As my first year anniversary since I started powerlifting is coming up, I thought it would be a great time to discuss some tips that helped me get through my first meet. I started powerlifting in December of 2014 with my starting 1 rep maxes at a 205 squat, 115 bench and a 245 deadlift. 9 months later I am at a 280 squat, 145 bench and a 341 deadlift. I have not only made powerlifting a priority in my life for the past 9 months, but it has transformed my mindset and physical body in such a powerful way.
When I began, I had no set plans on competing as I just wanted to really work on my form for all three lifts while getting stronger. For those who may be just starting out, I would definitely recommend doing the same for at least 6 months or so. Take the time to really become accustomed to powerlifting, what it entails and submerge yourself in the growing world of our sport. In June of 2015, I entered my first powerlifting meet through the Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate (RPS) federation. Over about 2 months leading up to the meet, I cut weight so that I could compete in the 123b weight class. Being a coach and personal trainer, I had experience with cutting weight before so although it was what I did, I would not recommend it for the first-timer for a couple reasons. One reason being your first meet should be a fun, not stressful experience. You really don’t need to worry about cutting weight unless you are so strong that you will be breaking records. The process of dropping weight (especially quickly before a meet) is not a fun one and can be incredibly taxing on top of everything else you may be apprehensive about. A fast drop in weight could also result in a loss of strength which is obviously something you don’t want to mess around with.
Another tip I have for the novice powerlifter is to really study and know the rules for whatever federation you are competing in. The rules for the RPS meet I did were a lot different for my next meet which was a USAPL meet. For example, in RPS, you are allowed to let your heels come up off the floor in the bench press. In USAPL, your heels have to remain in contact with the floor the entire time. Also, RPS uses a Texas Deadlift Bar which has more give to it when pulling off the floor. The USAPL uses a standard stiff barbell. There are rulebooks on both organizations websites so these are something you should be extremely familiar with prior to meet day. With that being said, I also recommend practicing the commands during your training to program your body to know how they feel. For instance, the squat has two commands: “Start” and “Rack”. I have witnessed A LOT of powerlifters perform an amazing squat, but automatically rack the weight after without waiting for the command. This results in a “no lift” which no longer counts in a meet.
My final piece of advice for the newbie powerlifter is not to be too hard on yourself. It is important to set goals for yourself for the meet, however a meet will not always go as planned. For my first USAPL meet in September, I went into the meet extremely confident (as I always make sure to do- get your MIND RIGHT). My squats all went great, I ended up missing my third attempt but still hit a PR on my second attempt. Bench came around and I missed my FIRST attempt at 140 which was something that I hit in the gym PLENTY of times before. This immediately diminished my confidence and caused some anxiety. I realized what was happening mentally and got it together for my second attempt and was able to hit it. The second you start getting in your own head, is the second you lose focus and sight of your goals. Stay calm, determined and confident throughout the meet no matter what happens up on that platform.