience and the layout of the day & how a competition works. You don't want extra stress for your very first prep.

"My lifts aren't heavy enough..."

I hear this a lot. Look, if you can lift a weight that is near sub maximal level, you can complete said rep to comp standard and meet all the commands, you are more than ready. People oftentimes think in order to compete there is some sort of pre-requisite that exists or people will judge you. Nope. Everyone in the crowd will be cheering you on if you have a 40kg squat or a 200kg squat. They want you to do well.

Comp Day Checklist

Use this as a guide to what you should bring to your first meet:

  • Your powerlifting membership card or number (UK only, keep this on your favourites on your phone)

  • Singlet (IPF approved)

  • Belt (IPF approved)

  • Knee sleeves (IPF approved)

  • Wrist wraps (if you wear them) (IPF approved)

  • Deadlift socks (must be knee high)

  • Crew socks (normal plain black socks will do)

  • Squat shoes/appropriate footwear (converse, vans etc, something flat)

  • Deadlift shoes/slippers (you can wear your converse)

  • Comfy clothes

  • Food/snacks

  • Electrolytes and/or salt

  • Baby powder (for the deadlift)

  • Ibuprofen (if needed)

  • Ammonia/smelling salts (only if you use them!)

What are the commands for the 3 lifts?

  1. Squat = "Squat, Rack"

  2. Bench = "Start, Press, Rack"

  3. Deadlift = "Down"

For the squat, you must un-rack the bar in your own time (you have a minute for the command to be given). You must then stand ready to execute the rep with your knees locked out and the bar in your control. You will hear the command "SQUAT!", you will execute your rep with intent and with your hip crease below the top of the knee. All going well, you come back up and then WAIT for them to say "RACK!"

For the bench, you will set yourself up and un-rack the bar in your own time (with or without a handout if you've requested one), with locked out elbows, glutes on bench and heels on floor. You'll wait for the command "START!", bar lowers to chest with a pause awaiting the command "PRESS!". Driving the bar up to again, locked out elbows without any downward movement, then "RACK!"

For the deadlift, the easiest! You'll execute your rep in your own time then await the "DOWN!" signal. You must not hitch the bar up (using your thighs to assist) or have any downward movement. When completing the rep you must not drop or slam the bar down with no control. You'll be red lighted for this.

aim for as many white lights as possible

The goal is to get the biggest total you can whilst getting as many white lights as possible. This is another way of saying all 3 judges think your lifts was up to a perfect standard. You'll get red lighted if:

  • You skip commands

  • You don't meet the depth requirements

  • You swear on the platform

  • You move your feet after receiving commands

  • If you fail the lift

  • The timer runs out

You can find the IPF Technical rule book here.

If you want help getting from the gym floor to the platform

If you want to go from gym floor to platform, get yourself a coach who can guide you through the process and put you through a peak / taper so you're at your best for the day. My team has had some great success with doing exactly that. If you're ready and wanting to get to work, you can use the contact form on the site or click this link to get signed up with 1-1 or online coaching.

And finally, good luck! You'll do great. Be sure to follow me so I can keep up with your journey and support you!


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