Mistakes in Powerlifting... And How to Avoid Them

Mistakes in Powerlifting... And How to Avoid Them

Mistakes happen with lifting... A LOT of mistakes actually. However, within the scope of strength training they don't all need to happen.

Here are 10 really common mistakes and a few words of wisdom to help you skip over the trip ups.

You're ALWAYS Going to Set Meet PR's

Going into a powerlifting meet, it's almost an expectation for lifters to ALWAYS hit a PR on the platform.

But here's the secret that older powerlifters don't want you to know, it might not happen, and that's ok.

There are hundreds of factors that affect how your meet goes. This can include, but isn't limited to; sleep being off, the weather, the wrong carbs. Things can and will go wrong.

Just because you didn't set any PR's though, doesn't mean that you aren't able to find victories on the platform anyway. Were you able to go 9/9 for the first time? Make new friends? Push yourself to a new level?

Not all PR's are physical, some are just those nice little mental wins that stack UP in the long run.

Building Your Self Worth Around Training

We've all done this, from beginner to expert. You step into the gym, primed and ready to go and... nothing happens. The goals you set for yourself were not met.

In turn, this starts hurting the rest of your training and even bleeds into other areas outside of the gym.

You are angry and grouchy with people, you start to become demotivated for lifting and suddenly every day that you show up in the gym, it's a negative.

STOP: Don't let training define you outside the gym, either positively or negatively. A session is neither good nor bad because much like a bad meet day, you can take small victories and run with them.

You are more than your workout.

Technique Changes Before a Meet

When we say technique changes before a meet, you may be thinking small cues to quickly fix small problems... We aren't.

What we're focusing on here are the MAJOR form chances that can negatively hurt your performance.

We wouldn't recommend changing from conventional deadlift to sumo one week out. From high bar squats to a pseudo-low bar.

The only time something like this SHOULD happen is I.C.E, when all else fails and the form change is to keep you safe.

If you decide to change, be prepared for the consequences. Put the rep work in to hammer in that new form and just rock with it.

No/Slow Results = Program Hopping

You've been busting your butt, putting in the work, but you aren't seeing results. Guess it's time to find a different program and path to success.


It's become increasingly common for people to jump ship on a program if it doesn't produce results within the first week.

Powerlifting isn't a sprint, it isn't a marathon, it's an ultra endurance race. An Iron Man where the miles are years and trails are the weights. Have patience for progress.

  • We don't want to leave you high and dry though, so here's what to ask to know when to change programs?
  • Have you been giving it a fair shot?
  • Have you been using it for more than the allotted recommended time?
  • Are you becoming increasingly more injured?
  • Has there been ANY progress, not just in the main lifts, but accessories?
  • What metrics are you using?

Some coaches advise to run a program for 2-3 cycles before you make any decisions on what to jump from.

Be objective about your training and about what YOU can do to improve it.

Not Understanding "Recovery"

Recover is the name of the game when it comes to making gains in powerlifting and strength training. Whether you just hit a mammoth PR on a single rep or have been building that body with hypertrophy training, recovery is required.

There are three incredibly basic tips that you can do to take your recovery UP another notch: eat foods that help replenish the muscle and CNS systems, get the proper amount of sleep, and just taking a day off to relax.

Mental recovery is JUST as important to the game as physical so please do your best to take care of yourself on this one.

If you have any more questions about recover here is one for Mental Well-being and another for Physical.

You Don't Train to Meet Day Standards

"It'll be there on meet day" he said.

Plot Twist: It wasn't.

If you are going into a meet blind, remember there are commands and expectations for you to meet on each lift.

Your main lifts should always be training within competition standards. 

Competition squats should ALWAYS be to depth.

Deadlifts should be locked out, with no ramping or hitching.

Low rep competition bench press should be paused on the bottom for a split second.

There may be some exceptions to the rules, like high rep bench press doesn't need to be paused. But if you are in meet prep doing lower reps, practice how you plan to play. Otherwise you are practicing to fail.

Rushing Your Set Up Before Maxing Out

Breath, relax, and enjoy what's about to happen.

Nerves affect us all when it comes to lifting heavy objects, however habits that built this moment are incredibly important.

Keep your ritual the same. Observe the emotions, accept them, and re-affirm the traditions before you lift.

It may sound silly, but even half a step different could affect how you set up under the bar when it comes to squats.

Injury and mistakes happens when people are rushed. So to stay safe, don't rush, relax and build your hype like normal.

Your Openers are TOO Heavy

Meet day's arrived and your eyes are bigger than your muscles.

You walk into the meet, ready to go and suddenly your first attempt folds you in the hole on squats. That's ok, just a problem with walk out, you got this.

Your second attempt feels heavier, you didn't go up in weight, but it's still not feeling right. On the way down, you lose balance fall forward and take a step.

Ok... That just leaves your third attempt. You are incredibly nervous but you've done this before, you can do it.

But you've wasted all of your energy and it's just not there.

What could you have done differently?

Here is a really small piece of advice that inexperienced athletes should take under their wing:

An opener should be something you can double or triple to competition standards on your WORST day, not your best. 

Not Reading Meet and Equipment Rules

This is probably one of the most underrated, overmade mistakes that happens in powerlifting.

You walk in to get your equipment approved by the judges and BOOM... Your shirt isn't 100% cotton, gotta try again.

Or your knee sleeves are the wrong brand.

Or your underwear is a bit to suspicious (not kidding on this one)

The list of small mistakes keeps going on for quite a while sadly.

So what can YOU as an athlete and competitor do to set yourself up for the greatest success on meet day?

Well, that's easy, read over the federation handbooks and commit the big parts to memory.

Here is the hand book for USPA and here is the handbook for USAPL, two of the largest federations in the USA

Not Having Fun While Lifting

At the end of the day, lifting SHOULD be fun.

If you are forcing yourself into the gym every day but aren't getting enjoyment, STOP, its not worth it.

Take a step back and ask yourself WHY.

Maybe the program you are on isn't the right fit for you. Change it.

Maybe the environment isn't right. Look around, see if there is another gym you can train at.

Or maybe you just don't like weight training. That's ok as well. Try to find another hobby to keep you on the healthy track that you have set yourself on.

No matter the cause, don't force yourself to do something that brings you misery life is to short for that.

No More Mistakes

Hopefully this will help you avoid some major mistakes moving forward, or reminded you of fun times in the past.

What common mistakes have YOU made before? Let us know down in the comments below.


If you are looking to follow and learn from some amazing people and powerlifters follow the links below or read thisarticle for some great stories. Or if you are looking for programming, you can find one of our free programs here or you can reach out to one of our team members to see how to take your training to the next level.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.