Powerlifting Competition FAQ
From: bapiche@lazrus.cca.rockwell.com (William A. Piche)
Subject: Powerlifting Competition FAQ
Date: 1995/10/30
Message-ID: <DH9o2v.4tC@lazrus.cca.rockwell.com>
X-Deja-AN: 118399451
sender: news@lazrus.cca.rockwell.com
x-nntp-posting-host: blackbird.cca.rockwell.com
organization: Rockwell Avionics - Collins, Cedar Rapids, IA
newsgroups: misc.fitness.weights

        Bill Piche (bapiche@cca.rockwell.com)


The routines and techniques described in this FAQ are intended only for 
healthy men and women.  People with health problems should not follow the 
routines without a physician's approval.  Before beginning *any* exercise or 
dietary program, always consult your doctor.

The opinions and comments in this FAQ are those of the author only
and not Rockwell International or any of it's divisions.

Acknowledgment must be made to Matt Brzycki, Strength and 
Conditioning Coach at Princeton University, for his reviewing the
drafts of this FAQ and making some excellent suggestions for

1.0  Why this FAQ?

2.0  Why Compete?

3.0  Where are the Competitions?

4.0  Some General Rules of Powerlifting  
  4.1 Age Categories
  4.2 Bodyweight Categories
    4.2.1 Men
    4.2.2 Women

5.0  What Weight Class?

6.0  A Sample Powerlifting Training Program

7.0  Training for a Competition
  7.1 Performance of the Squat
  7.2 Performance of the Bench
  7.3 Performance of the Deadlift

8.0  Powerlifting Equipment
  8.1 Squat Equipment
    8.1.1 Squat Suit
    8.1.2 Belt
    8.1.3 Knee Wraps
    8.1.4 Squat Shoes
    8.1.5 Powerlifting Underwear
    8.1.6 Wrist Wraps

  8.2 Bench Equipment
    8.2.1 Belt
    8.2.1 Wrist Wraps
    8.2.3 Bench Shirt

  8.3 Deadlift Equipment
    8.3.1 Deadlift Suit
    8.3.2 Belt
    8.3.3 Deadlift Shoes
    8.3.4 Knee Wraps
    8.3.5 Baby Powder
    8.3.6 Shave the Legs

  9.2 Weigh-in
  9.3 What do You Eat?
  9.4 The Competition Begins
    9.4.1 The Rounds System
    9.4.2 Conventional System
    9.4.3 Warming Up A Method to Time Your Warmups
    9.4.4 The Judging Causes for Disqualification of a Squat (IPF) Causes for Disqualification of a Bench (IPF) Causes for Disqualification of a Deadlift (IPF)
    9.4.5 The Attempts

10.0  Powerlifting - The Long Haul?

11.0  Powerlifting Books

12.0  Powerlifting Resources on the WWW

1.0  Why this FAQ?

This FAQ is for those that have an interest in entering a
powerlifting competition.  The information in the FAQ is from my
experience as a powerlifter since 1981, talking to world
and national champions, and reading just about everything I could
get my hands on about the sport.  My hope is that this FAQ will 
help a new competitor to Powerlifting competition. 

2.0  Why Compete?

Lifts made in a nice comfortable gym atmosphere, with familiar
equipment, just don't cut it.  Lifting in the gym is a lot
different than lifting in competition.  Lifting in competition is
the true challenge of strength.  Unfamiliar equipment, unfamiliar
surroundings, rules to abide by, and judges to scrutinize your
adherence to the rules, make powerlifting competition where one
can truly test how strong they are in the big three (i.e., the squat,
bench press, and deadlift).  When it comes right down to it, gym lifts 
don't mean SQUAT!  You either put up or shut up in competition!

3.0  Where are the Competitions?

There are powerlifting contests almost every week of the year in all
parts of the country.  All you have to do is get the most recent copy of Powerlifting USA magazine.  You probably won't find it on the newsstands.  
Every month they have a section in the back called Coming Events which
lists the competitions across the U.S.A.  The address for
Powerlifting USA:

          Powerlifting USA (PLUSA)
          P.O. Box 467
          Camarillo, CA 93011
          $31.95 for 12 monthly issues 

Most entry fees are about $35.00 per division.  Most contest directors
prefer that you pre-register.  Always include a S.A.S.E with your
check or money order.  You will have to buy a membership card for
the specific organization under which the contest is sanctioned.  

Unfortunately, there are too many organizations right now.  Some
are drug tested, others are not.  Natural Athletes Strength Association
(NASA), American Drug Free Powerlifting Association (ADFPA), United
States Powerlifting Federation (USPF), World Powerlifting Association (WPA),
American Powerlifting Federation (APF) are some of the organizations.  
Beware of rule differences, because they exist.  For example, some 
organizations don't even have equipment checks.  One time the author 
saw a guy putting on a wet suit under his squat suit!!  

Make sure you attend a competition as a spectator before you
actually compete yourself.  That way you can see first hand how a
typical contest is run.

4.0  Some General Rules of Powerlifting

These rules are based on the International Powerlifting Federation.  The
United States Powerlifting Federation is the U.S. member of that federation.
Note that other organizations may have some differences in their rules.

(a)  The sequence of lifts for competition is 1) Squat, 2) Bench, 3) Deadlift.

(b)  Each competitor is allowed three attempts on each lift.  The lifter's 
     best valid attempt on each lift, disregarding any fourth attempts for 
     record purposes, counts toward his competition total.                                                             
(c)  The winner of a category  shall be the lifter who achieves the highest
     total. The remaining lifters shall be ranked in descending order of total.
     Lifters failing to achieve a total are eliminated from the competition. 
     If two or more lifters achieve the same total, the lighter lifter ranks
     above the heavier lifter.

4.1  Age Categories

Men - Senior:from 14 years upwards (no category restrictions need apply).
Junior:from 14 years to and including 23 years of age.
Master I: from 40 years to and including 49 years of age. 
Master II: from 50 years upwards.
Women - Senior: from 14 years upwards (no category restriction need apply).
Junior:from 14 years to and including 23 years of age.
Master:from 40 years upwards.

4.2  Bodyweight Categories

To convert from kilos to pounds multiply by 2.2046.  A quick conversion
for kilos to pounds is to double the kilo weight and add one tenth.
For example, doubling 100 kilos is 200 pounds and adding a tenth (i.e.
20 pounds) is 220 pounds.  The exact conversion yields 220.46 pounds.

4.2.1  Men

-52.0 kg Class up to 52.0 kg.
56.0 kg class from 52.01 to 56.0 kg.
60.0 kg class from 56.01 to 60.0 kg.
67.5 kg class from 60.01 to 67.5 kg.
75.0 kg class from 67.51 to 75.0 kg.
82.5 kg class from 75.01 to 82.5 kg.
90.0 kg class from 82.51 to 90.0 kg.
100.0 kg class from 90.01 to 100.0 kg.
110.0 kg class from 100.01 to 110.0 kg.
125.0 kg class from 110.01 to 125.0 kg.
125.0+kg class from 125.01 to unlimited.

4.2.1  Women

-44.0 kg Class up to 44.0 kg.
48.0 kg class from 44.01 to 48.0 kg.
52.0 kg class from 48.01 to 52.0 kg.
56.0 kg class from 52.01 to 56.0 kg.
60.0 kg class from 56.01 to 60.0 kg.
67.5 kg class from 60.01 to 67.5 kg.
75.0 kg class from 67.51 to 75.0 kg.
82.5 kg class from 75.01 to 82.5 kg.
90.0 kg class from 82.51 to 90.0 kg.
90.0+kg class from 90.01 to unlimited.

5.0  What Weight Class?

What weight class should you compete in?  Well, in come cases it can
be obvious.  For example, someone weighs 200 pounds, but they have 
20% bodyfat.  That means they have about 40 pounds of fat.  Subtracting 
this from 200 pounds leaves 160 pounds if they lost all of their fat.  
It is likely they could make the 181 pound class limit without losing 
lean body mass.  They COULD lift in the 198's or the 220's easily, but 
muscle not fat moves the weight.  The 181's would probably be the 
wisest choice.  

Another example would be someone who weighs 175 at 8% bodyfat.  
That means they have about 14 pounds of fat.  Subtracting this from 
175 leaves 161 pounds, so even if they lost ALL their fat, they 
would weigh 161.  In other words, it is not likely they could make 
the 165 pound class limit without losing lean body mass.

6.0  A Sample Powerlifting Training Program

A powerlifting training program must be centered around the squat,
bench, and deadlift.  After all, no one is going to give a crap how
much you can use on the leg extension machine or how good of a
front double biceps pose you have!  Assistance exercise should be limited
and should NOT comprise most of your training program.  The powerlifter
should choose assistance exercises that are closely coupled to the
powerlifts.  For example, a good assistance exercise for the bench would
be close grip bench presses.  A poor assistance exercise would be flat
bench flyes or an even worse one would be cable crossovers.  The
powerlifter should train according to the HIT philosophy.  The HIT
FAQ by Robert Spector is a must read for any lifter, new or old.

The powerlifter should not do the squat, bench, or deadlift more than
once a week.  "But I do a second light bench and squat workout" say
some lifters.  The author says "what the hell for?".  Time wasted, period!
Most of the top national and world competitors only perform the 
powerlifts once a week, and many are using steroids to help their recovery.

A simple, basic, sample training program for a lifter not intent on 
peaking for a meet is as follows:

Monday - Bench Press        2 sets of 8-10
         Close Grip Bench   2 sets of 8-10
         Preacher Curls     2 sets of 8-10

Wednesday - Squat           2 sets of 8-10 
            No equipment except belt
            Leg Press       1 set 8-10
            Calves          3 sets 15

Friday - Deadlift 1 set of 8
         Weighted Chins 1 set of 8-10
         One arm rows  1 set of 8-10
         Weighted Crunches 2 sets of 25

These are top sets only.  Warmups are not included.  Don't burn yourself
out on the warmups.  Warmups are just that - to warm you up for the real
working sets to come.  For variety, the lifter can increase the
reps in the top sets to the 12-15 range.

The lifter may want to deadlift every other week as they become more
experienced since the low back takes a beating with the powerlifts.  The
author noted a 40 pound gain in his deadlift when switching from
once a week deadlifting to once every other week.

Notice that there are no flashy shoulder exercises.  Your shoulders 
are another area that takes a beating.  Doing side laterals, front raises,
etc. for those barn yard delts will likely give you rotator cuff problems
down the road from over use.

There is a biceps exercise, but more for balancing off the triceps and
for the deadlift.  The biceps get hit considerably with the back assistance

The lifter only needs to go to positive failure.  The lifter should not
get caught up in the "rep" trap.  They are shooting for a certain amount
of reps and end up getting sloppy in their form to "get the reps".  You
will pay later if you get caught in this trap (meet performance).

7.0  Training for a Competition

When it comes to contest day, one must try and max out on the big 
three.  Training for the contest does not have to be complicated.  One
does have to be flexible, especially if they are drug free.  "Off
contest" training should have focused on increasing overall body
strength and muscle endurance by focusing on higher reps (8-15). 
Lower reps should only be done as part of the training cycle for
the competition.  Lower reps means doing 5's and lastly 3's before
the competition.  You should try to peak for the competition by
lowering volume and reps over the course of an 8-12 week period. 
There is no reason to be performing the big three more than once a
week.  Even the great lifters with superior genetics (e.g. Ed Coan -
probably the greatest powerlifter ever) only do the big three once a 
week and in many instances they are loaded to the gills with steroids
(i.e., the juice, the gear, the sauce) to aid their recovery.  

The training reps should be clean and within the rules.  A sample
peaking cycle for the squat is as follows:

     Week 1  350x12
     Week 2  365x12
     Week 3  380x8
     Week 4  390x8
     Week 5  405x5
     Week 6  415x5
     Week 7  425x5
     Week 8  435x3
     Week 9  450x3  
     Week 10 Contest

There are numerous cycles (length, rep schemes) that one could use. 
The bottom line is to get used to progressively heavier weights for
lower reps.  The individual powerlifter will have to experiment to
establish a good pre-contest cycle that works for them.  

Most powerlifters end up running into a rut during a pre-contest
cycle.  Their biggest failure is writing down their weights and
projected reps and then not adapting the cycle as they go.  No one
is going to have a great workout every workout.  There are too many
other factors in life that can effect strength levels.  So they end
up grinding up weights way before contest time because they either set
their cycle weights unrealistically or they fail to adapt their cycle
according to how they feel.  The result is often peaking early,
injury, and last but not least, poor contest performance.  The great
lifters will seldom miss a lift during a pre-contest
cycle, always leaving some in the tank.  A high school coach once
told me "You play like you practice". 

7.1  Performance of the Squat

You must perform the squat in training as you would in the competition.
Therefore, the following is a description of the performance of the
squat according to the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF):

1. The lifter shall assume an upright position with the top of the bar 
   not more than 3 cm below the top of the anterior deltoids. The bar 
   shall be held horizontally across the shoulders with the hands and 
   fingers gripping the bar and the feet flat on the platform
   with the knees locked.

2. After removing the bar from the racks, the lifter must move backwards 
   to establish his position.  The lifter shall wait in this position for 
   the Head Referee's signal.  The signal shall be given as soon as the 
   lifter is motionless and the bar properly positioned.  If mechanical 
   racks that withdraw are used, the lifter must remove the barbell from 
   the racks before they are withdrawn and wait motionless for the Head
   Referee's signal.  The Head Referee's signal shall consist of a downward  
   movement of the arm and the audible command "squat".

3. Upon receiving the Head Referee's signal, the lifter must bend the 
   knees and lower the body until the top surface of the legs at the 
   hip joint is lower than the top of the knees (legal depth). 

4. The lifter must recover at will without double bouncing or any downward
   movement to an upright position with the knees locked.  When the lifter
   is motionless, the Head Referee will give the signal to replace the bar.

5. The signal to replace the bar will consist of a backward motion of the 
   hand and the audible command "rack".  The lifter must then make a bona
   fide attempt to return the bar to the racks.

6. The lifter shall face the front of the platform.

7. The lifter shall not hold the collars, sleeves or discs at any time 
   during the performance of the lift.  However, the edge of the hands 
   gripping the bar may be in contact with the inner surface of the 

8. Not more than five and not less than two spotter/loaders shall be 
   on the platform at any time.

9. The lifter may enlist the help of the spotter/loaders in removing 
   the bar from the racks; however, once the bar has cleared the racks, 
   the spotter/loaders shall not assist the lifter further with regard
   to proper positioning, foot placement, bar positioning, etc.

10.The lifter may, at the Head Referee's discretion, be given an 
   additional attempt at the same weight if failure in an attempt was
   due to an error by one or more of the spotter/loaders.

The squat is the first lift in the competition.  Your performance
in the squat WILL set the tone for your whole contest. The squat is the 
king of disqualification of lifters!  

The biggest mistake made by lifters from the local level all the way up 
to the world championships, is not attaining legal depth.  Squat to 
legal depth in training, and you should have nothing to worry about.  
You cut them close in training, and you take the chance of disqualification
come contest time.  

The squat also seems to cause the most anxiety for lifters since it
is the first lift.  Being a little nervous is ok, but if you let
nerves overwhelm you before your first squat, you will be in for a
long day.  If you have trained properly for the contest, and used
proper squat depth, you should have no reason to be nervous.

Another common mistake lifters make is doing a dance when they come
out of the racks.  You are NOT auditioning for Saturday Night Fever!
The squat setup should be quick with the goal of minimal effort.  

7.2  Performance of the Bench

You must perform the bench in training as you would in the competition.
Therefore, the following is a description of the performance of the
bench according to the International Powerlifting Federation:

1. The head of the bench must be placed on the platform facing the 
   Head Referee.

2. The lifter must lie on his back with head, shoulders and buttocks 
   in contact with the flat bench surface.  His shoes must be flat on 
   the floor.  This position shall be maintained throughout the attempt.

3. If the lifter's costume and the bench surface are not of a sufficient 
   colour contrast to enable the referees to detect possible raising
   movement at the points of contact, then the bench surface may be covered 

4. To achieve firm footing the lifter may use flat surfaced plates or 
   blocks not exceeding 30 cm in total height, to build up the surface 
   of the platform.  Whichever method is chosen, the entire foot must be 
   flat on the surface.  If blocks are used, they shall not exceed 
   45 cm x 45 cm.

5. Not more than four and not less than two spotter/loaders shall be in 
   attendance.  The lifter may enlist the help of the spotter/loaders 
   in removing the bar from the racks.  The lift off, if assisted by the
   spotter/loaders, must be to arms length.

6. The spacing of the hands shall not exceed 81 cm measured between the 

7. After receiving the bar at arms length, the lifter shall wait with 
   elbows locked for the Head Referee's signal.  The signal shall be given
   as soon as the lifter is motionless and the bar properly positioned.

8. The signal shall consist of a downward movement of the arm together 
   with the audible command "start".

9. After receiving the signal, the lifter must lower the bar to the chest
   and then press upwards with an even extension of the arms to arms 
   length.  When held motionless in this position the audible command 
  "rack" is given.

The bench is the second lift of the competition.  Most novice
lifters fail to realize that since they have just squatted to the
max, that their shoulder girdle was taxed.  This can be a cause
for disqualification because the lifter bases their opener on their
bench training where the only lift they performed in the workout
was the bench.  There is no reason for a lifter not to make all 3
bench attempts.  Just like the squat, if you bench sloppy don't
expect to have many attempts passed in competition.

Some novice lifters will also do their bench attempts without a
lift-off.  This is not recommended since you don't get credit for
a heavy lift-off, and it just takes away strength for the attempt
itself.  In most local contests, the lifter can have his training
partner lift-off.  Otherwise, there are assigned spotters who can
give a lift-off.

After the bench, the well prepared and technically correct lifter,
should be 6 for 6 with a maximized subtotal (squat+bench).

7.3  Performance of the Deadlift

You must perform the deadlift in training as you would in the competition.
Therefore, the following is a description of the performance of the
deadlift according to the International Powerlifting Federation:

1. The bar must be laid horizontally in front of the lifter's feet, 
   gripped with an optional grip in both hands, and lifted without 
   any downward movement until the lifter is standing erect.

2. The lifter shall face the front of the platform.

3. On completion of the lift, the knees shall be locked in a straight
   position and the shoulders back.

4. The Head Referee's signal shall consist of a downward movement of 
   the hand and the audible command "down".  The signal will not be given 
   until the bar is held motionless and the lifter is in the apparent
   finished position.

5. Any raising of the bar or any deliberate attempt to do so will count 
   as an attempt.

"The contest doesn't start until the bar hits the floor".  This
statement turns out to be true most of the time.  The lifter with
a decent squat and bench and an excellent deadlift will beat a
lifter with a excellent squat and bench and poor deadlift most of
the time.  

One of the biggest mistakes lifters make in the deadlift is basing
their projected max on their training weights when they deadlift in
a separate workout from the squat.  They fail to realize the effect
of already max squatting and benching on their deadlift max. 
Novice lifters just don't make this mistake either.  A lot of
national and world competitors are mystified when it comes contest
time and they fail to pull a weight they have done a triple with in

You have to squat and deadlift in the contest.  There is no reason to
not double up in your training for a least a few times during the
pre-contest cycle.  It will not only give a true indication of what to
expect come contest time, but it will also give you greater recovery

8.0  Powerlifting Equipment

There is too much supportive equipment in powerlifting. 
Powerlifters use the excuse that the equipment is necessary for
injury prevention.  This is pure BUNK!  Powerlifters use the
equipment to lift more weight, period.  The belt is probably the
only true piece of equipment to help prevent injury, although most
still cinch it so tight they can hardly breath (so they can lift
more of course).  Powerlifting is such an ego sport that the
equipment is here to stay, so if you don't use it, your competitor
surely will and you will likely be at a significant disadvantage.  
A powerlifter should by no means depend on their equipment to carry 
them through.  The lifter should have a backup at the contest for 
most of the equipment.  On to the powerlifting "equipment".  

8.1  Squat Equipment

8.1.1 Squat Suit

A powerlifting squat suit probably adds 50 pounds or more to your
squat.  There are numerous manufacturers of squat suits.  Inzer and
Titan, and Marathon, are popular brands.  A squat suit will set you
back about 50 bucks.  It is important when you first send for a
suit that you give accurate measurements.  No need to increase that
quad size 3 inches!  

The suit should fit very tight!  It should not be comfortable to
put on nor wear.  BUT, it should not take 3 people and bloody
knuckles to put it on!  Many times guys have left their energy in
the locker room putting on their darn suit.  Ridiculous!  Don't be
surprised to find tiny bruises in the hip and thigh area after
using the suit.  This is normal.  In fact, if you don't get them,
it is probably not tight enough.  

The squat suit WILL effect your form.  It may even alter your
ability to reach legal depth.  Therefore, the lifter should wear
the suit during the pre-contest cycle to get used to it.  

Some lifters end up doing a good morning when they put on the suit
and end up bending over rather than squatting down and they wonder
why none of their attempts get passed.  Another common mistake is
to unconsciously slow the rate of descent and end up pausing at the
bottom of the squat.  A lifter should be in control and flow
through the bottom position.  Some lifters get a benefit by
executing a slight speed increase right at parallel for the last
inch to legal depth to get a rebound from the suit.  Straps down on
the suit versus straps up lifting also makes a big difference.  The
suit is normally introduced last in a pre-contest cycle.  Some lifters
first introduce the suit into a cycle, but don't put the straps up
until later workouts.

8.1.2  Belt

A powerlifting belt should be worn.  Not the thin leather belts
either.  It should be the thick, wide, powerlifting belts.  A good
selection can be found in PLUSA.  Bob Morris was the creator of the
original thick leather power belts.  He still advertises in PLUSA. 
Beware of cheap copies though.  

A single prong belt is recommended.  When you are strapped for time
getting ready for an attempt you don't need the extra hassle of the
second prong. There are also "lever" belts that some have had good
luck with.

8.1.3  Knee Wraps

Knee wraps are used to provide resistance to the bending of the leg
and when worn are analogous to compressing a powerful spring
when the lifter squats.  This recoil of the wraps enables the lifter to 
lift more weight.  There are tons of different powerlifting wraps on 
the market.  Marathon makes a good powerlifting wrap.  Expect to pay 
about 20 bucks for a good pair of wraps.  

Wrapping the knee does not have to be a complex task.  The
lifter can start just below the bottom of the knee and in a
circular pattern wrap up with a overlap of about one-half of the
wrap. The small excess can then be tucked under one of the folds. 
The leg should be held tight and straight.  A common mistake made
by novices is wrapping with the leg bent.  Obviously, the benefit
of the wraps are diminished.

Wraps should be the first piece of equipment added into the pre-
contest cycle after the belt.  A lifter should wrap the knees tight,
but should not wrap them so tight that 2 guys need to help you
stand and carry you to the platform (I have seen this!). 

When wrapping at the contest, always have a backup pair rolled up and
ready in case you fumble the first pair during wrapping.  A little 
trick is to roll up the wraps tight by pulling on them when
rolling.  Then when you go to wrap, pulling the wraps around the
knee is a little easier.

8.1.4  Squat Shoes

Yes, wear shoes during the squat.  Flat soled shoes are
recommended.  A good leather high top basketball shoe will work
well and give some ankle support.  The author has seen some
lifters wear Army boots.  This is definitely not partriotic, it
is idiotic!  Don't wear those Bruno Magli Italian dress 
shoes either.  There is no such thing as the Best Dressed 
Lifter award! bbbbaaaaaahhhhhhaaaaaaa!

8.1.5  Powerlifting Underwear

Yes! Powerlifting underwear!  These are basically partial squat
suits and are legal in some organizations.  My experience with
these are nill and personally have not seen many lifters wear them
and have no idea how much they would help.  Of course, they will
reduce the size of your wallet.

8.1.6  Wrist Wraps

Wear wrist wraps.  When the bar is in the low bar position, it can put
tremendous strain on your wrists.  In the long run, you wrists will thank

8.2  Bench Equipment

8.2.1  Belt

Why wear a powerlifting belt for the bench?  Good question.  The
author doesn't believe there is any benefit to wearing one for the
bench except perhaps to inhibit a good arch which is actually a
disadvantage.  Some lifters can't be without their belt and say it
makes them "feel tighter".  That is all psychological.  

8.2.2  Wrist Wraps

It is recommended that a lifter wear wrist wraps.  Wrist wraps can
be made from your old knee wraps by just cutting them to length and
sewing the end.  The wrist wrap will keep your wrist in a firm
position and reduce stress on the wrists.  

8.2.3  Bench Shirt

A bench shirt is used to lift more weight period.  The bench shirt
is basically artificial shoulders and pecs.  The shirt resists the
bench press movement (like compressing a powerful spring) thereby 
giving a boost off the chest.  The Inzer shirt is one of the best 
on the market.  Other copies have followed.  Some claim to get 70 
pounds from a bench press shirt. Most will probably gain 20 pounds.  

The shirt should be very tight and somewhat uncomfortable to wear. 
It should not take 3 people, bloody knuckles, and 5 pounds of sweat
to put on!  The shirt should be worn during the pre-contest cycle,
because it can change your groove and takes some getting used to
get the full benefits.  If you don't use it during the pre-contest
cycle, you may actually reduce your bench due to it's awkward
effect.  For most lifters, touching the bar at a slightly lower
point on the chest is of benefit.  Folding the arms in front of you
between attempts provides a bit more comfort when wearing the

8.3  Deadlift Equipment

8.3.1 Deadlift Suit

Some lifters like to deadlift in their squat suit stating that they
feel "tighter".  In some cases, depending on body structure and
deadlift style, the suit may actually hinder locking the shoulders
back at the top.  The author recommends deadlifting in a wrestling
singlet that can be purchased at most sporting goods stores.

Recently Marathon has come out with a deadlift suit that is
supposed to add pounds to the deadlift.  Common sense tells me that
it is a ruse.

8.3.2  Belt

The lifter should definitely wear a power belt.  Out of the three
lifts, the belt probably helps the most in the deadlift.  

8.3.3  Deadlift Shoes

The less distance the bar has to travel the better.  A wrestling
shoe or very low soled shoe is recommended.  Some lifters even go
a little farther by wearing ballet slippers.  This is not recommended 
since there is usually baby powder and chalk on the platform that 
can cause foot slippage.  Especially if the lifter is a sumo deadlifter.  

8.3.4  Knee Wraps

Knee wraps have no benefit in the deadlift.  They actually can
catch the bar and be a big hindrance.

8.3.5  Baby Powder

Baby powder is legal to use on the legs and does lower the friction
when the bar is sliding up the leg.  The author has seen lifters use
magnesium carbonate on their legs.  Dumb!  The idea is to lower the
friction, not increase it.

8.3.6  Shave the Legs

This is obviously not equipment, but shaving the front of the thigh
does help lower the friction when the bar is sliding up the leg. 


You have trained for weeks and now it is contest day.  Call ahead
the night before to the contest director to make sure there IS a contest. 
Last minute cancellations are not out of the realm of possibilities. 
Make a list of your equipment so nothing is forgotten, since more 
than likely you will have some sort of drive to the contest site.  
Know the rules of powerlifting.  Even though most of the rules have 
been mentioned in this FAQ most of the sources at the end of the 
FAQ list the rules for a powerlifting competition.

The number one rule come contest day is "THOU SHALL NOT BOMB".  The
"BOMB" is the powerlifting term for disqualification from the contest
because the lifter did not make at least one attempt for each of
the big three.  Most BOMB in the squat.  The next section are tips
on how to AVOID bombing in a powerlifting competition.


Train in a contest-like fashion.  If you manage a triple with 500 in
the squat, but they were all 3 inches high, then you will be in for
a surprise on contest day when you open at 500.  A couple of inches
could mean over 100 pounds, and does not give you an accurate idea
how much you can really squat.  Always train under contest conditions.

Open with a weight you can comfortably handle.  Depending on the
circumstances, this could be a weight you can do for 3 to 5 times. 
If the contest is close, you might open at a weight you can do for a
triple.  For the less experienced, it is recommended to open with
a weight you can do for 5.  A good saying to remember is "It is not
what you start with, but what you end with".  

Be honest with yourself!  This can be very hard to do.  Don't
change your attempts to something unrealistic just because Junior
World Champion Bob Eucker is in your class.  Suddenly your opener
at 550 doesn't seem too impressive.  Panic sets in and you decide
to push up your opener to a new PR.  BAD IDEA!  Wham, Bam, 3
misses and you are sitting on the sidelines in street clothes
with the other spectators thinking about how much money you blew
to compete.

You should always lift against yourself first and foremost.

Take into account any weight loss.  Don't wait until the week
before the contest to lose significant weight to make a class limit. 
If you do have to make some last minute weight loss, account for
this in your selection of an opener.

Don't go alone to a contest.  Either have a coach or a second to help
you get the equipment on and get ready for your attempts.  This
person can also help be objective about attempt choices.  For the
novice lifter, the ideal person is an experienced powerlifter.

Use your opener as your last warmup.  Some might not agree on this,
but even if you use your first attempt as your last warmup, you
still have two more attempts to win.  

Don't kill yourself warming up.  There have been times when the
author has seen lifters trying their opening attempts in the warmup
room just to make sure they can get it!  Sometimes they barely get
it and then BOMB!  Warmups are just that, warmups.  There is no need to be
repping out for warmups.  It is much better to do singles as a
warmup, because you get a feel for the weight, but you aren't
tiring yourself out.  For example, say you are opening at 300 in
the bench, a good singles warmup would be:  135x5, 225x1, 250x1,
275x1.  The bench shirt would come on for the last two.  Another
side note is that there is no need to remove the bench shirt in
between warmups or attempts for that matter.

Don't be nervous, and if you are take that into account.  It is
easy to let your nerves get out of hand.  It is always a good idea
to open lighter if you are nervous to build confidence.  An easy,
good, first squat can set you on a roll for the rest of the contest.
Otherwise, you might want to bring a couple of Huggies to wear
under your lifting suit!!

9.2  Weigh-in

Some contests provide the opportunity to weigh in the night before. 
If you are close to the weight limit, this can be an advantage. 
Weigh in the nude.  This may sound stupid, but the author has seen
guys weigh in fully clothed and then lose on bodyweight to another
lifter (the lower bodyweight person is the winner in the event of
a tie in total).  Don't wait until the last minute to weigh in
either.  The contest scale is not likely the same as your gym or home
scale so beware.

Don't get pysched out at the weigh-in either!  If you see some lifter who
looks like Mr. Olympia in your weight class or some other neanderthal
weighing in, don't worry, there is always Ex-Lax to make the lower class!  

9.3  What do You Eat?

There have been numerous times when the author has seen lifters
"blow  chunks" on the lifting platform because they ate differently
on contest day.  Some lifters will weigh in and then go pig out with
the $1.99 Denny's Breakfast Special on pancakes, eggs, etc. thinking 
they will get a boost in weight and lift bigger.  Their normal 
breakfast may be a bowl of cereal and milk.  They just end up feeling 
sluggish and worse yet they get the head judge scrambling for cover!  
The normal power contest is hours in length, depending on the number of platforms and lifters.  A lifter should make sure they keep hydrated 
and keep their blood sugar from plummeting by ingesting some form of 
carbs in-between the normal breaks of the contest.

9.4  The Competition Begins

9.4.1  The Rounds System

The lifting is scheduled to start at 10:00 am.  NOT!!  Nine times
out of 10 the competition WILL NOT start on time.  Most
powerlifting contests use the Rounds system.  Basically, the
lifters are broke up into small groups of 10-15 lifters (flights). 
Each lifter in each flight will take all three attempts before the
next flight lifts.  Each lifter within a flight will take their
first attempt as the bar is progressively loaded from the lowest
opener to the highest opener.  The bar will then be stripped back
down to the lowest second attempt and all lifters in the flight
will take their second attempt.  The same applies for the third
attempt.  Once the first flight has completed all three attempts,
then if there is another flight, they will follow the same
procedure until all groups have finished. 

9.4.2  Conventional System

Very few contests are run this way today.  This system is basically
the progressive loading of the bar from the lowest attempts to the
highest attempts.  

9.4.3  Warming Up

As mentioned previously, warmups should be just that: warmups. 
There is no need to try opening attempts or put in full workouts. 
A typical example for warming up can be found in section 5.1.

Don't expect the warmup area to be close to the lifting platform,
because often it is not.  Don't expect there to be plenty of
weights and benches and bars.  Don't be surprised if the equipment
is shabby or the warmup area is some hallway.  Make sure you have someone 
keep tabs on the platform you will be lifting on.  

You have to be bold but courteous in the warmup area.  If you
hesitate, when 10 people are fighting to cram in warmups using one
bar in 20 minutes, you will be screwed.  You have to be flexible when
warming up and keep a cool head.  Many times the author has seen
lifters fall apart and spaz out in the warm-up area.  They are
defeated before they even hit the platform!  

If you are going to error in the timing of your warmups it is
better to err on the early side.  You can always take another token
single every 15 minutes or so if you end up early.  Don't expect to
not have to adjust!  Many times the contest director will say that
your group will start at X time and 9 times out of 10 he is wrong.  A Method to Time Your Warmups

There are probably numerous methods to timing warmups.  Even
winging it can work.  A method to use with the rounds system that
has been used successfully by the author and numerous others is as

First you must find out how many lifters are in your flight and
where you stand in it.  For example, if your flight has 10 lifters
in it and you are the fifth lifter in the that flight, you have
about 5 minutes after the flight starts before you lift.  If there
are weight changes, that time could be slightly higher.  That means
you have about 5 more minutes to finish warmups than the first
lifter up in the flight.  After each flight, the order of the
lifters changes, so you will not always be fifth.  But, after your
first lift is over warmups are no longer a factor.

If you are lifting in the second flight, you can approximate when
you will lift.  Count the total lifters in the previous flight and
multiply that number by 3 for the total amount of attempts.  For
example if there wre 10 lifters in the previous flight, the total
number of attempts would be 30.  Allow a minimum of 1 minute per
attempt, allow 40% or so for weight changes and that would come out
to 45 minutes for the flight.  The squat will take longer than the
other two lifts and the deadlift will go the fastest.  In addition,
find out if there will be a break between flights or lifts.  There
usually is breaks between lifts, but not flights.  If you lift in
a later flight, you can see how the contest is being run which can be
an advantage.  A good number to use for the time between your last
warmup and first attempt is 10 minutes.  This time is really up to
the individual.

9.4.4  The Judging

Basically, you have to have the majority decision from the 3 judges; 
2 side, one head judge sitting directly in front.  They will either 
give you a white light (good lift) or a red light (no lift).  
Two whites out of three gives you a good lift.  At the local level 
don't expect consistent judging. You may even see your head judge 
munching on a Big Mac just before your attempt at the local level.  
You may even see the contest director call someone from the bleachers 
to sit in on your attempt because the previous judge cannot be found 
(the author has seen this too!).  The head judge will give you the 
commands for the lifts.  Causes for Disqualification of a Squat (IPF)

1. Failure to observe the Head Referee's signals at the commencement 
   or completion of a lift.

2. Double bouncing or more than one recovery attempt at the bottom 
   of the lift.

3. Failure to assume an upright position with the knees locked at
   thecommencement and completion of the lift.

4. Any shifting of the feet laterally, backwards or forwards, during the
   performance of the lift.

5. Failure to bend the knees and lower the body until the top surface of 
   the legs at the hip joint are lower than the top of the knees.

6. Changing the position of the bar across the shoulders after the 
   commencement of the lift.

7. Contact with the bar by the spotter/loaders between the referee's 

8. Contact of elbows or upper arms with the legs.

9. Failure to make a bona fide attempt to return the bar to the racks.

10. Any dropping or dumping of the bar after completion of the lift.

11. Failure to comply with any of the requirements contained in the 
    general description of the lift which precedes this list of 

Normally, you must give the judge some indication that you are set
to squat before he will give the command and signal.  Numerous
times the author has seen lifters do the jig during the setup and
stand dumbfounded because they have not given any indication to the
judge that they are ready.  Causes for Disqualification of a Bench (IPF)

1. Failure to observe the Head Referee's signals at the commencement or
   completion of the lift.

2. Any change in the elected lifting position during the lift proper, 
   i.e. any raising movement of the head, shoulders, buttocks or feet 
   from their original points of contact with the bench or the floor, 
   or lateral movement of the hands on the bar.

3. Heaving or bouncing or sinking the bar after it has been motionless 
   on the chest.

4. Any uneven extension of the arms during the lift.

5. Any downward movement of the bar in the course of being pressed out.

6. Failure to press the bar to full extension of the arms at the 
   completion of the lift.

7. Contact with the bar by spotter/loaders between the Head Referee's 

8. Any contact of the lifter's feet with the bench or its supports.

9. Deliberate contact between the bar and the bar rest supports during
   the lift in order to make the press easier.

10. Failure to comply with any of the requirements contained in the 
    general description of the lift which precedes this list of 
    disqualifications.  Causes for Disqualification of a Deadlift (IPF)

1. Any downward movement of the bar before it reaches the final position.

2. Failure to stand erect with the shoulders back.

3. Failure to lock the knees straight at the completion of the lift.

4. Supporting the bar on the thighs during the performance of the lift.

5. Stepping backward or forward although lateral movement of the sole 
   or rocking feet between ball and heel is permitted.

6. Lowering the bar before receiving the Head Referee's signal.

7. Allowing the bar to return to the platform without maintaining 
   control with both hands.

8. Failure to comply with any of the requirements contained in the 
   general description of the lift which precedes this list of

9.4.5  The Attempts

At weigh-in you will normally fill out a card with the values of
your opening attempts.  Make sure you know whether the weights will
be in kilos or pounds.  An opener of 400, when you meant 400
pounds, would be 881 pounds for a kilogram weight of 400!  Hitting
legal depth would not be a problem.  Your buttisemo will be driven
into the floor so fast that your kneecaps will block your view!

The order and execution of the attempts has been described
previously (rounds system).  A person will normally be announcing
the attempts.  They will usually call the attempts as a) lifter on
the platform, b) lifter on deck (next up), and c) lifter in the
hole (lifter third up).  You should be warmed up and waiting when 
your name is called as in the hole.  Some like to start wrapping 
at this point.  The author has found that starting to wrap the knees 
just before the lifter ahead of you gets on the platform gives plenty 
of time - no need to have those tight wraps on longer than necessary.  
There usually has to be a weight change for your attempt which adds extra
time. Once your name is called to lift and the bar is loaded
properly, you have one minute to attempt the lift, otherwise it is
a "no lift".  It is much easier if you wrap sitting down and then
stand up and have someone help pull up the straps on your suit and
last but not least, cinch your belt.  Make sure you bring your own
chalk, because they may not always have chalk at the contest.

When you get ready for the attempt, it is not Star Search audition
time!  Banging your head against the wall, sniffing ammonia caps
until your brain explodes, or bellowing out your personal mating
call, is not going to get you anywhere - except maybe in a straight
jacket!  The best lifters maintain their psyche within themselves.  
These lifters are the ones who maintain their technique and literally
lift like machines.

After each attempt, you must submit your next attempt to the
scorer.  You don't have all day to do this - usually one minute.
At subtotal time, it is a good idea to see where you stand even if
you are a novice.  The difference between first and second could be
five pounds and there have been many times where lifters did not
know this and took a 40 pound jump in their deadlift attempts and
missed when they needed 5 pounds to win!  If in position to do so,
win first, then go for PR's.

10.0  Powerlifting - The Long Haul?

Powerlifting is a brutal sport on the body.  Most will get minor
strains, pulls, and other injuries.  As you get older, the time
spent actually doing the higher weights must decrease or you will
get injured or make little progress.  There is a big difference in
recovery when you are 25 versus 35 years old.  Most top national
lifters are seen as flashes in the pan.  The author has seen this
even at the state level.  Five years and they vanish.  

Powerlifting competition is fun, but unless you want to be in pain
all the time, it is not a lifelong sport in my opinion.  There is
a masters program for lifters over 35, and some men and women
compete till in even their 80's (although I have NEVER seen anyone
compete continuously for 20 years!), but they invariably have to be
taking breaks from the heavy lifting at some point.  That doesn't
mean that the lifter should drop the powerlifts themselves, NO WAY.

A bodybuilding program which includes the powerlifts and a rep
scheme where 10-15 is the norm is much better suited for overall
health and longevity.  After all, wouldn't you rather bodybuild
then not lift at all?  

11.0  Powerlifting Books 

There are numerous books listed for sale in what is really the
number one source for powerlifting, PLUSA.  Some decent books the author
has read are:

"A New Dimension in Powerlifting" by Mike Bridges

"Pushing for Power" by Bill Seno

"The Ten Commandments of Powerlifting" by Ernie Franz

"Powerlifting: A Scientific Approach" by Fred Hatfield

12.0  Powerlifting Resources on the WWW

The Powerlifting home page can be found at: http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~dah/powerlifting.html

The Canadian Powerlifting home page can be found at: 

This page includes a full list of the IPF technical rules.

This FAQ is of course subject to change and revision.  If you feel there
should be anything added or changed, please feel free to e-mail me at the
address listed at the top of this FAQ.  


May All Your Lifts be Light, and All Your Lights be White!


Bill Piche (bapiche@cca.rockwell.com)

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not
             Rockwell International or any of it's divisions
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License