Powerlifting FAQ

Am I good enough to enter a competition?

The fact that you’re reading this probably means you’ve done a bit of lifting in a gym so you know your way around a barbell and presumably how to squat, bench and deadlift.¬† Only you can really decide if you’re good enough but one of the great things about powerlifting is that you’re primarily competing against yourself – if your best is 100kg and you lift 105kg on the day you’ve had a victory.¬† Sure it’s nice to win stuff but primarily these competitions are about doing the best you can on the day.

It’s guaranteed nobody will laugh and there will be as much support for the person bench pressing 30kg for a personal best¬†as there will be for the one deadlifting 300kg for a new record.

Which is the right competition for me?

Once you’ve taken the decision to compete you’ll want to find the right competition.¬† Any of the South East Powerlifting events shown here¬†are suitable for “first-timers” though some people prefer the smaller “rookie” or “divisional” events on their first time out.

Competing, especially for the first time, can be daunting but all of these events are friendly and everyone will be really supportive.  Nobody will mind if you have questions or concerns and there are generally plenty of officials around who will be more than happy to help.

How do I enter a competition?

Once you’ve decided you want to enter a competition, you’ll need to complete an entry form (you can complete and email this) and send appropriate payment (payment instructions will be on the form).¬† Entry forms will be published here¬†6-8 weeks before the competition date.¬† When both form and payment have been received (and if there is still space) you’ll get a confirmation email to tell you you’re in.

NB: Competitions are very popular and numbers have to be limited.¬† To be sure you get a place it’s advisable to get your entry in early!

Do I need to be a member of British Powerlifting to compete?

Yes.¬† In order to compete in any divisional or national competitions you need to be a current member of British Powerlifting and you’ll need to produce your membership card/number at weigh in.¬† You can join British Powerlifting online here.

What kit do I need to compete?

Powerlifters use a wide variety of kit some of which is mandatory and some of which is not.¬† As a general principle, everything you intend to use on competition day should be on the IPF approved list, the latest version of which can be found here.¬† Please remember that there are two “flavours” of powerlifting,¬†unequipped (also known as “raw” or “classic”) and equipped.¬† Some competitions are open to lifters in both categories and some specifically to lifters in one or other.¬† It’s important to understand which you’re competing in as¬†this also makes a difference to the kit you can use.¬†¬†Listed below¬†is the mandatory kit you MUST have and the optional kit you can use if you want to.¬† If you’re in any doubt check whether your items are on the approved list¬†and if¬†they are not you should assume you won’t be allowed to use them.

NB: South East Powerlifting and British Powerlifting do undertake kit checks at competitions.


Knee length socks


Wrist wraps
Knee sleeves
Knee wraps (equipped only)
Specialist lifting shoes
Squat suit (equipped only)
Benchpress shirt (equipped only)
Deadlift suit (equipped only)
What happens on competition day? (Part 1)

Once you’ve received confirmation that your entry has been accepted you’ll be given a weigh-in time, this will generally be a 90 minute window either at the start or in the middle of the day.¬† Make sure you’re there on time as, if you miss the weigh-in, you won’t be allowed to compete.

There will be signs at the venue directing you to the weigh-in room so make your way there.¬† At weigh-in you’ll need your British Powerlifting membership card and you’ll likely have to sign a “drug declaration” form.¬† You should also be ready to inform the officials what your opening lifts will be for squat, bench and deadlift.

Once you’re in the weigh in room you should strip down to as little as you like to weigh in – generally this means underwear and socks (every effort will be made to ensure ladies are weighed by ladies).¬† You’ll then be asked to stand on the scales to be weighed and a record will be made of this.¬† NB: If you don’t make weight at divisional competitions it’s not the end of the world – you’ll lift in the appropriate class on the day.¬† At national and international competitions however you¬†will only be allowed to compete in the class for which you entered.

After weigh-in you’ll need to go back to the main competition area where someone will be taking “rack heights” for squat and bench press.¬† An official will raise and lower the bar on the racks until you’re comfortable with it and will then make a note of this so that the loaders/spotters set up correctly for your lifts later on.¬† There will also be a “kit-check” table which you’ll need to visit and at which you’ll need to show all the kit you’re planning on using.

Once all that is done it’s a question of waiting and listening out for announcements.¬† There will be an announcement about 30 minutes before you’re due to start lifting suggesting you’ll want to start warming up.¬† It’s a good idea to establish who else might be lifting at the same time and if you see them go to warm up you might want to do the same.

As always – if you’re unsure about anything at all just ask an official – they’ll be delighted to help!

What happens on competition day? (Part 2)

If you’ve read part 1 you’ll know what happens prior to the actual lifting bit.¬† So you’re weighed-in, kit checked, your rack heights are done and you’re warmed up.¬† Squats come first and you should listen out now to hear when you’re due to lift.¬† Ordinarily, the MC will announce lifters 3 or 4 in advance so you should have an idea of when you’re up.¬† Some, but not all, venues will have a screen in the warm up area to show lifting order as well.¬† It is really important you know when you’re on because from the moment you hear your name and the words “the bar is loaded” you have only 1 minute to stat your lift.¬† This is plenty of time but of you’re not paying attention and putting on knees sleeves or whatever you can get “timed out” which means you miss an attempt and is counted as a failed lift.

This process repeats three times (your three squat attempts) then you’ll go warm up for the bench press.¬† You’ll get three attempts at that and finally, after another warm up opportunity, three deadlifts.

And that’s really that!¬† Afterwards there will be a presentation when you’ll likely get a competitor’s medal or trophy and when that’s done you’re finished (until the next time…)

What instructions and signals will I be given by the referees?

As with any sport the rules of powerlifting are, in places complicated and quite technical.¬† If you’re going to compete it is worth having¬† read through the IPF Technical Rules¬†but don’t think you need to memorise these (that’s what the referees and officials are for!).¬† There are however, a basic set of rules relating to the performance of your lifts that you need to fully understand before and during competition as failure to observe these may result in a failed lift and there is nothing worse than being red-lighted for a technicality!

First of all, timing.¬† Before every lift you’ll be¬†called by name and, when the platform is ready¬†for you the head referee will call “the bar is loaded”.¬† You have 60 seconds from then to¬†start your lift and while that is plenty of time, it does go quickly if you’re not ready and are putting on knee wraps or whatever.¬† Keep in mind that this 60 seconds is to the actual start of the lift (i.e. when the head referee¬†gives you the appropriate¬†start signal) so you need to get onto the platform, set up your squat or bench and be ready to go.¬† If you’re not, you run the risk¬†of being timed-out which counts as a failed lift.

Squat: ¬†After hearing “the bar¬†is loaded” you should make your way¬†onto the platform and lift the bar from the racks.¬† The¬†centre referee will be in front of you with¬†one arm raised you should stand upright with your knees locked – if you’re ready to go it’s a good idea to make eye contact with the referee so he/she will know.¬† The referee will then issue a verbal command “squat” and at the same time will¬†lower¬†his/her hand.¬† This signals the start of your attempt (you don’t have to start¬†the very second this command is given so if you want to take a deep breath or pause a second or two that’s just fine) and you should then squat down until you feel that¬†“the top surface of the legs at the hip joint is lower than the top of the knees” before standing back up.¬† Once you’ve stood up straight with your knees locked you should wait for the referee to give the “rack” command at¬†which point you can put the bar back into the rack (the spotters will assist here).

Bench Press:¬† After hearing “the bar is loaded” you should make your way onto the platform and position yourself on the bench.¬† When you’re ready to start you should lift the bar from the rack (with or without assistance from the¬†loaders) and hold it at arms length with elbows locked.¬† When¬†the centre referee deems¬†you re ready to start he/she will give the “start” command at which point you should lower the bar to your chest.¬† After the referee deems the bar to be stationary he/she will give the “press” command at which¬†point you should press the bar away from your chest until your arms are once again locked.¬† Finally, the referee will give the “rack” command at which point the bar can be returned to the rack.

Deadlift:¬† Once again, after hearing¬†“the bar is loaded” you should make your way onto the platform.¬† The centre referee will have one arm raised but there is¬†no start command for the deadlift so you can start whenever you’re ready.¬† You should lift the bar until your body is upright, your knees locked and your shoulders back.¬† At the completion of the lift the referee will give the “down” command and will lower his/her arm.¬† At this point you should lower the bar to the¬†ground – this must be controlled so don’t drop it!


This video gives a complete description of all the lifts and associated commands.

Are competitors drug tested?

British Powerlifting and South East Powerlifting undertake random drug testing at competitions.  British Powerlifting may also undertake testing on entrants to national competitions outside the competition (i.e. they may test at your home, gym etc)

More details on British Powerlifting’s anti-doping policy can be found here.