Best Advice I Got in My First Powerlifting Competition

I’ve been doing weightlifting for a long time, but I got serious about my squats, bench press and deadlift just over a year ago. Last week I finally competed in a powerlifting competition. I had a great time, learned a lot and put into practice a lot of tips for beginners.

Powerlifting is a sport in which you do squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. In a competition, you get three attempts each, and the maximum weight you lift in each one adds up to get the total. Since you can train these exercises in a regular gym (as opposed to Olympic style weightlifting), it is quite a popular sport these days, and I know that many of you are probably wondering if you should ever get involved. in powerlifting competitions. Based on my own newbie experience, here are some of the best tips I would like to pass on.

Register sooner rather than later

The standard advice is not to wait too long before making an appointment. You will have fun and no one will judge you for being new. If you lift lighter weights and ranked last in the class … so what? You will still have the experience of challenging yourself.

I went along with this advice, but I didn’t feel ready to subscribe until I had a few friends who were also into powerlifting who could answer my silly questions and help me figure out what to expect. I also learned about various federations: the USAPL is one of the most famous, but they have a controversial policy of banning translifters and have tried to silence protests over this ban. I decided I didn’t want to give them my money, so instead I went with another big federation, the USPA.

Once I made this decision, I just looked through the calendar on and selected an appointment based on date and place. (One thing I didn’t realize at the time: Some USPA competitions are drug tested and some are not. If you want to break drug testing records or qualify for other drug testing competitions, you cannot this is in unverified competitions.)

Train with competition in mind

You don’t need a specific training plan; You can just come and go about your business. But if you’re someone who loves to do a million different things at the gym (hey), scheduling a meeting can help you stay focused. I don’t have a personal trainer, but I use online coaching, which gives me coaching and answers questions. As the competition approached, all the fun assisted exercises disappeared from my programs, and I had to do many, many, many squats, bench presses and deadlifts. I’ve been sitting on the bench in recent weeks and I promise it’s not a typo, six times a week.

When I train, I think about competition exercises. You must follow certain rules for each exercise and there are commands from the judge: for example, at the end of each exercise, you must wait for the command “down” or “stand up” before you finish. In competition, I’ve seen a few people do the perfect bench press and then lift the bar before being given the command to stand. This is without an elevator.

So every time I squat in a workout, I squat to the correct depth (fold in the thigh below the top of the knee, otherwise it doesn’t count). Every time I do my competition-style bench press, I squeeze the barbell to my chest and stop it there for a second (waiting for an imaginary judge to command me to press) before doing the push-up. At the end of each deadlift set, I stand up straight for a second, holding the barbell in my hands, before lowering it. Sometimes my program requires something else as an accessory (like a touch press), but I’m trying to make the competition-legal version of the lift my default mental mind.


It turns out that the days leading up to weight lifting competitions are psychologically difficult in much the same way as marathon exercises . You’ve gone through all this training, and now that the hay is in the barn, a useless little part of your brain starts looking for reasons to panic.

Look ahead in your training plan. The last week is usually easy: just one or two workouts and you probably won’t lift anything harder than planned. It’s important to stick to your plan and not worry, lift too much, or resort to extra workouts.

This means that the week before last, that is, the penultimate week, is your last chance to go berserk. This is also the time when you should figure out what your opening attempts will be, so that when the last week arrives, you pick up your openers and rest.

Make all your plans for the last few weeks. If you are going to travel, create a packing list. Decide what time you will go to the weigh-in (this could be the morning of the appointment or the day before). Choose regular food that you usually eat, which you will have for breakfast and / or bring with you.

Choose your attempts wisely

You make three attempts on each climb, and the best one is added to your total. Your second try should be no less than your first, and your third should be no less than your second. So first of all, it’s better to be something that you can actually lift, otherwise you will get zero for this part of the competition.

There are many tips for choosing opening attempts, but especially when aimed at beginners, the advice comes down to not missing out on your damn opener . I’ve seen this in different ways:

  • Pick the weight you are willing to bet a thousand dollars on.
  • Pick a weight that you can lift three reps.
  • Pick a weight you have done so many times in the gym that you could do even on your worst day.

In my competition, I saw someone crush their squats on my flight. She was so strong and her squats were so good and then … she missed her first step on the bench. You cannot lessen your attempts, so she tried the same weight on the second try and then on the third, and never got it. After that, she was ready. Even in the deadlift did not come. Lesson: Pick a beginner you know you can do.

This is not part of the standard advice, but I would like to add it: warm-ups give you the opportunity to try out your newbie. In the warm-up area, you can do as many lifts as you like, with any weight, although it would be wise not to tire yourself out. Your last warm-up should be smooth and light, and then you’ll know you’re ready to open. If you want to be very, very confident in your opener, you can even pick him up in the warm-up area before going out and lift him up on the platform.

Know the order and be prepared to wait

There will be a lot of waiting between the lifts. Both the USPA and USAPL divide elevators into flights and flights into rounds. About a week before the competition, I learned that I would be Flight A.

This is how it works:

  • Everyone in flight A makes their first squat attempt.
  • Then, in flight A, everyone makes a second squat attempt.
  • Then, in flight A, everyone makes their third squat attempt.
  • Participant B then does squats and we can all relax a little.

After all the squats have been completed, this process is repeated for the bench press and then for the deadlift.

On each flight, attempts are graded from lightest to hardest. This means that if you are lifting light weights – this is quite possible if you are a beginner and this is your first meeting – you may have to go first. The meeting organizers will probably post a list showing who is coming in which order, and if not, you can visit the judges table and ask. I was second in the squat, fifth in the bench, fourth in the deadlift. But no matter where you are on the list, pay attention to whose name they call and get ready to go.

You may have to wait an hour or two between climbs. I brought sweatpants to keep from sitting too cold, do crosswords to pass the time, and snacks to refuel because the competition lasts all day. After the deadlift, I even stayed at the awards ceremony, because in the end I was the only person in my weight class. I came first and last.


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