It’s nerve wracking, a little intimidating but has the potential to be a really, really exciting day.
Thankfully, I had read a lot of experiences before hand and had a bit of a rundown from my coach on what to expect and what I needed to get ready. However, there are a few things I did the second time round that I wish I had done the first….and even things I would do next time that I didn’t do this time.
Ultimately you’ll learn from experiences of your own along the way, as I am doing every time I step on the platform too, but I do think it’s worth having a good starting point so you can take as much stress as possible away from your first comp.
Before the comp… make sure you have membership to your relevant federation and give it plenty of time when you are checking for when comp entry opens. Some of them go pretty quick so it’s worth checking, or joining your local federation Facebook page or something along those lines!
The big day itself
The day runs something like this: weigh in, wait & warm up for squat (and set squat height for rack), squat session- 3 attempts at your best squat, small break and warm up for bench (and set bench height), bench session 3 attempts at your best bench, small break and warmup for deadlift, deadlift session 3 attempts at your best deadlift, finish with any sort of awards etc or just head home straight after.
It’s a much longer day that I first expected, but also far more enjoyable than I thought it would be and if anything it left me itching for more. I do have a few words of (can I call it this after 2 meets?) wisdom though. First off, don’t worry about water cuts or weighing in…just compete where you are at and stay hydrated because the last thing you need is to feel like shit from being dehydrated.
Also, pace your food so you have got a steady intake of energy, but don’t feel too full or bloated while you lift. It’s not a day to try new foods out, so stay to what you usually eat. We will get on to this more in a later section.
Arrive early and have a good look at where you will be lifting to familiarise yourself with your surroundings. It might sound small but it can really help take the edge off any performance anxiety you might have around lifting.
Have your opening lifts planned out and at least an idea of where you will end up for your last lift. Go in with a number you know you can hit for a triple any day of the week as a banker. You can adjust the other two attempts based on how the first one moves.
Lastly, do not worry about being nervous. Everyone is and it is perfectly normal. Don’t worry if you are more or less nervous than anyone because we are all different. All this response is telling you is that you are getting ready to take on a challenge.
Hopefully the tips I share here will help to reduce the change of anything other than the lifting itself making you nervous or stressed about your first comp, because they are actually really enjoyable days once you get into them!
First off, the kit you’ll need.
Before I get into this…I’m going to give a run down of kit for IPF associated meets as these are the only ones I have competed in. It is always a good idea to check the federation rulebook for approved kit and brands before hand to make sure you are buying the right gear!
For certain you are going to need a singlet, knee high socks and a t-shirt to go under your singlet. Oh, and make sure you’ve got the right undies on too (no compression shorts, ‘legless’ undies are what you’ll need according to the IPF rule book). When it comes to lifting shoes, you don’t HAVE to have a pair of lifters but something sturdy is a good idea whether that is a pair of chuck taylors, vans, wrestling boots or weightlifting shoes.
You also don’t NEED to wear a belt or knee sleeves, but I’m pretty certain more often that not it’ll help your squatting and deadlifting in learning how to use them in the long run. Generally you’ll see higher numbers with both so if not for your first meet, somewhere down the line it’ll probably be a good idea to get them too. You’ll need either just your socks, deadlift slippers or flat sole shoes for the deadlift too. I’d recommend something with a sole that won’t slip…just incase.
When it comes to wrist wraps, they could potentially help add some kilos to your benching and squatting by helping with your wrists, but I wouldn’t see them as essential as the other things mentioned above.
I’d also take something comfy to hang about in before and after too. It’s a bloody glorious feeling getting out of your singlet and into a pair of trackies and a hoody at the end of the day.
Some more specifics you’ll likely need, even if it is ‘just in case’
There are also some more specific things that are worth having with you. I’d take your own chalk (take this in its own sealable bag!) and talcum powder. I’ve always had the former but not the latter and having used talc in the last meet I did I would definitely take it again to help with the bar sliding up your legs on a deadlift. Both of these will probably be there at the meet, but it’s always good practice to have your own just in case. It’s probably worth getting someone to chalk your back to keep the bar on for squatting too, especially if it’s a hot day.
Now, onto food and supplements. My first meet consisted of only sweet food and it was a massive regret. I was desperate for something savoury for the entire day (and ended up demolishing half a loaf of bread, half a block of cheese and 4 beers when I got home!). Make sure you take calorie dense food for after you weigh in. You’re going to want to get as many calories in as possible without feeling like you’ve got a massive amount of food to digest. Pace yourself and think more along the lines of drip feeding yourself energy through the day rather than stuffing your face all at once!
It’s unlikely you’ll be doing a weight or water cut into your first meet, but even so it’s important to stay hydrated so having a go to hydration drink could well help. I went for around 90g carbs in the form of either cherry juice or dextrose (the formula for which was 1g of carbs per kg bodyweight, 5-10g creatine and 1/2tsp salt, you don’t taste the salt but it’ll help with rehydration if you need it.)
I would recommend taking small meals or snacks that are high in carbs and a little protein for eating through the day. Minimising fat intake will help to keep digestion on the faster end of things. If you want to get a little more complex you can make sure you get your carbs from various sugars as to not saturate one pathway. What this could look like is fruit sugars, starches and simple sugars. Something like mango sticky rice with chicken as one meal, a drink with orange juice and dextrose in it and some haribo to eat through the day could be one combination.
If you take caffeine before you usually train, stick to what you are used to. There is a time and a place to try new methods of caffeine supplementation e.g. swapping from coffee to caffeine tablets…but your first meet is not the place to do it. There could also be some merit to limiting caffeine in the 7-10 days leading up to competition so you can get a bit more of an impact on the day, but in all honesty I’ve never tried it. I get a headache when I don’t have my morning coffee (yes, not great I know) so I didn’t change anything at all and just had two coffees as usual.
One last thing…make sure you’ve got a few celebration foods/drinks ready for when you get in. You should enjoy the moment and for me part of that is a really good meal after.
On to the more miscellaneous stuff now.
I would highly recommend having some support come along with you, whether that is your coach, friends or family. Ideally, someone who knows how you best get ready to lift and can help with attempt selection for your lifts on the day. You’ll need to know your opening lifts anyway, but someone to run things past after each attempt, to calm you down or get you hyped up can be invaluable on the day and really help things to run smoothly. Even if you don’t have anyone around, let the people organising the meet know it is your first one and you are on your own, I’m pretty certain they’ll help out.
When I started warming up for my first meet, I met a guy called Dean competing in the masters 105’s and he instantly calmed me and sort of took me under his wing for the day. We went through warm ups, openers and some options for how both our days would progress if certain things happened. We’ve spoken ever since and I’ll be heading down to train with him in the near future, so take that as a little insight into the kind of folk you’ll find at a meet!
I’d also recommend taking a camera with you because it is well worth filming all of your lifts on the day. Have someone else do it for you and tell them to get everything from your approach to the bar onwards. This is vital footage to review going forward and will really help you to get the most out of your powerlifting training in the long run.
A few practical tips…
Make sure you keep your hands covered in chalk, the last thing you need is a rip on the day so keep em chalky. Fold down your singlet on a break if you need to get some air and chill a bit (I do this in warm ups for all the lifts). I’m a sweaty dude so literally every chance I got I rolled that sucker down and caught a breeze to cool down.
Ask other people for help if you are unsure and let your supporters know before hand that you may need them to help you on the day so they are prepared. The more preparation you can do before hand, the less you have to stress about on the day.
And lastly…enjoy it! Powerlifters are generally a lovely bunch as far as I’ve experienced and I’ve not watched or competed at a meet that has been anything other than supportive. Get stuck in because people will clap you regardless of what is on the bar. Everyone will have had to do their first meet at some point and it doesn’t matter if you lift an empty bar or a full one. You are there to do your best on the day, so don’t worry about what other people are lifting.
A final word.
I can honestly say getting involved in powerlifting was one of the best things I have ever done with my training and I can’t encourage you enough to get stuck in if you’ve been thinking about it too.
If you are thinking about doing it…enter a meet and do it.