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How Should You Prepare for a Powerlifting Competition?

Updated: Jan 30

Imagine, it's meet day. You've just worked extremely hard at the gym training day in and out for at least 4 months straight. So, now what?

Now, it's time to execute.

At a meet, you need to imagine the same type of atmosphere as a gym times 50. More spectators here to watch you give it your all. More people all trying to get the same squat rack. Essentially, imagine New Year's day at the gym with all the resolutioners there for the first time. At the meet, the key to surviving and thriving, is to prepare. The preparation process can be arduous but if you want a 9 for 9 day (achieving good lifts for each attempts), you need to keep 5 important factors in mind.

So you've done it. You have either qualified for or traveled to the meet you are competing in. So, now what? Firstly, powerlifting can be expensive. Therefore, if you have not registered for the meet or federation before, they tend to run between $100-$300. If you are competing in more than one category in a meet, for example Full-Power Raw Open versus Bench Only, you may gave to pay an additional $50-$100 per category. This however, will give you an opportunity for another possibility of placing in the competition. For example, if you compete in Full-Power but you do not place in the top 3 overall, you may not medal. However, if you compete in Full Power (all 3 lifts) and Bench Only, you may be able to get a medal in the Bench Only category instead if you place in the top three.

The second factor to consider when preparing for a meet are weigh-ins. According to USA Powerlifting (one of the many Powerlifting federations), Weigh-In's require: "Bring[ing] your PhotoID and Lifter Card. Wear something easy to take off for weigh-ins, there are lifters waiting, so the quicker you (and your fellow competitors) can get in and out of the weigh-ins, the faster you can eat and prepare for your competition." Weigh In's can also require you be the exact weight (in Kilograms) or under, to be able to compete in your weight class. Therefore, bringing a scale to the competition can be helpful to make sure you will be on your target weight. In addition to weigh-ins, you will also want to bring all the clothing and gear you will be using at the competition. Typically, this means: T-shirt, Knee-high socks, Singlet, Shoes, Belt, Knee Sleeves, Wrist Wraps, Headband, Elbow Sleeves and even undergarments. Depending on the federation you're coming in, you want to make sure you bring the correct item(s) to be checked. If you do not get them checked at weigh-in's before the meet, this could mean you may be disqualified.

The third factor is sleep. The night before the meet is difficult. Your brain is racing a mile a minute and you may feel prepared but are still anxious. Sometimes, if I am staying at the hotel the meet is, I like to walk around the night before the meet to see the set-ups and envision the meet. Sometimes, I think listening to a Podcast or watching a calming video is helpful too. If you are anxious, just know the meet will run smoothly if you are prepared. Depending on your nightly routine, I try to get at least 7-8 hours before the meet, especially since meets can start as early as 8 am. Sometimes, going over the day in your head prior can also be very helpful. For example, remembering all the commands for each lift as well as what your warm-up routine looks like before each lift. This can ensure that if you are rushed or feeling nervous, you can execute the way you planned. Also, even if this is not your first meet, keep in mind that meet's always go differently than anticipated. They can be better or worse than you imagined. The key is to stay in the present moment and give it your all.

The next factor many people have overlooked (including myself), supplies, snacks and recovery support. When it comes to supplies, I have always brought deodorant, Chapstick, wipes and even extra undergarments and shorts/shirts in my gym bag. The meet can be anywhere from 3-8 hours, it is definitely important to bring hygiene items and extra clothing to feel fresh. Additionally, snacks and beverages have always been helpful. On meet day, many people choose energy drinks (like Celcius, Redcon or Monster) to name a few. I may bring one, but in the past, water, electrolyte mixes and fast snacks have been the most helpful. For example, oats, bananas/fruit, gummies, protein/granola bars or crackers. Sometimes, if you are the third flight of the day (for example there are three flights: A,B and C and you're in flight C), then you may have more time to eat and drink. However, before each lift, you want to give yourself at least 45 minutes not eating to make sure anything you did eat has been digested. Finally, having other recovery assistants can be helpful. Whether that be Advil, Tiger Balm, foam rollers or bands; they can all really support warming up, fatigue and soreness the next day. Again, you are devoting at least half an entire day to do this, you want to make sure you are taking care of your body.

Lastly, make sure you have your attempts laid out. Sometimes, if you are at weigh ins, they may ask for your first attempt for all three lifts (squat, bench and deadlift), they may also ask for your rack heights. However, at some meets, they may ask for attempts/rack heights right before you compete. Either way, I always have my first and second attempts saved in my phone or email from my coach. Regarding the meet, after you lift, you need to go over to the judging tables and tell them what your next attempt is going to be. Sometimes they have a diagram that shows you the conversions from Kilograms to pounds, but you should always save the attempts in your phone as both KG's and LB's just in case. In addition, when attempting your lifts, if you are attempting a state, national or world record, you need to tell the judge prior to that lift. If it is a record attempt, a judge may ask to see your gear prior and after the lift (belt, sleeves, wraps, etc.). If you are attempting the record, make sure to have someone video the judge checking the gear, you completing the lift and getting at least 2 white lights (2/3 = good lift) and the judge checking your gear afterward. This is helpful in case a judge messes up your scorecard. If they do mess up the scorecard and do not award you the lift, you can send the federation that footage of the before, during and after and they should be able to give you the record.

I know that may be a lot to think about, but in my five years of competing and 10 years of training, I think these factors are the most helpful to keep in mind for a successful meet preparation. Lastly, remember, the weight is going to feel heavy, but that does not mean you can't lift it.

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