If you’re new to powerlifting, you might be wondering if it’s a good time to enter your first competition.

Powerlifting competitions are a lot of fun. Surrounded by friends and family, you get a chance to step out onto the platform, show what you’ve got and crush big lifts as the crowd cheers you on. It can be exciting, and it’s also a little intimidating. For new powerlifters, the question about competing for the first time usually comes down to weight.

How much should you be able to lift before entering a powerlifting competition?

If you ask most seasoned powerlifters, the answer is 45/45/45. Unless you’re planning on winning, nobody is going to be following your weight totals but you. Powerlifters are supportive and friendly people, so you’ll get plenty of fist bumps and back slaps for the effort you put in on the platform. The number on the board isn’t really important.

You’ll notice that powerlifters come in all shapes and sizes. From petite women to teenagers, office workers and senior citizens — powerlifting isn’t just burly guys with big beards and 900 pound deadlifts.

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Thinking about your first powerlifting competition

That all said, setting expectations around powerlifting competitions is important. You’ll find that powerlifting competitions are, physically and mentally, a lot different than just going out and training.

Competitions take you out of your usual rhythm. It’s not business as usual anymore. You have a date circled on the calendar a couple months out, and now you are training for that date. Every training session now has purpose. A lot of people like to compete for this reason — it gives you some urgency to improve with each training session. You’re not just going in and “going through the motions” anymore.

When competition day comes, you’ll also have to deal with physical and mental situations you haven’t been in before. This is why most people will tell you to treat your first competition as another training session. Try to go 9-for-9 on your lifts, have fun and get used to how powerlifting meets work.

Powerlifting meets are chaos. It’s one thing to spend the day sipping water and BCAAs and hit your favorite squat rack for a PR lift after work or class. It’s another to spend the entire day in a gym you’ve never lifted in before, wearing an uncomfortable singlet, hungry and exhausted, warming up on a spare bar the gym had lying around, trying not to warm up too soon before the 60-second call before your first lift.

It’s a lot to deal with. You’ll do better if you set modest weight goals on your first meet. 

Where to enter powerlifting competitions

Interested in trying your first meet? There are a number of different powerlifting federations throughout the United States, and these are the biggest for amateurs:

Each federation runs their competitions a little differently. They have different rules for allowed equipment (belts, sleeves, wraps, etc.), drug testing and form requirements. Competitions also vary on events: Many do “full power,” but some are also push-pull or lift specific.

If you find a competition that you’d like to enter, make sure to read up on the entry requirements, weigh-in dates and cancellation rules in case something comes up. You’ll also be required to buy a license from the federation to enter.