A Guide To Your First Powerlifting Comp

Comp days can be nerve racking, I remember not having a clue what to do on my first comp day, I had no coach, no “proper” kit other than the essentials and entered lifts way too light (my 3rd attempt I’d done like 3 times in the gym the week before and my first attempt was my 5×5 weight. I’m a bit more experienced now, but remember everyone at any level makes mistakes, you watch people bomb out at international competitions every year. So it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t go well for you on that particular day – you have to think of each comp and each prep as a learning tool for the next one.

I only have experience of competing in IPF however I have coached at comps within ABPU. Various things change and differ so make sure you know exactly what your federations rules are when it comes to commands and kit.
I’m sure I have forgotten loads and I’m sure everyone who has competed has there own advice but… for what it may be worth – here’s mine ?.

Kit list:

  • Singlet
  • Deadlift socks (must be up to the knee)
  • Round neck top
  • Squat Shoes
  • Deadlift Shoes
  • Belt- Wrist Wraps
  • Squat Socks (any socks but need to be shorter than deadlift socks)
  • Energy Drink- Sports drinks (for hydration)
  • Food! So much food! It’s such a long day and you need to eat little and often ALL DAY. you don’t want to get to deadlifts and have no energy left which is easy to do when you’re nervous (trust me – I’ve made that mistake before). You can’t eat enough! Don’t eat or drink anything you are not used to the day before or the day of. DO NOT do any special diet or dehydrate the day before – eat normally or slightly more than normal and MAKE SURE YOU ARE HYDRATED. Massively effects lifts.

Weigh In

You will stand on the scale and they will note down the exact weight. In national comps you have to be in your underwear but generally it varies in regional/private comps.

You will need to know your OPENERS for EACH LIFT. If it’s your first comp pick something easy that you know you can do even on your worst possible day. You don’t know how you are going to respond to the crowd and nerves etc so – you don’t want to be worrying about that as well. Make sure your opening bench is something you can pause.

Your openers are not completely set in stone. If the warmups feel amazing or terrible – you will be able to change each lifts opener up until 5 minutes before your flight lifts and either raise or lower them. So don’t panic too much. If you say one number and then suddenly you forget how to pick up the bar in the warmup room and need to lower it.

Warm Ups

There will be a specific place where you can warm up. Make sure you do exactly what you would do when in your gym warmups. Don’t change weights just because other people make different jumps to you. Do your own thing. It’s worth noting where you are in the running order – if you are on near the front you want to be on to your last warm up way before the person out last – so if you are sharing a bar, be mindful of this. Normally, people do not do their opener in the warmup room – save energy and save it all for the platform. However, when I first started out I was terrified of squats (still am – just not built for them) – so the first couple of competitions I did my squat opener in the warm up room – it settles the nerves and helps your confidence that you won’t bomb – so its personal preference really during those first few comps.


You will have ONE MINUTE from when they shout “bar is loaded” to start squatting. You must have all of your equipment in place BEFORE you step on the platform. This occurs for all three lifts. Basically – if you know you are next then start putting your wrist wraps on and chalk up etc while they lift so as soon as they call you up – you’re ready.
Once you have walked the bar out… look at the ref… he or she will have their hand in the air. If the two side refs can see that you are ready (KNEES LOCKED, both hands on bar and not bent over… they will lower their hands. The centre ref will then lower theirs and shout 2 commands. “Squat” and “Rack”. When they say “Squat” – don’t rush! Take a breath, take your time, concentrate.
WAIT for the rack command once you have finished- most people fail on this and it’s heart-breaking when it happens.


Feet down. Bum down. Shoulders and head down. 3 commands in IPF and two in ABPU as there is no start command.
You will either set up and un-rack the bar yourself or you can ask for a hand off. Once the bar is above your head and you are ready (and all refs agree on the things above) the centre ref will shout “Start” (in IPF).

Take it down to your chest – KEEP TIGHT – until you hear “press”. The refs are looking for the bar to be still before they give you the up command – so control it. If you crash it down not only will you have lost tightness but it will take ages for the bar to settle. I’ve seen half second press commands and I’ve seen 3 second ones. That’s why your opener should be prepared for both! – just in case!

Once you have pushed the weight back up (woohoo)… WAIT for the rack command. Do not even go in the direction of trying to put it back on the rack because you won’t get the benefit of the doubt and they WILL fail you. When they shout “rack” – the spotter will pretty much grab it and whisk you off the bench anyways!


There’s NO start command.

The centre ref will have their hand in the air ready and waiting from the moment “bar is loaded” is shouted.
Take your time. Don’t rush. BREATHE. And lift.

Once the ref is happy that you have locked your knees – the hand will go down and they will shout “down”. Do not put it down until you get a down command. And DO NOT LET GO OF IT. Control it down. Otherwise it will count as loss of grip or incomplete lift.


After each lift you will have 1 minute to put in your next attempt to the table). Generally, the rule of thumb is 1st attempt should be easy. 2nd attempt should be a current PB that you’ve done before. 3rd attempt just a YOLO attempt. Obviously – you have to be sensible and some days things will feel better than others. So, you have to gauge a few of these things on the day.
If a ref does red light you, are allowed to ask them why. But do it before you leave the platform – not at the end of the lifts or after someone else – because they probably won’t remember out of 100 other lifts they’ve seen and will just get annoyed you didn’t ask at the time.

Most importantly – enjoy it. Everyone is always worried that they might not have enough on the bar compared to others. I can 100% assure you – no one cares. Whether you are lifting 25kg or 225kg the support you will get on the day will be the same and no one has a clue what is on anyone else’s bar or could tell you what anyone else lifted (unless perhaps it’s a record attempt). The only competition in lifting really is yourself, if you have put the work in then you know what you are capable of and it’s a chance to show how hard you’ve trained and show off your hard work, and like I said – if it doesn’t go to plan, you can learn even more about yourself and how to prep so that the next time goes perfectly.

Powerlifting is a fantastic sport and I’m sure you will think the same after competing ?.

Stay Connected

More Blogs

Where can I train?

Taylors Strength Training
3-5 Trueman St
L3 2BA

1:1 Studio in Wallasey
- Private gym
- Exclusive use