The Big Meet

“Big Meet” Competition Day

Some Tips and Suggestions for lifters new to National or International Competition

               Once you have lifted in a few local or gym meets where you know the people, the gym and, the landscape, you may get the urge to test yourself outside your comfort zone. This usually involves registering and training for a larger regional meet or a National or International Championship. Things get exponentially more complicated for the new (or even not so new) competitor at this level. I have “been there and done that”…made lots of mistakes and learned a few things along the way over the past 30 odd years.  So here we go! Some thoughts, suggestions and ideas to improve your chances for a successful competition.

  1. Training: (not the place for specific training advice) but in general, if you are new to big meets and the related travel then you want your goals realistic and your training cycle well planned. Stay with your plan. Do what you know. Lift the way you train and don’t look for, or listen to advice from others who do not know how you train and how you lift. They may mean well, they may even have lots of experience but they do not know you…so their last minute advice will do nothing but cause you problems. YOU DO NOT WANT DISTRACTIONS. Oh, and by the way: Read the Rule Book…know the rules of performance… know what gear is legal. You might be amazed to know how many lifters arrive at weigh in with “illegal” gear. The wrong underwear is most common, belts that are illegal, no knee socks, etc., etc., etc.,
  2. Travel: if you need to travel a long ways then plan carefully. Travel fatigue, strange food and time zones can play havoc with your best laid plans. If you will need to “make weight” things get much more complicated. Don’t expect to have access to a calibrated scale.
  3. Arrival: When you arrive “in town”. Check in, settle in, then go out and scope the route to the venue, food sources (restaurants and markets), and the venue itself. This will take uncertainty out of meet day morning. Re-read The Rule Book.
  4. Venue: go to the venue the day or evening before the competition. Locate the registration and gear check area, find out where the weigh in rooms are and check out the warm up area. Are the plates in pounds or kilos? What do the bars and racks look like.
  5. Gear check: frequently there is an early gear check the evening before the competition. Get your gear checked early. This gives you time to make adjustments if you made a mistake and only brought boxer briefs and forgot your knee socks and time to find a belt to borrow if the one you bought on Amazon turns out to be “just a little too wide”…or to cut the extra padding out of the back of your illegal Vallejo belt. Re-read The Rule Book. Ask questions if you have any ‘cause tomorrow everyone will be too busy to answer them.
  6. The night before: if you are unsure of anything: Re-read the Rule Book. Pack you bag, pack your food. If you have not already done so, now is the time to write down your warm ups (in both pounds and kilos), write down your attempts 1, 2, 3 and I recommend an optional opener (lighter) and an optional 3rd (heavier) so that you don’t need to think about this during the meet. BE SURE THAT YOU USE KILOS….all the “big meets’ use kilos on the platform. Have the numbers already in your head (if it helps to know what the kilos are in pounds then writing that down too). They always have conversion charts (well usually) at the venue but why wait to figure it out under pressure. Know your warm ups, know your attempts, less to distract you at the competition. The kilo to pound conversion is 2.2046.
  7. Weigh-in: arrive early. Some weigh ins are conducted by lottery number, if your number is called and you are not there then could miss weigh-in (tragedy) or best case go to the end of the line (bummer if you are trying to make weight and need to eat before you lift in an early flight). Some weigh- ins are first come, first serve. Either way it is to your advantage to arrive early. This also gives you an opportunity to stake out your “camp site” for the duration of the meet. Be sure to do that. Find a spot at the venue that allows you somewhere to leave your gear, to keep track of what’s going on but also allows you a place to go to relax, eat, hydrate etc. If you are traveling alone weigh- in is also a good time to make some connections with other lifters or their crew who may be willing to help with your  gear, track the progress of the competition and lend some support. Powerlifters tend to be congenial and helpful sorts. I have traveled overseas and to nearly every state in the union to compete, often without my support crew and have never failed to find help and support. It is truly one of the things I love most about this sport. You will need to give your opening attempts at weigh-in. Have them ready, in kilos for the weigh in officials. You will need to strip down for weigh- ins. Most federations (but not all) allow you to keep your underwear on and to wear your socks on the scale. This information is in the Rule Book.
  8. Competition: flights will be posted shortly after weigh- ins are complete. Find the posting and know what flight you are in and where you are in the order. Figure to start your warm ups using your pre-established sequence as soon as the previous flight begins lifting. Find other lifters in the warm up room who are in your age and weight class and jump in with them. No one appreciates another lifter who wants to make a lot of changes to the weight on the bar during warm ups. That said, you know what your warm up weights are so you want to stay with that. You may have to adjust your pace a little to accommodate the other lifters but this should not be much of a problem if you are with those who are competing on the same class as you. Keep track of where the previous flight is so that you are not ready too soon, or worse, are not rushing to finish your warm ups. Warm ups at big competitions are a bit of an art form. But if you stay alert to what weight is being loaded and the pace of those around you, you should be able to get a satisfactory warm up with minimal stress.
  9. Attempts: be in the corral prior to the start of your flight. Find a seat. Get your gear ready. If you are an equipped lifter you will need to be alert to the pace of the flight particularly those lifters immediately preceding you. Some competitions mix equipped and unequipped lifters in the same flights. If that is the case and you are equipped you need to be particularly alert as unequipped lifters will tend to step up to the platform quickly when they are called while equipped lifters will tend to use much of their allotted 60 seconds. Once you have completed your attempts get off the platform and move over to the expeditor table within 60 seconds to give your next attempt.
  10. State of Mind: in the corral get a feel for the flow of the flight. Be alert to your lifting position. Stay focused on your upcoming attempt. Do not let distractions into your space. You have trained for this lift. You know the Rule Book. No need to do much thinking. Just go into your pre attempt routine, whatever it may be, and then go out and get a successful attempt. I constantly tell my lifters “don’t think”. Once you step toward the platform there really should not be any need for thinking. At this point you are simply performing movement that you have done hundreds, if not thousands of times before.
  11. Odds and Ends: the most common mistake of a new, or relatively new, lifter at a big meet (or really any meet) is not waiting for the commands. If you train using commands during your peaking cycle then this is less likely to be a problem. Another common mistake is losing track of the pace of the competition and not being ready when your flight begins or when you are called to the platform. The third most common mistake is not knowing The Rules. Did I mention that you need to READ THE RULE BOOK? It is truly amazing how many lifters show up at a competition that have only a vague idea of the rules of the association they are lifting with. Even if you have lifted with this association in the past and think you already know the rules…READ THE RULE BOOK. Rule books are regularly updated on all the major federations and small and sometimes big changes are made to the rules.
  12. Expect the Unexpected: my mantra to my lifters is “meet conditions” even during training, when things don’t go quite right. Control what you can and be prepared as best you can but be ready to make adjustments as needed. No point in bitching and moaning during the meet (you can do that when you get back to the gym). The venue may be too hot, too cold, too loud, not loud enough. The flights may run very, very fast…or very, very slow….the loaders may be really fast “holy carp I’m up already” or really slow “crap I wrapped too soon”. The warm up area may be crowded and a long way from the competition without monitors “where the hell are we, what attempt is the flight on”. Be ready for any and all of the above. Adjust. Stay as calm as possible and go with it. Worse case drop your openers (with in the time frame per The Rules). If you have taken care of your end with careful planning and preparation it will be easier for you to make adjustments to the “meet Conditions” and there always will be “meet conditions”.
  13. The platform: when you are called to the platform (you have 60 seconds to begin your attempt): take a quick look to assure that the bar is loaded correctly, that the rack height is correct, that the platform is “safe” E.G. no powder on the dead lift platform, no blood on the bar, the bar is centered in the racks etc. If you do this in training then it will be second nature in competition. Establish good habits in the gym and they will serve you well on the competition platform. If things are “not right” ask the official to correct the problem. Never argue with an official. You have nothing to gain. Ask for an explanation of a red light then thank the official and step away. The officials are, I can assure you, trying to do the best job they can. They are not out to “screw you”. A mistake can be appealed to the jury or to the Head Official. Be polite at all times.
  14. Come away satisfied that you did the best you could have done or if not, then come away satisfied that you learned something of value for next time to allow you to continue to improve.

© 2017: Dave Mansfield MA, MSPT, CSCS