So you manned up and have decided to compete in your first raw powerlifting meet? Good. Here are some tips and tricks of the trade to get your ready for optimal performance. Before I start, most of your questions can be answered by going to and browsing through this site Powerlifting Watch.
- Make sure you know the rules for the federation you are competing in.
- If you need a list of federations you can go here.
- If you need the basic rules you can get them write here.
- You must wear a singlet when competing raw, no exceptions. Your singlet can be a basic wrestling singlet or a powerlifting brand name singlet. Some popular brands are Titan, Inzer, Metal and APT Prowriststraps. Singlets can run between $20 to 40$+ depending on where you get them. (Links to company’s that sell singlets and more are listed @powerliftingwatch.com)
- You should have a fully loaded gym bag. Go here if you need more details on some of the things you should be carrying: What’s In Your Gym Bag?
- Make sure you know which weight class you fall under, you don’t want to weigh 243lbs and compete in the 275lbs division because you ate a big breakfast and were clueless.
- When filling out your application be sure to fill it out correctly. If you have any questions contact the promoter, through email or call them up. They are very nice and helpful people. For the purposes of true powerlifting I am assuming you are running a full power meet (the squat, bench press and deadlift). There are also the Ironman, which is essentially a push/pull (bench/deadlift), there is bench only, etc..
Ok, now that I covered some of the basics, or have at least given you some of the resources to find out the answers for yourself, here comes the good part. I am going to dissect important things about the BIG THREE lifts and give you some good tips that may save you from bombing out. (Bombing is when a lifter fails to complete any of the three attempts in one lift, and in many cases will not be allowed to finish the meet.)
- Always choose an opener you know 100% you can do, Typically a weight you can triple or at least double in training.
- When training for a meet, practice warming up every 5 to 15 minutes, and be able to warm up effectively with around 3 to 6 sets. Also be ready to lift heavy because at most meets that is all the chances you really get. Timing it key and one should be prepared. *Keep a mental note what order of weights it takes you before you feel properly warmed up.
- It is crucial you keep your muscles warm and prepared, lifting is not the only way to do so. There are many methods of doing so based on the individual. Dynamic stretching, wearing neoprene sleeves and clothes for warmth. (Just because you can’t compete with it doesn’t mean you can’t wear it during warm ups.) Constantly moving around. *Foam rolling*.
First off make sure you know if you have to walk the bar out of a rack or just squat out of a monolift.
- Make sure to have the height of the rack or monolift known ahead of time so you can unrack the weight with ease.
- DEEP BREATHES! on the unrack. If walking out take two deep breathes, one on the unrack and and retake it before you descend. If you are taking it from the monolift, one deep breath. HOLD YOUR BREATH throughout the whole lift, this can’t be stressed enough. You want your body to be as tight as possible and you don’t want to run out of air in the hole (bottom position). Having a stable core can make or break your lift and can make all the difference.
- Look at the head judge. You don’t want to get red lighted for not following rules. Some feds tell you when to squat down but others don’t. Either case you must have your knees fully locked before going down.
- When rising up make sure you wait for the rack command. You don’t want to throw away a good lift because you didn’t listen.
- DEPTH – make sure you hit at least legs parallel to the ground. Depending on the fed you may get away with squatting an inch higher, but in training you should always training an inch lower. You want to take 3 white lights (meaning a good lift from all 3 judges) on your opener so the judges won’t watch your depth as strictly on the next attempts. If you have trouble knowing depth, have a buddy call your depth and shout out a verbal cue one to two inches before you hit parallel so when you actually hear it and spring up you will hit it just fine. (Practice this on warm ups)
- Olympic shoes help a lot for narrow and medium stance squatters. Chuck Taylors are used commonly for wide squats but for raw squatting purposes wide squatting puts unnecessary wear and tear on the groin and knees.
The Bench Press
Everyone’s favorite lift except mine. In powerlifting you must hold the bar out when unracking for a slight pause before descending so the head judge can determine what your lockout looks like. Some federations give you a down command, some don’t but all give you an UP command. Once you lock out wait for the command, once again you don’t want to throw away a good lift.
Having a good arch can easily add 20lbs+ to your bench press when used correctly. My biggest trick is that I wear my belt when I arch so I can be more stable and not have to worry about sliding out of position, arch higher while reducing back pain, and it helps me keep my butt on the bench.
- If your butt tends to come off the bench: wear a loose black singlet. Chances are it will blend into the bench and if it’s loose it is harder for the judges to tell if your butt is in contact with the bench. If they don’t say anything against stickum spray (a sticky spray) – spray your singlet so it sticks to the bench.
- Have your spotter push your shoulder blades into the bench to harden your arch and make you locked tight into the bench.
- Keep your toes up and dig into you heels.
- Have the spotter unrack the weight for you, take it out of the rack like a triceps extension and tuck you lats.
- To utilize your lats on your bench press, grab the bar very tight and squeeze it as hard as possible, with clenched fists try to rip the bar apart as if you were ripping a phone book. This will ensure that your lats are tight and involved in the lift.
- Once again DEEP BREATH! I have my spotters hand me the bar off a count of one-two, then take a deep breath, nod my head and that is the signal. That way I am ready for the hand off and my air is locked in nice and tight. Don’t breathe out until you have finished your lift.
- Once again wait for the re-rack command
In my opinion the true test of strength. I do not pull sumo and hold many grudges against it, so for my own bias I will only give your tricks on how to conventionally pull which truth be told there are not many.
- BABY POWDER on your shins and thighs to make the bar travel up smooth HOWEVER!!! – do not get it on your hands or on the equipment, unless you want the bar to slip right out.
- Warm up with chalk and keep your hands chalked throughout the entire deadlift. Having sweaty hands will lead to a high chance of you ripping a callous. If your callous rips, carry some NU-SKIN (liquid band-aid). It burns like hell and puts an artificial layer of skin on your hand and might give you another chance, but chances are unlikely. At least it will clean the wound and let you use your hand more comfortably then cotton and duct tape.
- Make sure the bar is halfway over your sneaker or foot. (Deadlift slippers, Converse and sock/barefoot pulling is highly recommended) With your triceps flexed as hard as possible grab the bar with no slack in your arm and bend your shins to the bar, keep your lats very tight, pull the slack out of the bar, DEEP BREATH, push your air into your abs and belt and commit to your lift.
- Be sure not to hitch or your lift won’t count, PUSH YOUR HIPS THROUGH be resilient and grind it out. Just don’t let the bar go down then back up and you will be fine.
- Don’t put the bar down until you’re given a down command, and be sure to lower the bar back down in a controlled manner.
Those were a mere few tips and tricks that are relevant that I could thing of at the moment. If I remember or learn anymore I will write a follow up article. Hope you found my advice and the links posted helpful.
Aspire to Inspire.