So You Wanna Be A Powerlifter? Rules and How the Meet Runs

In our previous episode, we talked about preparation for meet day and things to consider while getting ready for your first meet and when you’re packing. In this episode, we’re going to go over some of the specifics of meet day, including how the day runs, and how you can best manage your time to make for a successful day.

Weigh Ins

The first thing you’re going to do at any powerlifting meet is to weigh in.  Usually there will be some sort of flight list posted near the weigh in area, which will give lot numbers and the order of weigh ins.  You can check where your name is on the list and this will help give you an idea of whether you’ll be weighing in earlier or later, and who will weigh in immediately before you.  There are certain things you will *need to know* for when your name is called and you have to step into the weigh in room.  These include:

  • Opening attempts of each lift in kgs – make sure and have the kilogram conversion for all of your opening weights, rounded to the nearest 2.5kg increment.
  • Squat rack/monolift heights – you will need to give these to the judge that is managing the weigh-ins so the information can be put on your lifter card.  Usually there is a rack set up near the weigh-in area so that lifters who don’t routinely use the same equipment as will be on the platform have a chance to check their heights.  Go and do this before you weigh in, and write the numerical heights down.
  • Bench rack height/safety height – definitely take your time to adjust the safeties of the equipment so that in the case of some catastrophe on the bench press, your face/head/chest will be saved by the safety pins.  Most federations should have safety arms for their bench press, so make sure you record the height of these as well.
  • Racks In/Racks Out – if you’re in the IPF or an affiliate, the squat/bench combo racks have a somewhat unique feature – the uprights of the rack will tilt in for those who require a very wide grip on the barbell.  The standard answer here is “racks out” which will configure the rack as normal when you go to lift. If you’re a lifter whose grip is wider than the 81cm rings in the bar, you may want to use “racks in”. I will recommend again however – try this out on the rack provided for getting heights.
Rack Height
Rack Height

Once you have all of this information ready, you are ready for your weigh-in.  When your name is called, be sure to be ready to enter the weigh-in room with your information ready and presentable.  You’ll also likely need to have your federation’s membership card, some sort of ID, and potentially a certificate to show you’ve completed the necessary online anti-doping course (in Canada anyways).  

When you enter the room, be ready to strip down quickly, step on the scale, recite your information and present your documents, initial the lifter card, and get out. It is each lifter’s responsibility to make weigh-ins a quick and efficient process, so do your best to be timely.

The ‘lull’

This what I’ve dubbed the time between weigh-ins and warm-ups.  This is where you can pop your headphones in, claim a squat rack in the back (if you’re lifting in first flight), and just relax.  If you’ve made a weight cut, this is definitely the time to get some sodium and some hydration in. Try and stay calm and not get too caught up in what is about to happen. Be present, and mindful of the things that go through your thoughts.

You’ll soon learn what kind of lifter you are. Some lifters will perform better with a great deal of intensity and focus, others are better athletes when they’re joking around with friends and casually chatting.  Most lie somewhere in-between, but being conscious of these things can help your development as a lifter a great deal. If there’s no way you can relax, go ahead and get started on some general warm-ups; light walking, a few air squats, some stretching/rolling if you’re into that stuff, or maybe use a stationary bike if you’re lucky enough to have one around.


Generally, an athlete will want to take 30-45 minutes to warm up for their platform lifts.  We will talk more specifically about how to structure warmups in a future post, but suffice to say it is a good idea to try and time your last few warmups with time between the attempts equal to 1 minute for each lifter in your flight. For example, if you’re one of 10 lifters in your flight, try and leave 10 minutes between your last 2 warmups or so, so that you can emulate (roughly) the timing of the competition.

Attempt Cards
Attempt Cards

Another tip during this time is to write your name on and sign each and every one of your attempt cards.  You only have one minute after the end of your lift to get your next attempt in to the score table, so having these ready to go ahead of time can save you valuable seconds when it comes down to making attempt selections, scribbling it down, and getting it handed in.

If at some point during warmups you feel the need to change your opener, you have until 3 minutes before the start of your flight to do so.  If you are going first, you have 3 minutes, if you are following another flight, you have until 3 lifts from the end. The MC should also be announcing the time left to change openers over the microphone.  If a lift is feeling off, take a bit of a quicker pace with your warmups so you have time to make these decisions when necessary.

The Lifting Order

There are two organizational categories for lifters in powerlifting; flights and groups. Flights are the smallest group of lifters who will lift together every round. There can be a two-flight system (ABABAB) or a 3-flight system (ABCABCABC).  Groups are combinations of flights that will lift from start to finish before the next group takes the platform.

In a two-flight system, flight A will go first, squatting their three attempts from lightest to heaviest, rotating through the order until every lifter has had three attempts, and then flight B will follow for all of their squats. In a three-flight system, flights A, B, and C will all take all of their squats before moving into the bench press.

If there are multiple groups, all of group 1 will go through all 9 lifts before the next group begins their squats. You can always ask your meet director or someone at the score table how the day is structured and will run if you are unsure.

After each attempt, the lifter has one minute to submit their next attempt, or else the decision will be made for them. If your lift is successful and you fail to submit an attempt, your next attempt will automatically be put in 2.5kg heavier for your subsequent lift.  If you miss a lift and fail to submit your attempt, you will repeat the attempt.

The Deadlift Attempt Change

During the third attempts of the deadlift, lifters have two “changes” that can be made to their currently submitted attempt.  When in a competitive setting, this allows you to vie for position and to attempt to mess with other competitors by adding in an extra element of strategy.  There are a few rules with these, however.

  • You can go either up or down in weight, but not below what’s on the bar currently.
  • You have until the MC calls “bar loaded” on your attempt to make the change.

Hopefully that helps set you all up for success and gives you a preview of what’s coming your way on your first meet day!  Stay tuned for our next episode where we’ll be covering some of the nuance of attempt selection and the competitive side of things!

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.