What to Know About Competing in Powerlifting

“…Would be interested in hearing more about what it takes to enter a powerlifting competition: requirements, mentality, gear/no-gear, training, scoring/judging, what it takes to win, etc.”

This was a comment left on my meet write-up blog post from last week.  As soon as I saw it I thought what better way to talk about this than through a post for everyone!

Scoring and Judging/What it Takes to Win

Powerlifting consists of three lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift (they are performed in this order).  At a meet you get three attempts at each of these lifts.  At the end of the competition your highest successful attempt from each of the three lifts will be added up for your “total”.  Your total is what determines your placing within your division/weight class.  In my opinion your placing should not be a focus for you especially if this is your first meet.  Your goal should be to show up and to perform because most people won’t even do that.

The scoring is based on a lighting system.  Each of the three judges has a light and if they deem the lift to be successful you will be rewarded with a shiny white light.  If they feel the lift to be unsuccessful they will ruin your life with a red light.  Have no fear because all you need is two white lights for the lift to count!

I’m not going to go into great detail about what the judges are looking for.  To learn more about this here is the link to the IPF rule book…. http://www.powerlifting-ipf.com/fileadmin/data/Technical_Rules/IPF_rulebook_01_2011.pdf

Gear or No Gear

This is the only place where I feel things get tricky.  People get WAAAYYYYY too bent out of shape about this to the point of ridiculousness.  You have three ways to compete in powerlifting; Raw, Single-ply, and Multi-ply.  This is entirely up to YOU and your GOALS and don’t let anyone sway you one way or the other.  As far as I’m concerned it really doesn’t matter what you choose because at the end of the day we all have the same goal… to get stronger.  Nevertheless you will come across the close-minded people who will tell you gear is “cheating” (not sure how it’s cheating because geared lifters compete only against other geared lifters) or “not true strength”.  These elitists’ get under my skin because they have probably never been in gear and have no idea what it’s like to train in it, so therefor, in my mind they have NO room to give an opinion on the subject.  More importantly why do they care what YOU do?  The people who care about what others do have their own personal issues to figure out.  I have competed raw and single-ply and I love both.  They both offer their own challenges and are both fun to train for.  It’s weird and ridiculous to me that people get so up and arms about the whole thing, it’s like 5 year olds fighting about whose toy is better.  If you want to lift raw, lift raw.  If you want to throw on a bunch of gear then do that.

Can't we all just get along?

My only caveat to this is that unless you have two solid years of strength training under you than you shouldn’t wear gear.  It takes A LOT of strength to even handle single-ply equipment so unless you’re going two years strong, just start out with a few raw competitions.

Training

This is the easy part.  Just get better at squatting, benching and deadlifting.  The best way to do that is to perform the lifts several times a week.  It can’t get much simpler than that.  If you want a good set in stone program just do Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and I promise you’ll get stronger.  Don’t want to do that? Then use the Westside Barbell template.  People want to treat this like its rocket science.  They paralyze themselves with fear about what programs best fits their body, there strength level, etc.  If these are the questions you’re asking yourself then all you really need to do is get in the weight room and press something, squat something, and pick something up off the ground and work on doing it correctly and everything will fall into place.

Mentality

This encompasses a great deal of things which is why when talking about it I like to refer to Mike Robertson’s T-Nation article  titled, “7 Reasons Everyone Should do a Powerlifting Meet” (http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/7_reasons_everyone_should_do_a_powerlifting_meet ).  This is an awesome article and spells out everything in a very simple way.  In order to do a powerlifting meet you have to be able to do one thing… to truly say that you care nothing about what other people think of you.  Most of the time when people tell me why they don’t want to do a meet it’s because they are scared of other people.  They tell me they don’t want to embarrass themselves or they say there not as strong as everybody else.  No one cares that you’re not as strong as them and no one’s waiting to laugh at you for failing a lift or bombing out of a meet.  It is perfectly understandable to be afraid of putting yourself out there for people to see you fail.  However, it is unacceptable to allow that fear to control your actions.  It is your ability to face and overcome your fears that will define you as a person.  So what if you fail?  Failure is a marker of two things; that you actually tried and that you learned.

I don’t care who you are or how long you’ve been training; I implore you to go sign up for a meet.  It doesn’t matter what federation or where it is just sign up for it.  Find one that is 10-14 weeks away and go train for it.  Can’t squat, bench, or deadlift correctly?  Go turn in an entry form and your hard-earned money and I BET you will learn how to do all of those things pretty quick.  Don’t wait around saying “well, I’ll just wait a little bit until I get stronger” or “I’ll wait a little bit until I feel a little more comfortable”.  If your training for something you’re going to get stronger than if you aren’t, FACT!  Chances are if your excuse is that you’re waiting to feel a little more comfortable then you probably rarely step out of your comfort zone when it comes to other aspects of your life as well.  If you choose to test your limits then go to http://www.powerliftingwatch.com/and find a meet.

That first meet changed more than just how I approach lifting – because the lessons you learn from training and competition can be carried over to nearly every aspect of your life. -Mike Robertson

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