Prepping for Your First Meet
Few things will breathe life and add focus to your training like signing up for your first meet. When you put that check in the mail, you put yourself out there, making a commitment to lift, in a singlet, in front of a bunch of people. And no one wants to show up for that unprepared. But when you are prepared, when you’ve put in all the hard work and you show up to meet day with a plan and ready for the competition, your first meet is a great experience.
Here are some tips to help you show up for prepared for your first meet.
Find a Meet Near You
First, you have to find a meet. Traditional powerlifting meets are great, but with the number of federations out there it can be confusing to know which ones are friendly to new lifters and how the rules might vary with each federation. Fortunately, the United States Strengthlifting Federation and Starting Strength both hold strengthlifting meets. These meets are very friendly to new lifters and include the squat, the press–not the bench press–and the deadlift as competition lifts.
Read and Remember the Rules
Every federation has its own version of rules for how their meets are conducted and how the lifts will progress. Make sure you visit your federation’s website, download the rules, and read them carefully.
If you are lifting in a meet that uses commands, make sure to practice them in training leading up to the meet. You don’t want to bomb out because you didn’t wait for or follow certain commands or procedures.
Don’t Manipulate Weight for Your First Meet
Powerlifting is a weight class sport, but it is a mistake for new competitors to be concerned about what weight class they are competing in. This is an unnecessary stress for your first meet. This concern is best left for highly competitive powerlifters looking to win meets or break records. For your first meet, you want to show up strong, not small. Don’t worry about your weight class this time.
Train for Strength, Not Powerlifting
Another mistake lifters often make is to start looking around for a “powerlifting specific” training program. Remember that your goal is to show up as strong as possible on meet day. Most powerlifting programs are intended for advanced level power lifters and are designed to make them a little bit stronger over the course of several weeks or even months. If you are a novice or intermediate lifter, your programming will continue to get you stronger in a much shorter amount of time. For most new lifters, there is no need to significantly alter your training to prepare for your first meet.
One change you will make, as the meet approaches, however, is to taper. A taper is a period of reduced stress in your training that allows you to recover prior to the competition and show up well rested but not de-trained. Novices will have a very short taper, maybe just one workout of reduced volume. The more advanced the lifter the longer and more varied the taper. But the goal remains the same.
At the Meet…
At some point, you will have to weigh yourself in front of a judge. The federation’s rules will tell you when and how this takes place. Strengthlifting meets weight you after the meet, once you finish your final deadlift attempt.
This is so that the officials can calculate your score and group you with lifters of equal size. You should weigh without your clothes or in only your underwear. This is allowed by the rules, and even though we don’t want to cut weight for this meet, you will have a better overall score if your weight is not artificially too high. A professionally run meet will respect your privacy and modesty for the weigh-in process. It’s really not a big deal.
The day before the meet you will want to do an equipment check. Pack a bag with your shoes, belt, and any wrist wraps or knee sleeves that you normally train with that is allowed at your meet. Be familiar with the rules.
This is NOT the time to start adding new equipment to your lifts. If you have never squatted in knee sleeves, do NOT start using them now. You can try out new equipment later. Now is the time for focus and to perform exactly like you have practiced.
Lastly, arrange for a friend or training partner that is not competing to handle you for the day. Having another person available to keep you on track, remind you to eat, and assist in attempt selection is invaluable.
In summary, be prepared, show up strong, and don’t do anything new on meet day. Enjoy yourself, this is supposed to be fun.