Powerlifting Competitions are not exactly for everybody, but anyone can turn himself into a great candidate for a powerlifter. The hardest part aren’t only within the training journey of a powerlifter. Instead, there are specific rules that each powerlifter must keep in mind and follow, which is not always easy. In this article, we will be discussing one of the areas that is covered by powerlifting competition rules: the deadlift.
Deadlifting Movement Standards
In a powerlifting competition, you will have three judges checking that you comply with the following motions standards.
A referee’s assessment of your movement criteria may be subjective. One referee may believe you’re locked out, while another may believe your shoulders are rounded and not “back.”
This is why, rather than getting unanimous backing from all officials, you only need a’majority’ of referees (two out of three) to believe the lift was good (three out of three). If you finish the lift and see two or three white lights, the lift was successful. However, if you observe two or three red lights, the lift was defective.
The best way to ensure you pass your lifts in competition is to first understand the movement standards listed below, and then to follow these standards strictly in training. I have a proverb:
In competition, your worst rep in training is your best rep.
If you approach your training with this in mind, you will see white lights when competing. Without further ado, let’s go over the standards in further depth.
This article’s regulations will be based on International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and USA Powerlifting (USAPL) standards. While most powerlifting contests have similar regulations, each federation will have different differences.
The IPF rulebook also specifies what you may and may not wear during competition. Certain brands and models of equipment are permitted. Check out my top choices for powerlifting-approved competition gear.
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- The bar cannot descend farther before reaching its final position.
The bar cannot go downward after you begin the up phase off the floor.
This involves having one side of the bar dip down or the entire bar dip down. If you read my bench press technique rules, you would know that on the bench press, one side of the barbell can dip down and yet be a solid lift. This is not the case with the deadlift. Any downward movement is deemed a failed lift.
Sometimes the bar will slide downward because it will slip in your palm from its starting position. This is why it’s crucial that once you’ve set your grip, it stays fastened to the bar. Please read my article on how to improve your deadlift grip. Other reasons for the bar to drop down include losing your balance, losing mid-back strength, or having the bar come off of you in the mid-range.
Now, I just claimed the bar cannot travel down, but can the bar stop? Yes.
The bar can stop halfway through the range of motion and the lift will still be good as long as the bar continues upward.
- You must stand tall with your shoulders back.
Let’s break this down into two parts: “stand erect” and “shoulders back.”
Standing erect means having your torso straight or perpendicular to the ground. This represents your torso’s final position. This means you don’t have to ‘lean back’ any further than this straight up and down position. Many lifters will lean too far back, and this extra range of motion is simply wasted effort that will not earn you any more points with the officials.
Shoulders back refer to your shoulder blades being retracted. You want to keep your shoulders from curving forward. If your upper back is rounding, it’s because your muscles aren’t strong enough to bring your shoulder blades back into place. Therefore, your torso can be erect, but your shoulder might be rounded, which would be deemed a terrible lift.
- At the end of the lift, you must stand with your knees straight.
To complete the exercise, your body must be erect and your shoulders back, and your knees must be locked.
Flexing your quads is the simplest technique to lock your knees. When you flex your quads, your knees are forced into extension. So, if you’re unsure whether your knees are locked, engage your quads while standing at lock-out and you’ll avoid any bending.
If you’re having trouble locking your knees in the lock-out, it could be because you’re leaning too far back with your body. Remember what I said about your torso being erect? If you pull any further than is absolutely necessary, your knees may droop.
- During the lift, the bar cannot rest on the thighs.
When the bar sits on the thighs during the deadlift, this is called a hitch.
Remember that the bar can come to a stop (as long as it doesn’t fall), but it cannot come to a stop and rest on the thighs. It’s also worth noting that hitching is permitted in the sport of Strongman. However, in the context of powerlifting, it is not.
- During the ‘up phase,’ you cannot step forward or back or move your feet laterally.
This guideline only applies to the ‘up’ part of the movement.
So, once you started upward movement of the barbell, you cannot shift your feet from the start position to lock-out.
During the down phase, this rule does not apply. You may move your feet after receiving the ‘down’ signal from the head referee. Most lifters will not move their feet during the ‘down’ phase, but if you do, it is not grounds for failure.
- You must return the bar to the floor while keeping both hands in control.
When the head referee gives the ‘down’ command, your hands must be gripping the barbell the entire time.
This regulation prevents you from dropping the bar from hip height after locking the weight out. In other activities where you see deadlifts taking place, like Crossfit or Strongman, it’s acceptable to drop the barbell during lock-out. In powerlifting, however, these would be grounds for failure.
You can drop the barbell to the floor quickly, i.e. you don’t have to gently put the weight down. But you must keep your hands on the bar at all times.
Deadlifting Instructions You Must Follow
Now that you understand the technical movement criteria, you must also obey the referees’ directions.
Failure to comply with any referee directions will result in the lift being disqualified, even if all other movement standards are met. It can be exceedingly upsetting to miss an attempt because you did not follow the orders when you were physically capable of doing so. However, there is a law that you must obey the directions because it is the referee’s responsibility to guarantee you keep control of the movement at particular stages of the lift.
In the deadlift, there is only one command – “DOWN.”
Unlike the squat and bench press, which include orders to begin and end the activity, the deadlift does not. Once the head referee believes you have achieved the “lockout position” with your hips, knees, and shoulders locked, the only command you will hear is “DOWN.”
Rules for Choosing Deadlift Attempts
You will choose the next load to hoist after each attempt.
For example, once you’ve completed your opener, you must choose your second attempt. You can either repeat the same weight (if you failed the previous time) or go up. If you decide to go up, you cannot select a load that is below the weight that you just lift. At minimum, you must go up by 2.5kg, and after you select the load, you cannot adjust the weight. The same rules apply once you’ve completed the second attempt and are deciding on weights for the third.
With the exception of the third attempt deadlift, these principles apply to the squat, bench press, and deadlift. On the third attempt deadlift, you have the opportunity to adjust your initial third attempt up to two times.
For example, let’s imagine on your second attempt you deadlifted 100kg successfully and you’re in a competition for 1st place. You next walk over to the score-table and select 110kg for your third attempt. After seeing a few lifters go before you, you understand that all you need to accomplish to place 1st is 105kg. At that moment, you can reduce your weight from 110kg to 105kg. You may drop the weight as long as it does not fall below the weight you lifted on the second try (remember, this exception only applies to the 3rd attempt deadlift).
As an alternative, suppose you needed 115kg to win. You might increase your starting weight from 110kg to 115kg. You could also adjust your attempt a second time if you wanted to. So you might lower your attempt from 110kg to 105kg, then back up to 115kg. But, once you submitted your change request for the second time, you must go and lift the designated weight.
General Powerlifting Competition Rules That Apply To Deadlifting
If you are going to compete in powerlifting, I recommend you to understand the regulations as it doesn’t really matter how strong you are unless you’re playing by the rules.
The following are some general guidelines to follow:
- After loading the bar, you have 60 seconds to begin the deadlift (initiate movement on the bar)
- You have 60 seconds after the lift to submit the load for the next attempt to the score-table.
- You must wear the appropriate lifting attire for the day, which includes a singlet, t-shirt, shoes, belt, wrist wraps, and knee sleeves. Everything must be in accordance with the equipment requirements.
- No adhesives may be used on the shoe’s bottom (an advantage for sumo deadlifts who have a wide stance)
- No straps can be used to enhance your grip on deadlifts. Double overhand, mixed grip, or hook grip must be used.
When competing in a powerlifting competition, you must observe the competition regulations, including movement requirements and referee directives.
It makes no difference if you have the strength to complete the movement. If you do not conform to the technical standards of the sport, you will not pass the lift in competition.
Each rule establishes a regulated method for every athlete to follow, and this is the primary distinction between deadlifting in the gym and deadlifting in a competition.
If you practice the movement requirements in training, you’ll find that you’re capable of reaching your full potential in competition.