Your First Powerlifting Meet

July 05, 2016


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 sportYou 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.

  • – Look up the federation(s) rules that you are considering, and be sure you are prepared to match them in both form and equipment.
  • – Consider weight class, equipment, and experience level.
  • – Have your training lead to that meet, run appropriate to expectations OR find someone to help you if you do not know how to hold yourself accountable to these standards.


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).” 
Rob Saeva of No Coast Strength and Conditioning

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.
Rob Saeva of No Coast Strength and Conditioning in training
Written by Rob Saeva of No Coast Strength and Conditioning


The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of USPlabs or any employee thereof. Examples used within this article are only examples. USPlabs is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the authors of this article.  Authors may have been remunerated by USPlabs.

The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.


How to Count Macros 101

December 07, 2017

  Tracking macros or macronutrients may be among the hottest diet trends now, but this is nothing new. It’s how nutrition studies have been run for decades. In nutrition research, if you want to test the effect of a certain diet – you set diet parameters for protein/carb/fat, what I call a “macronutrient framework”, hit […]

Continue Reading

Modern PROTEIN Mini Pumpkin Pies

October 13, 2017

  Have you ever weighed a slice of pumpkin pie, just to log it into your macro tracking app? Fall deliciousness shouldn’t be measured in a few oz’s. Goals are goals, but we set out to find a solution that gives you more pie with fewer calories, and with no math or weighing.       […]

Continue Reading

Modern Protein Pumpkin Pancakes

October 03, 2017

  These easy-to-make pumpkin pancakes offer flexible macros to meet your goals with a flavor that you’ll crave year-round.       Ingredients Dry: – 1 Scoop Caramel Cookie Stix Modern Protein – 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder – Dash Cinnamon – Dash Splenda – 1.5 Servings Generic “Extra Fluffy” Pancake Mix – 1 Serving Sugar-Free Fat-Free Pudding […]

Continue Reading