T Nation

Tips for my first powerlifting meet?

I will be competing in my first meet on June 8th. Any tips for a first time lifter? I’m especially curious about percentages for opening lifts, second attempts, and final attempts.

I’m on my fifth cycle of 5/3/1 right now, and I plan to keep running it for squat, deadlift, and OHP leading into the meet. I’m probably going to switch to Ed Coan’s bench routine after the end of my fifth cycle. My bench hasn’t improved since September so I obviously need to try something different for that.

Goal lifts for the meet:
Squat 300
Bench 185
Deadlift 375

The best advice I can give you for a first meet is to calm down, and have fun. If you have a training partner, ask them to come along with you to handle you. Having someone there to talk to and make decisions for you goes a long way.

Your first attempts should be fairly easy. Something you can handle to any depth, or with any amount of pause. You will be using equipment you’re not used to, on a platform you’ve never lifted on, in front of a crowd of people you’re not familiar with, along with 3 judges who have never seen you lift before. Many people regard their first attempts as their last warmup. You have your 2nd and 3rd attempts to push yourself, your 1st attempt should be a walk in the park. It seems like a lot of people recommend 90-93% for their openers, but the only thing that matters is that it’s easy.

At least for me, my 2nd attempt is usually planned in advance, and my third is based on my goals & how the previous 2 reps have gone. Your 2nd should be challenging. If I crush my 2nd, I’ll make a bigger jump on my 3rd. If not, I’ll take a conservative 3rd attempt. In terms of percentages, it seems a lot of people recommend 96-98% for a 2nd attempt, and somewhere north of that for a 3rd.

Lastly, before the meet familiarize yourself with the rules of the particular federation you are competing in.

The guy above me pretty much hit the nail on the head from what I’ve heard. I plan on doing my first meet on April 6th, so in about 4 weeks. I’m also running 5/3/1 up to the meet if you want to check out my log. From what I hear your first attempt should be something you could hit no matter what condition, I’ve always heard it should be something you can hit for an easy triple. Your second should be something you could double and your 3rd attempt is where you go for a PR if the first two attempts went well. Your attempts also all depend on how the previous rep went. Go in there with a plan, but don’t be afraid to adjust your attempts.

*This is most of the advice I’ve been given going into my meet. I’ll see how it works in a few weeks haha.

Good luck man! If you start a log on here I’d check it out.

Thanks for the tips guys.

I actually do have a log on here and I will check yours out as well. Hopefully I can learn something.

Here’s something I wrote a while back; I’ll remove evidence of the site address so that it doesn’t look like I’m promoting on here. This is my basic process for determining attempts:


Those who have experienced the onset of panic that accompanies the mailing of one?s first meet entry form likely spent the rest of their free time leading up to the meet soliciting advice and scouring the ?net for information. One question that?s always on the minds of first-meet lifters is attempt selection; most lifters have had trotted out to them the same beleaguered axioms?open with what you can triple on a bad day, go balls? out on the third attempt?but this numeric approach to attempt selection elides over one crucial component to picking attempts: your goals.

Always start with a goal. Better yet, start with two goals: a conservative goal, and a go-for-broke goal. Go-for-broke goals are best-case-scenario, and they are not to be banked on. Sometimes, these goals go awry in horrendously spectacular fashion; still, every lifter needs a go-for-broke goal heading into a meet.

…Just don?t bank on your attempts reaching these heights. Instead, identify conservative goals that would make your meet successful without necessarily setting the world on fire. For me, I try to delineate the worst I could possibly perform, both in individual lifts and in total, and come away from the meet satisfied. Generally, this means, for me, setting a PR meet total. In every meet, I want to improve upon my last performance, and since coming to 148 lbs., I?ve done that to the tune of meet totals of 1202, 1229, 1251, 1267, and 1328 pounds.

Define for yourself what the lowest you could perform on a meet and still have a ?successful? showing would be, and make these attempts your second attempts. If you simply want to break 1000 lbs., make sure your second attempts total 1000 lbs.

After doing this, sit down and stew long and hard over whether or not your goals are reasonable. Understand that competing in a powerlifting meet is not like training in a gym: you?re in a foreign locale, surrounded by new sensorial barrages, being judged on everything you do, abiding by a set of strictly-enforced rules, for six to ten hours. You?re taking nine near-maximum attempts, putting your adrenaline through dramatic undulations as you ?get up? and ?wind down? from psyche-up sessions, trying to time your warm-ups to synchronize with the meet?s proceedings. And all of this comes after having to weigh-in, which entails, for some of us, a prolonged weight-cutting excursion, followed by a nausea-inducing re-hydration and nourishment period. By the end of it, you?re physically and emotionally exhausted.

Long story short, some thrive under these conditions, and some don?t, and the latter camp is far larger than the former. Beyond first-time lifters, the list of those who will set squat and deadlift PRs in the same meet is extremely short, and most lifters will see a precipitous drop in their deadlift simply because of all the near-max attempts they?ve already incurred. Personally, my deadlift has always felt great at meets, but those that don?t train it as often might not be able to expect the same boost from a rest week, and in many instances, will suffer from having already squatted what amounts to, after warm-ups are tallied, a full session under the bar.

Keeping all of this in mind, make sure your expectations are reasonable ones. If you?ve got a 1200-lb. gym total and want to total 1000 lbs. for your first meet, get your shit together and set higher standards for yourself. If you?ve got a 880-lb. total and want 1000 lbs., it?s time to face reality: your goal is not realistic.

Not that ?not realistic? equates with ?unattainable?; your goals are simply out-of-synch with your ability, and thus you need to re-evaluate them. Generally, reasonable, conservative goals will end up being around 95% of your training maxes, give or take a few percentage points. For me, a slam-dunk, guaranteed lift can be as high as 97%–on meet day, I can roll out of bed and deadlift 550 with certainty, even though my current max is only 568?but is usually closer to 95%. These are ?pretty safe? lifts, but they?re ideally high enough so that you still come away with a successful meet.

Once you have these, make them your second attempts. Let your second attempts determine your openers by using
90-92% (92% is ideal for me) and making those your opening attempts.

So, let?s say that I want to squat 480 lbs. at my next meet, and that anything less would be a disappointment to me. If that number is reasonable?if my rep PRs or my existing PRs indicate it?s somewhere at or below 97%–then I?ll make it my second attempt. 92% of this is 440, which is an attempt I?ve tripled in the gym; heck, I just tripled 450. So, those two attempts are feasible for me, and my opener should help me reach my baseline goal for the meet.

Once you have your first two attempts, decide upon a go-for-broke goal. Taking me as an example, let?s say I want 510 as my go-for-broke goal, because I think that, under the right conditions, I could hit it, and that it?d help me attain a particular total. Once you?ve got that number in mind, check to make sure the gaps separating your first two and second two attempts are in at least a 2:1 ratio to one another.

So, 510 would be a little out of reach, since you?re talking about a 40-lb. jump (440 to 480), then a 30-lb. one (480 to 510). I could manipulate the numbers here by bringing my other attempts up, but a 490 squat doesn?t sound like a safe bet, and being left with only a 440 opener leaves me queasy inside. So, I drop my go-for-broke to 500, thus giving me a 2:1 ratio.

Now, if we?re talking deadlifting, then I know from personal history that I can count on no hands the number of times I’ve hit two 98%+ deadlifts in one day. I don?t expect that trend to end anytime soon, so I make sure to keep this in mind when taking my deadlift attempts. A near-max on my second attempt will probably produce a missed third attempt, so I?ll either go ahead with it and plan on passing on my third attempt, or I?ll lower the second to ensure I?m in a position to even stand a chance against a PR attempt as my third.

In short, attempt selection should be goal-oriented. For three meets I wanted a 1300-lb. total, and for three meets, I came up short, but I had the wherewithal to keep 1300 as my go-for-broke goal, which allowed me to post consistent meet PRs despite not having a spectacular performance. Remember that perfect meets are few and far between, and the next one I experience will be my first.

Are you doing the June 8 USAPL meet in NC? Ill be there.

[quote]KyleKeough wrote:
Here’s something I wrote a while back; I’ll remove evidence of the site address so that it doesn’t look like I’m promoting on here. This is my basic process for determining attempts:


Those who have experienced the onset of panic that accompanies the mailing of one?s first meet entry form likely spent the rest of their free time leading up to the meet soliciting advice and scouring the ?net for information. One question that?s always on the minds of first-meet lifters is attempt selection; most lifters have had trotted out to them the same beleaguered axioms?open with what you can triple on a bad day, go balls? out on the third attempt?but this numeric approach to attempt selection elides over one crucial component to picking attempts: your goals.

Always start with a goal. Better yet, start with two goals: a conservative goal, and a go-for-broke goal. Go-for-broke goals are best-case-scenario, and they are not to be banked on. Sometimes, these goals go awry in horrendously spectacular fashion; still, every lifter needs a go-for-broke goal heading into a meet.

…Just don?t bank on your attempts reaching these heights. Instead, identify conservative goals that would make your meet successful without necessarily setting the world on fire. For me, I try to delineate the worst I could possibly perform, both in individual lifts and in total, and come away from the meet satisfied. Generally, this means, for me, setting a PR meet total. In every meet, I want to improve upon my last performance, and since coming to 148 lbs., I?ve done that to the tune of meet totals of 1202, 1229, 1251, 1267, and 1328 pounds.

Define for yourself what the lowest you could perform on a meet and still have a ?successful? showing would be, and make these attempts your second attempts. If you simply want to break 1000 lbs., make sure your second attempts total 1000 lbs.

After doing this, sit down and stew long and hard over whether or not your goals are reasonable. Understand that competing in a powerlifting meet is not like training in a gym: you?re in a foreign locale, surrounded by new sensorial barrages, being judged on everything you do, abiding by a set of strictly-enforced rules, for six to ten hours. You?re taking nine near-maximum attempts, putting your adrenaline through dramatic undulations as you ?get up? and ?wind down? from psyche-up sessions, trying to time your warm-ups to synchronize with the meet?s proceedings. And all of this comes after having to weigh-in, which entails, for some of us, a prolonged weight-cutting excursion, followed by a nausea-inducing re-hydration and nourishment period. By the end of it, you?re physically and emotionally exhausted.

Long story short, some thrive under these conditions, and some don?t, and the latter camp is far larger than the former. Beyond first-time lifters, the list of those who will set squat and deadlift PRs in the same meet is extremely short, and most lifters will see a precipitous drop in their deadlift simply because of all the near-max attempts they?ve already incurred. Personally, my deadlift has always felt great at meets, but those that don?t train it as often might not be able to expect the same boost from a rest week, and in many instances, will suffer from having already squatted what amounts to, after warm-ups are tallied, a full session under the bar.

Keeping all of this in mind, make sure your expectations are reasonable ones. If you?ve got a 1200-lb. gym total and want to total 1000 lbs. for your first meet, get your shit together and set higher standards for yourself. If you?ve got a 880-lb. total and want 1000 lbs., it?s time to face reality: your goal is not realistic.

Not that ?not realistic? equates with ?unattainable?; your goals are simply out-of-synch with your ability, and thus you need to re-evaluate them. Generally, reasonable, conservative goals will end up being around 95% of your training maxes, give or take a few percentage points. For me, a slam-dunk, guaranteed lift can be as high as 97%–on meet day, I can roll out of bed and deadlift 550 with certainty, even though my current max is only 568?but is usually closer to 95%. These are ?pretty safe? lifts, but they?re ideally high enough so that you still come away with a successful meet.

Once you have these, make them your second attempts. Let your second attempts determine your openers by using
90-92% (92% is ideal for me) and making those your opening attempts.

So, let?s say that I want to squat 480 lbs. at my next meet, and that anything less would be a disappointment to me. If that number is reasonable?if my rep PRs or my existing PRs indicate it?s somewhere at or below 97%–then I?ll make it my second attempt. 92% of this is 440, which is an attempt I?ve tripled in the gym; heck, I just tripled 450. So, those two attempts are feasible for me, and my opener should help me reach my baseline goal for the meet.

Once you have your first two attempts, decide upon a go-for-broke goal. Taking me as an example, let?s say I want 510 as my go-for-broke goal, because I think that, under the right conditions, I could hit it, and that it?d help me attain a particular total. Once you?ve got that number in mind, check to make sure the gaps separating your first two and second two attempts are in at least a 2:1 ratio to one another.

So, 510 would be a little out of reach, since you?re talking about a 40-lb. jump (440 to 480), then a 30-lb. one (480 to 510). I could manipulate the numbers here by bringing my other attempts up, but a 490 squat doesn?t sound like a safe bet, and being left with only a 440 opener leaves me queasy inside. So, I drop my go-for-broke to 500, thus giving me a 2:1 ratio.

Now, if we?re talking deadlifting, then I know from personal history that I can count on no hands the number of times I’ve hit two 98%+ deadlifts in one day. I don?t expect that trend to end anytime soon, so I make sure to keep this in mind when taking my deadlift attempts. A near-max on my second attempt will probably produce a missed third attempt, so I?ll either go ahead with it and plan on passing on my third attempt, or I?ll lower the second to ensure I?m in a position to even stand a chance against a PR attempt as my third.

In short, attempt selection should be goal-oriented. For three meets I wanted a 1300-lb. total, and for three meets, I came up short, but I had the wherewithal to keep 1300 as my go-for-broke goal, which allowed me to post consistent meet PRs despite not having a spectacular performance. Remember that perfect meets are few and far between, and the next one I experience will be my first.[/quote]

Wow awesome article. Thanks for sharing. It all makes sense, especially about deadlifting heavy at the end of the meet.

[quote]cparker wrote:
Are you doing the June 8 USAPL meet in NC? Ill be there.[/quote]

Yessir. See you there.

Relax and have fun. Bring food, have someone record and meet new people. It’s rare to be in a room full of people that share a common goal with you.

Also, if you don’t have a friend with you that knows how a meet is ran, ask someone for help. Warming up isn’t the same as if you were testing a 1RM in the gym.

Could you elaborate on this difference?

This article by Tim is a guide I use to warm up at meets.

I don’t know how big your meet is. As the more people there are the more time you should take in between warmups. If it wasn’t for a fellow lifter telling me to slow down I would’ve warmed up way too early and that would’ve messed with me mentally and physically.

Most meets use the round system. Which will place lifters in flights, usually consisting of around 15-20 people. All lifters in a flight will have their 3 attempts taken before going on into the next flight. So if you are in flight 3, you should wait until the lifters in Flight 2 start their 2nd/3rd attempt.

I hope you have a great time at your meet. My team is competing on June 8th in VA as well. For your lifts given that it is the first time I would make your attempts like this

Squat 255 (should be super easy)
Squat 280
Squat 300

Bench 155
Bench 175
Bench 185

Deadlift 325
Deadlift 355
Deadlift 375

If the meet is in kilos don’t forget to convert those lifts over, round down on your beginning attempts. Practice the commands for each lift in the gym several times and squat deep. Good luck, have fun, and let me know if you have any questions

[quote]Tim Henriques wrote:
I hope you have a great time at your meet. My team is competing on June 8th in VA as well. For your lifts given that it is the first time I would make your attempts like this

Squat 255 (should be super easy)
Squat 280
Squat 300

Bench 155
Bench 175
Bench 185

Deadlift 325
Deadlift 355
Deadlift 375

If the meet is in kilos don’t forget to convert those lifts over, round down on your beginning attempts. Practice the commands for each lift in the gym several times and squat deep. Good luck, have fun, and let me know if you have any questions[/quote]

Awesome. Thank you.