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A Guide to Your First Powerlifting Meet

So you took the plunge and signed up for your very first powerlifting meet.  Congratulations and welcome to the awesome world of power!  By now, you’ve got to be feeling excited, nervous, and probably have a lot of uncertainties about what the heck goes on at a meet and how you’re gonna get through it without looking like a total noob.

With our CPF Northern Powerlifting Classic coming up in 2 weeks, we are going to have a lot of first time competitors at the meet (including a whole schwack from our gym!) so I thought I would take a little time to give you guys some cliff notes and how meets work and how you can make it an awesome and fun first experience.

So here we go...


These take place the day before the meet, and always have designated times and locations so make sure you know where those are beforehand.  Bring everything you’re going to use at the meet to the weigh-ins.  Below I compiled a Meet Equipment Checklist so you won’t forget anything.  ALSO, if this your first meet, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT MAKING A CERTAIN WEIGHT CLASS. I really think the first meet (first several meets, actually) the focus should be on your biggest total (your final “score” which is your best squat, bench and deadlift added up), and no attention should be paid to what your body weight was.  The point of powerlifting is to lift as much as you can, and cutting weight on an inexperienced body is an unnecessary risk for the beginner lifter.  

You will also have to provide your openers for each lift, so be ready to produce them for the judges.  Make sure your openers are something conservative so you get yourself in the meet!! So bring your stuff for the judges to look at, weigh in at whatever you weigh that day, and get your rack heights.  Your rack heights are for what height the bar will be set up for you for the squat and bench press during the competition.  This is also a good time to chat with other competitors and make some friends for meet day.  Yes, this is a friendly and supportive sport so don’t be shy.  Once you’re all done go and relax, eat some food and drink some water.


There will usually be a flight list posted the night before...the flight list will tell you when you are lifting that day.  Lifters are split up in the “Flights” which is basically your designated lifting group for the day.  Flights are split up into Weight Classes, Gender, and/or Division.  What flight you’re in will dictate when you start lifting on meet day.  The first flight will start on the platform at 9am, so flight A will want to be at the venue at around 8 to allow sufficient warm up time.  

There is also usually an athlete’s meeting around 8:30am on Saturday morning so the judges and organizers can get everyone together and go over general rules and procedures.  Make sure you attend this and ask questions if you have them.  

Flight A will start Squatting on the platform at 9am, so will want to warmup from 8-9am.  Once Flight A has hit the platform Flight B will start warming up at 9am for their flight, which will start somewhere around 10-10:15 after Flight A is completed (flights usually take around an hour or so).  Keep an eye out on the Flight ahead of you all day while you’re warming up, so you can time your lifts accordingly.  Once they’re in their 3rd attempts, you’ll want to be wrapping your warmups up.  So Flight B goes out to the platform to squat after Flight A finishes, and Flight C will start warming up (hint hint if you’re in Flight C you won’t need to start warming up until 10am or so).  Flight A takes a break.  Once Flight B is done, Flight C will go out to Squat. While C is Squatting Flight A will start warming up for the Bench Press.  Flight B will rest.  Then Flight A will go out to Bench, Flight B will warm up, and so on and so forth rotating A, B, C all day for the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift.  Make sense?  Good :)

Once the meet is underway, there will be an active scoreboard for each flight which will keep track of lifting order for each attempt.  There will also be an announcer that will be announcing who is up, who is in the hole, and who is in the wings.  Pay attention to these because it tells you who is ahead of you and when your attempts will be.  You will get 3 attempts at each lift, and the meet runs on the Round System, which means that the lightest attempts start each attempt, and the bar gets heavier as the Flight moves along.  Everyone completes their first attempt, then their second, then their third.  The lifting order will usually change with each attempt, so again keep an eye out.  After each attempt MAKE SURE you go and give your next attempt to the expediter or score table so they can input it and keeping things running smoothly.

Each lift will be judged by 3 judges, and there is a 3 light panel that indicates if the judges passed the lift or not.  2 or 3 whites and the lift is good (2 or more reds is a failed lift)... I would strongly recommend reading the federation's rulebook before meet day, as there are lots of technicalities that can cause a failed lift - educate yourself to avoid frustrations!!

Once you’re on the platform, each lift is controlled by the head judge who will be giving you commands...the commands for the Squat are “Squat” and “Rack”, for the bench they are "Start" “Press” and “Rack”, and for the deadlift it is just “Down”.  Again these are explained in the rulebook (hint hint go read it) because there are parameters before you’ll get those commands.

Once the day is underway it will move right along.  If you have questions there are always friendly volunteers around to help answer questions.  


Don’t change much from your regular training routine when it comes to eating and nutrition.  Eat the same foods, take the same supplements you usually do, and make sure you’re hydrated.  

Relax when your flight isn’t lifting.  I don’t usually watch much of the meets I compete in but instead relax away from the platform.

Help out and be supportive - everyone is there for the same reason!

Set your openers at something you KNOW you can 100% get.  Get yourself in the meet!! Have an idea of your attempts for each lift but don’t be too rigid with them - take it as it comes on meet day.

The focus for your first meet should be putting up your best total possible - forget about weight classes and do YOUR best.  

Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy it!

Here are a couple more well written articles by some big names in the industry about competing for the first time:


Make sure you go over this when you pack so you don’t miss anything!

____ Singlet

____ Belt

____ Underwear - briefs only - no boxers or boxer briefs and a sports bra for women

____ Knee Sleeves

____ Elbow sleeves - if you wear them

____ Knee sleeves and/or knee wraps

And if you’re competing in wraps:

____ Wrap Roller

____ Elastic Bands

____ Squat Shoes

____ Wrist Wraps

____ Deadlift socks (again see the rulebook, must be knee-high)

____ Deadlift shoes or Slippers

____ Sweatpants, sweatshirt, and spare t-shirts

____ Towel(s)

____ Food and Snacks

____ Lots of water and some form of electrolyte drink

____ Deodorant

____ Baby Powder - for your legs on the deadlift

____ Cash

____ Ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories

____ Muscle Rub/Liniment

____ Ammonia/Nose Torque - if you use it

____ Kilo Conversion Chart


____ Squat Suit + possible spare

____ Briefs

____ Bench shirt + possible spare

____ Deadlift Suit + possible spare

____ Suit Slippers

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