My First Powerlifting Meet

3 Jun, 2019

I remember the exact moment when I decided to take up powerlifting.

I was finishing up probably the most silly idea I’ve had to date, which was deciding to push a sled loaded with my bodyweight the length of the great north run (not all at once mind you, I didn’t want to get rhabdo and I didn’t realistically have the time or means to train for that level of endurance!). It was a 150 length of the gym set that day, which took me just over 2 hours. There was a moment about 100 lengths in when all that went through my head was ‘why on earth am I doing this?’.

Ever since I stopped playing rugby when I was 19, there had been something missing with my training. Yeah, it was fun training to change the way I looked, but it never really fired me up that much. The thing that had been missing was some element of competition in all of it. I did a few fitness based challenges for charity, which were all really rewarding, but didn’t get me excited.

Having some form of competition to aim for has always been really motivating for me with my training. I’m not sure whether that is a product of having played sport through my teen years or just something that I find motivating, but it’s there nonetheless!

I was speaking with my girlfriend a few days ago about this too and I’ve come to realise that training towards something really helps to keep me grounded. It might sound cliche, but I know that training in the gym will always be something certain for me regardless of everything else. Sure, it’s not outside of the realms of possibility that it could all be taken away in an accident or something, but that’s the way it is for now anyway!

I’d also seen a lot of people getting into it and from the outside it looked like a really welcoming and enjoyable sport to be a part of. So, having done my first meet I thought I would give some time to describing the process for anyone interested in getting into it too.


In all honesty, training was hard most of the way through getting ready for the meet. I’ve trained hard before, but this was still new territory to me. I think part of this was just having someone else take the reigns (I had Marc Keys- CastIronStrength- coaching me all the way up to my first comp) and also a coach being able to make calls I perhaps didn’t want to make for either pushing things up, down or just pushing through hard training. I’d go into at least 60% of my sessions with anything but training on the list of things I wanted to do, but a few sets in that would fade.

What really changed it all for me was a conversation with my coachEmma Hackett (Limitlesscoaching).

I’ve known Emma for a few years now, but this was the first time we had focused on MY training and what I was doing. Something really stuck with me from one of our chats and it was the idea that every time I was in the gym, putting in the work…I was putting money in the bank. When it came to comp day it felt like I was spending money on something I REALLY REALLY wanted to spend money on.

I like numbers, equations and budgeting so this was right up my street! From then on I trained without my usual heavy metal training music, but with really calm and relaxed music. To my surprise was far more focused. This is entirely anecdotal, but I think this was because I didn’t really get into the music so I had to focus more on what I was actually doing rather than how the music was making me feel. It’s definitely something I’ll experiment more with in training in future.

I’d already got an idea of what I needed for the day and I’m a big believer in getting as much ready before the day so that you’re taking away potential stressors. It was quite a new mix of things in there for me if I’m completely honest…

  • strength shop singlet (a very fetching red, white and black number)
  • strength shop lever belt (which I have to wear upside down because of appendicitis surgery scars. I know, cool right?)
  • strength shop inferno knee sleeves
  • hairband (gotta look sharp y’know)
  • spare beanie (for when I got over how good I look in a hair band)
  • shorts (because the less time spent in a spandex singlet the better)
  • lifting t shirt
  • change of clothes (trackies and hoodie because t shirts under hoodies are over rated, not because I forgot my spare t shirt)
  • peanut butter and jam sandwich x2 (the key is trying to fit as much as physically possible in between the two slices of bread before you wrap them up)
  • protein bar x2
  • banana x4
  • orange juice/creatine/dextrose mega shake (this was pretty much 100g of glorious carbs in liquid form)
  • chalk (because you can never have too much chalk)
  • lifting shoes
  • deadlift slippers (yes, they are a thing and they are no way near as good as regular slippers)
  • courtesy of Niell, 1 box of jaffa cakes

And before you ask, yes I did eat the whole box of jaffas. Right before my deadlift, which I PB’d by 15kg. Coincidence? I think not.


Comp day itself was a hell of a lot longer than I had expected. We arrived at around midday and it finished at around 8.15. One of the things I hadn’t prepared for was just how long it takes to get through all the lifts.

To be honest, I had pretty minimal nerves towards the lifting itself. This is really where all the preparation I had done with Emma came in to play. All that was going through my head was ‘your spending the money you’ve banked’ and that actually I’d been doing these same three lifts for bloody ages so it was just doing what I already know how to do.

I weighed in at 89.7, which was over 3kg lighter than the top end of my weight class…upon reflection I could have probably eaten a bit more the previous evening and morning of the comp and got away with it. This was never a concern going in to my first comp, I was going to see what it was all about and have fun and didn’t really expect to place or anything (which wouldn’t have happened anyway because I was lifting as a guest!)

One thing I did notice was the range of food choices from everyone there. Everything from chicken and rice to a whole box of jaffa cakes (teehee). Personally, I got really sick of sweet food by the end of the day. I’ll definitely go for something more along the lines of savoury for my first few meals next time for sure.

One thing I didn’t appreciate I was pretty good at was being able to turn it on for when I needed to lift and pretty much immediately being able to switch off from it and relax between attempts and sections.

I think I’d have been a hell of a lot more tired had I just tried to stay hyped up all day. Just like anything this a skill to practice. Fortunately I had been doing this without realising by Emma recommending I listen to really relaxing music while I lifted. It was a strange sensation to be really calm when I was used to really angry music while I lifted, but my god did it help my focus for lift off and help me relax between lifts. It felt a lot like what Steven Koetler described in his book ‘Rise of the Superman’ as ‘Flow State’.

I actually think there is a lot of value in talking shit between lifts and having some sort of distraction before you lift. Granted, if you need to stay in that zone all the way through be my guest. But it’s not something I’ll be trying any time soon. A laugh between sets and some music that isn’t necessarily aggressive or getting you hyped up has its uses for competition.


Next time, I want to go 9 for 9.

After a few days I had some time to reflect on the competition and thought about a few things I wanted to achieve going forward. I missed my last squat and bench, so first is getting all three attempts on all three lifts. Second and perhaps obviously is adding more KG’s to my total, I know this is a long game and it’s a case of keeping on top of weaknesses and playing to my strengths.

I’ve also decided to get coaching from Jack Lovett at Spartan Performance.

I had been getting coaching online for a long time from which has been great, but there is a limit to what you can get online and for me it came to a natural conclusion at the comp. I can now get coached in person, which I think is one of the most valuable things you can do in your training. That’s right, even a personal trainer needs a coach. I’ve been over there a fair few times over the years and really got to know their ethos, so I’m excited to be able to get stuck into training with Jack over at Spartan.

One thing I do think is worth talking about is just committing to doing your first meet.

Everyone gets nerves and I found it was more so when I was actually signing up to it rather than the meet itself. The best advice I got going into it was just to sign up and do the damn thing. I’ve got 2 more on the horizon for the rest of the year and it was mentally far easier to commit to them. 

I met some great people there, had a lot of fun and really got a feel for being on the platform. I would encourage anyone thinking about it to just sign up to one. It has been a huge learning experience for me and has really set the tone for where I see it going. It’s all been positive so far, even the training sessions where things didn’t go right added up to being where I am now.

Last thing for now…get a few of your mates along to watch on the day.

I was fortunate enough to have most of the team from Pioneer along to watch as well as my girlfriend and it helped to no end with everything from making sure there was enough food, keeping my kit to hand and helping me stay either focused or switched off between lifts. They were an absolute godsend and made the day a lot more enjoyable

If you’re thinking about competing for the first time, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Having only done the one comp I’m a complete novice still but I learned a hell of a lot in the process and I’m looking forward to the next already. It has been a journey of discovery already, with plenty of road still ahead and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.