Preparing For Your First Powerlifting Meet: Part 2

By Julia Anto

In the previous article, I talked about everything from training to finding a coach to packing for the day's events. And I know what you're thinking...

Ipowerlifting1-450x315'm still scared.
I can't do this.
I'm going to fail.
I'm going to get last place.

Stop right there. The very important step 1 from last article still holds true. Get over yourself and stop thinking about what you think other people are thinking of you.

Those that are close to you and those that matter will be proud no matter what. So now that the day has arrived, it's time for a game plan.

I mentioned before that I highly recommend not cutting weight for your first meet. As a newbie, you don't know how your body will respond to cutting water, doing cardio, lowering calories, sweating in a sauna. It may totally zap your strength on meet day.

Talk about frustrating!

Twelve weeks of training down the tubes. Weigh what you weigh and get your first meet numbers on the board so you know how well your training program actually worked.

Step 1: Know the day's events.

By knowing this, you can figure out what time you need to wake up, eat, get to the meet site, warm up, go to the bathroom (50 times if you're like me), etc. If you don't have exact flight info (your flight is the group you’ll be lifting with), you need to at least know what time the “Rules Meeting” is and what time the meet will start.

If you are in the first flight of the day, plan to get there an hour before starting. This will give you time to check out the warmup area, find a place for you to camp out and stretch out for a few minutes. If you're not lifting until a later flight, you'll still need to be there for the Rules Meeting, so be prepared to hang out, eat and rest up.

Step 2: Wake up and do your normal routine.

Eat what you normally eat. If you know that eating a big bowl of oatmeal and a protein shake for breakfast makes you feel good during training, why would you change that meet day?

powerlifting-fries-turkey-281x385I've seen plenty of meet days gone awry because that person decided to eat something completely different or not eat at all. Don't change a thing! (Remember, without making weight or needing to rehydrate, you should feel like you feel every other day of the week.)

Step 3: Double and triple check your bags.

Even though I pack thoroughly and check everything while I'm packing, I always check again and again. You especially want to check for your most important items like your singlet, belt, shoes, and knee/wrist wraps. If you forget hair ties or even underwear, you can always stop by a supermarket to pick some up. But you can't find a singlet or a powerlifting belt there!

Step 4: Arrive and warm up.

I'm a big believer in routine and consistency. Whatever warm up routine you use on squat day at the gym, do that. Your body knows that routine. Factor in those 5 to 10 minutes to how much total time you need before your first attempt. (Photo credit: Ken Hicks)

On that same note, warm up attempts should be the same as training as well. I've seen many new lifters take way too many warm up attempts on meet day thinking they are going to perform better. The other common mistake is that they start their warmups too soon. They take their five to seven warm ups and then end up sitting around for 30 minutes for the actual meet to start. Don't do that.

julia-bench-450x361How should I plan my warmups?

Generally speaking, for most raw lifters, plan on taking five to seven minutes between warmup attempts. This may be a little longer depending on how many lifters are warming up with you, but it's a fair place to start. Also know how many warmup attempts you need.

Let's say you are opening your first attempt with 200 pounds.

Bar x 10 reps (you may take this a second time to get good and warm)

75 x 5 (~35%)
95 x 5 (~50%)
120 x 3 (~ 60%)
140 x 1 (~70%)
160 x 1 (~ 80%)
180 x1 (~90%)

As you can see, with an opener like 200, there isn't much room for a lot of warmups. Too many warmup attempts and you'll be fried before the meet even starts. Obviously the stronger or bigger the number, the more attempts you'll take.

One key thing to remember is that you want to take bigger jumps in weight at the beginning of your warmups, then roughly 10% jumps after that. Too small of jumps will tire you out and too big of jumps won't allow your nervous system to get primed to the heavier weights.

Now we need to time those attempts properly. As you can see, you are only taking seven sets. You will want to plan for five to seven minutes between warm up attempts.

That means you'll need 56 minutes from start to finish (don't forget the time needed after your last warmup and before your first attempt) and we are guessing that your first attempt will be taken at 9:15. (Seven lifters ahead of you x two minutes for each lifter to have their bar loaded and complete the lift = 14 minutes.)

Calculating that out:

9:15 first attempt - 56 minutes for warmups = 8:19 start.

You may find that the warm up room is not very busy and things are moving fast. And perhaps after your first warm up set or two, you realize you are only taking 5 minutes between attempts. Slow down and wait longer on the front end rather than rushing closer to your first attempt. You can always space out your earlier warmups so you are not rushed at the end.

(This also allows for time to go to the bathroom do any last minute clothing changes.)

While it might seem complicated at first, the key thing is to have a general plan so you are not ready too early and you're not rushed at the end.

Step 5: Planning your attempts.

You should have an idea of these three numbers before you even get to the meet. But let's still talk about some strategies.

What should I open with?

Your opening attempt should be roughly 90-93% of your best max. Having said that, those percentages are only a guidelineI've seen far too many lifters open with a weight that is way too difficult for an opener. We want first attempts to be smooth, confident lifts and something that you can make on any day of the week.

This way, whether you slept poorly, are feeling a little under the weather, or had a stressful day with your spouse, your opener should be a number that is a guarantee. But be honest with yourself. If you've attempted 225 at the gym a few times during training and only successfully made two of the four you've ever taken, that's not a guarantee. Perhaps 210 is the answer.

Your second attempt will be approximately a 10–20 pound jump, but the jump you take will depend on how your first attempt went. If you crushed your first attempt, you may go up 20 pounds. (I find that's a good increase for women lifting raw). If it was tougher than you expected, you may only want to jump 10 pounds. Your second attempt will be tougher, but still something that you feel confident you can make (barring any technical issues).

Your third attempt is where you go for the number you want. Again, this should be a 10-20 pound jump from your second attempt.

If you miss an attempt, take it again. As a new lifter, you aren't experienced enough to go up after a missed attempt. Take it again and nail it.

If your best squat in training was 225, and you're hoping to hit 235, here is what your attempts might look like this:

1st attempt: 205 pounds
2nd attempt: 220 pounds
3rd attempt: 235 pounds

Step 6: Rest, eat, relax between attempts and lifts.

If you’re doing a full meet (squat, bench, deadlift), plan on it being a full day. Squats usually take about 60–90 minutes total depending on how many lifters there are. If there is another flight or two of lifters after you, then you can expect to be waiting around for a few hours. Go grab a bite to eat (remember, something that you know will sit well in your stomach, but it can be a good meal rather than a tiny snack).

julia-bench2-450x300Then sit down, put some sweats on and stay warm. Find a corner of the room to relax, listen to some music and maybe even close your eyes for a few minutes.

When it’s time for you to start warming up on the bench, grab another small bite to eat if you’re hungry. You won’t want to go into the bench press low on energy.

After the bench press, this is where tiredness and fatigue sets in. Many people don’t realize how exhausted they are by this point, which makes deadlifting tough. Yes, it’s tough because it’s been a long day so far, but it’s also tough because you just got done hitting big max numbers on both squat and bench.

The key here is to stay warm, but relax between lifts.

Step 7: Go home, evaluate and plan for the next one.

No matter what the outcome of the meet is, you have to look at it objectively. The idea of your first meet is to get experience and get your first meet numbers "on the board." Without actual meet numbers, you only have gym lifts...and what happens in the gym isn’t always what happens on the platform. Make your lifts “official” in a meet.

If you made all your lifts, congrats!! Did you grind out every single third attempt? Probably not. Chances are you hit those numbers with room to spare, which means your next meet, you’ll hit even bigger numbers!

The awesome thing about competing is that there is always room for improvement. There is always something to work towards and you can always work to better yourself.

If you just competed in your first meet, drop a comment and let me know how you did. Did this inspire you to do your first meet?

Note from GGS: If you're not quite feeling ready to try powerlifting, but you definitely want to try lifting, a good place to start is with a sane, sustainable and effective training program—and we can help!

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About the author:  Julia Anto

Julia Anto, CSCS, spent 7 years as a Division I strength & conditioning coach at the University at Buffalo, and 5 years as the Director of Sports Performance at Parisi Speed School in Schererville, IN. Julia is also an elite-level powerlifter in three different weight classes, a physique competitor, and an sponsored lifter. Julia is a coach to athletes, women, men, powerlifters, crossfitters, fitness enthusiasts, recreational lifters and those seeking body transformation. She takes pride in helping people from all walks of life to see and reach their full potential.

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