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Beginners Guide To Powerlifting

3 lifts...3 attempts... 1 goal:

Lift as much weight as possible.

Powerlifting by definition is a strength sport that focuses on only the Big Three: squat, bench deadlift. It is probably one of the friendliest competition environments, and even if new to competing such a wonderful experience.

Categorized by weight class, it is a competition in which you are lifting as much as possible with each lift to see who holds the highest total. Each lift has 3 attempts. Also it should be noted that aside from weight class there are also "age brackets" as well as geared vs. raw (meaning you're either wearing a lifting belt or not). This event typically lasts all day depending on how many competitors there are.

When lifting you will tend to squat, bench, and deadlift last with 1 minute to complete the lift at each attempt. In each lift you are looking for 3 white lights based on depth, commands, and lock outs. (2 white lights will still count as a good lift as well).

Powerlifting though still a strength sport is not to be confused with Olympic lifting (clean + jerk, and snatch movements). It should also be noted that it is not a competition to be taken lightly as you are literally aiming to max out your lifts / exceed PR's you might have had in the gym.

If you're looking to get started in powerlifting there are a few things to know / helpful tips:

  • - Make sure you sign up for a federation. You CANNOT register for a meet if you have not done this. USAPL and USPA are the two common ones I see competitors register for.

  • - HIRE A COACH. The way you prep for powerlifting vs. just bodybuilding are NOT the same. This can really hurt you later on.


  • - Start practicing your main lifts as you would with the competition. What I mean by this is know your commands.

  • - Weight class, if it's your first meet I wouldn't cut down weight. Let your first competition be "getting the feet wet". Ideally though you want to be the heaviest in the weight class vs. having to be the lightest in the next class.

  • - Stop squatting while looking in the mirror. As odd as this one sounds, it is a different feeling and during a competition you won't be able to.

  • - You'll want to start lifting consistently in converse or lifting shoes for squats, and a belt for 80%> max lift if you plan to use those during the meet.

When it comes to programming, more is not always better. If you have been bodybuilding mostly, this can be a hard transition. Most programs are 4x a week (some might be 5) however, the accessory work is not what you have been doing. Accessory work at this point is to fix the main lift, not have a wicked pump or sick back day. In a week you most likely will be squatting / benching 2x, and deadlifting 1x with a variation of a deadlift or speed deadlift day as well. Your goal is to get stronger, and cardio will also be less.

The sport itself just like any can be dangerous if you are not careful with what you're doing or have a good base foundation of the lifts. I would suggest one go watch a competition to see what it is like. Secondly, make sure your 3 main lifts are decent. It's normal to need a bit of technique work, but please don't ego lift your way through a competition. I would also about 2 weeks out try lifting a few times in your singlet (a suit you wear while lifting) because it feels very different and could mess up your competition day if you've never lifted in one prior.

Do not neglect your deload week! In fact you probably won't deadlift again 7 days out from your meet. I would also suggest that 7 days out be the last time you get a massage done as you don't want your body too lose.

Competition day: if you decide to compete biggest thing is have fun! Aside from that a few helpful tips are one have your ID and membership card otherwise you cannot be checked in. Arrive at the beginning of your check in time just in case there is a hiccup, or you're over your weight class and need to try to cut a little. Bring food, snacks, CARBS, water, and music! Utilize your warm ups, and in between lifts RELAX. When it comes to your opening lift, your coach should have your numbers picked out. If you happen to be coaching yourself though, your opener should be 85-90 % of your max. Not too easy, but something you know you'll hit. 2nd and 3rd attempts 5-10 ib PR are fine to aim for, if you miss a lift you can choose to redo that amount or go to your next scheduled amount. Most of all though cheer others on, and enjoy the community!

Here's a link too of other tips / things to bring or use at a meet:

Have you wanted to try out powerlifting? If so I hope this short guide gives you a better idea for what the sport is all about.


Leah Peters

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