Getting Ready for your First Powerlifting Meet
DID SOMEONE SAY MEAT??!!
You've been training hard for weeks, months, or even years. You've spent late nights and early mornings thinking about your performance and what you want to accomplish. The time is almost here for your first powerlifting meet. Now is when you want to hone in on what got you here and not make any crazy changes to your changes or routine. But what about all the logistics of weighing in, checking gear, properly fueling for performance, and everything else that it takes to have a successful competition? This article will cover all that and more to ensure that all that hard work will pay off when it really matters. You will be well prepared for this competition because you will prepare well.
2+ Months Out
This is when you should have a meet selected and be on a training protocol to specifically prepare you for the competition. This article will not cover how to train for the competition, but rather the timeline for the logistics and behind the scenes. That being said, when selecting a meet make sure it is something close by (I would not recommend long travel or flying out of state for your first meet--pick something local and easily accessible). Sign up for an "Open" meet, meaning something you do not need to have qualified for in a previous competition. Make sure you register for the proper weight class, category, etc. that corresponds with how you wish to compete (for example, if you are a 150 lb female who wants to do all 3 lifts, don't register 242 Masters Men Multi-ply Bench Only). If you are having trouble with navigating the registration and training, get a qualified coach who can lead you through this process. Doing things on your own can be a great challenge, but bombing out at your first meet isn't fun for anyone.
When you have registered for the meet, make sure you also get hotel accommodations if needed as most meets require you to weigh in the day before, and I recommend weighing in first thing in the morning. Get something close to the venue, or even better the venue will be at a hotel with discounted accommodations for the athletes. You'll probably feel like you got hit by a truck after the meet, so staying the night might be a good plan then as well.
You will also need to register for the organization you are competing in, and in my opinion this should be done a little closer to the meet as they are typically valid for a year from the purchase date. Registering a few months out ensures you have done it, but you don't really "need" the membership until the competition so I'll usually do it the week of.
Week of the Meet
Now is not the time to make any drastic changes in your routines (or really any changes at all). Your program should involve a peak and taper, so that is a change, but I'm talking about your normal daily habits and routines. Get plenty of rest and sleep, don't add any exercise or unnecessary movement to your day, and keep your nutrition and hydration dialed. For nutrition, unless otherwise specified by your coach or nutritionist, do not make any changes. I recommend for your first meet you will be competing at whatever you weigh in without attempting to "make weight." That being said, if you are trying to make weight, make sure you or your coach knows what they are doing so you don't exhaust yourself trying to drop weight and then bomb out on squats.
Make sure you have your hotel accommodations set, you have your organization membership, and you have all your equipment ready to go. I recommend the week of the meet your training sessions should be done in full attire, that way you know you have everything you need and have lifted in it so nothing seems out of place on meet day. The last thing you want to do is have a singlet that you don't feel comfortable in or forget you needed long socks for deadlift.
If you have any nagging soreness, injuries, etc. now is a great time to address those things. You want to come into the meet as fresh as possible, so do everything you can to support recovery. This means ice baths, foam rolling, CARs, chiropractor/massage (only if you go regularly), anything that will help you feel on top of your game and fully recovered. The hard work of getting stronger is done by now, and the focus should be on the demonstration of all that hard work that you have put into this training phase.
Day Before the Meet
You will need to check in and weigh in at the venue the day before you compete, usually at either 9am-11am or 5pm-7pm. I highly recommend showing up to the early weigh-in as early as possible, that way you are as light as possible (for your Wilks score) and you have the entire day to eat and relax without stressing out about weighing in. This also affords you extra time if we need to do anything drastic to have you make your weight class (you shouldn't need to, but better safe than sorry). Along with weighing in, you will be checking ALL of the gear you will be lifting in (see checklist below) as well as verifying your identity (bring your ID) and membership (know the expiration date) and giving your opening attempts and rack heights. Bring your gear in a bag that is easy for you to pull it out and pack it back up (don't be the guy that holds up the line because you don't know where you put your singlet). Have your opening attempts written down somewhere easily accessible. You only need to tell them openers as you will be selecting 2nd and 3rd attempts during competition (see below). Finally, you will be giving them your rack heights, and unless you happen to lift on the same equipment they will be using in the competition (I doubt it) you will need to figure these out before you get in line to check in. There will typically be a setup available nearby that you can figure out your rack heights for squat and bench (no rack for deadlift, obviously).
After weighing in and checking your gear, START EATING!!! You will want to eat foods you normally eat (don't have diarrhea during squats the next day, nobody will be your friend). Eat mostly protein and carbs for meals, as fat will slow down digestion and leave you feeling full so you won't be able to eat as much. Staying hydrated is critical, so make sure you are salting your meals, drinking plenty of fluids with electrolytes, and limiting consumption of alcohol and caffeine. If you did do anything drastic to make weight now is the time to put it back on, so strap on that feedbag and start feasting. If you did not do a weight cut, you'll still want to fuel up for the day ahead. Oftentimes nerves will take over and you won't be hungry during the meet, and that will bite you in the ass when your exhausted and haven't deadlifted yet so eating a little extra the day before can help with some extra fuel stores.
Make sure you stay off your feet as much as possible today and take naps when you can. You have a big day of competition ahead of you, and believe me you do not want to miss a squat PR because you wanted to go on a hike the day before. To sum it up, your day is going to be very simple: weigh in, eat, take a nap, eat again, take a nap, eat again, take a nap... and eventually it will be late enough to go to sleep. After you have eaten, of course.
Day of the Meet
You'll want to get up a little early today to start eating (big shock) and make sure you can get to the competition in time. You will have to arrive at 8am (unless otherwise specified) to listen to the rules briefing and see what flight you will be lifting in. If you are scheduled to lift at 9am, don't plan to have breakfast at 8:30am. Trust me, you'll want to get in a large, carb-heavy breakfast well before you squat, and this will hopefully carry you through to bench.
Make sure you bring all your gear with you for the rules briefing, as well as meals, hydration, music, etc. so you don't have to leave once you have arrived. The order of the meet will be Squat first for every flight, then everyone will move on to Bench, finishing with Deadlift. You will want to start warming up when the flight before you is lifting, just like you would normally warm up for a workout. Again, do not change your process now. You'll want to be generally warmed up and in your outfit by the time they do the 1st attempts, under a barbell before 2nd attempts, and getting close to your opener during 3rd attempts. Hopefully you will have someone there to handle you, and if you don't you'll really need to pay attention to the timing of the meet.
When it is your flight that is lifting, you will leave the warm up area and head to the holding area nearest your platform. Sometimes you won't be able to hear the announcers, so make sure you are paying attention to the order of the lifters and where you are at in the lineup. You'll want to make your way near the platform when there are two lifters ahead of you. Get chalked up, belt on, wraps tight when you are next up. When it is your turn to lift, you will be waiting for the head judge to say "platform ready," at which time you can step onto the platform and take your attempt.
Make sure you pay attention to the commands of the head judge. You should be practicing the commands all this week so you are familiar with them. Once you have completed your lift, there will be a screen that shows the 3 lights. All 3 white means you nailed it, 1 red light signals one judge did not OK the lift but you still made the lift, and 2 or 3 red lights indicates you did not make the lift. If you get a red light and are unsure about it, ask your coach or the judge who issued the red light and they will let you know what they saw. Do not argue with the judges, just listen to their feedback and make the improvement next time.
After you complete the lift and exit the platform, there will be someone with a clipboard (an expediter) to take your next attempt. Your coach or handler will usually be helping you with attempt selection, or in some cases making it for you. If you are making your own attempt selections, stick to the plan you laid out and remember to be conservative. This is your first meet and the goal should be 9/9, meaning that every attempt was successful. It's ok to leave a little room for improvement on your next meet and I always say it's better to go 5 kg too light than 1 kg too heavy. Once you have taken all three attempts, take off your supportive gear and eat if you can. You will want to rest as best you can, as you will be warming up for the next movement when the flight ahead of you is on the platform.
When you complete deadlift, you can finally relax and take off your singlet (even though it is very stylish). Once all the flights have completed deadlift, the judges will get the final scores in for everyone and there will be a medal ceremony. I recommend that if you do receive a medal, write the date and your attempts on the back so you will remember where you started.
Gear to Check-in
- Cotton T-shirt (to be worn during squat and bench press, deadlift optional)
- Legless underwear (tighty whities) for men
- Sports Bra for women
- Deadlift Socks
- Socks for the Squat
- Knee Sleeves
- Wrist Wraps
- Squat Shoes
- Deadlift Shoes
- USPA Membership Card
- Card with opening attempts on it -*in kilos!
- Gym shorts (over your singlet)
- Sweatpants and Sweatshirt - to stay warm
- Clothes to change into post-deadlift (not required)
- Extra socks/underwear
Accessories* User preference, none of these are required
- Baby Powder (for deadlift)
- Foam Roller/Lacrosse Ball/Etc.
- Warming balm
- Hip Circle
- Resistance Bands
- Non-compression knee sleeves
Food* Disclaimer to not try any new food/supplements on game day
- Meals with primarily protein/carbs
- Water !
- Intra-workout snacks (fast carbs)
- Creatine - if already used to it