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In the International Powerlifting Federations technical rules they indicate the following:

  1. The first and heaviest discs loaded on the bar must be loaded face in; with the rest of the discs loaded face out.

I noticed this for the first time yesterday while watching a Eddie Hall's Deadlift. I started looking at more powerlifting meet videos and of course, they're all the same. I am wondering if I should follow this practice during my gym lifts but I can't imagine why it's a rule in the first place.

What is the reason for this rule?

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I don't have confirmation of this being the reason, but my educated guess would be for the visuals.

The weight is usually printed on the face of the plates, but sometimes on both sides. This rule would ensure that there is always a weight being displayed on both the inside and the outside of the barbell in the majority of cases. With the exception of a competitor only using one plate on each side, then they would always face on the inside.

Most competitors will lift over two plates in all their lifts, there may be a few who lift less than two plates, but that is probably an exception. I don't really follow the sport, so I am not aware of the strength of amateur competitors at these events.

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So that you can read the plate weight from the inside and the outside. Usually they're all color-coded as well so you don't technically need to do that, but they do it anyway for consistency. (AFAIK the colors are not standardized so a "red" plate could be 20kg, 25kg or whatever). Also you can still read the weight of the larger plates if there are smaller plates on the outside covering up the weight of the larger plates.

For training, the only thing that matters is consistency. Some plates are heavily recessed so the weight is primarily on one side of the plate. If one is facing outward and the other is facing inward, then there is a small but noticeable difference in leverages. One side will feel slightly heavier than the other.

Plates that are symmetrical, especially calibrated plates, can really be placed however you want.

  • In the IPF, the first few weight sizes are a standardized colour-code (red = 25 kg, blue = 20 kg, yellow = 15 kg, green = 10 kg) below 10 kg they aren't but those are not the first plates loaded. I guess that adds to my confusion since there would be no reason to need to read the first plates, and you usually can't read the small ones anyways. – C. Lange Nov 16 '19 at 16:15
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I asked this at a powerlifting meet a few weekends ago and got a couple more ideas, still nothing definitive, and I've got no sources to link.

  • Advertising: the company providing the weights probably wants their name advertised. Along with banners, t-shirts, and whatnot, flipping the first plate puts their name in all of the athletes' photos.
  • Friction: flipping the first plate causes the first and second plate to be touching completely. This increases the friction between the plates. Not sure about this one but it has merit.
  • History: plates weren't always colour-coded! When Olympic lifting started it was all iron plates, likely, with little standards in terms of size. As already mentioned, having the first plate turned around to see if it was 20 kg or 25 kg would be quite important (subsequent plate weights get covered as smaller loads are loaded on). It is more than likely that this rule stemmed from early competition and has simply been carried on.

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