So you want to start Powerlifting…

A wee while ago I was giving Lisa (*waves* from Girl Goals) some advice as she was considering potentially entering a powerlifting competition at some point. She mentioned that I should do a blog post with all my advice since I’d already written half of it already. Face Palm moment! I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that, especially since I found it hard to find specific information for powerlifting in New Zealand especially for females when I was first entertaining the idea of entering a powerlifting competition.

So you want to start powerlifting
I’ve added a lot of additional information, so much so that I am making this a two part series or you would be reading for a long time! So, if you’ve ever entertained the idea of doing a powerlifting competition (or are just curious), then read on…

// Classes

The weight classes will differ depending on the organisation you are competing with. The two competitions I have done have been with the New Zealand Powerlifting Federation which have the following classes:

up to 43.0 kg – sub-junior & junior only
up to 47.0 kg
up to 52.0kg
up to 57.0kg
up to 63.0kg
up to 72.0kg
up to 84.0kg
84.0kg & over

up to 53.0kg – sub-junior & junior only
up to 59.0kg
up to 66.0kg
up to 74.0kg
up to 83.0kg
up to 93.0kg
up to 105.0kg
up to 120.0kg
120.0kg & over
The weights mentioned are MAXIMUM weights for that class. For example I am in the 57kg class but I generally weigh-in around 55-56kg. If you are just a couple of kg above a weight class currently I’d recommend seeing if you can drop down to the lighter one, but I wouldn’t stress about it for a novice competition.

So you want to start powerlifting

// Depth

A powerlifting lift is completely different to the lifts that most people perform in the gym. In general squats and bench press performed in the gym are what I call ‘cheating lifts’, they aren’t actually cheating but the form required for a powerlifting meet is a lot stricter and does require you to work on the commands in your training otherwise you will likely miss your lifts (ain’t nobody got time for that!). Your squat needs to get to 90 degrees or less, this means that you need real depth in your squat. The commands for bench press mean that you can’t use your chest and motion to push the bar back upwards as you are required to come to a complete pause at the bottom of the bench press and hold until the referee tells you that you can ‘press’ (this makes the bench press a lot more challenging!). The deadlift is actually very similar to a gym lift as the only command is to lower the weight back to the ground. You are not allowed to drop the weight from the top and your arms must be locked out at the top of the lift (so you are standing up tall).

//Goal Totals

It’s hard to know whether or not it is worth entering a powerlifting competition. As a general guide my advice would be to look at getting to at least bodyweight for squat, 1.5x bodyweight for deadlift and maybe .75X your bodyweight for bench for a novice comp would be a good goal. A term you may see floating around powerlifting circles is WILKS. WILKS is a score which is given to each athlete based on your total lifts and bodyweight. The wilks score is a way of measuring all powerlifters on the same scale regardless of their weight, so it kind of gives something you can compare everyone against (Although I have my own issues with this calculator, but I digress). If you search online for a wilks calculator you’ll be able to work out what total you need to get a decent wilks.  Although in saying all of this, it actually doesn’t matter what your scores are as the audience cheers for everyone and if you’re just doing it to try it out and challenge yourself so you could actually enter at any point! Novice powerlifting competitions are a really fun and relaxed environment where everyone is there is just have a go.
So you want to start powerlifting?

// Equipment

Your first comp you can wear shorts and t-shirt (it’s not allowed any advertising on it) and after that you need to get a powerlifting suit (they’re cheaper if you order online from USA!) to compete in. If you are entering a raw competition (no special squat/bench suits and knee wraps) you are allowed a belt and wrist wraps (not straps for deadlifting!), however they have to be certain brands so make sure you check yours out with the federation you are going to compete with. You are allowed to wear squat shoes (with a raised heel), however there is a rule about the height of the heel so check this with your federation as well.

// Training

As for training I’d dedicate at least one day to each lift if you are wanting to try and compete and just practice, practice, practice. Make sure you have a spotter on bench day and spotter bars for squat day and just keep at it. Listen to your body and go light for more reps when you need a break and go heavy for low reps when you’re feeling good. Aim to add on 2.5kg each week when you’re feeling good until you can’t jump up that much each time and then you can start looking at other techniques to break through the plateau. This will be relatively easy in the beginning until you start to get closer to your true 1 rep max.

Is there anything else you would like to know about getting started in powerlifting? – Anything to add?! – Comment below and let me know, I Love hearing from you!

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  • Samantha
    March 17, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    I do not want to start powerlifting but I did want to say that you look amazing Amanda! You make it look really super duper easy even when I know it’s not. Good on you!
    Samantha recently posted…Traditional Irish Stew with Cheese and Parsley DumplingsMy Profile

  • mrx
    March 28, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Great article about starting power lifting and thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge about the different weight categories. I always read about the latest tactics of weight lifting and stuff used in it. In your photos you are not wearing any gloves or gripping pads, so would it be safer for hands to do power lifting without belts, wraps or gloves around?

    • Amanda @ Move Love Eat
      March 30, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      I don’t wear equipment partly because there are only very specific equipment and brands we are allowed to wear for powerlifting competitions and partly because I would prefer to progress as much as I can by myself without the aid of equipment.

  • Thom
    April 16, 2016 at 3:30 am

    I train with minimal equipment. I might enter a power lifting competition one day if my total is ever decent, just under 1000 now. I’ll be way past that before the year is over though!

  • Matt
    May 31, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    I find it interesting that at a competition level, you would only need to squat body weight and deadlift 1.5x body weight. That sounds a little on the light sided to me… I have never considered myself very strong , but I can exceed that level. Having said that, I just did my wilks and scored 190 (thanks to my weak ass bench press) so probably not for me (yet!)
    Thanks for the post!
    – Matt

    • Amanda @ Move Love Eat
      June 5, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Hi Matt, thanks for your comment. This whole blog post is based on entering your first Novice competition and the totals I gave are definitely starting points, of course if you can do more than that you will do better in competition. However some people wanted some starting points and I think these are good starting points to entering a novice competition so you can get a feel for the day.

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