How strong should I be to compete in Powerlifting?

Contrary to what you may believe you don’t need to be extremely strong to compete in Powerlifting. In fact you don’t have to be very strong at all! The real value of your first competition will come from gaining experience. You will learn about the structure of how the day will run and what you should expect throughout the day and to learn how to mentally cope with the nerves of competing. Even if you are the strongest person there, it won’t matter if you are too inexperienced and forget cues (eg. waiting for the press command for bench) or not meeting certain lifting criteria (eg. not hitting depth for the squat).

Strength Standards

Despite all that it is still valuable to have a gauge of what level of strength we should be aiming to be at based on how long you’ve been training. 

We can divide the strength standards into novice, intermediate, advanced and elite. These are divided into categories based on age, sex and body weight

Beginner: Has just begun training regularly.

Novice: Has been training for a few months

Intermediate: Has been training regularly for longer than 1 year.

Advanced: Has been training consistently for longer than 2 years.

Elite: Has been training regularly for at least 5 years.


These numbers are the total sum of your best lifts for a given competition day (heaviest squat, bench and deadlift added

 Male Powerlifting Standards                                               Female Powerlifting Standards

So for example: 

  • a 70KG Male lifter who can Squat 120kg, Bench 80kg and Deadlift 140kg would have a total 340kg and would be classified as an intermediate lifter.
  • a 55kg Female lifter who can Squat 100kg, Bench 55kg and Deadlift 115kg would have a total have 270kg and be classified as an advanced lifter.

As you can see these numbers are quite achievable to be competitive within a competition. You also have to remember that there are varying level of competitions ranging from local novice meets to international meets with athletes from overseas flying in.

If you ask most experienced powerlifters about how strong they think you need to compete most of them will say as long as you are able to lift the bar. Unless you are going in with the intention of coming home with some trophies or medals no one else will be following your total. Powerlifters are extremely supportive and friendly people and it’s not uncommon for other experienced lifters to come and help coach newer lifters on the day of the competition if they see someone needing some help.

So don’t be scared of trying out your first Powerlifting meet, the only risk you have is that you may accidentally fall in love with the sport and will have to start dedicating more of your time to it.