With my recent foray into the world of powerlifting, the content of my blog posts has changed. Just as you lot got used to “mandatory posing” and “bikini bite”, I’m throwing you for a loop with talk of “openers” and “bombing out”. Here’s my A-Z of powerlifting lingo.
(You might also like The A-Z of Bodybuilding Lingo and the weeing-into-a-cup content of The Grime Behind The Glam.
The name for each “go” at a lift. In full power (see below) powerlifting, every lifter has three attempts for the squat, then three for the bench and then three for the deadlift. You have to declare your weight for each opener at weigh in or registration. And then you declare your second attempt weight after you lift your opener, and your third attempt weight directly after you lift your second attempt.
The funny posture powerlifters get into when they set up for benchpress. Why do they do it? Because it reduces the distance between point A and B. As long as you follow the rules of your federation (usually head and bum on bench, feet flat on the floor), you can have as big an arch as you can manage. The higher the arch, the less distance the bar has to travel to the chest.
What the referee will call out when your bar has been loaded with your desired weight. That means it’s time to get on the platform (see below) and get ready to lift.
Benchpress – the second lift of a powerlifting event. The one most people will ask about when you tell them that you go to the gym. (aka “how much can you bench press?”) Also the name of the thing you lie on to do the benchpress.
One of the few bits of kit all powerlifters will wear. Unequipped (or “raw”) usually means you can only wear a belt and wrist straps (as well as your singlet and shoes, obvs). Equipped is a whole different world, involving bench shirts and other things I know very little about.
If you fail all three attempts, you bomb out. You can’t continue the competition, and that’s the end for you. So if you bomb out on squat (if you fail all three of your squat attempts), that’s it. Home time for you.
What powerlifters eat a lot of.
Anything more than 5 reps in training.
Either liquid chalk, or big blocks of chalk. Powerlifters rub it on their palms (to assist with grip, and to minimise the effect of sweating), and you can also rub it across your back where your squat bar will sit, and on your upper back and bum to help you stay in place on the bench.
The silver things that go on the end of the bar, after your plates (see below). Collars are different to clips (clips are the things you probably use on your bars in the gym). Their weight is taken into account as part of the weight on your bar.
What the referee will call out during all lifts. You will be given red lights if you fail to respond appropriately. Commands include “squat” and “rack” for squat. “Start” and “press” for bench.
The third and final lift of a powerlifting comp. The one which looks the least technical, but is often the most demanding. You can lift conventional (narrower stance hands outside your legs) or sumo (wide stance, toes turned out, hands inside your legs). The bar is on the floor. You walk up to it, and pick it up until you are standing up straight. The one which usually results in the most epic facial expression in the photos.
What you must hit on your squats. It’s deeper than you think. The top of your hip-crease must be below the top of your knee. Try it next time you squat.
Dumping the bar
What you mustn’t do if you fail your squat. Dumping the bar means throwing it from your back onto the floor. This is dangerous (to you and to the spotters) and could get you disqualified. Instead, let the spotters do their job. They will know that you’ve failed the lift and will take the bar from you. No harm done.
The term for a “batch” of lifters. Similar to “wave” in triathlon.
The name for powerlifting competitions where the lifters do all three lifts. You can also have push/pull events (bench and deadlift) or single lift.
3 (or 2) white lights show after your lift. Hooray!
One of the few ways you can fail a deadlift. Hitching refers to the small movements a lifter sometimes makes when the deadlift bar gets to mid-thigh. It’s a small stop-start movement to inch the bar up the thighs.
The “hole” is the term given to the very bottom of the squat, when you hit depth. You need to be powerful out of the hole (so to speak) to successfully squat the weight back up.
The final bit of each lift, where you make it clear that you’ve finished the lift. Particularly important for deadlift.
2 red lights, or 3 red lights. Sometimes a no lift is obvious (the person got stuck at the bottom of the squat, couldn’t press the bar, or couldn’t lock out their deadlift). Sometimes it’s less obvious (they didn’t quite hit depth on the squat).
Ammonia in a little bottle (essentially very strong smelling salts). Lifters sometimes waft it under their nostrils before a max attempt.
Your first lift of each exercise. Choosing your weights for openers is strategic and challenging! Open too light and you might risk having to jump up by too much weight in your subsequent lifts. Open too heavy and you risk failing the lift.
What you have to do with the bar during the bench press. It’s only a short pause (long enough for the referees to see that the bar is at your chest, and for the referee to call out “press”) but it’s very different to touch-and-go style benching.
The name for the large weights that go on the bar.
Where you lift. Usually just a small area of special flooring (to take the impact of weights). The platform will have squat rack or bench, bars, and spotters on it waiting for you to step up and make your attempt.
The bit of kit that holds your squat bar, ready for you to unrack, walk out (see below) and wait for the squat command.
Squat racks can be adjusted. You need to go and squat the bar a couple of times after you weigh in, find out your rack height, and tell the officials so they can adjust it when it’s your attempt.
Another word for “unequipped”, this means powerlifting with no additional kit. Just a belt and wrist wraps (as well as your clothes and shoes, obviously).
The delightful outfit lifters wear.
The first lift of a powerlifting competition. You get under the bar, put the bar on your back (not too low, as per the rules), walk out, wait for the “squat” command, squat down (to depth of course), and stand back up. Do not move your feet until you hear the “rack” command.
Just regular talc, but you put it on your thighs before deadlifts to help the bar slide up smoothly and to avoid the need to hitch (see above). There’s a technique to talcing up – after all, you don’t want to get it on your palms or on the soles of your deadlift shoes!
The all-important number you get when you add up your heaviest squat, bench and deadlift of the day. If you compete full power, this is then number that matters.
Part of the set up for the squat. The bar will be in a rack. You get underneath it and stand up to lift the bar from the rack. You then need to walk backwards so you have free space to squat down. This little walk is called the walk out. The ideal walk out is three steps: back, back, side.
The bit where you find out whether you should have laid off the ice-cream for a few more weeks before comp. As long as you are within your weight category, it’s OK. (For example, I lift as a “70” lifter, which doesn’t mean under-70. It means 70… or under. So if I was 70 on the day, that’s fine.) If you weigh in heavy, you have the opportunity to go and go a bit of cardio (or a poo) and try again. Or you can just lift in the next category up. If you weigh in light, you can’t move down a category.
The sight every lifter really wants to see after each attempt. There are three referees, and each of them has a “red” or “white” light button. They will press a button after your lift, to signal whether they assessed your lift as good or a fail. White lights are good. Reds are a fail. You need 3 white lights or 2 (of 3) for it to be a good lift. 2 red lights, or 3 red lights, is no lift.
How you’d describe your meet if you got all 9 lifts (3 attempts in squat, bench, deadlift) successfully.
Your A-Z of Powerlifting Jargon is a post from The Fit Writer blog.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.