A Beginner's Guide on How to Powerlifting

black adjustable-weight barbell

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Powerlifting is a strength sport that involves three main lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. It focuses on developing maximum strength and is popular among individuals looking to build muscle, increase their overall strength, and compete in powerlifting competitions. If you're new to powerlifting and interested in learning how to get started, this beginner's guide will provide you with the essential information to kickstart your powerlifting journey.

Understanding Powerlifting

Powerlifting is a competitive sport where athletes compete to lift the heaviest weight possible in the three main lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. The goal is to achieve a one-rep max (1RM) in each lift, which represents the maximum weight an individual can lift for a single repetition with proper form. Powerlifting competitions are organized at various levels, ranging from local to international, and offer opportunities for both novice and experienced lifters to showcase their strength.

Equipment Needed

To begin your powerlifting journey, you'll need the following equipment:

  1. Weightlifting Shoes: Investing in weightlifting shoes is beneficial as they provide stability, support, and a solid base for lifting.

  2. Powerlifting Belt: A powerlifting belt is worn to provide stability and support to the lower back during heavy lifts, such as squats and deadlifts.

  3. Wrist Wraps: Wrist wraps offer additional support and stability to the wrists during heavy pressing movements, like bench presses.

  4. Knee Sleeves: Knee sleeves provide compression and support to the knees, especially during squats and heavy leg movements.

  5. Chalk: Chalk is commonly used to improve grip by reducing sweat and enhancing friction between the hands and the barbell.

  6. Barbell and Weights: You'll need access to a barbell and weights to perform the three main lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Basic Lifts and Techniques


The squat is a compound exercise that targets the muscles of the lower body, primarily the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Here's a breakdown of the squat technique:

  1. Position the barbell on your upper back, resting it on your traps or rear delts.

  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, toes pointed slightly outward.

  3. Keep your chest up, engage your core, and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.

  4. Bend at the hips and knees, lowering your body down while keeping your weight on your heels.

  5. Descend until your thighs are parallel to the ground or lower, ensuring your knees track in line with your toes.

  6. Drive through your heels and push the barbell upward to return to the starting position.

Bench Press

The bench press targets the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Here's a breakdown of the bench press technique:

  1. Lie flat on a bench with your feet flat on the ground and your back and head in contact with the bench.

  2. Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your palms facing away from you.

  3. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, drive your shoulder blades into the bench, and maintain a slight arch in your lower back.

  4. Lower the barbell to your chest under control, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body.

  5. Push the barbell back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows.


The deadlift primarily targets the muscles of the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Here's a breakdown of the deadlift technique:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and the barbell over the middle of your feet.

  2. Bend down, hinge at the hips, and grip the barbell just outside your shins, using either a conventional or sumo stance.

  3. Brace your core, keep your back flat, and your chest up as you prepare to lift.

  4. Drive through your heels, extend your hips, and lift the barbell, keeping it close to your body.

  5. Stand tall, fully extending your hips and knees, and then lower the barbell back down under control.

Training and Progression

To progress in powerlifting, it's important to follow a structured training program and gradually increase the weight you lift over time. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Set Goals: Set specific and achievable goals for each of the three main lifts and track your progress.

  2. Start with Proper Form: Focus on mastering proper form and technique before increasing the weight.

  3. Warm Up: Always warm up before each lifting session to prepare your muscles and joints for the work ahead.

  4. Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the weight you lift by small increments, aiming to challenge yourself while maintaining proper form.

  5. Rest and Recovery: Allow adequate rest and recovery between training sessions to avoid overtraining and promote muscle growth.

  6. Nutrition and Hydration: Fuel your body with a balanced diet that provides adequate protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Stay hydrated to support performance and recovery.

  7. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's signals and adjust your training as needed to avoid injury and optimize progress.

Participating in Powerlifting Competitions

If you're interested in competing in powerlifting, here are some steps to get started:

  1. Research Competitions: Look for local powerlifting competitions and familiarize yourself with the rules and requirements.

  2. Join a Powerlifting Federation: Choose a powerlifting federation that aligns with your goals and values and become a member.

  3. Select the Right Weight Class: Determine the weight class that suits your body and goals. Each federation has specific weight classes for competition.

  4. Prepare and Train: Follow a structured training program designed to prepare you for competition. Work on your technique, strength, and meet-specific preparation.

  5. Register for a Competition: Once you feel ready, register for a local powerlifting competition and pay the entry fee.

  6. Compete and Have Fun: On competition day, stay focused, perform your best, and enjoy the experience. Remember, competing is an opportunity to showcase your progress and connect with the powerlifting community.

Safety Considerations

Safety is paramount in powerlifting. Here are some safety considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Warm Up: Always warm up properly before each lifting session to prevent injuries.

  2. Use Spotters: When attempting heavy lifts, have a spotter present to assist you and ensure your safety.

  3. Listen to Your Body: If you experience pain or discomfort during a lift, stop immediately and assess the situation.

  4. Proper Progression: Gradually increase the weight you lift and focus on maintaining proper form throughout each lift.

  5. Recovery and Rest: Allow your body sufficient time to recover between training sessions to prevent overuse injuries and promote overall well-being.