I'm not strong enough.
I'm going to fail.
What if everyone is really competitive?
These are thoughts I had too when I was prepping for my first powerlifting meet. I remember I had days where I wasn't sure whether I was hitting depth or not; lack of confidence with deadlift, etc.
And I also cried! I put so much pressure on myself (because I'm a perfectionist and I want to do well) that my brain just exploded.
Thinking about it now.. trust me: it's easier than you think.
First of all stop obsessing about you failing and what could go wrong. Focus on the positive!
There are going to be so many other people at your level. Everyone is going to think of their performance, with their fears and worries too. No one cares if you are a beginner or you are not strong enough.
The beauty of competing in powerlifting is that you always feel part of a big community. Everyone cheers you up and is interested in getting to know you. No matter how strong you are!
Pick a date for the event and just go for it. Have fun and consider it a new experience!
So, let's go through some important points on how to approach your first competition:
1. CHECK THE RULES OF YOUR FEDERATION
Every federation has their own rules with regards to equipment, weight class, division and commands.
Make sure you choose the appropriate weight class (pick the closest weight class in relation to your current bodyweight - no need to cut water to make weight for your first event).
For your category it depends on your age. The category could be Junior, Senior, Masters, etc. Generally these all fall into the Open category.
Make sure you go through the commands of your federation and practice. Every time you warm up think about what the referee is going to say to you before you initiate the lift so that you don't get confused on the day.
2. TIME TO PACK YOUR GYM BAG
The event can last a day. The venue could also be very cold and you don't want to freeze while you wait to warm up or eating your food after weigh in. So make sure you pack all the necessary with you.
2x T Shirts (round neck)
Leggins or Sweatpants
Hoodie (in case it's cold)
Non - elasticated underwear and a sports bra for the ladies
Short and long socks (for deadlift)
Round Neck T-shirt
Belt (no velcro belt)
Knee Sleeves (not to get confused with knee wraps - check federation's rules)
Long Socks for deadlift
Squat and deadlift shoes
Chalk (in case you can't find it at the venue or they don't have enough - you never know)
Food for the day:
Lots of water
Electrolytes (such as Lucozade or Gatorade)
Caffeine (in form of coffee, caffeine tablet or energy drinks like a Monster)
A meal containing a source of protein and carbs for post weigh in (such as chicken and pasta or rice), then more "carbs" snack such as bagels, doughnuts, sweets (good during warm up because they don't make you too bloated), bananas, rice cakes, protein bars, chocolate, etc.
I wouldn't recommend to eat food that contains lots of fibre, salty food or something that makes you feel bloated. Choose food that agrees with your body.
Paracetamol / Neurofen
Now that you have your bag and food ready let's talk about the actual day:
1. CHECK YOUR FLIGHT AND WEIGH-IN TIME
Some organisers have the flights ready the day before the event. Check in what flight you are in, time of weigh-in and starting time so that you know what time to wake up, travel to the venue, etc.
You really don't want to rush and find traffic on the way so I would try to get there earlier so that you can take your time.
2. WARM UP
Make sure you listen to what the organiser says with regards to starting time and warm up time. Sometimes it happens that they are late because of some technical issues or other reasons, you have already warmed up and now you have to wait longer than expected before you step on the platform.
Take your time, perform your mobility routine first and don't rush through your warm ups.
I know that it's different because there are other people you have to share the rack with but focus on yourself and on your performance. No one is there to put you pressure.
In terms of warm up sets you don't want to take too many sets and reps that are just going to fatigue you before you even start lifting. Here's an example of how you should warm up:
Based on someone who is going to open with 100kg:
Bar x 10
45 x 6-7
60 x 3
75 x 1
90 x 1
Opener on the platform: 100kg
3. YOUR ATTEMPTS
Your should plan your attempts before the event. You want to have an idea of what numbers to hit and what you want to open with. You should also plan Option B and C in case the number are too easy or it doesn't feel as smooth as it should.
As general guidelines your first attempt should be around 90-91% of your 1RM. Your first attempt should be an easy triple. The second attempt builds your confidence up but it should still be a number that you can do for sure.
To decide for your third attempt judge speed and effort from your second attempt. If it was smooth then go for a small PR; if it was really easy then you might consider taking a bigger jump.
If you miss an attempt take it again and make sure you perform it well. Think about going 9 for 9 on your first event even if you don't hit the training maxes done in the gym.
4. TIME TO CHILL AND EVALUATE OBJECTIVELY
Go out for a nice meal, relax and get some sleep once the meet is over. No matter what your results are evaluate the event objectively. It's a good experience and practice. It also gives you motivation to improve as a lifter and as a person (confidence and mindset are key). It's an opportunity to meet new people and to feel part of a community.
Have a plan and educate yourself. Do your own research, work on your weaknesses and if you want to improve your technique and your numbers don't be afraid of asking help from an experienced coach who can guide you in training and provide mental support .
I hope you find this blog post helpful if you are prepping for your first powerlifting meet!
Are you in the UK and you want to know if there are any local powerlifting events (whether you want to go as a spectator or to attend as a competitor)? Check out these events from our UK drug free powerlifting federations:
if you have any questions at all leave a comment below or feel free to contact me. I will be happy to help :)