Girls who powerlift part two: Meet week, gear and rules

Posted by Ellie Hearn in Muscle Building

Estimated reading time: 8mins

Girls who powerlift part two: Meet week, gear and rules

A raw powerlifting competition

The countdown is on, just a few days left ‘til I make my debut on the platform!

But before I get too excited, I thought I’d better explain which competition I entered and why.

The Raw Strength Championships is a local competition here in Hobart and one of Powerlifting Australia’s many meets organised for the year.

Powerlifting Australia (PA) is probably the largest powerlifting federation in Australia hosting drug tested competitions. Recognised by the Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency, PA is also the Australian affiliate of World Powerlifting and the Oceania Powerlifting Federation.

Now, my meet is a raw competition as opposed to an equipped event. This means that only some gear is allowed in competition. While knee sleeves, lifting belts are wrist wraps are allowed, knee wraps and lifting suits are not.

Therefore, it’s considered lifting raw. Tada!

Raw powerlifting involves minimal gear in competition.
Raw powerlifting involves minimal gear in competition.

Are there divisions to compete in?

If you’re wondering how they decide who you’ll be up against for a placing on the day, it all comes down to weight (and gender of course too).

Powerlifting competitions have a series of weight classes for both men and women to work out where each lifter sits. They generally go up in 10kg increments, I am in the under 84kg women’s open class, this is for any female over 72kg and under 84kg. There are also juniors and masters events run by Powerlifting Australia for the younger and older competitors too!

All the gear for powerlifting…

Like most sports, powerlifting involves a fair bit of gear, however, most of it is optional. It really depends on what works for you (and how much your budget can stretch).

Powerlifting Competition Soft Suit

One thing you do need is a competition soft suit. Now, this is an all-in-one singlet suit that isn’t all that sexy looking, but luckily everyone has to wear one so it’s not quite as bad a fashion catastrophe. You will also need a plain coloured t-shirt to wear for the squat and bench at least, this goes underneath the suit.

Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting

These are one of the optional items used in powerlifting. I started using knee sleeves back when I was having patella knee pain. The sleeves keep my knees warm and reduced any pain for me.

To be most effective they need to be tight, and this means they’re often a struggle to get on! Turns out I have quite wide calves (as well as quads) so I couldn’t just borrow my hubby’s medium pair of SBDs… I needed larges as well as learning the skill of getting them on!

Knee sleeves are a must for me but they’re not compulsory in competition.

Here’s what’s going in my gym bag for my comp!
Here’s what’s going in my gym bag for my comp!

Lifting Belt

I have a fresh new teal coloured Pioneer belt and I love it. But really, what’s the benefit of a belt?

Wearing a belt can increase intra-abdominal pressure which helps to create a strong, rigid core that keeps your back safe and stable.

The belt sits nice and tight around your waist and you can easily brace against it to create a rock-solid core. I use my belt for heavy squats and deadlifts.

Wrist Wraps

Another popular piece of gear in powerlifting is wrist wraps. These are optional but can provide some added support in movements that put pressure on the wrists such as the bench press. I find them really useful as my wrists are small and they help keep them strong and stable. Some lifters also use them during low bar squats due to the added strain on wrists.

My pair were really inexpensive and of course have doughnuts on them, what’s new? :D


Finally, we can spice things up with some funky socks! For the squat and bench press socks can’t reach the knee but in the deadlift, they must extend at least up to the mid-shin. I decided on some very cool doughnut socks to wear for the first two lifts (these are the same socks my hubby wore on our wedding day!) and some navy footy socks to wear for my deadlifts. I’m socked up and sorted!

Rules on the day: Calls, Attempts and Referees

Now let’s explain how it all goes down on the day…

The actual lifting

You get three attempts at each of the lifts, which means three squats, three bench presses and three deadlifts. After each successful lift, you need to increase the weight by 2.5kg at a minimum.

If you fail the first or second attempt you have to repeat that same weight and you can’t go down! So choosing a safe opening weight you know you can hit is so important.

Once the announcer calls that the bar is loaded, you have one minute to begin the lift. There are calls or commands given to you by the referees that you need to listen out for too. These calls dictate when you can start and finish and are key for a successful lift.

White lights all around, please!

Dressed in white business shirts, the referees are stationed at three corners of the platform on the day. Refs are there to check the form and make commands. They also have the all-important job of deciding if the lift is good or not by giving either a white or red light. Red means a no lift and white means the lift is good. You need at least two whites for the lift to be counted.

Spotters and loaders

Let’s not forget about the team of hard-working spotters and loaders who load up the bar for each lift, change rack heights and of course spot every lift for ultimate safety. Having spotters on the job for every attempt gives me real peace of mind when maxing out.

A little confused? That’s okay I’ll break down every lift for you…

Spotters are there to make sure you’re safe throughout the entire lift.
Spotters are there to make sure you’re safe throughout the entire lift.

Squat, squat city

To start off the event is the squat! You’ll hear two different commands during the squat.

Once unracked, stepped out and ready to go the head ref will give a ‘squat’ call. From here you need to complete a squat, return to a standing position and lock your knees out. Next, you’ll hear the ‘rack’ call from the head ref and you can move into the rack with the assistance of the spotters.

How much d’ya bench?

Moving onto the bench press there are three calls and a few more technical things to worry about. You need to have your feet planted on the floor throughout the lift as well as your booty, shoulders and head.

So, once you’re all set up on the bench, you can have a lift-off from the spotters or if you’re used to no lift-off you can unrack yourself. This is my choice after training alone most of the time, I’m used to unracking myself.

Now to the calls! First comes the ‘start’ command which means you can start the rep, the ‘press’ call is given once the bar rests motionless on the chest, from here you can start pressing the bar back up. Finally, the ‘rack’ call comes once the lockout is achieved.

Being fairly new to the bench press and especially bench calls, this one has been tricky! The pause on the chest is new to me and it’s taking some practice to nail down.

Pick up the bar and put it back down again

Finally, the mighty deadlift. This one is the easiest of all when it comes to calls at the meet. You basically get out there and lift the bar like a beast! The only call you need to listen out for is the ‘down’ command which will come from the head ref once you’re locked out at the top of the lift.

And that’s a wrap on Part Two! I’ll be back with a post-comp update and hopefully some insights and tips I can pass on to any aspiring powerlifters out there.

group of product images for proteins
group of product images for proteins