THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO POWERLIFTING PART 3: FINDING A COMPETITION & EQUIPMENT ESSENTIALS
If you haven’t already, I recommend reading THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO POWERLIFTING Part 1 and THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO POWERLIFTING Part 2 before reading on. I explain what the sport is, how the lifters are divided into their categories, what to expect on competition day and what requirements your lifts will need to meet. It will paint a good picture for you to decide whether or not you even want to consider entering a competition.
WHAT FEDERATION IS BEST?
When finding a competition to enter for the first time you will need to decide on what federation you want to compete in. As I touched on in Part 1, there are many different federations with slight rule and equipment variations. Some feds allow drugs, others don’t, some feds are stricter on lifting rules for example, you may be permitted to wear knee wraps and lift from a mono-lift rack in one fed, as opposed to only being permitted to wear approved knee sleeves and having to walk the bar out in another. In any case, for your first competition there’s no need to get bogged down with all the ins and outs of different feds. Leave that for a little later when you have a better idea of what your long-term powerlifting goals are. Your main focus should be on nailing the commands, lifting technically well and enjoying your first experience as much as possible. Here are some general guidelines, regardless of what you’re allowed to wear, use or do:
- Don’t wear or use any equipment you are not familiar with or haven’t already been using in training.
- Forget about knee wraps and squat, deadlift and bench suits. It’s your first competition, lift raw/unequipped, enjoy it and don’t get caught up in trying to lift weights that you are most probably not ready to lift.
- Join the federation which is most convenient for you, probably one where you have friends or know a lot of people competing or one which your coach has recommended you join. You are much more likely to enjoy the experience that way.
- If you are drug free and plan on continuing lifting unenhanced, then to me it makes a lot of sense to join a drug free federation.
- Maybe if you are planning to start using banned substances and certainly if you are already using them, just join a fed which permits their use. I have absolutely nothing against anyone who decides to use performance enhancing drugs however, I have everything against those that decide to use them in sports which they are explicitly prohibited from.
WHAT EQUIPMENT/CLOTHING DO YOU NEED?
The amount of equipment, clothing and accessories available and permitted to be used/worn in a raw powerlifting competition can be quite overwhelming and pretty expensive. There is in actual fact, only a few things that can be considered essential for your first competition:
Singlet – Regardless of how ridiculous and exposed they may make you feel, you cannot compete without one and it is best to wear a cotton t-shirt underneath this. You’ll commonly see guys remove their t-shirt for deadlift and I have read that this is to reduce friction between the lats and triceps…and to make the them feel sexy! I’m not sure that either reason will have a massive bearing on how much you can pull on the day, but it is still pretty common (confession time…I am one of those guys!).
Long Socks – Any regular deadlifter with a half decent technique will have experienced bloody shins at least once. Long socks are an actual requirement in many feds but regardless, it would be a good idea to have long socks to prevent you from bleeding all over the bar in competition.
Flat, Stable and Grippy Shoes – These are paramount and a good example is a pair of Converse All Stars. Unlike your average cushioned running trainer, these will not absorb the force you try to put through the floor and allow you to effectively drive away from the floor in all three lifts and push your knees out without your feet slipping. You will see many lifters with various types and brands of weightlifting shoe for squats and bench press and deadlift boots or slippers for deadlift. The choice to wear these will depend very much upon individual anthropometry and technique and may be more advantageous for certain individuals. However, I wouldn’t say they are absolutely necessary for your first competition if you haven’t already got them or been wearing them.
All of the above I’d suggest is the bare minimum you need for your first competition. If you are on a budget or brand new to the sport and not yet sure if it’s for you, this is all you will need. If you have a bit more skin in the game, then below are three additional items I would say are very beneficial and worth investing in:
Lifting Belt – A good lifting belt if used properly, can improve your performance by aiding you to lift more weight. Some people may think otherwise or have different opinions but without going into the ins and outs of why a belt is beneficial, all you need to do is look at the vast majority of the strongest lifters around. They all wear a lifting belt. Therefore, if you’re going to compete in powerlifting I would advise getting a belt and learning how to utilise it effectively for training and competing. If you want to use it for your first competition, I’d advise using it in training at the very least 4 weeks before competition day.
Wrist Wraps – These quite simply help to stabilise the wrist joint, helping lifters to more effectively handle heavy loads. They are very useful for the bench press but you will also see lifters wearing them for the squat too. Although the bar is supported by the back, there is a certain amount of force being transferred to the wrists during a heavy back squat and wrist wraps can make these loads a lot more comfortable to handle. Very worth getting in my opinion.
Knee Sleeves – Finally, these are probably the least essential, especially for your first competition but I find them very useful. Unlike knee wraps, they don’t provide you with assistance as such however, many lifters will try to fit into the smallest sleeves they can in attempt to get some sort of assistance. What is for sure, is that the compression provided by knee sleeves acts to increase blood flow to the knees. This has been said to help reduce and prevent pain in the knee, aid with recovery, limit patella movement, and increase proprioception (the central nervous systems ability to monitor and feel the position of a joint in space). In any case, they are permitted in all federations and it is not bank busting to buy a pair, so if there is even the smallest chance they will aid performance, recovery and/or protect you from injury then to me it seems well worth at least giving them a try.
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT…WELCOME TO POWERLIFTING!
The great thing I have found out about the the powerlifting community is that it is made up of an incredibly interesting, diverse and supportive bunch of people. On the whole it is an individual sport where the most competitive lifters are setting out to win titles and medals however, you are also always competing with and trying to better yourself. The beauty of the sport is that every single lifter shares the common goal striving to lift more and set PB’s and being amongst so many like-minded individuals constantly pushes and motivates you to do better.
Once you have decided on your federation, pick a competition that leaves you with enough time to prepare for it, probably at least 4-6 weeks away but this will depend on your previous training history and experience. There are obvious benefits from working with a good coach or an experienced friend but either way, train hard, train smart, then make friends and enjoy the experience. Once it’s over, eat, rest, recover and evaluate. It takes a certain positive and determined attitude and mindset to keep going and progressing in powerlifting.
HAVE YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES?