Bench Press- Competition Rules

This page will detail what is needed to compete in the bench press for the sport of Powerlifting.

Figure 2.1



The figure to the right (2.1) shows the correct starting position for the bench press.







The lifter may also use an arch in the back, granted that the buttocks is on the bench press. (Figure 2.2)

Figure 2.2










Step 1. Getting Set- Starting Commands

The images seen here (Figure 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3) is how a lifter should look before starting and at the end of the bench press. The lifter is to “lie on his/her back with head, shoulders and buttocks in contact with the bench surface”. The lifter must also have their feet flat on the floor (as flat as the shape of the shoe will allow). Finally, when starting the bench and throughout the lift, the lifters, “hands and fingers must grip the bar positioned in the rack stands with a thumbs around grip”. (IPF Rules-Rule of Performance #2)

Figure 2.3


*Note: to achieve firm footing the lifter may use flat surfaced plates, or blocks not exceeding 30 cm in total height and a minimum dimension of 60 cm x 40 cm. (Rules of Performance #3) (At higher level meets, “blocks” in the ranges of 5 cm, 10 cm, 20 cm and 30 cm should be available for use to accomodate foot placement)




An example of having feet flat on the floor, or “as flat as the shoe will allow”. (Figure 2.4)

Figure 2.












As the lifter progresses,  and once the starting position is established (Figure 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3) where the bar must be lifted off at arms length if so chosen. (Note: the lifter may be aided in removal of the bar from the racks by the spotter/loaders, i.e. a “lift off”- Bench Press Rules of Performance #4) The lifter must be sure that the spacing of the hands does not “exceed 81 cm measured between the forefingers. Both forefingers must be within and in contact with the 81 cm marks if the maximum grip is used. (Performance Rule #5)

Note: Using a reverse grip is not allowed.

When the lifter is motionless, with the arms straight (elbows locked), the Chief Referee will give the signal to begin the lift signal shall consist of a downward movement of the arm and the audible command “Squat”. (As seen in Clip 2.1-Rules of Performance #7)

Bench Press-Signals- Clip 2.1

(Note: a lifter may make any position adjustments within the rules without penalty, before the “start” signal is given)

*If 5 seconds have elapsed while a lifter is setting up and he/she is still not in the correct position to begin the lift, for reasons of safety the lifter may be requested to “Replace” the bar. (This request will be together with the backward movement of the arm by the Chief Referee)


Step 2. The Lift-Bench Press Execution

Once the signal has been given by the Chief Referee, the lifter must lower the bar to the chest (chest finishes at the base of the sternum/breastbone), and hold it motionless on the chest. (As evidenced in Clip 2.2-Rules of Performance #8) Once the bar is deemed motionless on the chest by the Chief Referee, the audible command “Press” will be given. (Note: the bar must return to straight arms length with elbows locked) (Refer to Clip 2.1)

Bench Press-Front- Clip 2.2


Step 3. Final Position- Ending Commands

When the lifter has recovered, and is motionless with straight arms and elbows locked, as evidenced in Figure 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3, the Chief Referee with give the final command. (Rules of Performance #8)

After the Chief Referee has ascertained that the lifter is in the “apparent final position” (IPF Rules), the Chief Referee will give the signal to rack the bar. This signal consists of a backward motion of the arm and the audible command “Rack”. (Refer to Clip 2.1)

Note: Any foot or body movement that occurs after this final command has been given by the Chief Referee will not be a cause for failure. The lifter may also request aid from the spotters/loaders in returning the bar to the racks if they choose to once the rack command has been given.

*Regardless of whether there is aid in replacing the bar in the racks or not, the lifter needs to stay with the bar during the entire process. For the safety of the spotters/loaders the Referees may deem it a no lift if the lifter leaves the bar at any point when replacing it at the end of the lift.