What is Powerlifting

When people think of powerlifting they sometimes think of a bunch of meatheads throwing weight around. While that might be true to a certain degree, at the high level you will find powerlifters to be very intellectual individuals. All of their programming is calculated to the smallest details. They implement assistance work to help with their main lifts and help to prevent injuries.

So what exactly is powerlifting? It is competing against other people to see who can bench press, deadlift and squat the most weight. There are some competitions where you only enter for a specific lift. Say you only wanted to bench. But most guys do all 3 lifts and try to get the biggest total. There are different prizes awarded for highest bench, highest squat, highest deadlift and overall highest total. These are split up into the different weight classes. As you can imagine it wouldn’t be fair for a 250 pounds guy to lift against a 150 pound guy. Here is how the process normally works.

You arrive at the facility and have to find the check in table. Once you find it you give your name and most likely a consent form. Whatever is needed for that event. After checkin you will most likely weigh-in to get into your specific weight class. A lot of guys cut down to get in a lower weight class so they can compete with lighter guys. This gives a slight advantage. Beware of cutting too much weight though as this can cause your performance to suffer.

After weigh-ins there is time for warmups and waiting for the others lifters to go. Depending on what weight class you are in you might have to wait long. When I competed I would always use this time to get psyched up. Normally put on some headphones, go in a corner and get psyched. Before I talk anymore about an event, let me explain the lifts.

Bench Press

The bench press is often seen as the king of upper body movements. I am not a big fan myself but to powerlift you need to get good at it. This lift uses your shoulders, triceps and chest primarily.

The bench press is a lift where you load up a barbell and lay down on a bench. Grip varies on what a lifter prefers but most people choose to use a medium grip. Most powerlifters (if they are smart) will have a lift off the pins. After your spotter gives you a lift you will lower the bar to your chest and hold it there. There must be absolutely no movement or bouncing on the chest. if you do, you will be disqualified. In most cases you will have a judge that watches the descent closely and will tell you when to PRESS. After you hear that magic word you explode as fast as you can. Once you get to the top of the left you rack the weight. After the lift you can go look at the lights to see if your lift was a success or not.


If the bench press is the king of upper body movement than the squat is certainly the king of lower body exercises. For the squats you place a barbell across your upper back. You lower down until you are parallel with the ground and then pop back up. There will be a judge watching to make sure you hit parallel. Sometimes they will lift their hand when to lift or squat. Be sure to hit at least parallel or it wont count.


The deadlift in my opinion is one of the manliest exercises. You are taking weight from the ground. You approach the barbell and do an over under grip. I recommend chalking up your hands and even your shins. If you chalk your shins they will slide up easier. Some people even wear long socks.

For the deadlift you have to make sure you lock up completely at the top. Meaning standing up. Your arms stay full extended and locked.

Your Lifts:

You will get 3 attempts for each lift. Your first lift should be a decently high number that you know for a face you will hit. If you have any doubt in hitting the number do a lower one. This is just to ensure you have at least one successful lift while you really push it for the next ones.

For lift number 2 you should go for a max you have done in the gym. For the 3rd lift, go for a new PR. Something you have never lifted before.


You will need to wear a powerlifting singlet and there are no exceptions. You can purchase these for pretty cheap online. Besides a singlet you really don’t need anything else. I’d recommend some flat bottom shoes like converse or something like that.

There are some of the more advanced guys that use other equipment. One piece is a bench shirt. This is an extremely tight shirt that will assist you in pushing the weight up. I don’t really recommend these unless you are dealing with some really big weights. Another piece of equipment is a squat suit. These are funny to watch people get into. They pretty much have to strap them to bars and then jump into them.

These do something similar to the bench shirt. They assist you in squatting more weight.

For deadlifts there aren’t really anything else you can put on. You can use chalk which will be provided at the meet. Also there are some crazy guys that will snort ammonium and get really hyped up. But that is a bit extreme.


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