Powerlifting Meet Recap

For those of you unfamiliar with the sport of powerlifting, it is a sport in which competitor’s squat, bench press and deadlift as much weight of they can for one repetition (1-rep Max). Each athlete gets three attempts at each lift and chooses how much weight they will try to lift on each attempt. Placing is decided by taking the sum of all three lifts to get the athlete’s “total” and the athlete with the highest total in their respective weight class wins the event.


On October 12th I competed in my very first powerlifting meet. I’ve always enjoyed training for strength but after completing my collegiate track career I found I still had the desire to compete and have a real purpose behind my training. I’d been training with powerlifting principles for quite some time but hadn’t done any meets because I thought I needed to get much stronger before competing. That’s when my good friend and amazing amputee power lifter Ali McWeeny informed me that her team (Team Phoenix) would be hosting a local powerlifting meet and I decided to jump in.



The meet was four months away when I signed up so I had some solid time to prepare. I had been on the same basic plan for the past 6 months and was seeing constant strength gains so I decided not to stray from the program that was working for me.


My training includes four lifting days per week with one day dedicated to bench press, squat, deadlift and overhead press. I included an overhead press day because shoulder strength and stability is extremely important for bench press. The main lift is performed first each day using a rep-max method where I work up to one main set of as many repetitions as possible at varying intensities depending on the phase (usually 3-8 reps at 85-95% 1RM). The main lift is then followed by assistance exercises designed to; increase the main lift, build muscle mass, provide balance and reduce risk of injury.


As the meet approached I started implementing paused bench press and heavy singles after completing my main “rep-max” set.


Meet Prep:

Two weeks out from the meet marked the final countdown of my meet preparation. During this time I had my last hard workouts where I worked up to 105-110% of my training max on bench, squat and deadlift while backing off slightly on overhead press. I really focused on getting in the mindset of the meet and attacking the weight as I would in competition. While increasing the intensities of the main lifts I decreased the volume of the assistance lifts by 20-30% while maintaining the intensity.


One week out from the meet I started my official “deload” in order to recover fully for the meet. In a normal deload I will decrease volume and intensity significantly (40-60%) but in preparation for the meet I did a high intensity deload where performed singles at 90-100% of my training max on the main lifts but almost completely dropped assistance work. The meet was on a Saturday so I performed my high intensity deload on Monday and Tuesday, rested Wednesday, did a dynamic warm-up and short workout Thursday (just got a light sweat), and rested completely Friday. Many competitors have to cut weight before a meet in order to compete in a lower weight class but since I was in the 242-pound class and weighed a solid 235 lbs I didn’t need to worry about that.


Meet Day:

I had received all kinds of advice about my first meet day from fellow power lifters but the two most common pieces of advice were;

  1. Bring food
  2. Triple check that you have all your equipment (shoes, singlet, belt, deadlift socks)

So I showed up to the gym with a cooler full of food and my triple checked gym bag bright and early and proceeded to wait two hours for the meet to start.


During this time I met a ton of the other lifters and introduced myself to all the referees, spotters, plate loaders and administrators. Doing this really helped calm my nerves because I had no idea what to expect and these people were more than willing to help. I was amazed with how receptive and genuinely excited all these people were to hear that this was my first meet and I was taking the plunge into powerlifting. While many of them looked the part, these people were far from the screaming meatheads outsiders tend to associate with powerlifting. I had great conversations about training, the inner workings of a meet and the powerlifting community. I went from feeling like an isolated competitor to feeling that all these people were on my side and wanted to see me succeed.


With my nervousness subdued it was finally time to begin the competition. Coming from a track and field background I expected an excruciatingly long and tedious meet with ample time between each lifter but I was very mistaken. I could not have been more impressed with the efficiency in which the meet was run. As soon as a lifter completed a lift (or didn’t) workers sprung into action to load the bar with the next weight to be attempted, adjusted the rack height and cleaned excess chalk off the bar. To my shock, downtime between each lifter only lasted about 30 seconds, resulting in a meet of 40 lifters only lasting 3.5 hours (less than half the time I expected).


Meet Results:

Coming into my first meet my goal was to simply compete. I had numbers that I wanted to hit but had no real aspirations of winning or placing but to my surprise I ended up placing 2nd in my weight class (242 lbs).


  • Squat: 402.5 lbs
  • Bench: 298 lbs
  • Deadlift: 463 lbs

I attribute my relative success to being solid in all three lifts while others had one lift that was especially good at the cost of the other two lifts.



My biggest downfall of the meet was my performance in the bench press. The difference between benching in competition and what you normally see in the gym is that the bar has to come to a complete stop (pause) on the lifter’s chest before being lifted. This pause will significantly reduce the amount of weight a person can bench press and this technique requires a lot of practice. I know now that I did not practice this skill often or early enough in my meet preparation. Adding more paused bench press work will be the biggest change to my program for my next meet.


Overall my first meet was an incredibly positive experience and I encourage anyone who wants to add purpose to their training to consider powerlifting. The feeling of putting all those hours of training on the line in competition is an amazing feeling that will surely add fuel to your training fire.



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