A powerlifting meet gets anyone involved excited whether they are lifting, coaching, assisting or just spectating (and maybe all of the above). Even as a veteran lifter, I was always nervous at an event to compete. Even if I did all of my homework and was pretty sure I would win my class, I still had butterflies.
A good dose of healthy anxiety is normal, but I want to offer you some tips and ideas which, regardless of your experience level, will equip you with some “peace of meet” the next time you are preparing for the platform.
The squat is our first lift of the day. I normally am so anxious to get that first lift in and be on the board. Your opener is crucial for the success of everything else that follows; no opener and you are done for the day. Bomb outs happen, but should never happen in experience and as a raw lifter.
Make or break you lift; training to parallel. It behooves us all to know parallel while at the same time, not going for the deepest squat award which doesn’t exist. If you squat high in training you will squat high in a meet. It is really that simple and YES, judges can be a pain in the butt, we all know this, but regardless of the federation, parallel is the crease of the hip below the top of the knee. Look, you can try to gamble and cut your squats high and then blame the judge. My recommendation in training is to video your squats and face away from the mirror. Two things happen; first, you get comfortable with people ‘in your face’ when you are facing the crowd that might be in the gym. Second, you manage to get that familiar feeling of what parallel is in training while not relying on a mirror.
As the deepest squat is not a recognized category, neither is walking back the furthest. Get comfortable with squatting close to the rack while being at a safe distance. Taking too many steps is a waste of energy and is going to leave you open to serious mental drain and possible injury.
Once you have walked out the weight for the squat what happens? What happens once you squat down? Do the referees tell you to go back up? Know what the federation rules are for walking out, setting up and racking your weights and then practice. Watch what is going on around you at the meet and have a friend queue you with reminders of rack commands. In the USPA, I have watched many good squats get red-lighted because the lifter just started to rack the weight after the lift but not after the command was given. People that miss these commands are nervous, new or both. My college communications professor always stated, “Repetition makes you remember. Repetition makes you remember. Repetition makes you remember.”
Also, I have noted that in meets people get antsy and nervous so they tend to stand a lot and move about. While some can deal with this more times than not you can end up getting tight in the back and dehydrated from the anxiety. Do yourself a favor sit and sip water/Gatorade somewhere comfortable. Heck watch Netflix if it helps you to relax. You need to focus but at some point working your adrenal gland into an anxious frenzy is going to wear you down fast. And think about just this: tired back will give way to excessive leaning which pulls the hips up and you are suddenly not even remotely close to parallel.
Weigh-ins tend to be when you can get your rack heights set up. Please consider the settings in your training gear: shoes, suit, belt and lots of weight on the bar. You want just enough height to save energy while being able to safely unload and load the bar to the rack.
Some federations do not let you have a hand off person of you own so be prepared coordinate with the spotters if you need them. I coach lifting partners and strangers the same way,“You ask when I am ready. Then You count 1-2-3-Up. We lift off on up.” I do this every time. It is easy. Coordinate with spotters in warm ups and let the spotter know as well which will keep you ready and avoiding issues like not being able to have your own personal spotter while being assigned to one of the loaders.
What is a pause? It is control on the chest. It isn’t about an amount of time, although sadly some judges thinking a Mississippi count is in order. Also, the bar needs to be lowered in a controlled fashion; doing this in training will make it easy in a meet. Controlled, Tight, No movement. You do this and you will get a quicker press command , especially in a series of meets as you demonstrate the type of lifter you are.
Many a lift is missed because after the bar is pressed, the lifter quickly racks the weight without the command to do so. Again, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. You practice this in all of your training sessions and your instincts will take over on the platform. Repetition makes you remember!
The deadlift is so straight forward, but lifters often miss a few simple things that could improve their performance. First, I see many lifters pacing around and then once they do get to the bar take forever to just pick the weight up. Do you remember in class when teachers would encourage you to give the first answer that pops into your head because it is usually correct? The approach to the bar is no different. Just go and lift the weight. Stalling can lead to disbelief especially when the weights get really heavy, just “Grip and Go”.
So you approach the bar and go! Awesome! Only in time for the bar to cling to your pasty legs and then get caught on your singlet around the thighs. Use the baby powder and pull the suit up to avoid catching anything. Doing those two things can differentiate between your completed lift or your stalled attempt. As a tip, in training you can use water in a spray bottle which is easier to clean up especially in commercial gyms.
Additional things to consider
Finally, I recommend doubling up; take backup equipment for your lifting gear just to be safe especially if you have traveled far. Don’t forget your caffeine tablets, shaker cups, Pedialyte/ Gatorade and Imodium. I tend to eat light but consistently to help digest my food because I tend to be pretty nervous anyway as I mentioned, a dry fruit/ trail mix is a great fix.
Well that is it from me. I am sure you have some tips as well so feel free to drop me a line and share them. The bottom line is you want your very best experience at you meet, it’s what you have spent endless hours preparing for, you want “Peace of Meet.”
2014 is winding down. How was your year? I always look bad at Cline Eastwood referencing “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” to describe my life. Some view that as a 2/3’s negative statement but really ugly is self defined. Sometimes it might be bad. Sometimes it might be good. Life isn’t always pretty. But when you finish well…even with the lack of style points making it a little ugly…you succeed.
I drove thousands of miles and even flew thousands near the end of 2013 in search of something. In life we get caught up on that “it” component to make us rich, famous and happy. “If I just had ((insert word)) then my life would take off.”
Consider one of my favorite actors and likely one you also appreciate: Robin Williams.
Sure he played “characters” but he also inspired. He was rich, famous and I do think happy although he struggled with mental illness. The “it” fact alluded him. Or did it? Maybe there really, truly is no such thing. Maybe just maybe that “it” is really “you!”
What if really we are just tricking ourselves about our own existence? What if we really did believe in ourselves? What would happen if you suddenly believe you had all the tools in the world to be a success in life. What if what you needed was more really a different perspective? Maybe a blue or red pill if you will:
Time to unplug friends. It is time to move beyond the shackles of our own self tyranny and move forward with a perspective of truth: we are enough!
I finished well. I held on to hope, love. God Bless and Happy New Year!
New Year’s Revolution is approaching.
Here is a little article I wrote this past fall:
I have a confession: I hate going to meets and training. None of it is fun for me anymore. I bet you are thinking that this is the worst motivational article ever written. You may be right but hear me out as I share how I am getting the embers going and stoking a flame to be MY best.
Before we talk about the INSPIRING FEEL GOOD quotes of the “Dead Poet’s Society” (yes…they are coming!) let’s examine how I became a curmudgeon. Distractions are always what get us off our paths, right? My distractions came in the form of pressure and injuries. Believe it or not I was going to be a 2100 total true raw powerlifter weighing under 275 pounds just a few short years ago. Sponsorships with real money were coming my way, along with pressure. Remember Drago in Rocky 4 yelling at the Russian Premier stating, “Ya b’yus’ radi pobedy! Dlya sebya! Dlya sebya!” Translation: I FIGHT FOR ME TO WIN! FOR ME! I didn’t enjoy training as much with the forced expectations to lift for someone else. It was a distraction to what I really love: THE GYM.
So yes, the gym. It’s my sanctuary, my church and my home. I love the smell of chalk in the morning! Ok not that you can hear me using a Robert Duvall voice ala Apocalypse Now, but I am really feeling it. Unfortunately as my body started to give in my distractedness via depression grew exponentially. A shoulder hear, elbow there and then after getting ready to demolish an 800+ raw squat I damaged my knee and back. I became a has-been in my mind.
Depressed doesn’t begin to describe how I felt with my perceived world falling apart. I shut down totally while making little effort to train. I removed myself from the gym. I stopped engaging in lifting conversations and groups. WHAT WAS I GONNA DO? BICEPS? SCREW THAT! And yet as I type now I gotta say, that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. I really suffered perception issues. Maybe I broke my “perception” as well? I failed to see all that I had as an athlete versus what I didn’t have. And in my wallow of shame I missed the boat totally. Distraction. It’s a beast.
So here they are, my three points to go napalm in a hurry! (Que Prodigy for dramatic effect please.)
Have a plan: Your plan is the guts of your success.
The plan is your epicenter of it all! Sure a plan sounds simple enough but it is often take lightly and for granted. Take a look around a lot of gyms. Ask someone that is heading to go train what he or she is going to do. You will likely get a vague answer or it is a program that they just started from the other program they just stopped THAT they just started. THAT ISNT A PLAN unless you call planning to fail an actual plan. So you need to map out a strategy. If you want to be the best you have to plan for it. It doesn’t just happen. Preparedness trumps talent any day of the week. Look at NFL players that are studs in college and flop in the league. Then look at the 7th round draft pick that meticulously follows a plan and is suddenly a pro bowler!
For competitive lifters you might be looking at a meet, event etc to participate in. Consider a mock meet and videoing it as well. There are a lot of options but reach for something. Do not be ambiguous with no time line. You need that healthy pressure to reach the finish with your best effort. So write down the plan and goals with a dry erase marker and make your bathroom mirror a motivator with reminders. Use a notepad to log your training, eating and thoughts while keeping it in your pocket at all times. Purchase a calendar and start to work backwards setting up your goals. Break it all up into smaller segments. Create an email reminder for that portion of the training cycle you are in. Add a Youtube video and/or quotes to remind you are why you are pushing yourself. My clients that are training for meets in powerlifting are given detailed spreadsheets for their entire training cycle and I send them quotes to “fan” their flame.
Are you a tech nerd that loves a nice smartphone? Use tools like Google Drive, a good timing app, and video recorder to chronicle your training. Part of having that plan is how well you can execute it so be prepared to pursue! Review and reassess constantly as you go. The fancy term now is auto regulation but for the longest time I have always just stated a lifter should self assess his or her training constantly.
My plan is to help at an upcoming meet. Sure a small plan but as I heal I am getting really excited to help push others to do their best. I have never enjoyed training for meets but I do love seeing others lifting and competing so I just treat an event like a long day at the gym. There is nothing wrong with using the energy of others to help be inspired. Inspiration is the ignition!
Create Accountability: Surround yourself with people to help you “grow.”
A training partner can be a great start to helping to push you especially while lifting weights. You not only are answering to that person via a schedule so you can’t sluff off but your work ethic is exposed! Maybe you don’t need a training partner but still surround yourself with people that are encouraging, honest and supportive of your set goals. There is no point sharing goals with people that don’t get it or are unwilling to support you. With this in mind consider limiting your exposure to social media during this journey. Avoid the distractions remember? Being held accountable doesn’t take a village but it does take the right support network. Remember the dude from “Indiana jones and the holy grail” that didn’t choose wisely? Don’t be that guy!
My accountability partners are individuals I trust implicitly. I ask them to ask me how I am doing and to get on my butt if I am not following through. They get the “keys to the city” to invade my space about achieving personal performance perfection. They ask the tough questions when I least expect it and need it most! Incidentally, this concept of accountability is a great premise to utilize period.
Stay Inspired: Use the right fuel for the flame.
The journey alone may be the inspiration thinking of that goal you keep grinding towards. If that is enough you are one of the lucky ones but use it! And use it to inspire others. Maybe you are keeping someone else accountable. Share with that person your journey too. There is a great quote that says, “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another.”
Remember when I mentioned distractions? Do not let that smartphone turn you into a selfie fool. Use the phone as a tool for your goals and stay on the plan. I have had clients that would get an upsetting text or message that would totally defeat their training session. So remove the potential for distractions. Turn off those features of the phone to stay focused!
Lastly, I would also like to suggest you practice kindness and humility during your journey. You will be amazed at how strong your are mentally while focusing on much more positive things during this time. I am not asking you to start a soup kitchen or hand out hugs but I do think keeping focused on your own actions will serve you well. We have all seen the troll behavior of some or just the ahole comments from people being petty about technique etc. Let’s go “Field of Dreams:” If you lift it negativity will come. So just dont be that person. Focus on the positives. Consider your tone. Text is so inefficient so be careful how you type so you can be representing yourself with class and integrity. Positive energy is inspiration personified.
Personally, being a coach and working in social services gives me ample opportunities to give and encourage others. Inspiration to me is a guy with MS that does his damnedest to walk a hallway with a Spinoflex machine (harness and walking rig). What excuse do I have?
Well, I am done. My hope is your wheels are turning for ideas and innovative concepts to reach your goals. And my 3 point sermon isn’t a life changer at all but it is a spark. You have the real work of applying these ideas to your own life. The question is will you?