Powerlifting is a popular strength sport that involves the squat, bench press, and deadlift at a maximal effort for 1 repetition. Unlike bodybuilding, powerlifting is an objective sport; you either complete the lift or don’t.
However, judges subjectively decide whether you execute the lift properly based on set standards. A critical component of the sport’s standards is the powerlifting commands which are specific to each of the three lifts.
The judges are responsible for giving you the command and ensuring you follow them correctly. This article will cover the powerlifting commands for the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Learning and practicing the commands is critical to a successful meet prep. Keep reading to find out more!
Table of Contents
- 1 What are powerlifting commands?
- 2 Powerlifting Commands for Each Lift
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
- 4 Wrap-Up
What are powerlifting commands?
Powerlifting commands are verbal and physical directions given by the head judge of a powerlifting meet. The commands dictate which portion of a lift the athlete must perform next. The squat, bench press and deadlift each have specific commands, so it’s important to learn and practice them.
The commands were ultimately created to standardize the lifts for competitive purposes. In other words, the commands ensure that every athlete consistently performs the lift to a certain standard. If you fail to listen to the commands, you could perform a lift but get all red lights because you racked the weight before you were told. The lights are used to notify the lifter and crowd if the athlete completed the lift successfully or not. You complete the lift if you get at least 2 white lights out of 3.
Before you compete in a powerlifting meet, practice the lifts while implementing the commands to get a better feel for the competition. It’s quite common for someone to be able to lift more weight in the gym compared to on the platform and a major reason for this is that they aren’t adhering to the commands, which further increases the difficulty and technicality of the lift.
Powerlifting Commands for Each Lift
Now that you know what powerlifting commands are and why they are used in competition, we will go over the powerlifting commands for each lift so you can get familiar with them! Let’s start with the first lift in a powerlifting meet, the barbell back squat.
Before you step onto the platform, your name will get called by the judge or announcer. You only have 60 seconds to set up, unrack the weight, and perform the movement.
Once you get into the proper position and unrack the barbell, there are two key squat commands that you want to listen for:
- Squat command
- Rack command
Here’s what those sound and look like:
The head judge will say, “start,” which is your signal to begin squatting. Once your hip crease passes below the highest point of the knee, you’ve achieved the proper depth and can return to the starting position.
After reaching the proper depth and completing the movement by fully extending at the hips and knees, don’t rack the barbell immediately. Once the head judge sees that you successfully completed the rep, they will say “rack.” This is your cue to rack the barbell and wait for the lights to show if you correctly performed the movement.
You get three attempts at each lift in a powerlifting competition. Whether you successfully complete the lift or not, you have the choice to stay at the same weight or increase for your next attempt.
Here’s a great video overview from Barbell Brigade that demonstrates how to correctly squat at a meet and avoid common mistakes.
Bench Press Commands
After the squat, the next lift you will perform is the bench press. Like the squat, your name will get called when it’s time for you to step on the platform. The biggest difference between benching in a powerlifting meet and the gym is the time you must pause with the bar on your chest.
Many gym PRs (personal records) for the bench press are set with a “touch-and-go” technique, meaning that you barely touch your chest before lifting the barbell back to the starting position. Conversely, in a powerlifting meet, the barbell comes to a complete stop on the chest, which is observed by the judge.
Here are the three bench press commands that you need to listen for and practice beforehand:
- Start command
- Press command
- Rack command
After you are in the proper position on the bench and unrack the barbell, the head judge will say, “start.” This is your cue to begin lowering the barbell toward your chest in a controlled fashion. Do not let the weight crash down on your chest.
The next command you need to listen for is the press command. Once the barbell touches your chest and comes to a complete stop, the head judge will say, “press.” The amount of time the barbell is paused on your chest depends on the head judge and how proficient you are at keeping the barbell still. If you just touch your chest and lift the weight back up, you will fail the lift.
Like the squat, don’t immediately rack the weight as soon as you lock out your elbows. You must wait for the head judge to say, “rack.” After you hear the verbal cue, you can rack the barbell and look for the lights to see if you had a successful lift.
Here’s a video summary of the bench press commands and how to avoid common mistakes.
The deadlift has the least amount of commands; it only has one. However, you will fail the lift if you don’t properly observe it. After your name is called, step onto the platform and approach the barbell.
Set up properly, grab the bar, rip the weight off of the floor, and listen for the following command from the head judge:
- Down command
After you stand all the way up with the barbell and complete the lockout portion of the lift, the head judge will say, “down.” This is your cue to lower the barbell back to the ground. This command is pretty simple, but the most important aspect of the deadlift is the lockout. If you don’t lock out properly, the judge will indicate it was not a good lift with at least two red lights.
Here’s a video summary of the deadlift commands for meet day.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are powerlifting commands?
Powerlifting commands, also known as powerlifting rules, are verbal cues judges give during powerlifting competitions. They were designed to standardize the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Each lift has its own specific commands that must be correctly noted for a successful lift. If you’re competing in a powerlifting meet, it’s important to practice the commands ahead of time.
What are the squat commands?
The squat commands include “squat” and “rack.” The “squat” command lets the lifter know that they can begin the movement. The “rack” command lets the lifter know that they can rack the weight at the end of the movement.
What are the bench press commands?
The bench press commands include “start,” “press,” and “rack.” The “start” command lets the lifter know they can begin lowering the barbell to their chest. The “press” command tells the lifter to lift the weight back to the starting position. The “rack” command tells the lifter to rack the barbell after they achieve full lockout at the elbow.
What are the deadlift commands?
Unlike the squat and bench press, there is only one deadlift command, which is “down.” This is said by the head judge once the lifter achieves full lockout at the top of the deadlift. You must hold the weight at the top until you hear the command.
Although powerlifting is an objective sport, judges subjectively analyze the competitors’ performance and enforce technical rules. The judges use specific commands to standardize the lifts. The squat, bench press and deadlift have unique commands that should be practiced before a powerlifting meet. If you have a training partner, friend, or coach, have them be a pretend judge and run through the commands as you train.
Practicing the commands will set you up for success when it comes time to step on the platform. Beyond the commands, be aware of other powerlifting rules associated with the sport if you want to compete. Make sure to check out everything that’s required ahead of time according to the powerlifting federations.