Written by Chad Wesley Smith
I sit here today on the 5 year anniversary of my first powerlifting meet, I remember very vividly and fondly that first competition day.
My first meet was the USPA Central California Open, it was the first ever USPA meet (Congrats to Steve Denison for growing it into such a great and respected federation) and held at San Luis Obispo High School, it was also the 1st powerlifting I’d ever been to. At that time I was a shot putter, an outsider to the powerlifting world and I remember going to get my 1st singlet from EFS and genuinely wondering why some of them were $50 and some of them were $250-because some of them were Single Ply Squat Suits and I didn’t know what that was. I remember wondering if a Bench Shirt was a shirt you were required to wear during competition or if I could just wear a T-shirt. Needless to say I was a bit naive and as a whole the culture of powerlifting was much different, smaller and with far far less information readily available to lifters-particularly raw lifters.
Make A List and Check It Twice
There are a lot of things you need to make sure to have with you for a meet, shoes, wraps, sleeves, socks, food, water and the list goes on. With all the nerves you may have before your first meet there is a great chance that you may forget something but there is no reason to let something like that cause you extra stress on competition day, so here are a few things you want to make sure to bring with you:
-Shoes. I wore Nike Frees for my first meet (OMG how did you not squat in your Romaleos and pull in your Chucks, Do you even lift bro?!?! I was too busy training hard to worry about my footwear, the 800 squat and 700 pull at that meet show that-but yea I supposed I had known a bit better then but shoes don’t make the lifter). So whatever it is you wear, Weightlifting Shoes, Chucks, Power Shoes, Deadlift Slippers, make sure you’ve them all with you.
-Wraps and Sleeves. Raw w/ Wraps, Raw Modern and so on, whatever you compete in-go for it! Just make sure that you have your knee sleeves, wrist wraps, knee wraps, compression cuffs and whatever else you’ll need to compete at your best with you. Mark Bell may even give you an Instagram shout out!
-Long Socks and ‘Legless Briefs’. The socks are a must across the board, lots of feds wont check your chones but almost all of them have ‘legless briefs’ aka white tighties or a thong, in the rulebook so bring the proper stuff with you and be prepared.
-Water, Gatorade and Protein Shakes. I don’t like to eat much during a meet but will take into a lot of liquid because 1-I’m really sweaty and 2-You need to stay hydrated and get carbs in. The powdered gatorade is the way to go so you can add extra scoops and get more carbs per fluid ounce. Protein won’t really play a role in meet day performance but they help me feel satiated and nobody wants to get under a heavy weight while they feel hungry. I like to mix my shakes with 1/2 low-fat chocolate milk and 1/2 coconut water for more carbs and better hydration.
-Easily Digestable Simple Carb Foods with Low Fat. My favorites are rice krispie treats. I see lots of people eating peanut butter at meets, don’t do that. Fats are not what you want during competition in strength/power sports. Eat foods that be easy on your stomach and provide you with simple, quick energy.
-Chalk and Baby Powder. Without fail I hear someone say that they think there is baby powder in the chalk bowl at a meet, I’m 99% sure that there never is but if you’re worried about it, bring your own. Some baby powder on the legs may be the difference between a deadlift PR and a miss at lockout, so bring yours.
Talk To People Who Seem Like They Know What They’re Doing
If you have a question, ask. For the most part, powerlifters are friendly people and will be willing to help you out on meet day-though when the top flight lifters are warming up-don’t bug them. As I was wrapping my knees for my first squat-I had only wrapped my knees 2x before this and there weren’t really YouTube tutorials at the time to learn from-a coach came up to me and asked if I wanted help. I did and when asked if I had a preference about how he did the wraps, I replied ‘Wrap them the way that’s gonna make me squat the most’ so let me say thank you to Alan Best-a great single ply lifter, for taking the time to help me out that day.
There is a lot to be learned at meets by observing and talking to other lifters, be friendly and don’t hesitate to ask questions-at the appropriate times-to the more experienced lifters there.
Have A Plan for Success
Failure to plan is planning to fail. Cliche, sure. Helpful, definitely. Think about what your warmups will be-they should be very similar to what you do in training. Know how long those warmups take-time them in training and probably afford yourself an extra 5-10 minutes at the meet because there will be others at the rack with you and I’d rather have to slow down a warmup rather than rush. Pick conservative openers-These will be your most nerve wracking lifts so make them a number that you can hit under any circumstance, about 90-92% of your best CLEAN (deep, paused, full lockout, etc) lift in the gym during that training cycle is a good choice. Good attempt selection guidelines for a first meet would be about:
Chances are you aren’t gonna set the world on fire during your first meet, so know that if you can get out of there with a 7/9, 8/9 or 9/9 day and 1-3 PRs that you had a GREAT day!
Powerlifting meets are the culmination of months of hard training, take some of the stress out of them by taking care of small details beforehand. Hopefully these tips can help you have a fun and successful 1st meet and get your powerlifting career off to a good start!