Thinking of entering your first powerlifting meet to test your strength with the hopes of eventually entering a competition? Are you actually ready?
This guide will help you be at your best for the big day. You’ll learn what you need to know to you help train and prepare for your first powerlifting meet. You’ll also see what the biggest obstacle is when signing up for your first meet.
BEFORE SIGNING UP FOR A POWERLIFTING MEET
You need to be able to perform the big three: deadlift, back squat, and bench press.
There are two variations of the deadlift: conventional and sumo. Most opt for the sumo deadlift as you can lift more because the bar has to travel less compared to the conventional deadlift. Don’t be fooled though as the sumo deadlift is just as difficult as the conventional deadlift, and it requires a different set of muscular strength.
If you haven’t had the chance to learn the sumo deadlift or master it, there’s nothing wrong with the conventional deadlift.
With the back squat, you need to be able to squat down to the point where your hips are in line with your knees. If you’re only half squatting, ya ain’t ready! Check out our article on how to perform the barbell back squat like a pro.
At the meet, you’ll be asked to pause at the bottom of the bench press until instructed to push the bar back up. You should already know how to brace properly whilst performing these lifts if you’re considering entering a powerlifting meet. Need some help with your barbell bench press? Check out our guide on how to increase your bench press.
If you’re able to perform these three lifts well enough and brace properly, then you’re at least ready for your first powerlifting meet.
Knowing is half the battle, so we would recommend knowing where you stand by performing a test day. Ideally, you’ll have someone to spot you if you want to test your 1RM (one-repetition maximum). If not, then strive for your three-repetition maximum by yourself, and you’ll then be able to calculate your 1RM based on your 3RM lifts using a 1RM calculator. Keep in mind that these are only estimates though, but they are accurate enough to gauge your current strength level.
After warming up, test your 1-3 rep max, ideally in the following order: deadlift, squat, then bench press. Record your results and the date. You now have a personal record you’ll want to beat when you sign up for your first powerlifting meet.
Don’t worry about lifting standards if you ever come across them. They basically say how much a lifter should be able to lift, relative to their training level. This varies from different sources, but please don’t let this deter you from entering the meet. Focus on your own race, your own journey. More often than not, people perform worse than what they’re capable of so it’ll be an even playing field when you’re against other first-time lifters and amateurs.
THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE WHEN SIGNING UP FOR A POWERLIFTING MEET
What is the biggest obstacle when signing up for a powerlifting meet? Actually signing up and committing to it! We know it sounds pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people talk the talk but never actually walk the walk. Once you’ve signed up, you now have to commit to your training and preparation for the big day.
WHERE TO FIND POWERLIFTING MEETS
If you’re already training at a powerlifting gym, then look no further than your trainers, they’ll most likely already be competing themselves. Most powerlifting gyms also host their own meets, so look around within your area and get in touch with them.
You could also reach out to local powerlifters on social media, like Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Chances are there are casual powerlifters that train at your regular gym too. You can track them with the messy trail of chalk powder they leave behind.
KNOW THE RULES
Do some research on the powerlifting meets you’re considering, and see what rules and regulations they follow. Make sure to check if they enforce a drug test as this is where you’ll ideally want to sign up as a first timer.
Check to see what accessories are considered as part of “raw” or “equipped”. Also, take note of when you have to check in and weigh in. We’ll cover all this in some more detail a bit later.
YOUR TOP PRIORITY
You’ve done your test day to see where you stand, and you’ve officially signed up and made the commitment. Your top priority now is to be able to perform your absolute best at your first powerlifting meet. Train smart, stay healthy, and avoid injuries!
PREPARING FOR THE MEET
You want to ideally have six months to train and prepare for the meet; however, this will all depend on your training and experience level. If possible, you’d want to train at the same time as when you would lift in the meet. However, this is isn’t always practical, so work with whatever schedule is more feasible for you.
Focus on eating plenty of protein with a good balance of carbs and fats. Learn more about powerlifting nutrition with our article on how to eat for size and strength.
Do not attempt to cut weight; there is no need for your first meet. This is the downfall of many lifters that enter a powerlifting meet for the first time as the lack of nutrition doesn’t allow for proper muscle recovery. Remember, it’s a whole lot easier to under-eat and overtrain than it is to overeat and undertrain, meaning don’t compromise performance just to make weight or look good.
In saying that, there will be weight categories, but making weight shouldn’t be your first priority as a new lifter. Being able to lift at your absolute best should be your top priority.
CHOOSING A TRAINING PROGRAM
There are many great strength training programs out there, but make sure the one you choose follows a mesocycle that includes a deloading or rest week at the end of each cycle. A mesocycle is a block of weeks designed to meet a specific training goal. These typically range between three and six weeks.
Schedule these mesocycles so that your deloading or rest week lines up one week before the day of the competition. A good program has a progressive overload in weight, which often includes a target of 3 sets of 5 reps, or 5 sets of 5 reps, for each lift.
Do not do full-body sessions, especially if you’re already lifting as heavy as your bodyweight. Schedule one lift for each session. You can add accessory exercises after your main lift, provided they don’t affect your recovery for the next session.
Give yourself at least one day to rest between sessions, and preferably at least two or three days of rest before performing the same lift. You’ll want to avoid lifting in the 1 to 3 rep max range. And most important of all, get enough calories, sleep at least seven hours each night, and relax!
Lifters are categorized into “raw” or “equipped.” As the term suggests, raw is lifting unaided with any gear or equipment. Different competitions have different rules regarding accessories and gear; they’ll even check your clothes, so make sure to do your research.
In general, using belts is considered raw whilst powerlifting suits aren’t so they fall under the equipped category. Why? Powerlifting suits boost your body’s elastic force; something like a rubber band that pulls back to its original form.
Please know that gear and accessories are useless if you can’t even brace and perform the lift properly. Weightlifting shoes are the exception as the raised heels are designed to help you reach ideal depths. This is a big advantage if your ankles aren’t flexible enough to reach the target depths.
FINAL WORDS ON TRAINING AND PREPARING FOR THE MEET
We can’t stress enough that this is no time to be restricting your calories. What’s the point of aesthetics or dropping down to a lower weight category if you can’t even lift to your full potential? Cutting calories while training heavy does eventually take a toll on you mentally and physically if you do it long enough.
Save your personal record (PR) achievements for the meet, where you can take advantage of the professional spotters who’ll assist you.
Be prepared and know what’s expected on meet day. You will be weighed, and while some meets allow you to check in 24 hours before, others require you to check in right before the meet starts. Be prepared!
It’s a great idea to find a mentor or role model. They can help guide you or inspire and motivate you.
Don’t assume anything! Have someone check your form, preferably a competitive powerlifter, or if you were able to find one, a mentor.
Should you train with a partner? Yes, if they’re consistent and dedicated, a big hell no otherwise! The problem is everyone has different schedules and commitments.
POWERLIFTING MEETS: READY TO GO?
Whether or not, you win or break a PR, you’re already on the path to success. Remember it’s the journey that made you stronger, not the destination. From here on, you’ll definitely become more motivated to train harder and beat your score at the next meet.
Are you feeling ready for your first powerlifting meet? Have any questions? Let us know on our Facebook!