Powerlifting is a sport of strength. Unlike its brother bodybuilding, it is not about how much weight you can lift, not how much weight you look like you can lift. You probably already know that and have been following a powerlifting schedule for quite a while now. The strength gains sure are satisfying, but your motivation may start fading soon; since not all powerlifters are aesthetically pleasing. To keep this from happening, and to officially give yourself a label of a powerlifter, you decide to participate in your first meet.
You’re all set, except, this is your first meet and you don’t really know how to go about it. Worry not, for here you will find a complete guide to your first powerlifting meet.
Okay, so powerlifting is broadly classified into two categories, namely: equipped powerlifting and raw or unequipped powerlifting. The main difference between the two is that in equipped powerlifting, you would be allowed to wear a suit and wraps for your lifts, which would be illegal in the raw category. A suit is different for each of the three lifts. There are deadlift suits, bench shirts, and squat suits. These help a lifter lift way heavier loads than they would be able to otherwise. In the unequipped category or raw powerlifting, a lifter is allowed to use knee sleeves, wrist wraps (for bench pressing) and a belt.
Apart from this, powerlifting is divided into several age groups and weight classes. The age categories include:
- Sub-junior category (18 and under)
- Junior category (19-23)
- Senior category (24-39)
- Masters 1 category (40-49)
- The Masters 2 category (50-59)
- Masters 3 category (60-69)
- The Masters 4 category, which includes participants of and above the age of seventy years.
The weight classes are different for men and women. For men, the weight classes are 59 kg, 66 kg, 74 kg, 83 kg, 93kg, 105 kg, up to 120 kg and above 120 kg. Note, these weights are the upper limits of the classes. For women, the categories are 47 kg, 52 kg, 57 kg, 63 kg, 72 kg, up to 84 kg can above 84 kg.
There will be three events in the meet; the deadlift, the bench press and the squat. It is important that you know your max lifts on each of them before you sign up. If you plan to surprise yourself, change your plans. Knowing your max will not only help you plan your strategy beforehand but also help you improvise on the spot. Otherwise, you will end up either going over your limit or not living up to your potential. Carry adequate food and water with you along with your gear and your pre-workout.
First, after your gear has been approved, you will be asked to register your name and give to your bodyweight. There will be a weighing machine on which you will be made to stand in minimal clothing to avoid an increase in weight due to external factors. Next, your first attempts for all three lifts will be asked for. This marks the end of the registration process.
You will be given three attempts for each of your lifts, and the highest weight in each attempt will be counted in your total. In case you fail an attempt, you can attempt the same weight in your next attempt or increase the weight if you are comfortable. However, you cannot decrease it.
The bench press
You will be allowed to wear a belt, wrist straps and use chalk for this event in the raw category and a bench shirt and RAM in the equipped category. There will be a panel of three judges, and two or more spotters to ensure your safety. Once your name has been called, you will be required to start the lift under a time of one minute.
The spotters are allowed to assist you in un-racking the weight, but you will be on your own after that. There will be a total of three commands. When you hear the word “start”, start the lift. Slowly lower the weight and bring it down so that it touches your chest. Pause it there, until you hear the command “press”. Once you hear the “press” command, lift it up until your arms are straight. Don’t rack the weights unless you hear the last command, “rack”. Failing to obey any of the commands will result in an illegal lift, despite completion of the lift.
You are allowed to arch your back as much as you want, provided your shoulders and hips touch the bench at all points of time during the lift. According to the rules of your federation, you may or may not be allowed to lift your heels from the ground.
After the completion of the lift, there will be three lights that signify if the lift has been passed by the judges or not. The lights may be red or white. On successful completion, you will be shown three white lights, and if a judge considers your lift legal, he will give you white light, unless you will be shown a red light. You need a minimum of two white lights for a successful lift.
You will be allowed to wear a belt and knee sleeves and use chalk in this event in the raw category, and a suit in the equipped category. There will be two spotters (for loading and unloading the bar only), and a panel of three judges. Like in the bench press, you will have a time of one minute to show up once your name has been called. Unlike the bench press, however, there is only one command.
You can start the lift once you’re ready, as long as you stick to the time limit. Both sumo and conventional stances are legal, and you can choose whatever makes you comfortable. You will be required to lift the weight completely, lock your back and straighten your knees, and pause there. Lower the weight once you hear the command “down”. Make sure you lift the bar with a clean motion and do not jerk the weight. You will need a minimum of two white lights for your lift to be considered successful.
You will be allowed a belt, knee sleeves and chalk for this event in the raw category, and a suit and knee wraps in the equipped category. There will be two or more spotters depending on the weight on the bar. You will have one minute to start the lift once your name has been announced. Put the bar on your traps, lock your knees and take a step back. Once you hear “start”, start the lift. It is important that you hit depth in order for your lift to be considered legal. Go as down as you can, then explode up. Rack the weight once you hear the command “rack”. You need a minimum of two white lights for a legal lift.
Powerlifting meets are long and sometimes run for two days or more. So make sure you are well hydrated throughout the meet and prepared to wait with patience. Competing is a great way to see where you stand as compared to other lifters. But it is also important to have fun too. So don’t push yourself too hard or be nervous, and all the best!