So You Want To Do A Powerlifting Meet

In this post, we’ll tell you:

  • What a meet is
  • What rules you must follow to get a good lift
  • What you can and cannot wear
  • Attempt selections and warmups
  • What you need to bring the day of

Greetings from the team putting on the first powerlifting meet at Strength For All!

We’re so excited you’re considering doing this powerlifting meet. We’re anticipating this event being a lot of people’s first powerlifting meet and we’ve already gotten some questions about how the day will go.

There are a few things you need to know going in.

What is a powerlifting meet?

A powerlifting meet is an athlete’s opportunity to test and display their strength in three different lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Sanctioned powerlifting is a sport of both sex and weight classes, but we have decided to forgo both divisions in order to make this as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Can you pick up a barbell? Come pick up a barbell!

Everyone is given three attempts at one rep for each of the three lifts.

That means you’ll be squatting three times, benching three times, and deadlifting three times for a total of nine lifts on meet day. Everyone will squat, everyone will bench, then everyone will deadlift. The registration form has “full power” on the sign up selection for “type of meet”, but if you would prefer to only do one or two lifts, please contact us after you sign up


We’ll start the day with squats. Each member of the flight (flight is how the meet is organized, according to first attempts) will perform their first squat, then perform their second squat in the same order, then their third squats, also in the same order. Bench and deadlift flights will run the same way. We will most likely have three flights and it will take 30-45 minutes for each flight to get through all three attempts for each lift.


Does form matter? How do I know I made the lift?

Though form isn’t directly considered, there are specific rules for each lift that are required by the athlete to complete for technical adherence.

The head ref will be calling out commands and you must follow them only after you are given them. We will also go over all of these the day of, so no need to memorize!


The Squat (two commands)

-When it is your turn to squat, approach the bar, unrack, and step back when you are ready

-The head ref will be seated right in front of you. Wait for their command to “SQUAT”. If you begin to squat before the command is given, the lift will not count even if you otherwise complete the lift.

-Squat the weight to depth, which means your hip crease goes past the parallel of your knee. There will be two side refs on your right and left checking to make sure the line of hip crease goes below the top of your knee. 

-Once you are given the “SQUAT” command, you can only bend and straighten the knees once.

-There is no command at the bottom of the squat, so hit depth, and come back up!

-Stand back up, and then wait. The head ref will be waiting until you have control of the weight. 

-The head ref will then give you the “RACK” command, and you will walk the bar back into place. 

-The spotters are there to make sure you are safe. If at any time in the squat you feel like you might fail, DO NOT DROP OR THROW THE WEIGHT. The spotters and loaders will make sure you stand back up safe and sound. Dropping or throwing the weight endangers you as well as the awesome volunteers. 


The Bench Press (three commands) 

-For bench press, there is no command to unrack the bar. We will have a spotter available to help you unrack the bar, but you should only ask for help if you have practiced this beforehand. 

-Once the head ref sees that you are in control of the weight and your elbows are locked out, they will give you the “START” command.

-Lower the weight until it is touching your chest and then pause. Once the bar is steady on your chest, the head ref will give you the “PRESS” command. Pausing your bench with commands is more difficult than normal “touch and go” bench. We suggest practicing pausing your bench in training, with other people giving you commands when possible. 

-Once you have pressed the weight back up with your arms locked out, you will get the “RACK” command

-As with the squat, if you “jump” any of the commands before the ref gives them, the lift will not count 

-Your butt, shoulders, and head must remain in contact with the bench throughout the lift. Your heels may come up off the ground, but at least some portion of each foot must stay in contact with the ground throughout the entire lift. 


The Deadlift (one command) 

-Approach the bar

-Lift the bar (you can pull sumo or conventional!) in one smooth motion There is no command to start!

-You must fully lock out, which means full extension of the knees and hips, with shoulders stacked above hips.

-You cannot “ramp” or “hitch” the bar up your thighs. This is when an athlete bends the knees during the deadlift so the bar rests on their thighs and then pulls the rest of the way to lockout. 

-Stand steady with the weight until you get the “DOWN” command from the head ref 

-Your hands must remain around the bar as you lower the weight. No dropping it from the top! 


We highly recommend practicing the commands with a lifting partner in the weeks leading up to the meet. The bench commands can prove especially tricky for beginners. 

The head ref and two side refs will judge each lift with a pass (white) or fail (red). You only need two whites to make the lift. If you are confused as to why you got a red light, ask the ref nicely! They will be happy to quickly explain what went wrong. You and the crowd will know if you have made the lift within seconds of the ref’s final command. 

An athlete’s heaviest lifts in each of the three movement will be added up to a “total”. Note that if you fail to make one good lift on any of the three events, this is considered “bombing out” and you will not receive a total, though you can (and are encouraged) to stay and complete any lifts you have left. 


How are attempts decided? 

Your first attempt, or “opener”, should be something you can easily hit for 2-3 reps. It’s a way to build your total and shake off the platform nerves. You want to choose a number you can unquestionably hit, but still gets you warmed up to go for bigger numbers later. After your first attempt, you will have one minute to tell the judges’ table (located directly adjacent to the platform) your next attempt. It’s a good idea to have a general idea of attempts before the meet starts so you’re not scrambling at the judges’ table.

Everyone will be competing in pounds. We will have kilogram to pound conversion charts on the table. (If you have a handler or guide through the meet, they will do this for you.)

If you miss your first or second attempt, it is usually recommended to retry the weight. If you do not talk to a person at the judge’s table within one minute, and you made the most recent lift, the judges will automatically put in your next attempt as 5lb above your previous attempt. If you do not talk to a person at the judge’s table within one minute, and you did not make the most recent lift, the judges will automatically re-enter the same weight. 


Second attempts are typically training PRs. Maybe a number you’ve hit once or twice in the gym, or matching a PR from a previous meet. Third attempts are typically when athletes go for all out meet PRs. Show your strength! 

What should I wear?

Sanctioned powerlifting meets require athletes to wear singlets for both judging and equal advantage purposes. Since our meet is unsanctioned and singlets are typically uncomfortable, expensive, and technically unnecessary, we are not requiring you to wear one, though you are of course welcome to if you would like. We do ask that you wear clothing that is more form fitting than, for example, joggers and an oversized t-shirt. The refs need to clearly see the hip crease when you squat and your head, shoulders, and butt when you bench and baggier clothing can often get in the way. Good outfits to wear are leggings & a tighter t shirt, a long sleeve t shirt & lifting shorts, or a singlet/leotard.

For hygienic purposes, a t shirt covering the shoulders must be worn during the squat and the bench and long socks fully covering the shins must be worn during deadlifts. You are welcome to change outfits between lifts. 

The following are also allowed:

-Full leggings under knee sleeves

-Socks touching knee sleeves 

-Religious wear and head coverings

-Long sleeve t-shirts

-Jewelry at the discretion of the lifter, with the strict exception of hard material rings

-Any logos, words, and images on clothing with strict exception of anything bearing hate speech, hate symbols, or cultural appropriation

-Any binders and bras at the comfort and discretion of the lifter

This is a raw only powerlifting meet. All belts, knee sleeves, and wrist wraps are allowed. Supportive suits & shirts and knee wraps are not allowed. 


What should I bring?

A powerlifting meet, in addition to feats of strength, is also a full and often long day of sitting, waiting, and cheering. We’ve already gone over some equipment basics. To recap, you will need: lifting outfit that fits the previously mentioned parameters, long socks for the deadlift, appropriate footwear, and any belts, knee sleeves, and wrist wraps you train with. **Note that a meet is not the time to try out a lifting belt for the first time. Compete how you train! Wear and use things that are familiar and comfortable. We suggest showing up to athlete check in with all of your attire and equipment in one bag, with another bag for meet day necessities.

In another bag, bring everything you need for long workout/day out. Phone charger, wallet, identification, headphones, deodorant, cash, reusable water bottle, etc. You also need to bring enough food and water to keep you alert and strong throughout the whole day. Think easy to digest carbs, lots of liquids, salty snacks, and some protein. Popular meet day snacks are gatorade, simple sandwiches, gummy candy, rice cakes, and protein shakes. Not recommended are foods heavier in fats (we don’t want you sleepy on the platform), strong flavors that may cause an upset stomach, or any “new” food that you don’t typically eat. Again, compete how you train! Caffeine in any form you’re used to is recommended, but go a little easy! Lots of people find that the meet hype and adrenaline keeps them up and going. If anything, save most of it for after bench to finish the day as strong as possible.There are a few bodegas nearby, but don’t count on them for everything you might want. 


We’re so excited you’re considering a powerlifting meet with Women’s Strength Coalition. All of your meet directors know what fun, nerve-wracking, exciting, testaments of strength they are. Our emails will be on the registration form. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or concerns.


Other than that, start training heavy and getting excited! There will be great people to meet who may have just started picking up a barbell and may have been competing for five years. There will be great music, snacks, vibes, and lots of cheering. All are welcome and we cannot wait to finish creating an awesome event for you. We hope to see you in March!