What Is A Powerlifting Competition Like?

Posted on July 20th, 2020 by Caitlyn Miller

I love the smell of chalk in the air, the adrenaline pumping through my veins, and the cheers when I hit my lift. A powerlifting competition is full of so many emotions and the feeling is addicting. Have you been thinking about competing, but overwhelmed by what one might be like? Well I’m going to share my experiences with you and give you the insight scoop! 

Table Of Contents 

  1. Signing Up
  2. Weigh-ins
  3. Equipment Check
  4. Warm Ups
  5. Flights
  6. Attempts 
  7. Judging 
  8. Scoring
  9. The Environment 
  10. Final Thoughts

Signing Up

Once you have picked a federation and found a meet that you want to register for, you will have to start by filling out an entry form. The entry form will ask you for personal information (name, address, etc), what weight class you plan to compete in, gender, age class, and division (equipped or raw). When you submit this entry form, you will also submit your entry fee. You will then be asked to become a member of the powerlifting association, which typically includes an annual membership fee. The entry form deadline is typically anywhere between 4-6 weeks before the competition. Therefore, I would recommend singing up sooner rather than later. 


Aaah, the dreaded weigh-ins! Some people stress over these and some go with the flow. Depending on what federation you are competing in, weigh-ins can be the night before the competition and the morning of the competition. The morning of the competition, weigh-ins will typically start 2 hours before the meet is planned to start. I would recommend arriving at weigh-ins 10-15 minutes before they start. This will give you enough time to find the weigh-in room, go to the bathroom, or anything else you need to do before then. When you are getting weighed, they will also check your rack heights (ex: squats). This is another reason I recommend arriving 10-15 minutes prior. Checking rack heights and recording them can be a bit time consuming.

Probably the most important thing they are going to ask you at weigh-ins is, what are your opening attempts? You should already have the weight of your opening attempts in your mind. You will only be asked about your OPENING attempts during weigh-ins. Your 2nd will be given after you complete your opener and your 3rd attempt will be given after you complete your 2nd attempt. These attempts will be tracked through what’s called your “attempt card”. This card will record the attempts you try for every lift during the competition. These are very important for when it comes to scoring at the end of the meet. Another important information to bring to weigh-ins is, proof of your membership to weigh-ins. 

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Equipment Check

Equipment check is usually done during the process of signing in and weigh-ins. A coach/judge will come up and check your equipment that you will be using during the competition. This includes your singlet, wrist wraps, belt, sleeves, knee wraps, etc). I would check out your federations guidelines on what equipment you can and can’t use, as they all have different rules. 


I would recommend warming up 30-45 minutes before you are planned to be up on the platform. The warm-up room is typically open and available all throughout the competition. I recommend warming up early or at least arriving in the warm-up room early due to how many competitors will be trying to do the same thing. You definitely don’t want to skip a warm-up, due to this being VERY important. I recommend only performing 3 sets of warm-up lifts for each movement. You do not want to over do it on the number of lifts you perform before going up to the platform. You want to have plenty of energy saved up to apply to those heavy weights! 


The typical powerlifting rule states that there can only be a max of 14 competitors in a flight. This basically means that you will have no more than 13 lifters between your first, second, and third attempts. After you warm up, you will wait behind the lifters ahead of you. Listen to your name to be called!! I can’t stress this enough. The last thing you want to do is walk up to the platform last minute and feel rushed. When the announcer calls your name it will typically sound like this, “Caitlyn is the lifter, followed by Kelsey, followed by Kyle.” I recommend arriving at the waiting area when you are the third name called, no later than the second name. When they are ready for you to come up to the platform they will announce, “the bar is loaded”. Do NOT step on to the platform until you hear that the bar is loaded. After you have successfully finished your lift, you will then decide what your next attempt will be. This will be the same routine for all lifts. 


You will typically get 3 attempts for each lift (bench press, deadlift, and squat). Let’s say you get your first attempt, your next attempt should be a heavier weight and so fourth. If you do not get your lift, you have to stay at that weight until you get it. You are NOT aloud to lower the weight. Sometimes (time allowing) you will be able to perform a fourth attempt. This fourth attempt does not go towards the overall scoring. The fourth attempt weight is for your benefit only. I always go for my fourth attempt if time is aloud. I like to push my body and see how far it can go. It is all up to you and your energy levels! 


The judges will tell you when you can lift and when you can finish. They do this by saying certain commands. The judges give you these orders because they wan’t to see if you can control the weight and not just drop it. You will hear different commands for each movement. 

For squat you will hear, “Squat” to start and “Rack” to finish. For bench you will hear, “Start” to start (obviously), “Press” to press up, and “Rack” to finish. For deadlift, you do not have a start command. You can start deadlifting when you want, within in reason. You have to start deadlifting within 60 seconds of arriving on the platform. To finish deadlifting, you will hear the command “down”. I know it seems like a good bit to remember, but I promise it gets easy. Just pay attention and listen. 


There are two different types of awards a lifter can get. There are class medals and best overall awards. Class medals are based on gender, age, and weight class. These awards are calculated by adding up the heaviest successful squat, bench press, and deadlift. Let’s say that two powerlifters are tied, the award automatically goes to the powerlifter that weighs the least (weight to strength ratio). The best overall awards is given to one male and one female. This award is the highest a lifter can receive. This shows pure strength based on bodyweight. 

The Environment 

Many people are intimidated by powerlifting competitions. The intensity and loud music can scare them away. I am telling you that a powerlifting competition is something like no other. I love competing so much because of the environment. It might be loud and chalky, but the competitors are amazing cheerleaders. People that are competing against you will cheer for you and you will do the same. You get caught up in the moment of them lifting and you want so bad for them to get that weight up. The music will be blaring, bars will be clinking against racks, chalk and baby powder will be in the air, and the screams of the lifters and audience will surround you. It is amazing and an amazing feeling. Don’t hesitate, sign up for one and soak up the noise. It will drown out everything else around you, I promise. 

Final Thoughts

If you have read this whole post so far, you should definitely be prepared to compete! A post can not tell you everything of course, and you will learn your own lessons when you compete. That is the best part of competing and being an athlete. I wish you luck and let me know how your journey goes! 

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