So your social media pages all say you’re aspiring… You’ve been running programs and doing mock meets, getting gym PR’s and gym totals but let’s face it… You can’t be a true powerlifter unless you’ve stepped on the platform. However, for many the thought of stepping in front of a crowd of folks looking for a show, and competing against a variety of other competitors can come across as nothing short of intimidating.
“In the end, most of those who identify with the community without approaching a platform simply don’t think they are “strong enough” to want to compete.”
Please take this as constructively as possible, but coming from a nationally ranked lifter to those out there, considering the sport… You will never be strong enough, you just need the balls to go up there and do the work. It’s a learning experience from amateur to pro, and nothing is more important than a solid first meet experience.
The first thing to consider when preparing for your first meet is simple… do you know what it is that you are doing, and are you prepared to lift to standard? Knowing what you are getting into makes a huge difference when preparing and competing. Your training standard must match that of a meet environment or you can easily find yourself quarter squatting your way into a disqualification.
If you know what it is you’re getting yourself into, or you have done your research and are prepared to compete to the expectations of a federation, it’s time to pick out a meet for yourself!
Picking a meet to compete in and making sure you have time to prepare is important. This sets a goal point and a period to train.
“Be sure to give yourself at least 8 weeks if you are already an athletic individual, 12-16 weeks if you have little to no experience (mind you this is with the intention of competing Raw… Competing geared will take a good deal longer to learn how to use the equipment).”
The idea being to work through a progressive program to prepare and taper for the event. Specialized sports such as powerlifting and weightlifting require a periodized approach. Not to go into the details too much, but the time leading into the meet is to help practice, peak and prepare the athlete’s abilities to perform at peak strength. Though it’s not advised to perform aggressive weight cuts for a first timer, this will also give the athlete time to fit into a suggested weight class slowly.
Next is to find a coach or program to assist you in this specialized period leading to your event. Depending on your experience with lifting and intended equipment, typically a basic linear progression would suffice to prepare a first-time competitor leading into a meet.
“The idea of this progression is to develop the athlete’s strength/skill set, build SOME weaknesses (this is a specialized period, meaning specific to competition), and progress them to the event with the right idea on opening weights and attempts.”
Though some have jumped into meets spontaneously, I highly advise against doing so for your first time or you will be getting some horns… hard. We want to compete with the intentions of competing again!
Throughout your training period, it is important to develop an idea of where you will be taking your attempts during your competition. Powerlifting events have 9 total attempts, 3 for each lift. Rule number One and unyielding… Your attempts in a meet are to compete, NOT PR. You will compete pretty poorly if your first attempt is your 1 rep max.
Consider the 90% range a dwindling possibility of completion. 90% is a 9/10 chance while your 100% lifetime PR is more than likely around a 2/10 chance of completing to standard. Your opening weight should be a weight you are very well capable of lifting, somewhere around 90% of your 1 rep max. Reason being is we want to not only be able to have a number to work from, but have a decent number for the total. Keeping this in mind it is important to show the judges you are capable of standard form expectations.
Your second attempt should again, be heavier but still complete within 92%-97% of your 1 rep max… Having an idea of this number is important going in but I recommend not committing until you know how you are feeling the day of the event.
“If you are having a rough day, it’s better to attempt something conservative than go crazy so you have that number to increase your total.”
Your third attempt is a toss-up depending on your thoughts, feel and your point in competition. Remember, even though this is your first meet you are still competing, so pick your second and third attempts carefully.
Last details to consider while preparing for your first meet is your lifestyle, recovery habits and plans. Be sure you are eating to help your recovery appropriately, resting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to assist in recovery. Your time leading into the meet should be focused on that meet.
If you have business or pleasure events within your training period, adjust accordingly. Conform them to allow proper training and preparation not to suffer. No one is saying you can’t live your life, but it would be best not to skip weeks of training while in prep unless it is for a good reason.
Always remember… There will always be someone stronger than you and there will always be someone weaker. You are there just to do what you do every day in the gym for a crowd that won’t remember either way the cards fall. Enjoy yourself, have fun and prepare objectively.
Written by Rob Saeva of No Coast Strength and Conditioning
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