How-To Become a Powerlifter


So you are interested in Powerlifting, but do not know how to get started in the sport.  Fret not, I have you covered in this step-by-step guide!

Step 1:  Chose a Powerlifting Federation

There are 33 major Powerlifting federations in the United States of America.  USA Powerlifing (USAPL) and United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) are two of the biggest among them.  Rules vary slightly from federation to federation.  Major differences to consider include…  

  1. Weigh Ins.  


    • Does that federation have 24-hour or 2-hour weigh-ins?  Powerlifters compete within designated weight classes.  Making weight can be the difference in earning a medal or not.
    • A 24-hour weigh-in allows for maximum recovery after water cutting.  It is not uncommon for Lifters to cut 15-20lbs before weigh-ins.  After weighing in, they can eat all day and get a full night of rest. Lifters who compete in these federations are often weigh several pounds more than what they weighed in at.
    • A 2-hour weigh-in does not allow lifters to cut weight as aggressively without risking severe strength loss on competition day.  Lifters who compete in these federations are competing true to what they weighed in at.
  2. Drug Testing.


    • Do I want to be subject to drug testing?
    • Some Federations drug stringently with on site drug testing, scheduled, and random drug testing.  On the other end of the spectrum, there are federations that do drug test at all.
    • If setting a State, American, or World Record is your goal; drug-tested records are considered more prestigious.
  3. Deadlift.

    Author David Lugo Deadlifting 600.8lbs
    • Do you want to pull on a Deadlift bar?
    • A Deadlift bar has a smaller circumference than the standard Powerlifting barbell.  This allows the lifter to maintain a better grip on the bar since they can fit more of their hand around it.
    • Coupled with the smaller circumference, the Deadlift bar is nearly a foot longer.  This allows the lifter to “pull the slack out” of the bar because it bends before it the plates leave the ground.
  4. Monolift.

    Powerlifter Dan Green preparing to Squat out of a Monolift


    • Do I want to walk out my Squat?
    • A Monolift is a special type of Squat rack that utilizes a mechanical hinge to hold the barbell.  This allows the lifter to preform the squat once the hinge is disengaged, without having to walk out the weight.  This is popular among many equipped Powerlifters because of how tight they wrap their knees and how thick their multi-ply Squat suits are.
    • Walking out a Squat is considered to be more difficult, hence federations that require the lifter to do so are considered more prestigious.

weightlifting (2)

Step 2:


Powerlifting Wrist Wraps Review

The Best Powerlifting Wrist Wraps

I’ve owned several pairs of wrist wraps over the course of my years lifting weights.  This review is opinion based on my own experience with these products.  Two of the wrist wraps I am reviewing I have competed with.  Each product is rated on Comfort, Appearance, Cost, and Durability on a scale of one to three.

Major Takeaways

What is Good: SBD Flexible Wrist Wraps, Titan THP Wrist Wraps, and Nordic Lifting Wrist Wraps.

What is Bad:  Harbinger Redline Wrist Wraps

Overall Suggestion:  SBD Flexible Wrist Wraps

The Breakdown

1. Harbinger Redline Wrist Wraps


Harbinger Fitness products are made in China and India.  The Harbinger Red Line Wrist Wrap only comes in the 18″ size.


This wrist wrap is not made for Powerlifting.  It is too short and does not allow the wearer to wrap the wrist joint as tight as a longer wrap would allow.  This wrap is made for the “dude-bros” who wear wrist wraps their entire workout as an accessory instead of a useful piece of equipment.


Not much variety here.  This wrap also comes in black and pink.  They are plain and uninteresting.

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These are extremely inexpensive wrist wraps.  They can be purchased for $12 USD.  You can find these wraps at most sporting good stores and even at Walmart.


These wraps are not made to last.  The pair I had lasted two weeks before the thumb loop became loose.  The loop broke a week later.


2. Nordic Lifting Wrist Wraps


Nordic Lifting does not list the country of origin on their website.  The Nordic Lifting Wrist Wrap only comes in the 14″ size.


These wraps are even shorter than the Harbinger Red Line Wrist Wrap.  They do not offer enough material to wrap a wrist appropriately for Powerlifting.

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Kudos to Nordic for offering a large variety of colors and patterns  These include camouflage, cheetah print, flames, and skulls.  You would be hard-pressed to find a more stylish set of wrist wraps.

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Nordic sells their wrist wraps in sets of two. It is pretty much buy-one-get-one-free! Two pairs can be purchased for $19.99-$24.97 USD.  These wraps are sold exclusively on


These wraps do not last long.  I have had each pair last less than three months.  I guess that may be why they throw in an extra pair.  For what it is worth, they do come with a 1-year warranty.

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3. Titan THP Wrist Wraps


The Titan THP Wrist Wrap is made in the USA.  It comes in 12″, 19.5″, 24″, and 36″ sizes. I wore these for my first Powerlifting competition.

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These wraps are very uncomfortable for the first two to three weeks of use.  They feel almost “cast-like” until they are broken in.  Once broken in, the wrap is much more comfortable.  These wraps do a great job keeping the wrist joint in place.

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The Titan THP only comes in this color scheme.  Titan Support Systems does offer other wraps that come in black / orange, black / silver / blue, black / red / yellow, and white / red color schemes.

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The Titan THP retails for $21-$33 USD depending on size.  They are currently on sale for $15-$23 USD.  Titan Support Systems products are availible for purchase on thier website and other popular Powerlifting websites such as,, and

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The Titan THP lasted me eight months before they began to deteriorate to the point of needing replacement.  My thumb loop stretched out and began to come apart at the seams.  Titan Support Systems offers a six-month guarantee on their products.

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4. SBD Flexible Wrist Wraps


SBD products are made in Great Britain.  The SBD wrist wraps come in three sizes; small (40cm), medium (60cm), and large (1m).  I have owned a pair of these wraps for 10 months, in which time they have been worn for two Powerlifting competitions.

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This wrap feels great.  Since they are flexible, they conform to the contours of your wrist. They are comfortable from the day they are opened from the package.

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Every pair of SBD wrist wraps is red and black which is one of my favorite color schemes.  Unfortunately, they do not offer any other color schemes.


This is one of the most expensive wrist wraps on the market.  They retail for $47.99 USD.  SBD products are sold exclusively through

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The SBD wrist wrap is extremely durable.  After 10 months of use, they are still in great condition. The thumb loops have maintained their integrity even after being run through a washing machine five times.

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The SBD Wrist Wraps are the best wraps money can buy.  They may be the most expensive, but the quality and durability are well worth what you spend.  Purchasing one pair of these is cheaper than frequently replacing less expensive wraps.  While it would be nice to have color scheme options, the red and black is visually appealing.


Powerlifting How-To-Gifs

Setting Up The Squat

Unracking the Weight Properly.

  • Plant your heels side by side underneath your shoulders.
  • Squeeze your glutes.
  • Lock your knees.

Unrack (2)

Chad Wesley Smith unracking 725lbs / 328kg.

Walking Out With the Weight.

  • Take one step backward on your dominate leg.
  • Step backward with your other leg.
  • Angle your toes into your squat position.


Chad Wesley Smith walking out 725lbs / 328kg.

Breathe and Brace.

  • Maintain a neutral spine position.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Brace your abdominal muscles against your belt.


David Lugo attempting a 501lb / 227.5kg Squat

Setting Up The Bench Press

Drive Your Shoulders, not Your Back.

  • Grab the barbell.
  • Step onto the Bench.
  • Drive your Trapezius muscles into the Bench.


Shawna driving her shoulders into the Bench

Set up Your Grip.

  • Place the bar over your wrist joint, not your palm.
  • Wrap your index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers around the bar.
  • Wrap your thumb around the bar last if preferred or required to do so.


David Lugo setting up his hands to perform a doubled banded Bench Press.

Feet to Floor.

  • Bring your feet to the floor as close to your shoulders as you can.
  • Plant your butt on the Bench.
  • Retract your Scapula (shoulder blades).


Emily Lilly setting up to Bench Press 225lbs / 102.5kg

Setting up The Deadlift

Make a Chalk Cloud and Get Hyped.

  • Cover your hands with an excessive amount of chalk.
  • Clap your hands together to make a cloud.
  • Approach the barbell with a hyped up routine.


Larry Wheels chalking up and approaching the barbell

Feet Work.

  • Center your body with the barbell.
  • Align your feet underneath your shoulders and perpendicular to the bar.
  • The middle of your feet should be beneath the barbell.


David Lugo preparing to Deadlift 600lbs / 272.5kg. Also waddling like a Penguin.

Driving and Tucking.

  • Drive your hips downward.
  • Rotate your elbows inward.
  • Bring your shoulders backward.


Johnnie Candito demonstrating how to perform the Deadlift


The Top 3 Ways Powerlifting is Different from Strongman and Bodybuilding.

Powerlifting, Strongman, and Bodybuilding all involve lifting weights.  Powerlifting and Strongman perform some of the same events, such as the Squat and the Deadlift.  Bodybuilders are widely known for their love of the Bench Press.  Mondays are known by many gym goers as “International Chest Day” thanks to them.  While there are plenty of similarities, the major differences between each sport arise in competition standards, rules, and judging.

(Featured Image is of Ray Williams Squatting 1052lbs / 477kg Setting a World Record)


1.  Three Events Opposed to Five or Six

Halfthor Bjornsson Pulling a Plane at World’s Strongest Man 2016

Powerlifting has three events; the Squat, the Bench Press, and the Deadlift, for maximal lifts.  Strongman contests have five to six events.  Strongman events consist of Squatting, Deadlifting, Clean and Press, Carrying, Loading, and Pulling or Flipping.  On top of that, each of those Strongman events can be different!  The Log Press, Axel Bar Press, and Circus Dumbbell Press are all considered Clean and Press events.  Flipping events could be a Keg Toss through a goal post or heavy Tire flips.

Aside from the Arnold Strongman Classic, Strongman contests typically have outdoor events, with some contests taking place entirely outdoors.  I would imagine that it would be pretty difficult to fit an 18-wheeler inside for the Truck Pull event.  World’s Strongest Man typically holds their events on beaches.  Additionally, outdoor contests are held rain-or-shine.  Most Powerlifting events are held inside.  Some federations like the IPF (International Powerlifting Federation) are even more specific, regulating that all lifts must be performed on a carpeted surface.

2.  Performance Guidelines with Scoring

Judges look on as Zydrunas Savickas Log Presses 452lbs / 205kg

In Powerlifting competitions, the lifter has 60 seconds to receive the start command from the head judge and make a single attempt.  If the lifter does not make it in time, they will receive three red lights (no lift).  Each lifter has three attempts on each lift and the performance guidelines are the same for every competition within the same Powerlifting federation.  The best lift from each event is recorded and is added together to form the lifter’s total.  If a lifter had a 400lb Squat, a 300lb Bench Press, and a 500lb Deadlift, their total would be 1200lbs for the competition.  The lifters total and body weight is plugged into a formula called the WILKS formula.  The lifter with highest WILKS score wins.

Strongman competitors are given a start command and have 60 seconds to make up three attempts at a lift.  If it is a carry event, the lifter has 60 seconds to go as far as they can with the load.  Strongman events are judged on maximal lifts, maximal reps, or maximal distance.  Competitors earn points for each event.  1st – 8th place finishes are awarded points from eight down to one toward their total.  This means that winner of the competition does not even have to come in 1st in any event to win!

The same event can differ from competition to competition.   For instance, two different Strongman contests could have the Deadlift as an event.  In one contest, the lifters are judged on who can lift the most weight a single time, just like Powerlifting.  In the other contest, the lifters are judged on who can lift a specified weight the most times.  So a heavyweight class would be judged on who could lift 500lbs / 226kg for the most reps.

3.  Relaxed Rules

Strongman Eddie Hall Deadlifting 1020lbs / 463kg

The rules in Strongman are far more relaxed than Powerlifting.  Powerlifters have strict gear and uniform standards to adhere to.  The IPF is one of the strictest Powerlifting Federations.  They do not allow lifters to wear attire that is not on an approved gear list.  Some rules include, “your singlet (lifting suit) may not touch your knee sleeves, you must wear deadlift socks,  you must wear a t-shirt to Bench Press.”  They even regulate the type of underwear a lifter is allowed to wear (seriously).

Strongman competitors have gear standards to adhere to as well.  Belts, wrist wraps, and sleeves must meet specifications.  Attire, on the other hand, is a different story.  Competitors can wear almost anything they want as long as it is not offensive and does not give them a competitive advantage.  Many Strongman competitors go shirtless, barefoot for the Deadlift, and some even wear kilts for the fun of it


1.  Bodybuilders Spend a lot of Time in Front of the Mirror

Arnold Schwarzenegger Peforming Dumbbell Curls Facing a Mirror

Powerlifters are encouraged to face away from the mirror.  That is right, do not look at yourself in the mirror to judge squat depth.  Focusing on yourself in a mirror is distracting, slows your reaction time, and can lead to injury.  You will not be lifting in front of a mirror in a Powerlifting competition either.  A better way to confirm that you are squatting to depth is by recording your lift from a side angle.  Front judges do not judge lifters for depth anyhow, that is what the side judges are for.

Bodybuilders utilize mirrors a great deal.  Aside from taking selfies for their Instagram followers, they practice posing and their elaborate stage routines.  Mirrors are also used to gauge muscle symmetry.  Bodybuilders monitor themselves while performing Dumbbell and Cable exercises in order maintain equal ranges of motion, facilitating muscle symmetry.

2.  On Competition Days Bodybuilders are Weak

Which One is Not Like the Others

This is not a jab at Bodybuilders.  Powerlifters train to be at their strongest on competition day.  They phrase, “Eat to perform” is taken literally.  Immediately after weigh-ins Powerlifters “carb-load” (consume foods rich in carbohydrates) in order to have the energy for competition.  Powerlifting meets are five to nine-hour long.  Typically a lifter will have an hour from his last Squat to his first Bench Press.  The same gap of time or longer from their last Bench Press to their first Deadlift.  In the time they are not lifting, they are eating to have energy for the next event.

Bodybuilders, on the other hand, compete at their weakest.  That is because unlike Powerlifters, Bodybuilders are competing based on their aesthetics, not strength.  Contest preparation for them involves intentional dehydration and dietary restrictions decreasing carbohydrate, sodium, and water intake up until the moment they step on stage.  They want to be at their absolute leanest when being judged. Most do not eat during a competition.  Bodybuilders are notorious for having food, such as boxes of gourmet donuts, waiting backstage for them to be devoured the moment the awards ceremony is over with.

3.  Winning is Based on the Opinion of the Judges

Dana Lynn Bailey winning the Olympia Women’s Physique 2014

Another huge difference is how the contests are judged.  In Powerlifting, if a lift meets all of the performance guidelines (squat to depth, pause on the Bench Press, etc) the lift will be good.  Best lifter awards and 1st through 3rd placements are based on how much someone weighs and how much they lift.  It is pretty simple.

Bodybuilders can not do anything to outperform another competitor on contest day.  The physique they bring on the stage comes from their months of training and strict diet regimen.  Some claim that there is “political bias” at the highest level of the sport and having certain athletes winning over others is more lucrative for the sport.  Whether that is true or not, the outcome of a Bodybuilding contest is the judges opinion of the physique the contestants bring to the stage.

Ronnie Coleman is a Legend in Powerlifting, Strongman, Bodybuilding. He has Numerous Awards and Even His Own Contest, The Ronnie Coleman Classic.

The differences between Powerlifting, Strongman, and Bodybuilding vary from fairly minor to drastic.  Those differences allow the sports to cater to competitors with different interests.  Not everyone who enjoys lifting weights competitively wants to be a Powerlifter.  If you enjoy strength training and lifting heavy, but doing the same three events bores you, Strongman might be for you.  If enjoy lifting weights but you care about “looking good” more than strength alone, Bodybuilding might be right up your alley.  There are people who do all three!  Having fun with the sport you do is more important than any differences between them.



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