You’ve spent countless days, weeks, and months training for your upcoming powerlifting meet, and now you feel ready to test your strength up on the platform. Sure, you may think you’ve got this one in the bag, but do you really know what to expect on the big day?
While you do want to maintain your focus on training, there are a few things you need to know that could help you out big time.
Luckily for you, elite and pro powerlifter Sean Donegan goes over everything you need to know about meet day.
About a week in advance, make a checklist of all the things you’ll be needing for that day. Then pack a bag with the equipment you’ll be using for your meet along with your checklist. Make sure you keep that bag with you during the meet so you don’t have a chance of losing it.
All athletes are required to weigh in for a meet at a certain window, so make sure you know exactly when you’ll be able to get on the meet scale and when it’ll be available to you before the official cut-off for the weigh-ins.
“I like to have one person help me on meet days,” says Sean Donegan. “If you have too many, you have too many people giving you instructions, and it can become confusing.”
If you decide to have a helper assist you during your lift, make sure they only give you two cues at the maximum because it can be hard to manage too many redundant commands. Also, it’s best to have a helper who’s familiar with your needs and is aware of the things you’ll most likely forget so they can help you stay focused on those key points.
Depending on the pace of the powerlifting meet, your warm-ups can be rushed or prolonged. If there are any unexpected injuries, be ready to adjust your warm-up plan accordingly.
If your warm-up feels too heavy or off, Sean advises lifters not to be afraid to make adjustments. “The purpose of the opener is to show the judges you understand the rules and know what you’re doing. If you screw up your first squat, you’re going to have a microscope on you for the rest of the day with the judges,” Sean says.
It’s best to start out with a conservative opener, meaning a weight that you’d be able to double or triple while lifting in the gym.
On your second attempt, Sean likes going for a five or 10-pound personal record.
And for your third and last attempt, you can allow your helper to decide the weight for you, or even have them pick a weight without telling you.
“I would say the most important lift in a powerlifting meet is your first squat. There’s something about that tipping point, where if you can just go over that mountain, it’s downhill from there,” says Sean.
It’s also crucial to get your attempt in on time. Oftentimes during a powerlifting meet, judges will pay extra close attention to the clock where you have one minute to get your next attempt in or one minute to start your attempt when it’s your turn on the platform. Your helper should be aware of these details and help you keep with the pace of your attempts.
During the meet, it’s important to stay focused on yourself and not the other athletes in the room, as this can cause you to strain mentally as well as pick up bad habits.
“It’s your own game, it’s your day – you don’t need to watch other people. It’s just going to create more nerves,” Sean says.
Even though there is a break in the movement of a bench press as you’re waiting for a press command, remember that it’s just one movement from top to top.
Think of the deadlift as the last chance to put the nail on the coffin. It’s the defining moment for you to put in everything you’ve worked hard for, so treat it as an opportunity you might not be able to get again anytime soon.
“The deadlift is an extremely emotional lift,” says Sean. “You can really dig deep inside yourself and do something extraordinary.”
Sean, who’s lasted an entire 14-hour meet by eating one apple in the morning without any problems, suggests eating the same way you do on any given day.
“I’d see athletes decide to go out for a huge breakfast where they got 1,500 calories of fat in their stomach, and they need all that blood to digest the food. Well you need it in your muscles to perform,” says Sean.
Sean recommends sticking to high-glycemic foods to get something in your stomach to fuel you throughout the day.