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My First Powerlifting Meet

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  • My First Powerlifting Meet

    There's been some discussion on here recently about people wanting to try out a powerlifting meet, so I thought I'd contribute my experience from my first meet, which I competed in yesterday. The seasoned veterans on here like Rich, Edenn, Michael S, and others can probably give way better advice than I can. That said, these are MY observations for me, so your mileage may vary, but I hope they'll be helpful in nudging people one direction or the other if they're on the fence.

    Background:
    If you had told me years ago that I would be doing a powerlifting competition, I would have punched you in your lying whore mouth. I've spent most of my life "working out" in some form or another; early on it was only for sport performance and so I would look good with my shirt off. I started really focusing on increasing my strength a few years ago, and never once considered powerlifting competitions until someone casually asked me about them in the gym one day. "Hahahahahaha me a powerlifter? Hahahahahaha" was basically my thought process when I heard that. So understand that I was starting from a place of NEVER DOING A MEET EVER, and now I've done one. You can, too.

    When I decided to sign up for this meet, I did a 10 or 12 week strength cycle that I totally made up. Did I mention that I have no real idea how to get ready for a meet? I just kept lifting, basically, and decreased the volume in the last few weeks leading up to the meet. Unfortunately, as I have been prone to over my entire life, I did a couple of dumb things two weeks before the meet that led to me severely pulling my spinal erectors, and spraining my wrist and nearly dislocating my thumb (separate incidents...I'm dumb). Up until this point, I had been feeling great about training--I was thinking I may well PR every lift at my first meet, which would've been amazing. Before I got hurt, I figured I could take a shot at something like a 460-470 deadlift, a 350 or more squat, and 270 or more bench, if everything went awesomely. I was cautiously optimistic that I could maybe get an 1100 total on a good day.

    After I hurt my back, I was having trouble getting even 225 down into proper squat position--it just would lock up at the bottom, or fatigue and make me hinge forward, and I couldn't hit depth. It sucked, but hey I still wanted to do the competition and get the experience. So I went.

    Meet Prep:
    Did I mention that I had no idea what I was doing? So the weight class closest to my weight is 74 kilos, or about 163 lbs. My everyday weight is right around there; usually 165-ish fed and hydrated. I figured if I just cut out booze for a couple of weeks and limited the dairy/dark chocolate/post workout ice cream I'd be easily under the line. I went low-carb for like 2 days before the meet, during which I drank a ton of water, and then didn't drink as much water the day before the meet. I think the Friday before the meet I was like 163 on the dot.

    I weighed in at 156.4. Ooooops! Way too far the wrong direction. Apparently I can cut a ton of water weight. File that away for future reference. I did look a lot like an underwear model at that point, though. So...that was good?

    The Meet:
    This was a USAPL event. Apparently this was a big competition, with 70+ lifters on my day. Weigh in was at 9am, and final lifts wrapped up around 8pm. Long day. The venue was at the National Strength and Conditioning Association headquarters, which is about an hour from my place. I drove down that morning (after not getting optimal sleep due to a domestic disturbance across the street that I could hear at like 3am). We had to figure out our rack heights and opening attempts (in kg). The volunteers working the meet were top-notch in helping with all this stuff; no stress on me. Then I weighed in and started eating and drinking fluids.

    I brought a ton of food. Probably more pounds of food than pounds of everything else. And I ate it all during the long meet day. Food = recommended.

    There were four flights, A-D. I was in Flight C, so I had a while once lifting started before I even had to put on my singlet (side note: pay attention to the "approved gear" list when you register--mine was fine for this meet, but I'll need a different singlet if I do, like, Nationals or something). I actually knew a lady who was coaching a lifter in my division, and she helped give me advice about when to warm up, etc., so I mostly tagged along with her lifter, who was a super nice dude.

    I guess this is a good time to mention that EVERYONE WAS SUPER NICE AND FRIENDLY. Everyone. I had zero bad people experiences, which is saying a lot, as I'm generally misanthropic. I meet and converse easily with people, so I talked to a TON of folks. New competitors, seasoned veterans, older, younger, you name it. Everyone was cool. People would let you work in on warmup sets, or help move weights, or spot you on a liftoff, or offer you food, or answer questions...really great community aspect, so DO NOT be intimidated by the "room full of powerlifters" stereotype.

    I'm squarely in the "do as little as possible to warm up" camp, so I basically stretched and foam rolled and then did a few sets of the bar and then a few doubles and singles of weights leading up to a weight still below my opening attempt I had submitted. I think my last warmup squats were at 225, and my opener was 275. I knew I'd be able to get 275 down to depth with my back, but after that I had no idea if I could go heavier or not.

    When my flight was up on squats, I just found my place in the order and waited. I don't get nervous about sporting events--never have, even growing up in all my sports--so I'm not the best person to ask about how the crowd affects your lifting. I didn't have butterflies or anything stepping up to the platform the first time. I mean, it's just lifting weights, right? I do that all the time. Big crowd, but it didn't do anything to me. I focused on listening to the commands (hadn't lifted with commands before) and just trying to get my back to cooperate.

    275 felt light, but I still couldn't get my back into position like normal. Clean lift, but had one red light. It counted, so I submitted the next weight of like 305 or something (don't remember; not going to look it up right now). We had to submit our next attempt right after lifting, but that was easy--just walk over to the scoring table and look at the chart that has pounds and kgs matched up.

    My second and third (320-ish) attempts were red-lighted, boo. I was super disappointed, but my back straight-up wouldn't let me get weight down. The video from the meet looks nothing like the video I took 3 weeks ago with 350 lbs--it's very clear where my spinal erectors just fail. Ah, well. Sh*t happens. I obviously wasn't going to be getting my optimistic total, but I wasn't too down about it since I had just gone into the meet wanting to have fun and get the experience.

    Watched some of the big boys in D-flight lift. That's fun! Seeing someone move 600 pounds well is awesome. Saw a 19-year-old kid squat like 615 or something, and it looked easy. I think he got red-lighted for either depth or racking too early, but the squat was good and smooth.

    Squat depth is CRUCIAL at the meet; make sure you're good at getting deep enough. I saw a ton of no-lifts on squats that looked clean from my vantage point behind and off to the side a little.

    ---CONTINUED BELOW---

  • #2
    There was probably an hour and a half before I had to lift again, so I just killed time and talked to people and ate. Started warming up bench, again doing the least amount of work possible to get warm. I was opening at 225, so my last couple of singles were at 205 and they flew up. I wasn't worried about bench; getting into my (minor) bench arch aggravated my back some, but overall I knew it wouldn't do much to mess up my lifting.

    Bench you have to be really listening to the commands. I train with like a 2-second pause on my chest most reps, so that part wasn't hard, but after the liftoff there was what felt like a long time before the "start" command. And you can't rack the bar before they tell you. So practice this. 225 went up easily. Second attempt was around 250, again went up pretty easy. My elbows flared a bit at the top, which never happens--I think I was too focused on not hitting the rack on the way up, since it's different than the one I usually lift on. I decided to go after 270 on my final attempt, since I had gotten 265 a couple of weeks before fairly easily. I screwed up my cues, though. I was thinking "don't flare your elbows" instead of "speed speed speed speed" off my chest like I usually do. I was half an inch away from getting 270 through my sticking point and finishing it, but I couldn't. If I had cued it normally I know I would've had it.

    I had no idea how deadlift was going to go. Based on how awful squats felt, I thought I may scratch deadlift, or just go grandma-light just to get the platform experience. I warmed up with several variations using just the bar; I figured I'd see how warmup went and then decide how I wanted to handle it (I had submitted 405 as my opener, since that's usually a very easy one, but figured I'd probably lower it). 135 warmup didn't hurt like it had a week before. 225 still felt...ok. Could tell my back wasn't right, but didn't feel dangerous or anything. 275...still not that bad. This was much better than I had anticipated. 315 was doable, also. Screw it; I decided to stick with the 405 opener and then maybe scratch the next two lifts if that felt bad.

    Deadlift I just stepped up to the bar and focused exclusively on not letting my spinal erectors lose any extension--I did zero other cues that I normally do. I didn't want to injure my back any further, so that was my only concern. I lift conventional, hook grip--vast majority of other people pulled sumo. The announcer made kind of a big deal to the audience about me pulling conventional/hook. 405 was pretty easy. Not like normal, but not bad. The back held up. I decided to go conservative, but still do a second lift. Around 420. That went up OK, also, although I had to really focus on my lower back, moreso than normal. Decided I would survive a conservative 430 third attempt, and I did. I'm really glad I didn't go any higher than that, though. All things considered, I was happy with deadlift. I lifted more than a lot of people there, even hurt. More than the dude in my division who was built like Wolverine and had cut 12 lbs to make weight that week. Really cool.

    Watched the big guys again--saw a ranked guy pull 722 about the same speed I pull 405. Really neat to see! And the guy was super friendly and humble. Talked to a 19-year-old kid who got second in his group for a while about nutrition, training methodology, life lessons, etc. Actually gave me a little hope for future generations to see a kid who was ahead of the curve like that.

    I ended up 5th, and it looks like healthy I would've been second or third. I think I would've beaten the guy I was hanging out with most of the day, and he was third. That was really encouraging. So yeah, I definitely need to do another meet when I'm healthy.

    Stray Observations:
    -The NSCA is a beautiful and large facility, but has a tiny locker room and only one toilet and one urinal. What the crap?
    -Everyone had fun, and almost everyone seemed to be there just to improve upon their own lifting performances.
    -I weighed 7 pounds more at the end of the meet than I did at weigh-in. Probably close to 10 after the six ciders and two quarts of ice cream I had when I got back.
    -I wonder if I should train sumo more often.

    The Bottom Line:
    Do a powerlifting meet. My experience was overwhelmingly positive. It was weird lifting spread out over a whole day, and I wasn't super comfortable with the commands, but now I have the experience with how to plan my competition lifts, how to cue myself during the meet, etc. Excellent learning experience, and I really did have a great time even though my physical performance wasn't up to hopes.

    Look, I was the LEAST PREPARED person you can imagine about all this, and it was awesome. You should do a meet. Do NOT be intimidated by the prospect--if I can, then you DEFINITELY can.

    Comment


    • #3
      Sorry you didn't get to hit the numbers you wanted to, but you played it smart, put up a total, and got to learn how a powerlifting meet runs, which are all "wins" in their own way.

      USAPL is the real deal too, very no-nonsense, and competing in an event they sanction for your first meet is a bit like jumping straight into the deep end of the pool. Great job. Hold your head high.
      The Champagne of Beards

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
        Sorry you didn't get to hit the numbers you wanted to, but you played it smart, put up a total, and got to learn how a powerlifting meet runs, which are all "wins" in their own way.

        USAPL is the real deal too, very no-nonsense, and competing in an event they sanction for your first meet is a bit like jumping straight into the deep end of the pool. Great job. Hold your head high.
        Thanks!

        Oh yeah; I feel great about the experience. Next one should be even more fun, and maybe end up with some hardware. The idea that I could medal in a powerlifting competition still seems absurd to me, but it's apparently a very real possibility. Even if it wasn't, I'd do another one in a heartbeat.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for the writeup, Mr. A, very interesting. If you do another meet, you'll no doubt crush your total from this one.
          In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.

          This message has been intercepted by the NSA, the only branch of government that listens.

          Comment


          • #6
            Excellent write up, Mr. A. Thanks for taking the time, and congratulations for competing. One minor correction: with 1 meet under my belt, I'm pretty far from "veteran" status.

            I can tell you had a great time, and that truly is the whole point, and you'll be far more competitive in your next meet.

            Missing feels funky. I missed my second squat attempt in April, and it screwed up my entire program until we got the DL.

            Like Rich said, the USAPL is da real deal in the sport of powerlifting.

            Ya did good, kid!
            Age: 70
            Ht: 5'8"
            Wt: 166
            BF: 9%

            Everybody wanna be big, but don't nobody wanna lift no heavy-ass weights! - Ronnie Coleman

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Michael S View Post
              One minor correction: with 1 meet under my belt, I'm pretty far from "veteran" status.
              In your case I was referring to age

              Really sad you couldn't be there! Would have been great to meet up.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Mr. Anthony View Post
                In your case I was referring to age
                Can't argue with that, unfortunately.

                Really sad you couldn't be there! Would have been great to meet up.
                Yeah, that whole deal got botched-up. Another part of the learning process, I guess. I shared with you that I'm registered to compete in a USPA sanctioned meet in September. I'll be making a 1 hour commute to work with a new trainer in a powerlifting specific gym in preparation. At this juncture, I'm completely lost as to where I am, and how to adjust my training cycle.

                At your convenience, can you share a tip or 2 with respect to your warm up procedure ? Lead time, load percentages ?

                You just put a lot of time and effort into writing a stellar OP, so no hurry.

                Thanks
                Age: 70
                Ht: 5'8"
                Wt: 166
                BF: 9%

                Everybody wanna be big, but don't nobody wanna lift no heavy-ass weights! - Ronnie Coleman

                Comment


                • #9
                  Mr. A! Congrats! You've been de-flowered!!


                  Sent from my iPhone using Marks Daily Apple Forum

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Great job buddy, kudos to you for actually having the balls to put yourself out there and compete, something I've not done since my track & field days when I was just a snotty nosed kid.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Congratulations, dude! Thanks for sharing your experience. I would be happy to hit the numbers you hit on a good day! (competing in the same weight class).

                      I'm counting down the weeks until my meet (6 to go). I really want to bring up my bench.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Solid lifts bro. Keep working and stay healthy.

                        I've been looking for a nice beginners comp around Houston, something to push me in training. Big thing for me is consistency with all lifts. I'll powerlift hard for a month or two then I'll be hit or miss for a while while where I might only squat heavy. I'll have to practice the commands, great incite.
                        Last edited by JimmyDamage; 07-27-2015, 05:37 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks, everyone. Hope it helps people out who are considering it.

                          Originally posted by Michael S View Post

                          At your convenience, can you share a tip or 2 with respect to your warm up procedure ? Lead time, load percentages ?
                          My warmup is best described as "haphazard". Again, I don't know what I'm doing.

                          I waited til the flight before me was competing, then did some light stretching and mobility and started sets with the bar. Maybe a set of 10 and then a few of 5 or so.

                          So squat was opening at 275. I did something like my bar warmup, then maybe a few sets of 3 at 135, then a few doubles at 185, then maybe three or four singles at 225. That was about it.

                          Bench was opening at 225, so I did bar warmup, then like three or four triples at 135, a few singles at 185, and I think two singles at 205.

                          Deadlift (405 opener) I was just trying to figure out if I could even compete it, so I did a ton of bar warmup of various back stuff. Jefferson curls, rows, RDLs, etc. Then just several singles at 135, a couple at 225, one or two at 275, then I think one at 315. That was enough to tell that I'd survive my opener. I don't know how I would approach it healthy, honestly.

                          I don't know if that's helpful for anyone; I'm pretty mobile and don't tend to need a ton of warmup, in general. I did some mobility and foam rolling throughout the day during down time, also.

                          If you generally need more warmup for work sets, I say do it but give yourself a lot of rest in between. I took warmup very casually; I just wanted to make sure my movement felt OK, and wanted to ensure I wouldn't be tired before I hit the platform.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I did look a lot like an underwear model at that point, though. So...that was good?
                            Pics or this didn't happen.

                            But congrats on your meet and glad you had a great time. Bummer on the last minute injury, but it sounds like you did great working with it.

                            http://maggiesfeast.wordpress.com/
                            Check out my blog. Hope to share lots of great recipes and ideas!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Nice write-up. It was interesting to read what it's like. I don't think I'll ever do a meet. I think I'd be too nervous. I'd need a coach to tell me what to do and help me prepare.
                              Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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