girl, powerlifting, bench press

Written by Rachel Jimenez

Photo by Recon 

So, let us examine two different scenarios.

For the first, let’s pretend that you had a fantastic meet. Everyone’s dream, right? You went 9-4-9, never got called for depth or commands, and you lifted more weight than you had ever touched in your life. It was a day to remember, a meet that reinvigorated your love for powerlifting, and left you with a major lifter’s high.

Now, let’s examine the next scenario: the less-than-satisfactory meet. You failed more than half of your attempts, some of which were weights you could rep in the gym two weeks prior. You got called for depth, couldn’t lock out your final deadlift, and you just felt weak by the end of it all. Walking away from that platform felt confusing, unsatisfying, and downright infuriating. All you can think to yourself for the next few days is “what went wrong?”

Now, before you get really lost and confused with where I’m getting with this, let me throw you a couple curve balls. Take both of these situations, and apply them. Do you think that each scenario is possible?

I’ll give you a hint…. They are. 100%. You’ve probably even seen them happen, to you or to your teammates.

Now here’s another thing to think about and ask yourself, could each of these scenarios come from the exact same athlete under the exact same circumstances?

Another easy one: of course.

Alright, so we now know that one athlete can have a peak performance or a poor performance after the same stimuli is applied in the gym (which isn’t exactly rocket science, people). We are all aware that things happen, and that we can’t always blame the program or the weight cut for a bad day.

So what do we do now?

Well, it can be quite simple. It’s easier said than done, but hear me out:

We need to remember to remind ourselves of one thing for when we don’t have the best day of our career, or when we have the best performance of our career: each PR that you hit is different, and not one PR is better than the other.

Truly, one is not better than the other. That state record you stole at your last meet is not better than your last max test in your home gym. It is different. It is a success in it’s own moment, and it is progress.

Take the first scenario that I talked about: obviously, you hit some meet PRs that also happened to be some personal PRs. This scenario is ideal and what we all hope to hit each and every time we compete. The goal is to train to compete as our best selves, right?

Well, let’s look back onto scenario number two, where you didn’t even come close to even touching your last gym PR. This is where reality takes a hit, a really hard and heavy hit. You didn’t do your best, number-wise, and you beat yourself up for it.

But should you?

I know that for most, the hardest part about having a bad meet is that you didn’t hit new numbers. Plain and simple. You could have had the best training cycle of your life, but right when you compete and not perform up to par, you immediately forget about all of that progress. Every ounce of training that preceded that moment in front of the judges is quickly ignored as you sit and ponder about what went wrong up to this point.

Did you call bad attempts? WAS that water cut too intense? DID your program peak you too early?

I’ll stop you right there before you give yourself a major headache. Sure, maybe something did go wrong in the midst of running back and forth from the platform to your gym bag. Maybe there was a bad call, or a shaky mindset, or some other variable that you believe squashed your chance at getting the lift.

But here’s the kicker: all of this, all the missteps and additional stressors, are what you need to remember when you kick yourself for not hitting a new PR in competition. This is the difference between killing it in the gym, and killing it in a meet. Both situations (and successes) are COMPLETELY different showcases.

On that platform, you must remember that you have SO MUCH weighing on your performance. You have multiple things coming at you that don’t normally make up the environment you train in regularly. You don’t always have judges sitting in front of you, or a singlet on, or a belly full of Poptarts, or a body filled with adrenaline, or a mind filled with nerves. You may not hit a number higher than what you have in the gym (or maybe you do), but that number is a PR in that specific scenario. Under all of that stress, whether it being a new weight class, new city, or new federation, that right there is a new personal record.

But does that take away from your PRs in the gym? Definitely not, and you need to remind yourself of that all the time, ESPECIALLY when things don’t go well in competition. That insane AMRAP you hit three weeks out is not any less significant than your new 1RM three weeks later on the platform, and it doesn’t hold any less significance if that projected max wasn’t achieved on the platform.

Here’s the all-in-all take away from what I’m getting at with this rant: every single success that you hit holds value. Don’t forget about those awesome moments in the gym when you hit a new number in competition, and do not forget about those successes when you don’t hit a new number in a meet. You cannot define yourself based on one bad day, and you cannot allow yourself to look passed the progress you’ve made to get this far.

Because at the end of the day, at the end of any meet, and at the end of any regular night at the gym: you’ve committed to this because you fell in love with the journey. Sure, the competition portion of it is important, but it only lasts for a mere day. No one trains for something whole-heartedly day in and day out just to get to that one day: they (should) do it because they love what it takes to get to that moment. Getting better, getting stronger, and finding happiness is what the game is all about. Remember that, remember to cherish those moments of success (wherever they may be), learn from the moments that expose your weaknesses, and keep pushing forward.


  • Suneyra: September 19, 2016

    I started powerlifting when it was introduced in India by my late father. Still mentally attached. Woul like to follow girlswho powerlift!

  • Chandra : August 25, 2016

    This is brilliant and speaks volumes as to what almost all us ladies feel. Thanks for the read!

  • Heidi: August 13, 2016

    Bonnie, you got this!! You WILL do great!!! I just did my 3rd meet a couple weeks ago. I have yet to reach my goal of 9 out of 9, but I have to remind myself at every meet, I’m up there doing something not many people could do. I’m 44 YO with horrible anxiety and I’m in the best shape of my life so that yo me is a huge accomplishment. YOU GOT THIS!!! Great article!! #plfl

  • Bonnie: August 12, 2016

    This is just what I needed to read after registering for my first competition! I’m excited and terrified. While I would love to score high, I know that may not be very likely since this is my first time. It’s so different from training in the gym or at home in my basement. Just being there is going to be a PR for me!

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