Whether you’re thinking about competing yourself, or just happen to be there to support a friend, it’s important to know what kind of time commitment you’re signing yourself up for when you’re attending a powerlifting meet.
So, how long are powerlifting meets? Powerlifting meets are generally all-day events, lasting around 7-9 hours. They start around 6-8AM for athlete weigh-ins with lifting starting 2 hours after that. The meet will usually end late afternoon (3-5PM). These times will vary depending on how many athletes/flights are competing.
The total duration of a powerlifting meet will depend on the size of the meet you’re competing in, meaning the number of flights, and the number of lifters per flight. I’ll explain what “flights” mean and how they impact the timing of a powerlifting competition below.
As well, I’ll break down all the pieces that go into meet day timing, such as warm up times, weigh-in times, breaks between attempts, and the factors that can extend the time the competition will take. Let’s get started!
If you’d like a rundown of all the aspects that go into competing in powerlifting, check out my article on How Powerlifting Meets Work where I break down 10 things you need to know if you want to compete in powerlifting.
How Powerlifting Flights Affect Meet Day Timing
The overall length of the meet will depend heavily on how many flights there are participating on that day. I’m going to explain what a “flight” means, and then three examples of different “flight structures” that you can see in competition.
What Is A Flight?
A flight is a grouping of lifters that compete together. The length of a powerlifting meet will heavily depend on the number of flights, and the number of lifters per flight.
As per the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) rulebook for flight numbers: You must have a minimum of 8 lifters per flight, and a maximum of 14.
This means that a flight of lifters between 8-14 will compete together in the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
So, imagine yourself in a flight of lifters with a total of 14 people:
If you squat first in the flight, then 13 other people will need to squat before you take your second attempt. After you’ve taken your second attempt, you again, wait until the 13 people in your flight have taken their second attempt before you take your third attempt.
Now that you understand this concept, the only other thing to know is that there can be more than one flight competing in a powerlifting competition.
Flights are usually referred to by alphabetical groupings (“Flight A”, “Flight B”, “Flight C”). Each flight completes one individual lift before moving onto the next.
For example, let’s assume there are two flight (Flight A and Flight B).
A powerlifting competition runs in the following order: squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Therefore, Flight A will complete all three squat attempts, then Flight B will complete all three squat attempts, before Flight A moves onto their bench press attempts.
Let’s look at some more examples in greater detail.
One Flight Powerlifting Competitions
If you have 14 or less lifters in one meet, all lifters doing an attempt will be considered one round.
The entire group will go through the first round of squats (also called attempts), followed by the second round of squats, and finally the third round of squats before moving on to bench press, and finally the deadlift.
How Long Do One-Flight Powerlifting Meets Take?
You can expect that each “attempt” will take about 1-min. This is not always the case, but it’s a good rule of thumb to use when trying to calculate how much time the lifting portion of a competition will take.
If you are competing in a single flight of 14 lifters, each lifter is going to have 3 squat attempts, 3 bench press attempts, and 3 deadlift attempts.
Throughout the course of the day, that’s a total of 126 attempts (42 squat attempts, 42 bench attempts, 42 deadlift attempts).
This means that each lift will take approximately 42-minutes to complete.
Two Flight Powerlifting Competitions
If we have two flights, Flight A will complete all three rounds of squats, followed immediately by Flight B completing all three rounds of squats.
Flight A will start their bench press once Flight B finishes their squats. Flight B will start their bench press once Flight A finishes their bench press.
You can start to see the pattern of how Flight B always follows Flight A through the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
A two flight competition is the most common structure you will see at a powerlifting meet.
How Long Do Two-Flight Powerlifting Meets Take?
Let’s use the 1-min per attempt rule again.
If there are two flights of 14 lifters, and each lifter gets 3 squat attempts, 3 bench press attempts, and 3 deadlift attempts, then there are a total of 252 attempts throughout the day (84 squat attempts, 84 bench attempts, and 84 deadlift attempts).
This means that each lift will take approximately 84-minutes to complete.
Three Flight Powerlifting Competitions
If we have three flights, Flight A and Flight B will complete all three rounds of squats before Flight C begins squatting
The same rules apply as explained above where all three flights (Flight A, B, and C) need to complete their bench press attempts before everyone moves on to the deadlift.
A competition that has three flights will always run longer because there are simply more athletes that need to do attempts before you can move onto the next event.
How Long Do Two-Flight Powerlifting Meets Take?
Using the 1-min per attempt rule again.
If there are three flights of 14 lifters, and each lifter gets 3 squat attempts, 3 bench press attempts, and 3 deadlift attempts, then there are a total of 378 attempts throughout the day (126 squat attempts, 126 bench attempts, and 126 deadlift attempts).
This means that each lift will take approximately 126-minutes to complete.
Let’s now talk about the other components that make up how long powerlifting meets are.
If you’re just starting your powerlifting journey, take a look at my article on How To Start Powerlifting where I cover everything from programming to technique.
How Does Weigh In Timing Work?
Weigh ins will always begin 2 hours before the meet will start.
The weigh-in process will not necessarily take two hours for you to step on the scale.
If you are early on the weigh-in list, then you will step on the scale shortly after weigh-ins begin, and then you will have more time to warm-up, eat, and perform your pre-competition activities.
If you are near the end of the weigh-in list, you’ll need to hang around the weigh-in room for a longer period of time, and likely have less time to warm-up.
So, be sure to arrive 15 minutes ahead of the start-time for weigh-ins to ensure you have enough time to find the weigh-in room, get your appropriate documentation in order for the referee, and to know where you are within the weigh-in list.
To learn more about the process of weighing in and what will be required of you, see the weigh-in section of our complete guide to how a powerlifting meet works.
How Does Timing Between Attempts Work?
A lot of lifters have questions around how much time they have between their attempts of a particular lift.
As I mentioned previously, you can expect to have about 1 minute rest per lifter in your flight.
So if you have 14 lifters in your flight (including you), then you can expect to have 13 minutes rest in between each attempt.
You can see how this “rest time” can vary between competitions. If you only have 6 lifters in your flight, then you’d only have 5 minutes rest in between attempts.
Are There Breaks In Between Lifts?
Between lifts you will have a break for the next flight to complete their rounds of lifting.
For example, if you’re in Flight A and have just finished squats, you will need to wait until Flight B does their squats before moving on to bench press.
If there are 14 lifters in Flight B, then you will have approximately 42 min to wait until they complete their squats. Most lifters in Flight A during this time will eat and start warming up for bench press.
With that said, there is always an added 10-minutes after each lift where there is no competition. So after Flight B finishes their squats, Flight A won’t start their bench press until the 10-minute break is over.
So, going back to our example, you have to wait 42 minutes for flight B to finish their squats, then you have an additional 10-minute break, giving you 52 minutes between your squat and bench press attempts.
If you are in a meet with only one flight, you will be given 20 minutes following the third round to warm up for the next exercise.
I highly encourage you to read my guide on how to pick attempts for powerlifting. This will cover all of the rules and strategies you need to know to set personal bests on the competition platform.
How Does Warm Up Timing Work?
If you are part of a single-flight meet, you will be given 30 minutes after weigh-ins to warm up for squats, 20 minutes before bench, and 20 minutes before deadlifts to warm up.
In the likely event that there are more than one flight at your meet, the first flight will still be given 30 minutes after weigh-ins to warm up, but you will want to think about warming up for your next 3 rounds of lifting as soon as the flight before you begins that lift.
For example, if you’re in flight B, you will do your three rounds of squats after flight A does their three rounds of squats. When flight A goes to start their three rounds of bench press, you should consider starting your warm up for bench press at that time.
4 Factors That Can Slow Down a Powerlifting Competition
There are 4 factors that can influence how fast or slow a powerlifting competition runs:
- Fourth Attempts
- Delays at Weigh-In/Equipment Check
- Delays Setting Up the Next Lift/Administrative Delays
Injuries can unfortunately occur on the platform. While often they are a muscle strain, there are the rare occurrences that a lifter is seriously hurt on the platform, and may require medical attention and be unable to be moved until the paramedics arrive.
The meet will need to be delayed until such a time that a lifter can be safely relocated from the platform to receive medical attention.
2. Fourth Attempts
While powerlifting only allows 3 attempts per lift, there are times where a 4th attempt is allotted due to the incorrect weight being on the bar, a spotter stepping in to help a lifter too early, or an equipment failure.
Any extra attempt that is taken requires additional time to be added to each flight, which can delay a competition.
3. Delays at Weigh-In/Equipment Check
During the weigh-in portion of a powerlifting meet, competitors need to step on a scale, provide their first attempts, their rack heights, show their powerlifting membership card to the applicable federation, and have an official check the equipment they’ll be using on the platform.
If a lifter is delayed in providing any of these items, it can certainly add time to the day, especially if more than one lifter does not have these items ready to go.
To keep your meet running as on-time as possible, ensure these items are organized and readily accessible when it’s your turn to weigh-in.
4. Delays Setting Up The Next Lift/Administrative Delays
A powerlifting meet involves athletes, handlers/coaches, referees, volunteers, and tons of equipment.
While the plan is for everything to run smoothly, there can sometimes be delays in athletes submitting their attempts for the next lift, preparing the next crew of spotters for the platform, and tracking down individuals that have wandered off, such as an announcer, the individual controlling the board the flight order is displayed on, or any other volunteers with important tasks.
A great leader in the form of a meet director and a team of dedicated and efficient volunteers is the best defence against meet day delays.
A well-run meet is like a well-oiled machine, full of moving parts that all need to work together to ensure the day goes smoothly. While the intention is to ensure the day runs on-schedule, there are always mishaps and unfortunate circumstances that can occur and throw that schedule off.
If you’re an athlete competing at a powerlifting meet, keep your ears open to announcements and ensure you’re doing your part to prevent delays. Be prepared to be there for the day and have the appropriate supplies, such as water and snacks. You can read more about what you should be eating for a powerlifting meet in our complete guide on what to eat during a powerlifting meet.