Off Canvas




It’s meet day! You have prepared for everything that would lead up to this point. You’ve followed your program (100% I hope), you’ve done your research, and the only thing left to do is to show what you have worked for! Well. Now what? 

In this article I’m going to address all of the basic information about the expectations going into your first meet. This will include: Check-in process, Equipment check, Weigh-in process, commands for the main lifts, and day-of nutrition. At the end of the article you will find my own tips that I give to myself and other lifters.


Checking In

Before the equipment checks, the weigh-ins, rack heights, and pigging out on the all-you-can-eat restaurants, lifters participating in the meet must check in. Within the check in, the meet director or referees running the meet would ask for a valid driver’s license/state identification and an up-to-date federation membership card (in whatever federation that you are competing in). Checking in insures that you, the lifter, would have official numbers within the federation data-base. Every successful attempt you do will add to your current total or the total in that specific meet. Members that break records would have their names put on the official site. For your first meet, getting your name into the system would allow you to keep track of your progress within the sport.

After validation for IDs and membership, the meet director or referee will check your equipment for approval. 


Equipment Check

The equipment check should be the FIRST priority a few days before your weigh-in day. Equipment must be approved by your federation to have a standard and fairness with other lifters. Using non-approved gear can result in non-usage in a meet.

Depending on the federation, there are specifications for the approved equipment that can be found in the individual rule books and the approved equipment list. 


  • Mandatory list of equipment:
    • Shoes- any shoe, boot, or deadlift slippers
    • Singlet
    • Cotton, Polyester, or Cotton-Polyester Blend Shirt
    • Deadlift Socks- Socks that cover the top of the calf
    • Sports Bra (Women)
    • Underwear- NOT boxers or briefs


  • Optional approved equipment:
    • Wrist Wraps
    • Knee Sleeves or Knee Wraps (Classic Raw)
    • Bandana/Headbands
    • Single ply squat or deadlift suit (Single/Multiply lifting)
    • Bench Shirt (Single/Multiply Lifting)
    • Belt- 10mm or 13mm thickness, prong or lever
    • Elbow Sleeves
    • Shin Guards



Just like combat sports or any sports that require weigh-ins, there are different weight classes depending on the federation you signed up to compete in. Depending on the federation, there are different times that you can weigh in. Weigh-ins are crucial to time for a beginner to allow for the most optimal recovery while still keeping your head into the game. For example, two main powerlifting federations in the United States are: United State Powerlifting Association (USPA) and the United States of America PL (USAPL). 

Within the USPA, the weigh-in times are usually a 24-hour weigh in. This can be beneficial to the lifter to allow for more recovery and increase energy storage and output during the meet day. In contrast, the USAPL weigh-ins are a 2-hour weigh in. Although this is a shorter time frame between weigh-ins and lifting, this would allow for a more equal opportunity for competition. We will discuss this in later parts of this series.



  • Tips for weigh-ins:


    • Don’t cut for your first meet! Go up/maintain the same weight class. Get your experience first!
    • Eat carbs to replenish your energy levels. Fast carbs/easily digestible carbs are the way to go for the energy to be used right away.
    • If you had to do a slight water cut, make sure you drink your electrolytes to replenish your water intake and ion intake.


Flight List

The flight list is based on: weight class and attempt selection. After check-ins/weigh-ins, the flight list will be posted the day of the meet. There is a set number of lifters per day (depending on the size of the event), and typically a max of 15 lifters per flight. There are multiple flights per day that start with ascending order of weight classes- multiple weight classes can be in the same flight. 

Walking into meet day, the flight list is a tool where you can time your warm-ups accordingly. Timing your warm-ups would depend on the how fast the competition is going and position you are in the flight list. In part two, I will explain some tips and tricks where you can use it to your advantage.

How it works during meet day: if there are scheduled 3 flights on that day, the fights would go in order from A-C. All flights must go in order for each individual lift- A->C squats then it resets back to flight A for bench. 


Some tips that I use for all my lifters and my own meet days are:

  • Start your mobility/stability drills at the end of the first attempts of the flights before-hand (May depend on how heavy you’re going for your opener)
  • Start getting onto the bar halfway of 2nd attempts
  • If you’re later down the flight list, your last warm-up should be at the start of your flight
  • During your last few singles, practice commands.


The Commands for Squat, Bench, Deadlift

Not matter what federation you may be under, there are certain commands and standards that you are going to be judged on. There are objective measures that the referees of the competition are looking for for each of these lifts. In probably every local meet you go to, there will always be multiple lifts throughout the day that would be considered a “no lift” because the lifter jumped a command. During training sessions and during met-day warm-ups, you should be practicing these commands. 

 To get your lift to be approved, these commands that must be followed:


Squat: 2 Commands



Bench: 3 Commands



Deadlift: 1 Command



“Why hasn’t the head ref said the command yet?” 

The head referee is looking at how the lifter has the complete control of the lift before, during, and after. During squats, the referee would call SQUAT only when the lifter has locked knees, stable bar control, and no movement of the feet.

During the bench, when lifted off onto the start position, the bar must be motionless and shown control. To receive the PRESS command, the lifter must show full control of the bar (no bouncing or movement on chest) with a complete pause to the chest. The RACK command is given when the lifter has full lockout of the elbows and has a leveled bar position.

In the deadlift, once the lifter has full control and lockout of the knees after completing the lift, the referee will call out the DOWN command.


What the Refs Are Looking For

Yeah, we can all squat, bench, and deadlift, but how can we properly execute the lift and get those sweet, white lights? For the squat, the main focus is most likely the depth of the squat. On the major federations, the referees are looking for a depth that the TOP SURFACE OF THE THIGH (at the hip joint)  is lower than the TOP OF KNEE (not the hip crease).

For bench, the lifter must perform the lift with a stable start position, a motionless pause position, and a full lockout of the elbows. Buttocks coming off the bench, feet coming off the floor, or an uneven lockout would disqualify you from the attempt.

On deadlifts, the main execution whether it be sumo or conventional would be a firm lockout of the knees. Mistakes can include ramping of the bar to the thighs (bouncing the weight up the thigh), soft knees (soft lockout), or stumbling at the lockout or coming off the floor. 


Common Mistakes When Given A “Bad Lift”

Cool, you finished your lift, executed your commands, and racked the bar, however, when looking at the lights, you saw two red and one white on the board. The referees are there to judge your lift that must be executed perfectly. I still have trouble with some of the faults.


Downward movement

A common mistake that the refs may give you red lights for is the “downward movement” command. WIth all three lifts, the execution must be one smooth motion before given the rack or down commands. In all the main lifts, if the BAR shows any downward motion and while readjusting form right out of the hole and locking the lift out, there would be a red light. Try to push the weight as hard as you can, if there is a minor tweak in the form during the lift, try not to compensate by dipping up and down but pushing through the form itself. For example, my problem with the DL bars in the USPA is the bar whip gets me for my speed, i would compensate the whip by slowing my explosiveness down, and exaggerating my lockout so the bar would not whip forward.



During the squats, I see lifters get white lights for depth often. This is best trained outside of the competition setting, of course, however having a lighter opener should show the referees “hey, this guy can hit depth. I ain’t worried too much about him/her.” 


Rack Command

Another mistake I see during the squat and bench is jumping the rack command. After executing a dope lift, it’s diminishing seeing red lights because you jumped the gun too early for your rack command. In this case, wait until the spotters/loaders to do the work for you. It’s their job to get you safely into that rack.


Butt Lift (off the bench, not silicone)

Probably my most done mistake in some of my RPE 10 attempts is my butt lifting off the bench. In the rulebook, the bottockss must maintain contact with the bench throughout the whole lift. Something that I struggle with is the timing and intensity of leg drive and transferring power from my legs to the traps. A tip that was taught to me was to PUSH my body BACK and driving my arch higher onto my traps.



Ramping is the bar getting stuck at mid-thigh level of the deadlift and the bouncing of the bar on the thighs while coming up. This can be due to the fact of a weaker lockout, too much rounding of the back, or the bar path was too close to the body. One tip that I would give, is instead of PULLING the bar off the ground, imagine PUSHING through the ground with your quads and glutes. 


Meet-Day Nutrition

I am probably the last person to go to for nutritional advice, however, with my 5+ experience competing, nothing beats an unhealthy lifestyle on meet day. During the meet fast digestive carbs, sugary foods, candy, electrolyte drinks, and the occasional whiskey-and-deadlifts are a common sight. 

  • Waking up on meet day, you should be eating a normal breakfast just like you have been doing during your training prep. Why change up?
  • Fast carbs keeps your energy levels at bay competing at maximal lifts for the whole meet. My go-to is definitely rice crispy treats, but any form of rice, bread, and sugar are good.
  • If you’re cramping, keep some electrolytes in you by drinking some Pedialyte, eating saltier foods (still need to replenish that water), and keeping some bananas at bay.
  • Recovery is important, between big flight breaks I’d eat a real meal that would be 75% carbs to keep me slightly fueled up for the day.
  • Caffeine intake is probably the highest I’ll hit for the whole year. I average around 1200mg of caffeine before my day is over. HIGHLY NOT RECOMMENDED but stimuli is a big thing for me.


My Own Tips and Tricks

  • A week out you must have positive thoughts and feelings. Yeah, obviously life gets in the way, however, taking only positive things in life and the environment around you is KEY to success on meet day.
  • Do your own equipment check a day before check-ins. You don’t want to miss anything on your approved list.
  • DON’T CHANGE ANY FORM/WARMUP ON MEET DAY! What’s the point for practicing it for 16 weeks and in one day you wanna switch to a different style of lift? PRACTICE WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DOIN' DON’T BE CHANGING NOTHIN’
  • Make sure you time your warm-ups accordingly, I’d rather be slightly early, then rushing onto the platform only to have a 30second break between my last warm-up and my first attempt.
  • Keep an eye on the flight list on the screen. It changes every time an attempt goes up. Plan your mental psych-ups.
  • Carb up the night before, this will help you get your energy levels high. Maintain that throughout the meet day.
  • Bring headphones! Listen the music you want to listen to to get you psyched up.
  • Balls-to-the-walls on deadlifts…