Welcome to my first ever blog post! I will be discussing the 10 most important tips that I can give you before your first powerlifting meet.
So… you are thinking about competing in your first powerlifting meet. What are some of the things you need to know before signing up and competing?
- Don’t wait until you are “strong enough”!
I have been competing for over 4 years at a National and International level, and I still don’t think I’m strong enough. The truth is, maybe you’ll never think you are “strong enough”. Strength is relative. Why wait until you hit certain lifts such as a 140kg squat, 100kg bench and a 180kg deadlift before you decide to compete? Competition brings the best out in you, gives you more motivation and drive to get better, and you will come across many knowledgeable lifters and coaches at local powerlifting meets that can further help you in your pursuit for strength. The powerlifting community and crowds at meets are very supportive of each other – I’ve never been to one competition (or heard of one) where a lifter who is putting up the lowest lifts gets ridiculed.
- Hire a Coach.
The single best thing you can do before competing in the sport of powerlifting – is to hire a coach. A good coach will have a wealth of knowledge to pass on and will make your job much easier. I get new clients reach out to me around 4-10 weeks out from their planned first competition – which is great! However, if you want to get the most out of the coaching, it’s more beneficial to begin working with a coach during your “off season” or when there is 4-6 months before your competition. This is because adjustments to technique shouldn’t be made too close to competition as the weights are getting heavy – it should be made with submaximal weights without the added pressure of an upcoming competition. Essentially, the longer you give the coach the better. A good coach will prepare you for every aspect of your first competition.
- Read the rulebook.
Be familiar with the entire rule book of the federation that you are competing in. Each federation has a different set of rules – so without reading the rule book for your particular federation you are setting yourself up for mistakes as the rules may differ to what you may see on Instagram. Did you know your socks can’t touch your knee sleeves / knee wraps? Did you know your shoes can’t touch any part of the bench or it’s supports? (These rules apply in GPC Australia). Don’t be that guy that rocks up to a meet and does a touch and go bench press or drops the bar after locking out their deadlift and looks around not knowing why he got red lights for.
- Do not cut weight!
This is your first powerlifting competition, you are not there to break records in a certain weight class. Cutting weight on your very first competition will only negatively impact your performance, and it will take away from the whole experience. There are so many new factors and variables thrown at you, the last thing you need to do is add in extra stress and risk a decrease in performance by cutting weight through water loading and getting in the sauna before weigh-ins, or by restricting calories in the weeks prior to the meet where the training is at its heaviest. If one of my lifters is weighing 77kg around 3-4 weeks out from their first meet, I will encourage them to not restrict calories and to compete in the 82.5kg class, rather than cutting down to 75kg. My opinion is you should not even worry about your bodyweight, rather just the weight lifted in your first competition. Weigh-ins are just simply something you have to do. I will only ever recommend cutting weight for a meet to experienced lifters who are either very competitive at a National Level or want to break National/All Time records. Of course, dropping a weight class down the line in favour of better body composition, health and performance is a good idea for certain people, but that needs to be done in your off season, not trying to cut upwards of 5% of your bodyweight in the week of your meet.
- Choose smart attempts.
The goal for your first powerlifting competition should be to hit 9/9 attempts to build a solid total and so that you have a positive first powerlifting experience. Be realistic with your attempts, drop your ego and remember that whatever weight you hit is a competition PR, because lifts on a platform with referees are completely different to gym lifts. Your opener should be very easy. I recommend choosing a weight that you could hit for a set of 3-5 reps on any given day. After you smoke your opener, it will settle your nerves for the rest of the day. Your second attempts should still be comfortable, and you shouldn’t have any doubts about it. Third attempts are for PR’s, but only take what is there on the day, not what you want. You need to be prepared to take smaller jumps on your second and third attempts if your opener or second attempt moved slower than expected. I like to see my lifters leave 2.5-5kg in the tank on their third attempts. An extra 2.5-5kg per lift doesn’t make or break your total, but missing lifts does. It’s very common for lifters to forget about a wide range of factors that impacts performance on competition day. If you set your gym PR for the bench press with touch and go and your ass came up off the bench, you shouldn’t be trying to hit a PR in the comp with a pause. If you have never deadlifted heavy after squatting heavy, then that also needs to be taken into account.
- Do not increase the weight after a missed attempt.
If you miss an attempt, you should always re-attempt the same weight in the following attempt. If you miss an opener on depth, come out and bury the same weight on your second attempt. If you increase the weight after a missed opener to the planned second attempt – it adds a lot of pressure and you also need to think about hitting depth as you missed the attempt before. From my experience, this is a terrible idea and more often than not leads to bombing due to the pressure. This is generally the same advice with all lifters, however there can be exceptions in high level experienced lifters who miss an attempt on a technicality (for example, just beating the rack command on the bench press on your opener) at a high level meet where they can’t afford to re-take the same attempt. This is very rare however.
- De-Load before the meet.
Leading up to a powerlifting competition, you need to be prepared to perform at the best of your ability. Fatigue from training needs to be dropped prior to competing to maximise your performance. Volume should be tapered off in the final week(s) of training, however intensity should remain high. In the final week, you should have significantly reduced training volume, and generally speaking, I recommend taking at least 2-3 days off prior to competing. Many lifters think it’s still a de-load if you just drop the weight down to around 50% but still hit 10 sets of 10 reps of the week of the competition. Volume is actually the biggest contributor to fatigue, so even light weights but for multiple sets of high reps will not allow you to reduce your fatigue levels and is actually being counter productive.
- Know the lifting schedule.
Want to hear a funny story? A friend of mine had been preparing for a competition for several months – only to arrive at the competition venue after his flight of lifters had already completed squatting. It is clearly very important to know the starting time for the competition, so you can work out when to arrive at the venue to start warming up etc. Always allow for delays. Not only is knowing the start time important, it is also important to understand the lifting schedule – for example if there are a morning and afternoon “session”, and the number of flights. If there are only 2 flights, expect a fast competition with less breaks between lifts, however if there are 3 larger flights, you can expect long waits between lifts and a long day of lifting.
- Have a handler.
If you don’t have a coach, it’s best to bring along a friend to be your handler for the day. A handler is vital to helping everything flow smoothly on the day. They will help you load the bar in the warm up area, give lift outs during the bench, give commands in warm up area, help with timing of warm ups, aiding in attempt selection – among others. They will make the whole experience a lot less stressful!
- Be prepared.
Make sure you pack your gym bag with everything that you may need the night before. Plan what you are going to eat, and make sure you have enough fluids and electrolytes. I recommend bringing along salt tablets in case of cramping. It’s always best to be prepared for the worst case scenario.
That’s it! By following these 10 tips you will be ready to compete in your first powerlifting meet and begin your journey as a powerlifter! I damn wish I could have read this list before my first meet in 2013.
If you are interested in hiring a coach or learning more about my online coaching services, head over to the ‘online coaching’ tab and fill out the questionnaire or simply get in contact with me through the ‘contact me’ tab.