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Info for Beginners: Your First Powerlifting Meet

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The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the important things for you to consider on competition day



Be aware of the competition date and entry requirements well in advance. I suggest lifters plan their competitive year in January and schedule events. Make it your own responsibility to enter the event on time. I have seen lifters disappointed when they miss deadlines and are unable to enter events. There is nothing more devastating more than this after the dedication of a lengthy build up.


Making weight

Lifters will often look to lift in a particular weight class. This is usually for competitive reasons or to break records or set personal records. Strategies to make weight will be the focus of a future article.


My advice to novice lifters is to lift in their natural weight class and not to drop too much weight in the days leading up to an event. This will lead to the inevitable loss of strength and stress. Restricting food intake on the morning of weigh in is fine if you need to lose a few hundred grams. Weight loss of a kilogram or more will take at least 12 hours and is best reserved until you have had a few competitions under your belt.


Let’s assume that the weigh in is at 9 am in the morning. I suggest have a normal breakfast at about 7.30 am unless your weight is borderline. Then eat immediately after your weigh in.


Weighing in

IPF events have a 90 minute weigh in period. The order is determined by lot draw. I suggest weighing as soon as you can so that you can eat. If you need to lose a few hundred grams following your weigh in then this is best achieved by some form of cardio that raises your body temperature. As noted above, any extreme attempt to lose too much weight should be avoided.


Food on the day

I advocate keeping things relatively normal on the day. Look to eat foods such as bananas, nuts and creamed rice (or a vegan alternative) to give you some sustained form of energy without becoming bloated. I typically fill my bag with fruit, mixed raw or lightly salted nuts, protein shakes, electrolyte drinks and water bearing in mind you will be there for a good portion of the day. I usually drink a strong coffee immediately following the weigh in as I don't drink coffee from 4-6 weeks out from the meet.


Avoid too much sugar. Canned energy drinks are popular but avoid these if you do not usually consume them. Supplements are also popular. Ensure that they do not contain any banned substances.



I'd really encourage novices to lift raw. If you choose to use equipment then it is essential that you have used it in training. Tight squat suits and bench suits need to be “dialed in”. There is no way that you can attempt to master this equipment on the day. You need to have spare equipment in case that equipment blows.


Knee wraps should be rolled in advance of attempts. I recommend having 2-3 pairs and having them rolled and ready to go. There is nothing more stressful than dropping wraps when the clock is ticking.


Warming up

Warm up early and have a plan. These are two very simple but effective pieces of advice:


I like to be ready early. You don’t want to be getting your squat suit on when you receive the bar loaded call. Plan your time so that you have 5 minutes to spare. I like to work up to 90% of my opening attempt. I am astounded by those that like to do their opener or even more in the warm up. That is crazy. There should be no doubt that you can lift your opener.



I like to have one helper (a support crew if you like). This is sufficient. If possible it should be your training partner or coach. They should be familiar with your lifting rituals and there to support you for the whole of the day.


Attempt cards

Fill out your attempt cards with as much detail as possible before the lifting commencing. This will allow your helper to enter just the weight of your next attempt. Remember that you have one minute to get your next attempt in following completion of your lift.


Making your first attempt

As noted above, there should be no doubt with your first attempt. In the case of your squat, the depth should be rock bottom. In the case of your bench, the pause should be ridiculously long. In New Zealand we have a number of referees who need no encouragement to give red lights. So you need to take away the option. Leave them in no doubt. This will also give you a huge confidence boost. There is no fun coming back to re-take your first attempt.


Should you miss your first attempt, re-take the same weight. Under no circumstances should you jump up in weight.


Attempts two and three

There are varying views on attempts two and three. Personally, I like to nail my second attempt also. That means I want it to be something I am pretty confident I can get. Attempt three should be a personal best if the first two attempts have gone to plan.


From an overall point of view, anything more than a 6 out of 9 day is a good one. 7, 8 or 9 are obviously even better. Less than 6 usually means you are below expectation.


Your final deadlift

Powerlifting rules allow you to make two changes to your final attempt prior to the bar being loaded. This is to allow you to jockey for final placings with those in your class. It is something which can work in your favour but it can be high risk if you get it wrong. I recommend working closely with someone who is experienced.



Immediately after a competition is the best time to reflect on your performance and set goals for the future. These maybe related to your individual lifts and total or moving up a weight class. I am always very inspired in the 48 hours after a competition. Use this time wisely and as your launching pad for your career.


The above represents a few things to consider on competition day. I have two rules for myself these days:


- to do my very best

- to have fun


The hard work has been done prior to competition day. This along with thorough planning and hard training should bring good rewards.


Writing credits: James Styler and Craig McGuigan


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Much better plans than those of my first meet, which involved:


1. Stay up as late as possible, who needs sleep? Weigh in at 7 AM? Better make sure not to fall asleep until at least 2 AM!


2. Eat/drink as much as possible the night before the meet. Who needs to worry about making a weight class? Just eat a large cheeseless pizza, drink a 6 pack of beer and call it "pre-meet nutrition".


3. Wake up, stumble groggily to the weigh-in, find out there's no way to make the class you'd planned on, so bump up to the 275s instead (besides, there's only 2 people in that flight, meaning a guaranteed trophy! )


4. Be nervous as hell for 6 hours straight, manage a mediocre total due to a few lifts called on technical issues, and call it a day.

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  • 3 months later...

Haha, I bet a lot of people have had that experience for their first meet! It's not all bad though, you do grow from your mistakes and all the things that go wrong. If everything always ran smoothly you would never learn, grow and become accustomed to adapting to situations when they arise.

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