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Posted by Alyssa Smith on


With Canadian Powerlifting Union’s National Championship around the corner, it wouldn’t hurt to take a quick review of the technical reasons you may miss your attempts. Sometimes it’s really easy to know: you stepped forward after your squat or you pressed before the command for your bench press. Other times, lifters can be frustrated because they were confident in their lift and then all of a sudden they see three red lights and a blue card in the air.

You can feel yourself getting frustrated and confused: “What does it mean?” “What did I do wrong?”

Here is a quick breakdown of what you might have done wrong that led to a red light.



  • Failure to hit depth (lifter doesn’t pass 90 degrees)



  • Any downward movement when ascending from the hole ( Also known as up and down)
  • Failure to stay in the starting and finishing position



  • Stepping forwards, backwards or moving the feet out of position after the start command is given or before the rack command is given
  • Failure to comply with commands/signal “SQUAT” & “RACK” from the Chief Referee
  • Double bouncing out of the bottom of the squat
  • Contact of the elbows or upper arms with the legs, aiding the lifter on the ascent
  • Any dropping or dumping of the bar after completion of the lift


Bench press


  • Bar isn’t in contact with the chest/sternum area or is touching the belt (if used during the bench)



  • As the bar is being pressed out, and any downward movement occurs (Also known as up and down)
  • Failure to stay in the starting and finishing position before the commands are given



  • Heaving or sinking the bar after the press command is given
  • Failure to comply with commands/signals “START”, “PRESS” & “RACK” from the Chief Referee
  • Any change in movement (ie: feet, shoulders, butt raising off the bench and hands laterally on the bar) after the initial command is given
  • Any contact of the lifters feet with the bench and it’s supports
  • Deliberate contact with the rest supports “safeties” to aid in the lift




  • Failure to lock knees straight at the completion of the lift
  • Failure to stand upright with shoulders locked out



  • Any downward movement before the completion of the lift (also known as up and down) 
  • Supporting the bar on the thighs on the way up from the deadlift (also known as hitching)



  • Stepping forwards, backwards or moving the feet out of position after executing the lift/ the command is given
  • Failure to comply with the command/signal “DOWN” from the Chief Referee
  • Dropping or throwing the bar in an uncontrolled motion back to the platform without keeping in the hands throughout the entire descent


Want more?

Alyssa Smith is releasing her very own Powerlifting Handbook to help guide you through your powerlifting journey. Get your own copy March 14 at www.smithstrengthsystems.com/shop


About the author

Now 23 years old, Alyssa Smith has been powerlifting since the age of 16. She has provincial, national, and unofficial world records. Her best numbers are a 440lbs squat, 225lbs bench and a 507lbs deadlift. She graduated from the Fitness & Health Promotions Program at Algonquin College and now works with like-minded women to build strength and confidence. 



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