Your First Powerlifting Competition | Top 5 Things To Know
Updated: Mar 5
Competing in Powerlifting is pretty simple on the surface - Turn up and complete your 3 attempts of the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
However, being heavily involved in the Auckland Powerlifting scene, we help out at a lot of novice events and in doing so notice a number of things often missed by first-time powerlifting competitors.
The purpose of this article isn't to act like we know everything about lifting in competitions, rather impart some wisdom that we wish we knew back when we started competing in powerlifting.
Aside from reading the rules and knowing how to squat, bench press and deadlift here are our top 5 things to know for your first powerlifting competition:
Remember Your Socks
(And remember to put them on)
To be specific, bring some long socks that reach the bottom of your knee. These are mandatory for hygiene purposes and some people tend to make their shins bleed when they deadlifting. On a number of occasions, we've had to stop lifters entering the platform because they've still got ankle socks on.
You don't need any other powerlifting-specific gear for a novice competition (Lift a soft-suit) and won't be made to purchase approved gear until you're registered.
Talk To The Referees & The Spotters
Novice competitions are a bit more relaxed than higher-level competitions (Such as provincial Championships). It's not uncommon to see novice lifters fail a lift on a technicality such as buttocks lifting off the bench, or not having feet flat on the floor. If you fail on a technicality, quickly ask the referees for clarification on what you did wrong. 9 times out of 10 they'll be happy to tell you.
Do you normally get a lift-out when you're benching in the gym? As you enter the platform for the bench press tell the center spotter how you lift your lift-out. Don't be embarrassed, be descriptive.
Referees are a great source of information when trying to become a better lifter.
Bring A Mate
If not to give you moral support, then definitely to help hold your headphones and attempt cards while you're on the platform and film your lifts.
Ideally, you'd have a powerlifting coach "handling" you on the day, helping ensure you put in reasonable attempts to build a strong total but having a mate to keep you organised (and possibly alleviate nerves) is the next best thing.
Note: Make sure they have a spare pen to write your attempts down!
At the very least, make sure you have a friend to film your lifts.
Photo: Lee Mcleod benching 150kg.
It's pretty heartbreaking to see a novice powerlifter bomb (get disqualified) because of 3 failed attempts on one lift.
There's no "perfect" answer to the question of "What should I open with?" but without giving it too much thought, it should be significantly less than your max on that lift. A good rule of thumb is to open with something you can comfortably triple at a competition standard.
I.E, if you can touch and go bench press 100kg for 3, that doesn't mean you can triple 100kg for 3 with a competition pause.
The face of a man who didn't open light .
Don't Cut Weight
Let it be clear that we are advocates for cutting weight when it comes to higher-level competitions - It's part of the modern Powerlifting BUT if your first competition is a Novice Competition, you will gain literally nothing from cutting.
A novice competition will not qualify you for Nationals, nor will it be posted on Open Powerlifting. Use your first competition to build confidence so when you come to your first real comp, you're ready to cut (If need be).
Once you've progressed to your second, or third competition, looking at weight cutting can become an option. Lifters in the IPF often cut 3-5% of their body weight to make weight on the day.
We love powerlifting and we want others to love it as much as we do, so we hope we can make some first-time competitors experience just a little bit better, so they come back for competitions for years to come.
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