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Tips on Your First Powerlifting Competition.

You have chosen a competition to get into. What is the next step? You have been training for a number of months, and meet day is the coming weekend. If it is your first competition ever, then you might not know what to expect. I have lost count on how many times I have competed in 14 years, but every competition seems to have a lot of the same factors.

Most competitions have what are called 24 hour weight ins. This is where you will be weighing in the day prior to the meet, either in the morning, afternoon, or both. This gives lifters who are cutting weight to make a weight class an advantage, because after they make weight they can then refuel their bodies with food and fluids to gain back all their strength. You only have to make weight one time, so you can make your weight class the day before you compete, and come in the next day 10 pounds heavier and have a serious weight advantage over your competitors.

Before the competition begins, there will be a rules meeting. Every competitor will be called to an area where the meet director will be able to address everyone over the general rules of performance on lifting, as well as other details regarding breaking records, 4th attempts, time limits, etc. Most often these are all the same, and all lifters are encouraged to attend no matter age or experience levels. I made an honest effort in the beginning to make every single one of these, but once I started competing with bench presses in the 900+ range, I was usually away doing my own thing to get my head in the right place. No disrespect intended.

Knowing what flight you are in is extremely important. Before the competing starts, the staff running the show will have already posted the flights on sheets of paper, and the location of said flights will generally be addressed during the rules meeting. Pay very close to the flights, and listen to the announcer’s table to know how far out you are from starting your attempts. I was normally the last lifter in the last flight, so I always knew that I had many hours (at a big competition) before I even needed to start warming up. It helps to have a training partner or handler keep track and periodically check where the flights are for you, which helps take a load off your shoulders.

Once you have established where you are on the flight list, the next step has everything to do with timing. Timing is critical at powerlifting meets, and probably the single most difficult thing to get right. If you begin your warm ups too early, then you will spend way too much time after your final warm up waiting for your attempt to come around, and you will generally get cold waiting too long. Warming up too early could run you the risk of not being able to complete your warm ups before your first attempt. It has taken me years to get this right. And every meet is different. You must keep in mind, each flight has up to a dozen or more competitors (number varies depending on the size of the competition), and each one has three attempts to complete.

If I was the last lifter of 12 in the third and final flight, I would generally start my warm ups when the second flight began their first attempts. This allowed me and my handlers to keep track of how far away I was to starting my first attempt. We would hear a name, check the flight list, and keep in mind what attempt number they were on. I would then speed up, or slow down how fast I was going through my warm up sets. It is an art all its own to perfect.

Almost every federation I have ever competed in has a 60 second time limit for the lifter to begin his or her attempt. This 60 second timer usually starts when the audible command “bar is loaded” has been given. And the “start” of the lift means the bar is leaving the rack, or the pull has begun on the deadlift. This is not much to ask of the competitors, and allows the individuals running the competition to keep the meet running as fast and smooth as possible. At the end of 60 seconds, the lifter has still not begun his or her lift, that lifter is now skipped, and they move on to the next one. Your only option now is to repeat that same number on your next attempt. Pay attention to what is going on around you, and keep track of your place in line. The announcer will generally be giving the lifter order, by saying who is up, who is on deck, and who is in the hole (three out).

In every powerlifting competition, each lifter is allowed three attempts at each lift they are competing in. The best attempt out of each lift is what determines placings amongst competitors. Records can be broken within these three attempts, but there is also the 4th attempt. The 4th attempt is only an option if a competitor is going for a record they didn’t reach on their first three attempts. If successful, the record is now theirs, BUT this lift will not determine placing in the competition. It is for record breaking purposes only. Also on the subject of attempts; if you are unable to get a successful attempt completed in one of the lifts, you will “bomb out”.

Bombing out is not a great experience, especially for a beginner. It can be a discouraging event. When weighing in, you will be asked to provide your opening attempt weights for each lift, as well as the rack height you desire. Choose weights that you are 100% confident with. Choose a weight that you are able to complete 3-5 perfect reps with in training. This will ensure that you will make successful attempts and not start out to heavy and not be able to convince the judges with a good performance. And regarding the rack heights, both the competition squat rack and bench will be available to you to move up or down and find the right numbers to give at weigh ins.

Powerlifting meets have a very draggy nature to them. They go on and on and on, which turns out to make for a very long day. The longest competition I had ever been through started a six in the morning, and lifting was not completed until ten thirty at night, not including the awards ceremony. Be prepared for this by bringing plenty of fluids and food for the long day. A lot of your time is going to be sitting around getting tired, bored and hungry. Don’t let your strength or moral falter because of a hungry stomach or dehydration. Taking nap is also a great way to get through the competition without losing your mind.

The most important thing about competitions and the sport itself is to have great fun with it. It is meant to be a challenge, but also an enjoyable experience from which to grow from. It is an awesome sport with great comradery. Meet as many people as you can, make connections, and pay attention to the more experienced competitors. See how they compete and how they structure their day. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Have a great, successful competition, build upon the numbers you accomplished, grow and get stronger for the next one.

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