So you signed up for your first powerlifting meet!! Now what? There’s a definite learning curve when it comes to preforming your best at powerlifting meets, and nothing trumps experience, but learning what to expect can make things go smoother and help avoid a lot of heartache.
EQUIPMENT & RULES
Before anything else, you want to make sure you know the equipment allowed and the rules for the particular federation you signed up for. The 2017 IPF equipment list applies for all USAPL meets above the local level, and 2017 USAPL rules can be found here. Make sure you memorize all the rules pertaining to the lifts and apparel. Nothing will set you up for a bad day faster than being unable to compete due to not having the right gear!
LEADING UP TO THE MEET
As you near the meet (1-2 months out), make sure you are training with the required apparel and equipment (belt, knee sleeves, stiff bar if USAPL, deadlift bar if USPA, etc.). Practice your lifts as they would be executed in a meet and have a friend give you commands every now and then.
Unless you are planning to set a record, don’t try and water cut down a weight class on your 1st meet. The following may not be applicable if you do a large water cut. This 1st meet is a chance to get your foot in the game.
Now is the time to get an idea of what your attempts will be, don’t wait until the day before the meet to start thinking about this. Unless you get injured, what you can lift a few weeks out will not be drastically different than what you can lift on meet day. Take time to figure out your conservative training maxes. Remember you need to make at least 1/3 attempt of each lift to say in the meet, and at least 2/3 judges must white light it to be a good lift. For new lifters who are not trying to place in a National Championship or take any records, here are some helpful attempt selection guidelines:
- Your 1st attempt should be something you could triple on a bad day. Imagine coming into the gym after a terrible long day of work/school, you have hardly eaten all week, and you hardly slept at all the past 2 days. Now think of the max weight you could definitely triple to competition standards on a day like that. THAT should be your 1st attempt. There is no reason to go super heavy on a 1st attempt, this is to get your foot in the game so you don’t bomb out. You can’t drop the weight from what your 1st is so it should be something you can do even if you tweak a muscle on your last warmup. Play it safe!
- Now your 2nd attempt is where your true strength starts to show. If your 1st went really well and felt great, choose a weight near your training max (95-100%). If your 1st attempt went slower than you’d like, choose what would be just below your max on a bad day (90-95%). This will be below your training max and even more so if your training max wasn’t to comp standards. Also keep in mind that on most training maxes you were lifting fresh. In a meet you have to max on squat and bench before even starting deadlifts!
- Now is the time for PRs!! Shoot for something near or slightly over your training max if your 2nd was rough (95-100%). If your 2nd flew up, take a bigger jump (100%+)!
This means before going into a meet, have a plan A and a Plan B depending on how your warmup and 1st attempt moves. When you are finished with each attempt on meet day, you will need to go give your next attempt to the people at a table near the platform. To minimize stress, you can bring a friend with you who can do that for you and be your handler. Simply give them the list of attempts that you made ahead of time. This person can also keep an eye on things as you are warming up to let you know how much time you have left and when you will be up.
When you get to the meet location, you will have to weigh-in, get/give your rack heights for squat and bench, and give the refs your 1st attempts. After that, check what flight and platform you will be so you know when and where to start warming up. Many local meets may only have 1 platform and 2 flights. Warm-up times is very individual, but the most common mistake is starting warm up too early. Don’t warm up just because others are, unless you know for certain they are in your flight and not the flight before you. I generally do a total of 4-5 sets to warm up (depending on the lift, least for bench) over the course of ~30 minutes before my 1st attempt.
If you do not have a handler, it is best to keep your headphones off so you can keep an ear out. When you are next to lift, they will say you are “on deck”, and the person after that is “in the hole”.
This is what you have put all the work in for, but it’s also a time to meet other lifters and have fun!! Nothing beats the supportive atmosphere of powerlifting, yelling at everyone to grind out a new PR. Remember your cues and commands you have been been practicing and lift your heart out <3.
After each attempt, you or your handler will have a minute to give the table your next attempt selection. Good thing you thought of them ahead of time! After you finish all 3 attempts of 1 lift, other flights will finish and there will be a break to change the setup on the platform. Now is the time to change your equipment for the next lift and use the restroom. Then just repeat the what you just did for bench and deadlift.
STAY HYDRATED!! You will likely be lifting for hours, so drink tons of water, electrolytes, and eat easy to digest carbs. A common tradition among lifters is to bring lots of gummy candy and share them with everyone 🙂
There will always be more you learn each time you compete, but no matter what try and have fun!