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.”