Written by Sarah Strong
When I first started powerlifting, I signed up for a meet right away. I knew close to nothing about the sport, but I have zero regrets about competing just three months into picking it up. Here are my top ten tips for your first meet:
Just sign up! I hear so many lifters say that don’t want to enter a competition until their lifts hit a certain number. But everyone starts somewhere, and the experience of a meet under your belt will help. I entered my first meet after just three months of training. I was so nervous, but I am glad I did it. I got to watch a lot of experienced lifters and learn from them. It prepared me to train better and be more competitive at future meets.
Don’t cut. For your first meet, don’t worry about your weight class. Enter whatever category you naturally fit in. The physical and mental stress of cutting before a meet can totally tank your numbers when it comes time to hit the platform. It’s your first meet, just go out and have fun.
Check your equipment. Before the meet, make sure that any equipment you use is on the federation’s approved list. Some federations have more strict lists than others.
Practice your commands. One of the biggest differences in lifting in the gym to lifting at a meet is that you have to wait for commands. Make sure you research these commands and practice beforehand. You’d hate to have a PR disqualified because you re-racked your squat before the “rack” command.
Do a mock meet. At least a week before the big day, do a mock meet. Do all three lifts with cues. My suggestion for your opening numbers is to pick a weight that you can do at least 3 reps with. Don’t make your opening lift your max or a PR. You get two more chances to hit those big numbers, and you don’t want to be DQ’d for completely missing a lift.
Pack food, lots of food! I’ve been at meets that last a couple of hours, but most of them have taken all day. You may not know the surrounding area so bring your own food. I always bring a cooler full of goodies. You’ll see a lot of doughnuts and junk food at meets, and that’s great, but consider the toll it may take on your stomach. Personally, I like to have healthier options and a few treats for a little sugar rush right before a lift. Either way, you don’t want to run out of fuel so pack up!
Have a handler. This is something I didn’t know about in my first meet, and it left me with using the volunteer staff to do my liftoff on bench. (This only applies to some federation. Some federation will not allow you to choose your lift-off person. Make sure you know the rules of the federation you will be lifting in.) It would be much better to have someone there that you’ve practiced with and who knows how you like your liftoff. You don’t have to have a coach; just get someone you trust.
Warm up, but don’t overdo it. You need to find the sweet spot here, and that’s why a mock meet is so beneficial. You definitely want to warm up before your lifts, but I’ve seen so many athletes kill themselves in the warm-up room and run out of energy on the platform. I like to warm up as closely as possible to when I’ll actually be lifting so I set myself up to peak.
Know kilo conversions, and bring your own conversion chart. You can view a conversion chart HERE. After each lift, you’ll go to the judges’ table and tell them how much you want on the bar for your next attempt. You’ll need to say the amount if kilos, not pounds. They’ll usually have a printout of conversions, but sometimes it just helps to be familiar with the conversions beforehand and have an idea of what you want your attempts to be.
Have fun! Competing is a huge adrenaline rush and the powerlifting community is filled with kind, supportive athletes. Look at your first meet as a learning experience. Soak up all the tips and tricks from veteran lifters, and just enjoy yourself.
Comment below if you have any other tips for a first-timer.