So You Want TO... Do your 1st Powerlifting Meet

Congrats! This is exciting!

This will give you some information on what to expect but also, what not to worry about for your first competition. Your first meet should be FUN! Many times people start to worry about the minute details, for your first meet just be concerned with the BIG DETAILS!



What would those be?

First. Pick a federation and a meet date. SIGN UP. For your first competition just choose a meet that is convenient for you based on when it is and location. Do you have friends that compete? Sign up for one they will be competing at- even better! Don’t have friends competing? Sign up for one near by so they can come cheer you on!! Each federation is a little different, but for you first one just do what is convenient. We can delve into the differences and which would be the best fit for you when you decide you love the sport ;)

Here is the federation I lift for: USAPL

Check me out! HOLLAHHH to my 63kgs

A List of All Federations

** In New England you will find several USAPL meets, along with RPS, APA, APF**

Second. You did it! Once you press that "confirm payment" button it is time to get to work! Find a plan either by using a standard one online or by hiring a coach to write one for you, don’t overthink it. As a newbie as long as you put in work under the bar, you will get stronger. More importantly track what is working for you and what is not. This will be very helpful when you decide to do more meets!

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Third. Check out your federation's website and learn the rules! You will want to know if your federation has rules in regards to gear(what singlets/belts/wrist wraps are allowed). Sometimes it is just specifications for sizes/weights of things, other times there are specific brands you need to buy. Either way it should state these rules on their website. You will want to do this a couple months before so you will be able to order your powerlifting gear and practice with it! For your first meet you do not need to go crazy ordering the most expensive gear, just gear that fits the rules :). For my first meet I bought a belt for $40 and a singlet at the meet for $30. Don’t forget to get a pair of knee high socks!

WHAT can you wear as a RAW LIFTER?

My first “real” powerlifting belt. Fits USAPL technical qualifications


Fourth. More rules talk.

This time rules about the big 3!

First learn proper form and be sure to check out the requirements for the squat, bench, and deadlift. Be sure you are hitting depth on squats. Nothing worse than bombing out(not hitting one of three attempts) on the squat because you never practiced proper depth. You need to break parallel which is defined as your hip crease going beneath the top of the knee. Read the rules regarding bench for your specific federation. For some you can be on your toes(USPA) others you need your foot to be flat(USAPL). If you are unsure if your form is correct consult with a coach, they will likely be able to help you in a few sessions.

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Be sure to practice with commands. This will make you feel so much more comfortable and confident come meet day. When your bar is loaded and your name is called you have 1 minute to start your lift. Do not panic, this is PLENTY of time. Know when you are on deck, and be ready when your name is called to stay focused.

Commands for squat include: squat and rack. You will unrack the bar and walk it out(unless your federation uses a monolift). When you are standing erect, knees straight and hips underneath you, you will receive the "squat" command. When you stand up from your squat you must also be erect. When you are, you will receive a “rack” command. You must weight for this command to rack your bar!

Commands for the bench include: start, press, and rack! You may get a lift off or self lift off. When your are in a “set” position you will get the start command. In the USAPL a start position includes having your arms locked, head and butt on the bench, as well as feet flat on the floor. Once you receive the “start” command you will lower the bar to your chest. When the bar is motionless you will receive the “press” command. When you receive this, you will press the bar back to the top and hold. When you are locked out at the top you will receive the “rack” command. You can then rack the bar.

Commands for the deadlift are down. Nice and simple. You lift the bar up, when you are standing erect you will receive the “down” command. You will then lower the bar to the ground.

USAPL Lifter's Handbook. The Big 3


For your first meet do not cut weight, just sign up for the weight class you naturally fall in when you sign up. You can always change weight classes if needed before the meet. If you know you will be under or over the weight class you signed up for send the meet director and email. They will appreciate the heads up in terms of planning. If you miss the weight you sign up for they will just bump you up to the next class on the day of the meet.


Week of the meet you will receive your starting flight and when weighs-ins, equipment check, and rack heights will be for your weight class. You will  get any particulars about meet and venu. Take your time to read through any and all emails sent your way! Write your first lifts decided and written down in kilograms. First lifts are generally called openers. You will have three attempts for each lift. Write down options for your second and third attempts as well depending on how your opener feels the day of the meet. Create a warm up plan, this should be similar to the warm up sets you use in training. Be sure to get a good night sleep before and pack plenty of snacks and water!


Day of the meet.

When you arrive you will check in with meet officials. If they are doing equipment checks they will send you in that direction. From there you will get your rack heights for bench and squats.Take your time and be sure it is at a comfortable height. Do not be afraid to ask for help adjusting the racks.  Be sure to write down your rack heights in your phone to reference in the  future. In my opinion if you are ever questioning, air on the lower side.

When you weigh in there is a ref who will weigh you, you can wear whatever you want but obviously if you are close to your weight class or looking to be competitive in your weight class, the lighter the better(aka less clothing). When everyone is checked in there will be a rules briefing.

They will then announce flights. You will warm up during the time before your flight. If you are in flight A they will generally tell you to start warming up right after the rules briefing. If you are in flight B you will warm up when flight A lifts. You will have plenty of time. When you lift their will be 3 judges: two on either side and a head judge in front of you. If your lift is good they will give you a white light, if not you will get a red light. In order for the lift to count, you need 2 out of 3 lights to be white!


When it is your time to go, take a deep breath and HAVE FUN! First meets are a great time to go 9 for 9 and to hit PRs. Set yourself up for success!




PowerliftingMeghan Scanlon