How Competitions Run

Whether you’re a beginner or an old hand, it’s always good to get a feeling for how a local competition runs; what it’s like to participate and help support your local division. Chris Gillard is on hand to give us some insight.

"There are many ways in which you can help; you can support the table crew, setting up, spotting and loading to name just a few."

Chris Gillard

So, a quick introduction of myself. My name is Chris Gillard, a 120+ lifter who lifts in the South East Division. Been currently lifting in terms of powerlifting for just under 3 years and started competing early last year and have caught the bug. I now try my best to support as many divisions as I possibly can and will just outline some of the best ways that you can do that.

Supporting your local division with spotting and loading for beginners.
Right of the back you need to get an understanding of who runs your division. All divisions do have a website or Facebook page with contact details of the people who run the division should you need to get in touch. on the websites as well, they will put down the details of any upcoming competitions, records, entry forms and many other links relevant to the sport. Please do get involved in supporting those competitions if you are able. There are many ways in which you can help, you can support the table crew, setting up, spotting and loading to name just a few. The latter I will go into detail shortly.
Showing up and spectating can help support the division too, cheering for lifters who are competing regardless of whether you know them or not. It's always a great way to socialise and get to know the people who run your division even better and a way to learn new things about the sport in general.
Finally, a way in which you can support your division as a whole and to try and make it better is to attend the divisions AGM which are held every year. This is a fantastic way to put ideas forward and is your first step on getting more involved with the committee.

Spotting and Loading at competition

Spotters and loaders are the unsung heroes of a competition. As I mentioned in the previous segment one of the ways in which you can help support your local division is to be a spotter and loader at a competition. Spotters and loaders are needed at every competition to keep the platform running smoothly but more than that it is to keep the lifters safe. In this segment I will outline the roles of spotters and loaders on a platform, what to do as a lifter and the best ways to keep everyone safe.

So,as we know a competition is split into 3 lifts, the squat, bench and deadlift and is also split into two to three groups and flights within those groups. If a morning competition has 3 flights the order of things will be follows;- flight A B C squat , flight A B C bench and flight A B C deadlift. There is usually a 10 minute break between squat to bench, bench to deadlift. There then will be a long break waiting for the afternoon session, and this will last between 30 – 45mins depending on the amount of lifters.

So how many spotters and loaders do you need for a competition?

A minimum of 3 spotters are needed at any time, though ideally you would want to have at least 5 spotters and loaders as there is general safety rule to have 5 spotters for weights in excess of 200kg for squats and bench. You will always have a back spot and two side spots for squats, bench is a centre spot for handouts and two side spots and deadlifts is generally a back spot at the back of the platform to run in, in case the lifter goes faint at any time during a deadlift. We are there to keep lifters safe, remember that. The best number of spotters and loaders to have during a comp, would be around 10. That way you have 2 teams of 5 that can work in rotation. There is also generally a platform chief who is in charge on the day who will manage the spotters and loader. If you think lifting at a competition is hard try spotting and loading.

I will break down the lifts into what a lifter should be doing beforehand and how they should communicate with spotters. For the spotters I will outline what the role is for the back spot and the side spot . But first a brief on loading the plates. When loading the bar make sure that the first plate, regardless of weight, is facing with the smooth side outwards (basically you load the first plate back to front) then additional plates go on as normal. The platform chief will shout what weights are to go on and what weights are to come off. The standard weights range goes as follows – 25 ,20, 15, 10 , 5 , 2.5 , 1.25 , Collar ( the collar weighs 2.5KG). There are additionally 1, .5 and .25 kg plates these are used when a divisional or national record is to be broken. (you can break a lift record by .5kg) these plates need to be shown to all 3 referees before being put on the bar. They can be found generally with the table crew.



So, for lifters you should always once you have done your weigh in and kit check, find out when the organisers of the competition will be doing rack heights for squats, please make sure you get this done as soon as you can as it allows the table crew to update the scoresheets. A tip I will give as I have noticed some lifters have done this in the past, make sure you wear the shoes that you will be squatting in when doing your rack height.

An important safety note for any lifters if you fail a lift​. STAY WITH THE BAR, ​if you fail a lift hold onto the bar the spotters will come in and save you and assist you to finish the lift. Please also if you haven’t got the weight say so. We will only touch the bar when you say you haven’t got it or the centre ref says “Rack”.


Spotting for squats is the time where as a spotter you will need to be the most attentive and have fast reactions. You are split into back spotter and side spotters.

Being the back spot is the position where you have an extremely important safety role for the lifter and will always need to act accordingly. First off squat with the lifter, it does not matter how strong you may think you are there is no way you will upright row a failed lift. Hands generally by the side or just underneath the lifters sides, reason for this is if they fail a lift you can jump in and hug from behind to stabilise the lifter and complete the lift with them (please note your hand placement when it comes to both female and sub junior lifters of both sexes, and also keep the hands close to the bar so as to not block the referees view. Once the lifter has completed their lift, guide the bar and the lifter back into the rack.

Side spotting is generally the same, except on the side of the bar. One difference would be, as a general rule of thumb, keep a foot on the rack to stabilise it when a lifter goes into the bar to set up. Again you squat with the lifter, if a lifter fails a lift you want to be able to help that weight up and if you're going to just bend over with the bar you won't stand a chance of saving well and you may even injure yourself. You will, if a weight is over 200kg, have an additional 2 side spots to make a total of 5. The two additional side spots will be at the side of the back spot.

There is one final safety notice for spotters; if there is an instance in which the bar rolls forward on a lifter, basically the bar is going to roll over the lifters head, forget the bar as you cannot save it. Back spotter, just save the lifter, either by grabbing the belt or their body. Side spotters, jump back and just try to make sure that when the bar connects with the floor you just stop it from rolling. These situations happen very rarely, but they do happen.



When it comes to bench, again depending on the competition, you do get your rack heights, some competitions will stick it on an average height for lifters. This is just to allow for a smoother running order. Now this is extremely important when it comes to communication with the spotters on the bench. If you require a hand off please tell the centre spotter how you would like the bar to be handed out. The standard is a 1, 2, 3 lift and then you say “My bar”.

Note – if you do not generally say “My bar”, then the person handing out will generally let go when they feel you are ready, and you may not be. Again, we are here to help you. So please do communicate with us. Just like the squat too if you are failing a lift or haven’t got it please say, as spotters we will not touch the bar until you say “I haven’t got it” or the centre ref says “Rack” and again, for lifters if you fail the lift do stay with the bar! Otherwise it's ‘bye bye rib cage’.


Spotters are split into again, side spotters and then a centre spot for handouts. As a centre spot you will be responsible for handing out the bar to lifters, this should as a rule of thumb be left to the most experienced member of the platform crew. Ask the lifter as they come out how they would like the bar to be handed out and do so accordingly. There may be instances in which a lifter will ask for a side hand out (you get this when weight exceed around 200kg) at this point the centre spot will do the calling out with the lifter to let the side spots know when to lift off too. Once the lifter has said “My bar”, step back. Now for the side spotters you will be the ones that will save the lifts initially if they fail as it will take a moment for the centre spot to get back into position to assist. When a lifter has completed a lift though just like with the squat when you get the rack command guide the bar into the rack with the lifter. Again, just like squats there may be times where 5 lifters are required to spot and that will be weights in excess of 200kg. in that regard it’s the same as before.



For this, there is no communication needed at all, just lift the weight!


For the platform crew this is the most tiring of all, I would always recommend having 5 loaders and spotters on the platform for this to help change the weights and to ease the load. There is a loader who will run the jack and oversee cleaning the bar too. The bar will be jacked up whenever 20 or 25KG plates need to be added or removed. This will run the same for both the first and second flight of deadlifts. The bar will be cleaned at the beginning of round 1 and round 2 of deadlifts.

Round 3 deadlifts however, are run a little bit differently. After every lift the bar is jacked, the plates are changed as normal, if they are the same weight the bar is still jacked and the plates are tightened. The bar is then brushed clean of all chalk and the platform is brushed too. For deadlifts that is pretty much it. The spotter who jacks the bar is also there to spot a lifter should at the end or at any point during a lift that lifter may go faint or fall. They are there to make sure that they do not fall and hurt themselves on the platform.

So that is the rundown of supporting as part of a platform crew on the day. It really is one of the best ways that you can help support your local competitions in your division. as I mentioned before without spotters and loaders as well as table crew and other support staff a competition cannot run.

You will always be looked after by giving up your own time to help support those who want to don the singlet and get out on the platform.

Chris Gillard