You’re scared, a little sweaty and super nervous. That first step out on the platform with all eyes on you can be intimidating. However, you have done the training, you have squatted, benched, and deadlifted hundreds of times. Yet, you feel like you don’t know what to do. Here are some simple guidelines for shaking those nerves and letting your hard work shine through!
Pre-Meet: Find out your openers about a week before meet. You will need the most time to recover from the squat so determine this opener first, followed by your bench and then your deadlift; though you may have a good idea about what your deadlift opener is without actually lifting. The week leading up the meet, remember to relax and stretch. A rested body will perform much better than an exhausted one, so avoid any unnecessary training during this week. Stretching is vital during this time to prevent injuries and will allow you to show your full potential up on the platform. And remember, whatever you put into your body will show through your performance. Eat as clean as possible, avoiding toxins like alcohol, illegal drugs, or junk food. Alcohol will dehydrate your muscles, not to mention lifting with a hangover never turns out well.
The night before, make sure all your gear is packed up. For a raw meet you will need a singlet, a tee-shirt, long socks for the deadlift and your choice of lifting shoes. Raw lifters may also have a belt, knee sleeves or wrist wraps. If competing in gear, pack all of the above plus your squat suit, bench shirt, deadlift suit, and knee wraps, or whatever combination of those which you choose. And don’t forget meals and snacks! Never count on the meet location to have local restaurants or grocery stores. It’s always a good idea to bring a stocked mini cooler. Some good food options are peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, fruit, veggies, or protein bars. If you had to cut weight, drinks with electrolytes such as pedialyte will be very helpful. In either case, drink water throughout the meet. You might also want to pack a candy of some sort for quick energy between lifts. The Northeastern Women’s Powerlifting team is a big proponent for Skittles, but any sugary treat will do.
Day of the Meet: You will need to check in to the meet. Those running the meet will look for your USAPL card, Meet Registration and fee and possibly a form of identification. You will receive a form which you will bring to the official who is weighing participants in. Be on time for your weigh in. These are subject to change, so be prepared. When you show up there, make sure you know your opening attempts for each of the lifts. Frequently the officials weighing competitors in will also be judging the meet, so it’s best to appease them. You will also need to determine your rack heights for squat and bench as well as your benching safeties height. Depending upon the meet, they could ask for this at the weigh-in site so double check with the officials who are at the check in table.
One of the biggest suggestions I can give is to remember your commands while lifting. There is nothing more frustrating than a lifter who is strong enough to lift the weight but gets disqualified for not following the rules. For the squat, lifters must follow the START command before they begin squatting as well as the RACK command before putting the weight away. Also in the squat, you must ‘break parallel’ as we say, meaning the hip crease must be below the knee for the judge to call it a good lift. In the bench, there are 3 commands: one to START the lift, one to PRESS the lift when it has reached a stable position on your chest, and finally the RACK command. Deadlifting is the most simple, because there is only one command and that is at the end of the lift, for the lifter to as gently as possible, place the barbell DOWN. There are plenty of other rules which can be found here: http://www.usapowerlifting.com/lifterscorner/USAPLHandbook2.pdf but the ones I have stated are the most important and frequently forgotten under stress.
Post Meet: After completing your first meet, congratulate yourself no matter the outcome. If you ‘bomb’ out (get disqualified) do not be discouraged. Many of the greatest lifters have done it; use it as motivation to work harder. No matter what place you come in, conduct yourself in a respectful manner. Whether you are competing with a team or individually, keep your head held high.. Life will go on whether you finished in first or last, we lift because it’s FUN!
Before leaving the meet, there is a good chance that some awards will be announced. Be respectful of other lifters! Powerlifting is a very small community- everyone knows everyone! Also before the meet closes, the officials will drug test a random 10% of the lifting population. Prescription drugs should be safe, but illegal, and even some over-the-counter supplements will result in a negative drug test. Respect yourself and your teammates, be a clean lifter and train hard… the results will show!