In recent years there has been a continued explosion in the popularity of powerlifting, particularly raw (unequipped) lifting. The purpose of this 3-part series of articles is to inform people new or relatively new to powerlifting on what to prepare themselves for on the day of a meet. I would hope that this guide will be of use to both those thinking of entering their first meet, as well as more experienced competitors. I would also like to preface this article with the caveat that I am speaking from the perspective of being a lifter and coach in the Irish Powerlifting Federation (IrishPF), the Irish Drug Free Powerlifting Federation (IDFPA) and the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). Therefore any advice in these articles is based on my experiences in such federations and competing in raw, drug-tested powerlifting. There may be some information in these articles which is not specific to you if you compete in a federation that does not fall into that category. With all that in mind, let’s get to it!
Step 1 – Selecting a Suitable Meet
Once you’ve decided you want to enter a meet there are a number of things to consider before choosing which meet to take part in. The first one is obviously which federation do you want to lift in. There are a number of factors that may go into this decision. Some of the main factors involved in choosing which federation to compete in include (in order of importance in my opinion):
- Does the federation employ drug testing or not? – If you’re a drug-free athlete you’ll want to compete in a federation that uses testing for substances on WADA’s Prohibited List. If you do use steroids/PEDs, compete in an untested fed.
- What world body does that particular federation affiliate with? (e.g. IPF, WDFPF, GPC, WPC etc.) And therefore what rule set do they use? – Each federation will generally be affiliated with an international federation. For example, here in Ireland the IrishPF is an affiliate of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), so IrishPF lifters will be the ones to represent Ireland at IPF Worlds.
- What equipment does that particular federation use? (e.g. do they use a monolift for squats or do lifters have to walk their squats out of a stand? do they use a deadlift bar etc.)
- What supportive materials/apparel does the federation permit? (e.g. knee sleeves, knee wraps, bench shirts, squat suits, are certain kinds of t-shirts allowed, etc.).
Types of Meets
After you’ve decided which federation to go with, it would be advisable to look up their calendar of events and decide which events suit you best. You may notice that there are different types of meets that are possible to enter. Namely, you may be able to enter:
- Full Power Meet – The primary type of powerlifting meet. Here you will do all 3 lifts and will be scored on the combined total of your best successful attempt for each lift.
- Single Lifts Event – You have the option of doing which of the 3 lifts that you want. Each one is scored individually.
- Push-Pull Meet – You bench press and deadlift only.
Step 2 – Logistical and Financial Considerations
Once you’ve highlighted a potential meet, you will need to consider some logistical (i.e. travel time, travel route and impact they may have on your performance on the day) and financial factors before 100% deciding to enter the meet. These include membership and entry fees, travel costs, accommodation, food and beverages as well as any specific lifting equipment or apparel that federation requires. Depending on your circumstances and your goals, these considerations may make a given meet not worth entering, or there may be better options.
Step 3 – What to Bring to the Event
At this point you’ve signed up to a meet and you’re almost ready for the day itself. So what do you need to bring to the meet itself?
We can think of this in three distinct categories:
- Food & Drink
For most federations you are required to wear the following:
- T-shirt – standard size that covers most of the lifter’s upper arm but does not extend beyond the elbow, also check with your federation as to which brands are approved by them
- Correct Underwear – must be briefs for men, see below, (boxer shorts are not permitted)
- Knee High Socks for Deadlift – this is to prevent blood getting on the bar if a competitor happens to cut their shins during the lift
- Approved Singlet
- Shoes – Depending on the lift either flat-soled shoes (e.g. Converse All Stars) or heeled shoes (Olympic Weightlifting shoes) are ideal. [Note: If you’re serious about powerlifting, please don’t show up in a pair of Nike Air Max or running shoes. It just screams “I have no idea what’s going on”.]
In addition to this, most federations will permit the use of the following (again I apologise if your federation does allow the use of these items, I am speaking for the majority even though I’m aware there may be exceptions, if you’re unsure ask an official within your federation):
- Lifting Belt – Check the specifications or the approved list of belts for your federation before you arrive at the competition. For example the maximum permitted dimensions of a powerlifting belt for use in the IPF are 10cm wide x 13mm thick. This may require you to purchase or borrow a belt for the competition if you wish to use one.
- Wrist Wraps
- Talcum Powder (Baby Powder) – this can be applied to the thighs of the lifter to reduce friction with the bar on the deadlift
- Smelling Salts – These are an ammonia-based compound used by some lifters in the belief that they enhance performance by increasing psychological arousal. Personally I never use them and don’t actively encourage the use of them but if you feel they help you who am I to tell you stop using them?
- Knee Sleeves or Knee Wraps – This depends heavily on the federation, so check with yours. For raw lifting, some federations require you to have no sleeves or wraps, while others like the IPF permit the use of sleeves. Knee wraps are typically used if you are competing in equipped lifting.
As a reference, click here to read the IPF rulebook, within this you’ll find what equipment/clothing they permit if you plan on competing in an IPF affiliate federation.
Food & Drink
It is advisable to pack food for after the weigh-in in advance (you don’t want to rely on what may/may not be available to you near the venue on the day). Time and time again I’ve been told before a meet that there will be food available at that particular competition venue, then it’s either not open when needed, it’s of poor quality or just not appealing to me. In this case planning ahead goes a long way.
Bring plenty of water. I can’t stress the importance of hydration enough, particularly if you’ve performed a weight cut for the event. You may also find it beneficial to pack some small, calorie-dense, easily digestible snacks to consume between lifts. In addition, it might be a good idea to bring a caffeinated beverage such as a Monster or Red Bull energy drink, or a caffeine supplement (or a pre-workout supplement that contains caffeine).
That brings to an end part 1 of this series. In the next two parts I will be discussing:
- Part 2: Picking the right weight class for you, setting powerlifting goals and why some peoples’ reasons for not stepping on the platform may be misguided
- Part 3: What to expect on the day – weigh-ins, platform, judges, commands, warm-ups, attempt selection, etc.
About The Author
Arthur Lynch is a PhD candidate in muscle physiology at University of Limerick. As an athlete he is a lifetime raw, drug-free powerlifter, placing #9 at 2016 IPF World Championships in u-93kg class. His best lifts in competition are a 240 kg (529 lb) squat, 170 kg (375 lb) bench, 300 kg (661 lb) deadlift (all raw/unequipped) at 90 kg (198 lbs) bodweight.