Written by Sarah Strong
So you’re ready to take the plunge and sign up for your first meet-- where do you start?
First, I’d like to preface this blog by suggesting that you do not have to wait to be at a certain level in order to do a competition. Your first meet should be fun, not about standing on the podium or setting records. There is no magic rank you need to be at in order to enter; just go and get that total and your first competition under your belt.
With that being said, the process of finding and signing up for a meet can be a bit confusing if you haven’t done it before. I remember with my first meet back in 2015, I Googled “powerlifting meets near me” and signed up for the first thing I found. I knew nothing about federations, weight classes, or rules. And honestly, I don’t regret going in that naive, because my first meet was a huge learning experience and lit a fire in me to continue powerlifting.
Find federations with competitions near you.
In the United States, three of the most popular powerlifting federations are the USPA, USAPL, and WRPF. There are a handful of other federations that hold meets, many popular in specific geographic locations. You can go on the websites for each of these federations and search for local meets, or you could ask some local powerlifters which federation they compete in. This will give you a better idea of which federation is available near you. Also consider rules and fees with these federations, as they vary.
Signing up for the meet
Okay, so you found a federation with an upcoming meet you want to compete in. Before signing up, make sure you are aware if the federation also requires any sort of membership fees. This information should be located on the meet entry form. Next, you need to know what classifications to submit entry into. You’re going to see options to compete by your age, weight, and style of lifting (ie. Raw, classic raw, equipped). If you lift in knee sleeves and/or with minimal gear, you’re a raw lifter. If you use knee wraps, that would be classic raw or raw with wraps. If you’re an equipped lifter, you probably already know the differences between singly and multi-ply.
In regards to picking a junior, open, submaster, or master class-- that is based on your age on the date of competition. Inquire within the rulebook of the respective federation to find where you fall.
If you want to squat, bench, and deadlift at the meet, you would enter as a full-power lifter. You sometimes also have the option to enter as bench only or deadlift only. Some federations allow for multiple entries. For example, you could enter full power but also in deadlift only. This would qualify you for future meets in either category and also qualify you for multiple awards at the same meet.
Each federation has a list of approved gear. Some federations are more strict than others with this. It is imperative to check that the gear you use is approved before the competition day in case you need to replace anything. You will also want to note what is required to wear on the platform. Most federations require a singlet and have specific rules regarding shirts, socks, shoes, and undergarments.
Prepping for the meet
There are numerous peaking programs that are available online to get you ready for your first meet. You could also hire a coach to write you a custom program to get ready. Either way, you should have some sort of lifting plan to minimize fatigue and gain strength.
Don’t cut weight.
No seriously, do not cut weight for your first meet. I have seen many first meets ruined because a lifter decided to cut a ton of weight. This WILL effect your strength and performance. Your first meet should be fun; it should not be about torturing yourself to lose weight. Focus on the weight on the bar, not the weight on your body.
When you go to weigh-in and get your gear checked, you will be asked to give your openers. These are your first attempts for squat, bench, and deadlifts. You will need to give these numbers in kilograms, so make sure you check a conversion chart if you’re not used to lifting with them. Your openers for your first (or first few, even) meets should be weights you can perform three reps of on a bad day. You can always make bigger jumps in weight from there on your second and third attempts. But trust me, it’s not fun to bomb out because you chose too high of an opener.
Finding a handler.
Do I need a professional handler? Short answer, no, most likely not. I think in the world on Instagram lifting, using a handler has become over-popularized. A handler is someone who helps you warm up and often calls your weights for your attempts. I’ve seen lifters pay a lot of money for this, and in my experience, it’s not really needed. Powerlifitng is a great community with lots of helpful people. I’ve had fantastic experiences at meets being able to work in with other lifters, having friends and family lend a hand, and learning to be confident on my own. Is it nice to have dedicated help? Sure. But I do not feel this is something needed.
Competing can be a ton of fun. I’ve met great friends through competition and have created fantastic memories. There’s not a single competition I regret doing, including my first, in which I didn’t medal and had no idea what I was doing. I understand that competition can be intimidating, but I encourage you to embrace this and experience something new. It will propel your lifting and you will learn more about the sport through this. For more tips on having a great first meet, check out my previous post.
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