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What should I expect at my first ever powerlifting competition

October 8, 2017




With a few of my lifters coming up to their first comp, I have been asked questions about what to expect, how do certain things run and general matters related to competition day. 


Within this post, I am to give you a good run down as to what you can expect and also some tips to help it go as smooth as possible.


Ok, first things first, and this is more about the lead up to comp day, rather than the actual day, but will have a huge impact on your first competition - weight categories. Look, if this is your first competition, do not give a single shred of thought about your weight category. By this, I mean don’t start thinking you can cut weight, or water cut, to make weight for a lighter weight category or to be “more competitive”. This is your first taste of the platform and competition day, the last thing you need is to be going in to it worrying about whether you have made weight & making yourself weaker by dehydrating yourself and not consuming enough calories in the lead-up - a weight cut can easily go wrong and there are steps to take after you have weighed in which are just as important. There are going to be a number of things making you nervous and this is one you could really do without. Just eat well, hydrate, and step out there at whatever weight you are at. I know you have to pick a weight class before you enter, but pick the one that you know you comfortably sit in. Easy.


Ok, so now on to the day itself. First up, you will have the weigh in, this is 2 hours before the lift off time (in British Powerlifting, this can vary with other federations). Make sure you are there on time, ideally before weigh in opens - there is often a queue! If you have followed my first piece of advice, there should be nothing to worry about here. In the weigh-in room, you will be asked for your openers for the first of your three lifts (squat, bench and deadlift). These should be previously discussed with your coach, or if you do not have a coach, you should have a good idea of these yourself (a good rule of thumb is to pick a weight that you can comfortably do for triples on your worst day, with a hangover, tired, run down, etc.). Always open conservatively. Get a lift in and proceed. 


You may be asked to handover your kit for a kit check. It is important that your kit conforms with the rules of your federation. Certain kit that you are going to be using, such as belt, wrist Wraps, knee Sleeves, have to be IPF approved if you are competing within British Powerlifting - a full copy of the rules can be found here and all kit specifications are contained within. For the sake of this blog, let’s assume that this competition is a NWPL divisional (an affiliate of British Powerlifting). It’s a good idea to check your kit prior to the competition so you do not have any nasty surprises on the day and you also have the opportunity to train in it for a comfortable period of time – now is not a good time to find out the belt you have been training in for the past 8 weeks is not going to be allowed on the day!


Next up, you will be told what group and flight you are in so you will know what time you will be lifting. Groups will be arranged in ascending weight classes. For example. Group A may be 74kg, 83kg men, and group B, 93kg, 105kg men. If there are a large number of lifters in each group, they may be split into flights. flight A and B. Usually in order of ascending openers. If you are not told, ask! It is your responsibility. The rules state that you have two hours from weigh in opening until lift off (i.e. weigh-in at 8am, first group lift-off at 10am). This is important as it will also dictate when to start warming up, which brings me to my next point.

Rack heights – there will be a combo rack (squat and bench) set up either on the platform or in the warm up area. There will be someone there to take your rack heights.


Warming up. Ok – so at the comp, there will be a warm up area, separate to the platform. Hopefully, you will have a coach with you to handle you on the day, if you are one of the lifters from my group, I will be there to handle you and get you warmed up. If you do not have a coach on the day to handle you,  then it is important that you don’t start warming up too soon, and tire yourself out before the big event even starts. Think about what your opening number is, and then give yourself enough time to warm up to your final warm up that you would usually use in training before hitting that number. You want to be hitting this about 5 to 10 minutes before you’re due to go up on the platform. It is good practice to check where you will be in the lifting order as this can impact your warm up timing. 


When lift off commences, lifters will be called out on to the platform in order of weight being lifted, from light to heavy, known as “rising bar”. The MC will call out the next lifter up and usually the next 2-3 lifters to prepare.  There will be screens up detailing the running order and the current lifter.  


Once the platform crew have loaded the desired weight, you will hear “bar loaded” and from that point you have 60 seconds to perform your lift. Once you have performed the lift to competition rules, the 3 referees will give you their decision. (You should by now be familiar with the rules of the 3 main lifts, so I will not cover them here.) If the lift is passed, it will get a white light from each ref, and the lift is in. If you do not lift to within the rules, you will get given a red light. Decision will go in 2 to 1 favour (i.e. 2 white and 1 red is a pass, 2 reds and 1 white is a fail).


You will then have 1 minute to give the table staff your next attempt. Go to the table, fill in the slip with your next attempt. If you have your coach with you on the day, they will do this for you, or consult with you as to what your next attempt will be. If not, it’s up to you.


That just about covers it for what you should expect on the day! You will have fun, and you’ll likely meet some great people. Some of the people I met at my first ever powerlifting competition are now my closest friends!


A couple of little tips I can give you are keep hydrated, electrolytes, isotonic sports drinks,  are a good idea. You will also want to keep your carbs up, so eat a mixture of complex and simple carbs, but it is essential that you stick to foods that you are used to! 10 minutes before a max attempt deadlift is not the time to find out your guts can’t handle that burrito (trust me!). 


Don’t worry about protein until after the competition is over, just go for carbs, protein will slow down the digestion of them and waste precious energy on digesting them that you don’t need! Same for fats.

Last but not least – Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do on a normal training day! Don’t try any new fancy stretching or mobility techniques and all that jazz on the day, keep it simple, treat it like a heavy training day and have fun.



Fighting Fit Powerlifting Coach



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