We understand that not every reader we have is a powerlifter. However, we also understand that many of you are at least curious. What is powerlifting? What are the requirements? Could I do something like that? How does a meet work? What lifts are involved?

What is Powerlifting?

Photo by Monster Pixel

Photo by Monster Pixel

Let’s start with the basics. Powerlifting is a weightlifting sport where the competitors compete to successfully lift the most amount of weight possible for specific lifts. It involves the three main lifts – the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Now, your entire training program should not just be training the big three every training session. For this sport, it is imperative to hone in on your weaknesses for each lift so you can become a stronger lifter. For example, if your bench press is a weak point (and for most women it is the weakest lift), then you will want to add in a lot of triceps and upper back work so you will be more stable on the bench and more explosive with the bar. This is just one example (more on this in future blogs!)


There are many powerlifting programs out there that structure volume and intensity based off of experience. Beginner powerlifters generally want to focus on more volume with less intensity to get accustomed to heavier loads and then progress with more intensity and volume as they gain more years of experience. Be sure to check back soon for our Beginner Program for Powerlifting.

The Meet

Photo by Monster Pixel

Photo by Monster Pixel

In an actual powerlifting meet, you have three attempts at each lift. You will be organized into weight classes and sometimes gender with the weight starting with the lightest opener and progressing as the meet goes on.  The order of the lifts in a meet is Squat, Bench, Deadlift.  You will do all three of your squat attempts before moving on to the bench press.  However, you will have some time between each of your three squat attempts.  The amount of time you have will depend on how many other people are in your flight.  

There are rules for each lift.  These rules completely depend on the federation. For example, some federations have a monolift which holds the bar and then moves so that you don’t have to walk out for your squats. Other federations will have you walk your squat out.  Some federations allow you to be on your toes during the bench press while others will require you to have flat feet on the ground at all times. Become familiar with the rules for whatever federation you are competing in so that you know exactly how you should prepare during your training.


There will always be some sort of command from the judges in the lifts.  Some federations will have only one command for the squat. Other federations may have up to three.  Pay attention to these commands! They will go over them in the rule meeting before the meet but they will also be in the rulebook for your federation.  If you miss a call (rack too early, press too early, drop a deadlift too early, etc), that lift will be no good.


Your openers for each lift (first attempt) will be attempts that you KNOW you can hit pretty easily – probably your 2 or 3 rep max. We recommend this because if you do not hit your first attempt weight after all three attempts, then you will be disqualified from the meet. This is why it is super important for you to pick a number you know you can hit. For your second and third attempts, this is where you can focus on throwing up some numbers and trying to break a PR (personal record).  Look for a future blog where we talk choosing attempts.


Photo by Monster Pixel

Photo by Monster Pixel

Decide what type of meet you would like to compete in.  There are equipped and raw meets.  Raw simply means minimal equipment - typically a singlet, lifting shoes, deadlift socks, belt, and wrist wraps are allowed. Some federations allow knee wraps in raw meets. Equipped meets have squat suits, bench shirts, knee wraps, and sometimes more.


Powerlifting is such an amazing sport. Just competing in a meet and doing your absolute best makes you feel like a winner because most people don’t pursue this kind of challenge. Your first few meets (and every meet after if you can control your competitive side), think of the competition as a meet against yourself.  Be your best version of YOU and hit the numbers you want to hit - don’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing! Support the others and be happy for their successes but do not compare your lifts to anyone else! This is your time to beat yourself and perform your best. There are multiple ways to “win” a powerlifting meet, but here are a few accomplishments that should make you feel like a winner:

Hitting a PR (Personal Record) on a lift

Grinding through a lift and finishing it successfully!

Getting three white lights (all three judges say it’s a clean lift!)

Going 9 for 9! (Hitting all three attempts on all three lifts successfully - this is NOT easy!)

Doing something outside your comfort zone

Technically, there are “winners” in a meet - sometimes awards will be given to the highest lifter in each weight class. Sometimes there will be age groups (junior, open, masters, etc). Other times, they judges will calculate your Wilks score - a coefficient that can be used to measure the strength of a powerlifter against other powerlifters despite the weight class. Most federations will explain what awards will be given before the meet - possibly in the registration form.

Who Competes?

ANYONE! It doesn’t matter your weight, gender, age… YOU can compete as long as you can perform the lifts correctly according to your federation rules.  Don’t worry about your weight class during your first few meets (we will cover more on making weight and weight classes in a future blog). Just enter, weigh in, make sure you are hydrated and fueled, and perform your best. Be proud of your accomplishment. You are now a powerlifter! Welcome to the team!

Heather & Katie
The Power Couple

Katie Kollath