Powerlifting for Beginners

The most important key in being successful in powerlifting is form. No matter what lift you are attempting you must keep a conscientious mind to not cheat; this includes bouncing in the bench, squatting to high, avoiding lockouts in bench and deadlift, bouncing the bar on the floor during reps in the deadlift, and etc. What is the point in getting so far in your lift to sell yourself short by cheating? Execute every lift with perfect form. If you cheated, you got nothing. Zero. It's that simple, because that's what you'd get in a contest.

Primary Lift Techniques

Bench Press

There are two styles in the bench press they are the touch and go and the pause. When training specifically for competition, you have to practice the pause. This is making the bar come to a complete stop touching your chest. In power training not specifically for a contest, its better to move the bigger weights by using a touch and go style. That means you press up as soon as the bar touches the chest, however there is still no bounce or cheat at the bottom! Typically the pause takes 10 lbs off your bench.


Keep the bar a little way down your back. Its might be surprising how far down you have to place the bar to get comfortable, so practice with a light weight until you feel the right place. It should be just below your traps and in the middle of your rear delts.

You have to squat down so that the top of your leg is below parallel to the floor. This is difficult to see, so in effect it is usually taken as the point where the crease of your leg at your hip is lower than your knee. It is always better to be a little lower than necessary in competition. It's not good to get back up, only to be failed on depth.

As you squat down keep your chest up. Look at a point high up in front of you if necessary. If you look down you have probably lost it.

If you have trouble balancing try moving your foot position around a bit. If your heels come off the ground while squatting, you might need a block under your heels or a raised up shoes. Also a slightly wider foot position and moving your toes so that they point out a bit will probably solve the problem.


There are two legal styles, sumo and conventional. In conventional, your feet are together and your hands wider than your feet. The bar comes off the ground easy, but there is a sticking point near the knees where the back is put under tremendous stress in a rounded position. We don't recommend this style as it is more injury prone.

We do recommend sumo, you take a wide stance, and your hands go inside your legs, similar in position to the bottom of a squat. The hips take up much more of the load, and the hard part of the movement is to get the bar off the floor; after that it glides up.

Important note

When doing reps in the deadlift, set the bar down completely at the end of each rep, don't cheat by bouncing it off the floor or cutting the motion short and coming up early. You want every rep to be like a single, otherwise you will be weak in the starting position.


In competition you have to wear a one-piece unitard and whilst bench-pressing a short sleeved t-shirt with it. Shorts and vest etc are not allowed. The reasoning behind this is that the referees can see where your clothing is without it hiding your body.

The best belts are wide up to six inches. In competition you are not allowed padded lumber supports in them, so check yours. You can buy superb expensive lever action belts, but they don't help you lift any more, they are just easier and quicker to get in and out of. So stick with something simple to begin with.

It is best to wear flat stable shoes in training and competition. Normal running shoes are fine to begin with but as the weights get heavier the soles can compress and you lose stability, especially whilst squatting. So something with a thin hard sole is best.

You are allowed to wear elasticated knee wraps. They have to be regulation length (2 metres or under), be careful because as they get older they can stretch and go over length. And wrist wraps, these are like knee wraps only narrower and shorter. These can be useful when bench-pressing but also when squatting. Give them a try and see what you think.

As you progress you might want to try lifting suits and benching shirts. These are very tightly fitting and only slightly elasticated garments. They act in the same way as belts and help to spread the work over more muscles. They allow you to lift a little more weight, but also make things a little safer. However, they are also extremely uncomfortable to use.

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