Top Ten Novice Powerlifter Mistakes

Create: 05/06/2007 - 12:19
USAPL member Matthew Gary pens what he considers are the top ten mistakes novice powerlifters make and offers suggestions on how to counter them.

Experience and wisdom are far more precious than strength. In powerlifting, experience and wisdom often translate to smarter training, fewer injuries, bigger lifts, and a better overall competitive experience. Contrary to popular belief, the USAPL and most other powerlifting federations are built upon the membership and success of their local, grassroots lifters. The elite level lifters are rare and precious commodities. Consequently, it is vitally important for novice lifters to be successful in their first few outings. A positive first experience will encourage lifters to stay active in their organization and continue to compete for years to come. Unfortunately, many lifters have a terrible first competition experience. They walk away from powerlifting disappointed and discouraged and left wondering what went wrong. Missed attempts and bad experiences often dissuade competitors from competing again.

Go into their first meet blindly:

This is the root of most novice powerlifters’ problems. Most people only think they know what powerlifting is, but I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked, “Is that what they do in the Olympics?” Even more fail to realize that a competition squat must be taken to proper depth (crease of the hip joint below the top of the knee), a competition bench press must be paused (held motionless on the chest), and a deadlift must be lifted to a fully erect position (knees locked, shoulders back, hips through). Consequently, the rules of performance for the competitive lifts are often misunderstood completely. Additionally, novices don’t know what to wear and what constitutes proper lifting attire. I’ve actually seen lifters bend over for their deadlift wearing gloves and using lifting straps. People fail to realize what the round system is and how it’s used to organize a meet.

Use gear to soon:

People automatically take an economic principle like “more disposable income is better” and apply it to powerlifting as in “lifting more weight is better.” Lifting more weight is every powerlifter’s goal. However, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of learning proper form and technique, and becoming stronger overall without those aids.

Don't understand the structure of competitions:

Many people who are new to powerlifting don’t understand the organization and flow of a competition. This starts immediately after getting weighed. Novices often don’t pay attention to when their flight starts or where they are within their flight. This is vitally important for your warm up and mental preparation.

Rush their setup:

Many novice lifters run to the bar and have it out of the rack before you can blink. This puts the lifter in an unfavorable position. It also creates a dangerous situation for both the lifter and the spotters. Lifting heavy weights requires precision and focus. Approaching the bar and taking control of the weight too quickly can make the attempt much harder because you’ve now placed additional forces on the bar that weren't there before.

Open too heavy:

This mistake is listed last, but it’s certainly not the least important. Many lifters, especially novices, select an opening attempt that is too heavy. You don’t win with your opening attempts unless you’re Ed Coan. Opening up too heavy requires too much energy and leaves less room for improvement on subsequent attempts. Your opening attempt in each lift, particularly the squat because it’s the very first lift of the day, is the most important lift of all three attempts. Your opener is like the first pitch in a baseball game, the first hit in a football game, or your first shot in basketball. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. More importantly, your opening attempt not only gets you into the meet and builds confidence, but it serves as a stepping stone for the next attempt. Missing your opener only creates uncertainty and stress, and immediately puts you in a hole.


Submitted by paul (not verified) on
Those are all good ailments that amateurs make, another really important is the way they eat!! most powerlifters never get close to their strength because they eat shit, and they wonder why the miss attemps!

Submitted by Thom (not verified) on
Let me add my first meet mistakes. I worked 16 weeks before my first meet 6 days a week. Worked the week of the meet. Did the meet on sat then worked the hole next week and did another meet. Now that was a huge mistake but i didnt know any better. I think another mistake is listening to the wrong people in the gym.

Submitted by Putt Houston on
" you don't win meets with opening attempts unless your Ed Coan" .... LOL! so true... Classic!

The Putt Houston