So, you’re ready to take it to the next level, right? In my opinion, you’ve thought about it and put it off long enough. If you base your decision on your current standards or concerns, you may never be ready, but trust me: you’re ready. Just jump in. It’ll be the best move you’ve ever made. Just get your feet wet and move forward.

Most people think they need to wait until they’re ready to total elite before they enter their first contest, but this is not the case. Find a local meet, enter the novice division, and see what it’s all about for yourself. Sure, you’ll probably need to do a few local and state level meets before you’ll be ready for the worlds, but you need to start somewhere, right?

Let’s talk about getting ready and what you can expect.

First things first, read the rulebook for the federation in which you’ll be participating – if there is a rulebook. Know what will be expected of you, and know the commands you’ll be given. For the squat, you’ll usually unrack the bar and stand erect before being given the “squat” command, but not all federations have this. You’ll then execute the squat, break parallel, return to the fully erect body position, then follow the “rack” command and rack the bar.

After this, you get out of the way, take any hindering equipment off, and wait for the white (or red, but red is bad) lights. If you get two or three whites, that’s great. If you don’t, ask the judges why you didn’t. A good judge will explain what you did wrong. Once this is over with, you only have a short time to decide on your next attempt, so it should be somewhat predetermined.

With the bench press, the commands are usually “press,” and then “rack” at completion. A few federations have a “start” command that’s given before you can lower the bar to your chest. Some federations don’t have a “press” command, leaving it up to the lifter to insert the “pause.” The judges are usually looking for locked elbows at the start and finish of the lift, and they want to see a split second to a second’s pause on the chest. The bar must become motionless before this pause starts. The shoulders and butt must stay in contact with the bench, and the feet must remain stable during the lift. Some federations require you to keep your feet flat, but most only need part of your foot to remain in contact with the ground at all times.

The deadlift is easy. You walk up to the bar, and the judge will hold his arm up, signifying that he’s “ready when you are.” Once he feels you’re done, or done in (spent), he’ll say “down.” As long as you didn’t hitch – using the body to gain leverage, or resting the bar on it – and you’ve locked both knees and are standing erect (not laying backward), the lift is probably good as long as you control the bar down to the platform.

Read the rules, train hard, learn to execute the lifts, and gather up a few amigos to help you. You’ll need people to help you with equipment, hand off, spot, feed you, load plates in the warm-up room, turn in your attempts and ensure that you don’t freak out or expend too much energy. Make sure your helpers know what you expect of them. Listen to the rules meeting, and listen to the director. They’ll tell you when to warm-up.

So, what’s holding you back? Look online or in Powerlifting USA, find a meet, and enter it today. Don’t wait until the day of the meet. Meet promotion is hard work, and coming in at the last minute is just not cool. At least call the promoter and tell him you plan on being there. Just do it, and you can thank me later.


What are the best movements to increase lockout strength when deadlifting sumo? I don’t get much out of rack pulls...

I don't either, but pulls with weights on platforms is a much better approach. The bar position is more natural and the bar bend is like the deadlift. The addition of chains is very helpful. We do pulls from 2", 4" and 6" platforms. Speed pulls against bands, reverse band deadlifts, the platform deads, pull-throughs, heavy kettlebell swings, improving form and improving start position, building the spinal erectors to keep your back arched throughout the pull puts you in a better position to finish. Remember, the right kind of squats can also help your pulls and you recover faster from them as well.

How do I work up to testing my 1RM in the deadlift?

One night in the gym, when I pulled 825, My reps were:

5 x 135
3 x 225
3 x 405
3 x 555
1 x 645
1 x 705
1 x 775
1 x 825
0 x 845 (lost grip)

What do you think about close-grip benching?

It is for muscular variety and to build the components of the bench press (the triceps in this case). On DE day you will be flat benching, and most of the ME movements will be of the flat variety. The story of Milo comes to mind here. Milo was Greek, way back in the day, and he had a calf that he lifted everyday. As the calf grew he got stronger, but it got to a point he could no longer lift the cow. There was no variety of training, no chance to build the individual links of his strength chain. If all you do is flat benching, you will overtrain certain muscles and undertrain others. And all this is the basis of the conjugate method we call Westside.

My gym doesn’t have a Glute-Ham Raise or Reverse Hyper. What are some lower back and hamstring exercises I can do?

Dimel deadlifts, the addition of bands and chains to the Romanians are excellent, band leg curls seated on a low box, sitting way, way back on box squats, alternate deadlift stance training, closer stance Zerchers from a low pin, Zerchers from the floor, unilateral leg curls, towel/rope deadlifts standing on platforms, free air GHR with someone holding your feet are intense, box jumps...this should give you a start

Seated GM's with your feet in front of you hammer the hamstrings and as long as on the standing ones you feel like you are going to fall backwards (just like I'm sure you’re doing on the Romanians), the hamstrings are way involved.