First Meet: Getting Ready for your Opener
by Eduardo Chile

Congratulations, you have taken the first step in becoming a powerlifter and want to compete! Now, what do you do? Step one is find a meet to compete in. With so many federations out there with different rule sets this could be a daunting task. The only advice I can give is to pick a federation that is in line with your standards of competition. If you like to compete in single ply, triple ply or raw it’s your decision. If you feel the judging is questionable to your standards then find another federation. Location-wise, you should find your first meet within 100 miles if at all possible. Here is a great resource for finding meets. You should perform a search based on location and date, and please give yourself at least 10 weeks until the meet. Once you have narrowed it down to a few meets research the federation for each one.

Once you have chosen your meet you will need to make plans for it. You will likely need a membership card to compete in the federation. Most federations allow you to sign up the day of the meet, but please check with the meet director to make sure. Most meet directors are very approachable and don’t mind answering questions for you. Next, you will need to send in the registration form. There is quite a bit of information on this form, so if there is anything that is confusing, contact the meet director to get some clarification. Even if you don’t have problems, contact the meet director anyway and introduce yourself. Inform them it is your first meet. My experience is they will be helpful in ensuring you have all of your paperwork in order.

Make sure to read the rules of the federation. Make sure to read the rules of your federation. I had to write this twice to make sure it sinks in. You need to know what commands will be given, and what are expectations of the lift. For example, do they require the hip crease to be below the knee? On the bench, does the whole foot need to be flat or can you be on your toes? Do they have a “start” command in the bench? A “press” command? The deadlift does seem to be rather standard across the board. Since the invention of YouTube you can watch videos of people competing in your federation of choice and get a feel for how things will play out. Pay close attention to what passes and what doesn’t. Don’t just watch videos of people getting whites, but understand what causes people to fail a lift.

ap2_2856Check the equipment that will be used at the meet. Is your training bench similar in dimensions to the competition bench? Is the deadlift bar the same diameter? Are you competing in a monolift or are you required to walkout the squat? To the greatest extent possible, practice how you will play! This will play a big role in making sure you complete lifts at your meet and have a good day. This is a tip for everyone – not just first timers.

Practice the commands. Missing your opener due to missed commands is not the end of the world but it’s also not the start you want to your lifting career! As the saying goes, you will play how you practice. Have a training partner practice giving you the commands if possible. If you don’t have someone, that’s fine. Being a garage lifter myself I have to visualize someone telling me the commands. Don’t just do this casually; throw yourself some curveballs. For example, at my last meet it felt like an eternity before I got the start command on the bench. Thankfully I was prepared to hold it until I got the start command. Not following the commands has accounted for quite a few misses at the meets I’ve been to. The only reason is due to insufficient practice! The big one I see is not waiting for the rack command on the squat. Get used to completing the lifts and holding it for a second or two before you walk it in, rack it or put it back down.

Use your meet equipment more and more leading up to the competition. You don’t want to use new equipment the day of the meet. This may require you to plan and start to purchase a singlet, approved wrist wraps, knee sleeves, suits, etc. at least two months in advance of the meet. Some pieces of equipment may have a longer lead time so just use common sense.

The week of the meet you should plan what you will bring to meet. I recommend creating a checklist of everything you need.
Sample list (Raw lifter):
The shoes you will wear for each lift
2 pairs of Short, thin socks
2 pairs of Long deadlift socks
Extra underwear (hey you never know!)
Approved belt
Wrist Wraps
Extra Meet Shirt
Camera Stand
Attempts (more on this below)
Cash for any fees

For your attempts you should become familiar with how the meet will allow you to pick attempts. What is the minimum increment that you can increase between successful attempts? This is usually 2.5kg or 5 pounds unless it’s a record attempt, but it’s still a good idea to check. It’s also a good idea to check if the weights be in kilograms or pounds at your competition. Have a written plan for your attempts ahead of time with a low and high range. Your opener should be relatively easy and account for meet nerves. If you fail a weight for any reason, you should likely repeat it and then go up from there. Also, on your third attempt you should try for a nice PR, but be realistic. You’re not going to add 50 pounds to your 1-RM. A chart like the one below would help in selecting your weights. If you’re not familiar with kilograms due to always working in pounds, you can find a pound-kilo conversion chart by googling for one.

Percent 1st Low 1st High 2nd Low 2nd High 3rd Low 3rd High
Squat 87% 89% 94% 96% 99% 102%
Bench 88% 90% 94% 96% 99% 102%
Deadlift 87% 89% 94% 96% 99% 102%

The day of the meet I recommend getting there early and finding out what exactly you need to do. You will need to check-in and weigh-in at the minimum. As a side note, if the entry form says “weigh ins 8:00 AM to 10:00AM,” then show up at 8:00AM. If you show up at 10:00AM thinking you’re still in time, you’re already late. There are a lot of people to weigh in and when they call your name, you need to be ready. Also, it’s likely you will need to get your rack heights before you check in. This is where you check the settings of the rack and see where you want them. Each lifter is different and will require different settings.

If you cut any sort of bodyweight you will want to get all of this done as soon as possible so you can weigh-in and start re-hydrating. Remember for your first meet I don’t recommend dropping any sort of water weight. There is usually too much going on and it’s better to be able to focus on the basics for your first contest. If possible, try to record your lifts for later review. Since you will be lifting, it’s best to have a friend or family member operate the camera for you.

You might be thinking this a lot of work to do for a meet. You are right, but being prepared will allow you to enjoy the meet experience. If you do all the work ahead of time, you will find you can focus on your lifts and talking to fellow lifters. You can introduce yourself to others, find out about other lifter’s training methods, and in general have a great time. Life rewards those who are prepared!