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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Common Powerlifting Questions and a Glossary

Before you dive into this post, enter my giveaway for FitDeck bodyweight playing cards!

While I don't blog a lot about my powerlifting training, increasing my strength for the thee main lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift) has been the focus of my workouts since I began last May.  I have been so blessed to stumble upon an amazing powerlifting gym and team here in Des Moines- 22nd street Barbell.  The coaches and members there have helped me with program plans, technique, motivation and so much more.

Saturday I am competing in the Nutri-Sport Fullpower Meet hosted by West Des Moines Crossfit in West Des Moines, Iowa.  It will be my first sanctioned full power meet. (Sanctioned meaning there will be a representative from the Southern Powerlifting Federation judging technique, and full power meaning I will squat, bench and deadlift).

I wrote this post about what I have learned from powerlifting just in the first month and man have I learned so much since then.  One of the toughest lessons being that powerlifting is not about me vs. others.  It's about me vs. me.  It's cliche but it's true.  I could write for days as to why I think this has been such a hard theory for me to accept but the bottom line is that once I stopped comparing my lifts to other ladies it became a lot more fun.

With this meet approaching I've had a lot of questions from non-powerlifters, like my mother, how a powerlifting meet works.  Of course I'd encourage you to stop by and watch for yourself if you're in the Des Moines area but if you're not, you can watch it live here!  How awesome is that?  And, if you can't do either of those here are my answers to some of the more common questions I've received about powerlifting.

What do you do at a powerlifting meet?

Typically, a powerlifting meet includes testing your strength for a 1 repetition max in the squat, bench and deadlift, in that order. It is organized by weight class, gender and age.   There are judges to asses if each lift is acceptable (i.e. squat is deep enough, your butt stays on the bench, etc).  You get three attempts in each lift.

What do you wear?

A singlet.  Yea, I'm pumped about wearing a singlet….said no one, ever.  I will also wear my belt as well as knee high socks.  Knee high socks are a must for the deadlift as it's common for shins to bleed from scraping the bar against your legs.

How do you know what weight to pick?

Lifters are encouraged to choose a weight they could hit for multiple reps on any given day for their first attempt.  The hope is by doing this you can shake some initial nerves and build confidence heading into your second and third attempt.  If you miss a lift you can not attempt a lower weight. You may take another try at that same weight or move up.  Second and third attempt weights are usually determined by how the previous lift goes, although most lifters have an idea of where they would like their final numbers to be.

How do you win?

Um, not sure.  It's not exactly on my radar, at least right now.  I do know that awards are typically to given to the highest totals for each weight class and a best male and female lifter will be decided by crunching a bunch of numbers including their lifting total and body weight.  It's kinda over my head.  Maybe one day I figure it out. :)

And just in case you get a little lost in the lingo here is a powerlifting glossary, full of words that tripped me up when I was starting out:

Raw: Refers to a classification of lifters who do not wear equipment during their lifts.  The exception is a belt, wrist/knee wraps and/or knee sleeves.  This was a really confusing concept for me initially but now seems so simple.

Wraps: Wraps for you knees are essentially thick ace bandage wraps on steroids.  Lifters can choose to wrap their knees to help support and rebound out of the bottom of the squat.  While it does often add assistance in the squat it is still considered ok to wear in a "raw" meet.

Opener:  The set weight you have choose for your first attempt.  (i.e. my opener for the bench is 135lbs)

Handler(s):  A handler is someone you trust that can help wrap your knees, spot you, provide lift offs, pump you up/calm you down, whatever you need.

Lift off:  In order to help maintain your positioning on the bench press it's nice to have your handler provide a lift off.  It's just like it sounds, they help you lift the bench and bring it out to your starting position.

I'll be back Monday with a write up on the meet!  It's going to be a great day spent with lots of friends regardless of the outcome.  If you can't wait until then to hear the results be sure to like my Facebook page where I'll post updates.


  1. GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!! :) Have fun, Annie!

  2. How fun! Good luck and have a great time at the event!!!

  3. Wow, I love to lift, but those weights are incredible, good luck and have a GREAT time!


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