5 Tips For Your First Powerlifting Meet

September 8, 2020

When I first got into powerlifting there wasn’t much information to guide me for my first meet.

In fact, I didn’t even have a coach/handler at my first Raw Nationals! I didn’t know that was a thing until I got there and I was the only one without a handler. A coach who was handling one of my competitors at the time actually offered to help me. It was a great experience but I’ve learned a few things since that meet.

1: Read the Rulebook

Depending on the federation you compete in the rules are slightly different. For example, in USAPL you must have your feet on the floor while USPA allows you to be on your toes. These are significant difference that you’ll want to be prepared for. A good way to prep for this is to practice how you play!

That means benching with your feet flat in training if you’re doing a USAPL meet. USAPL/IPF is also a bit more strict in regards to approved equipment so make sure to read the approved equipment list beforehand. You don’t want to show up to your first meet and be told you can’t wear your knee sleeves because they don’t fall within the specifications.

USAPL Lifter’s Handbook

USPA Rulebook

2. Bring Lots of Food, Water, and Snacks

I’ve been to meets that have lasted just under 4 hours but I’ve also been to meets that have lasted much longer. It’s always good to be prepared. That said, the foods you choose are also important. Choose foods higher in carbs with moderate protein and low fat. White rice and grilled chicken breast is a great option.

Granola bars, protein shakes, sports drinks, water, fruit, low fat candy (Swedish Fish are my favorite) are also good choices to bring along. The key here is to keep it simple. If you don’t normally consume large meals before training it’s probably not a ideal to have one right before you compete and risk the possibility of upsetting your stomach.

3. Practice The Commands

One of the biggest makes I’ve seen newer lifters do is miss a lift due to missing a command. Don’t do this! You’ve been working your butt off the last thing you want to happen is get red lighted for something silly like missing the rack command on squats. I know meets can be nerve-wracking.

An easy way to minimize some of that game day anxiety is to be prepared. Have your training partner give you squat and bench commands in the gym. This may help reduce some of that meet day anxiety.

Squat Commands

  1. “Squat” – Given at the start of the squat once the lifter is motionless and knees are locked out
  2. “Rack” – Once completing the assent portion of the squat the head judge will give the command to rerack. A good way to account for this is to always wait 1-2 seconds after completing the lift before reracking.

Bench Commands

  1. “Start” – Once the bar is un-racked and the lifter is motionless with elbows locked out the head judge will give this start command.
  2. “Press” – Given once the bar is motionless on the lifter’s chest usually within 1-2 seconds. Be sure to pause your bench in training.
  3. “Rack” – Once the press is completed and the lifter is motionless the head judge will give the rerack command. Be sure to wait for this!


  1. “Down” – Deadlift only has one command. Once the bar is completely locked out and shoulder are back the head judge to motion to bring the bar back to the floor. You can practice this in training by holding the bar at the top position for 1-2 seconds after completing the lift.


Unless you plan on breaking a record or are competitive in that class there’s really no reason to cut weight, especially for your first meet. Competitions can be stressful. There’s no need to add to the stress by worrying about making weight.

If this is your first meet I recommend competing at whatever bodyweight you’re currently at. If you want to try to cut weight for a weight class later on if it will make you more competitive by all means do so but it’s not worth the extra stress overwise.


Powerlifting can be a great community. I’ve found some of my closest friends through this sport. Make sure to have fun and enjoy the process. You’ve worked your butt off! Now it’s time to show off all of that hard work on the platform.