Powerlifting Fundamentals


Powerlifting is a sport which has garnered much notoriety over the past 70 years or so. A former Olympic sport that was slightly different in requirements then as it is now. Today, there are three lifts contested in what is called a “Full Meet”. The squat, the benchpress and the deadlift. Now, there are various organizations and in each there are varying rules. The general premise is each lifter is allowed 3 attempts in each of the three lifts. The lifter with the highest total of all three completed lifts is your winner. Divisions are broken up by gender, weight class, age categories and pro and amateur rankings.

The great thing about powerlifting is that you don’t really have an athletic background, but you really enjoy going to the gym. Or you came from an athletic background and miss the times the coaches had you pushing yourself in ways you didn’t know you were capable of. Or, like me… you are just a strange individual who really enjoys throwing heavy weight around.  Guess what? All of you who nodded in agreement and recognized yourself as being one of these, you qualify to start your powerlifting careers. That’s right, powerlifting is a sport for everyone.  I’ve seen 80-year-old men giving everything they had on the stage and eight-year-old boys showing everyone that they are exceptional. This is a sport you can do casually or work to take yourself to the top of the world and all time rankings.

So there are things you need to know before you compete. So let’s start with the basics. There are 3 major categories in powerlifting.

RAW – This classification varies by federation, so it’s important to look up the rules of the federation you will be competing in.  This classification usual limits the athlete to knee wraps, belt, and wrist wraps.  These items are for protection and are the simplest form of gear used in competitions.

Single Ply – This classification allows all gear above and adds the use of bench shirts, squat suits, and power briefs. These items further protect lifters and also aid in the lifts but not to a huge extent. This type of gear wears out quickly.  Geared lifting definitely is not for a beginner lifter. Spend years of time in the raw category and learn your body and the proper technique for the lift before advancing to this. Develop a solid foundation and knowledge of your lifts and most importantly, how your body responds to each lift as you progressively get stronger.

Multi Ply – This classification allows for all the gear above but adds more material to the squat suit, bench shirts, and power briefs. This allows for further protection, less chance of the gear failing during heavy lifts, and theoretically the most help for the human body. This is typically for the most advanced lifters out there. The men and women in this category are credited with biggest lifts in the sports history. Technique is very critical here as your body has the chance of experiencing the biggest overload.

Now you need to prepare for the big three lifts, the squat, bench, and deadlift. The best way to do that is to find a good lifting partner or partners. Good lifting partners will make all the difference in the world. Having someone knowledgeable will be the biggest plus. But even if you are just starting your journey together, the best in the world in this sport are not a product of themselves. They are a product of countless hours of their training partners pushing them and protecting them from when things go wrong. If you absolutely have to train by yourself the best piece of advice I can give you is to film your lifts. Its 2016 and everyone has a mobile phone that can handle this. This will be critical to adjusting your form, and getting the most out of your body.

Now that you have the basics down its time to choose when and where to compete. For your first powerlifting meet I definitely would choose something local if possible. If that’s not possible a quick google search of your state and powerlifting meets should yield you plenty of results. I suggest this for most people because no matter how much you train or what you have been told, you will still learn a lot at your first meet. You will found out if an audience bothers you and how you perform under pressure. Does the guy with the microphone grate on your nerves? Is knowing the order of when you lift bother you that you can’t focus on visualizing your lift? So while learning all of these things, I believe it’s best to spend the least amount of money possible.

You’ve done all these things and now you are going to compete, and you may be experiencing pre-meet jitters. Is it a lack of confidence because you have never done anything like this, and you’ve seen videos of monstrous lifts people are capable of? Listen, I’ve been in this sport for 16 years. I started out as a child who could barely lift a 45lb bar. Sixteen years later I’ve had 1,125 in my hands. True power does not come overnight. It is a lifetime journey to see what you are capable of. Never lower your head because you are just starting out. Know you accomplished something you had no idea you were capable of achieving and hold your head high. There is no telling what you will be capable of in the future. Your own work ethic will absolutely determine the strength athlete you will become. Take it one step at a time and as one of my former mentors explained to me: “Remember to Always Train Smarter, Not Harder…”


For more info on Shane visit him on Instagram:    @rshammock55


Shane Hammock
Shane Hammock is an APS Nutrition sponsored athlete, world and American record holder & world champion. He began lifting in the gym and eventually landing a coach (at age 12) who guided him to his first meet where he benchpressed a massive 275lbs at age 13 in nothing more than a t-shirt and shorts. Shane has since gone on to become the 6th all-time ranked greatest powerlifter in history. His greatest accomplishments in the Big Three are a 1,125lb squat, an 875lb benchpress and a cool 880lb deadlift.

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