Competing in Your First Powerlifting Meet

I know not all of you compete in powerlifting like me and Heather, but I still want to share the following article from our website on how to prepare yourself mentally for your first competitive powerlifting meet.

If you’ve never tried – or even thought about – competing in powerlifting, I recommend at least giving it some consideration. It’s great for having specific fitness goals to work toward, the comradery in powerlifting circles is very supportive, and I’ll be honest, getting stronger and building muscle feels amazing!

So, if you ever decide to take the plunge into competitive lifting, here are some tips for your debut meet…

Setting Goals for Your First Powerlifting Meet

Originally published on

Having a plan for meet day will set you up for success and minimize additional stress and anxiety. Your coach should send you information and details on what to pack or prepare the night (or nights) before.

Not sure what to pack? Download our meet day packing list here! These are the basic essentials, but you and your coach may outline additional items to take as well.

With the details under control, you’re inevitably going to start thinking about your personal goals for your meet. Hopefully, your coach has already reviewed this with you. You will surely have numbers in your mind that you want to hit based on what you’ve been doing in training.

For our first-time powerlifting competitors, we have three main goals that we would like them to achieve during their first meet:

  1. Remember and Follow Commands
  2. Get a Total
  3. Have Fun!

1) Remember and Follow Commands

With the stress of a first meet, the commands can easily be forgotten. Hopefully, you’ve gone through a mock meet or a few practice sessions using the commands for your federation.

You or your coach should be familiar with the rule book and commands for the federation. Set a goal to listen to the judges and nail all the commands. Don’t miss a lift due to forgetting to wait for a signal or a call.

2) Get a Total

Don’t set your openers too high. Make sure these are numbers you can hit no matter the circumstance. For first-time competitors, it varies how we determine these, but we typically recommend something you can hit for three in training on any given day.

Starting with something you can definitely execute will not only boost your confidence for the remainder of the meet, but it will also give the judges a good impression of your execution abilities.

Powerlifting is subjective and some judges can be very particular with what they are looking for as far as depth and positioning. Your main goal for this first meet is to get a total which means hitting at least one of each of the three lifts.

Don’t aim too high and bomb out just because you want to try for something big, especially at your first meet.

3) Have Fun!

This doesn’t mean you need to be laughing and joking around with other competitors the entire meet (some people do this, though, and that’s totally fine).

If you think that a higher stress competitive environment and challenging your physical and mental toughness is fun, then you’ll be just fine. If you hate the experience, maybe competing isn’t for you.

We aim to make sure every client we have finds enjoyment during (or even after, upon reflection) their very first meet. This sport is not for everyone and we want to make sure you enjoy it because it’s years of work for nine minutes on the platform.

Meet Day Performance Expectations

In summary, don’t overthink your first meet. You’re getting in there and getting your feet wet. Use it as a learning experience and don’t try to compete with anyone else.

Get to know the flow of competition, the commands, and how you react to the stress of meet day. Don’t worry about your weight class or your Wilks. Just do your best to perform and take everything in.

If you’re looking for more concrete numbers for what you can expect from your performance, it will vary, especially with beginners.

A study in 2012 (Le Meur, et. al) showed that the numbers vary, but on average, lifters who follow a proper taper can expect around a 3% increase in performance on meet day.

Be sure you understand (or work with a coach who understands) your strengths, weak points, and how you perform under pressure.

You should be practicing physical and mental drills for the day of the meet. Visualization and even mantras can be powerful tools to use during your prep cycle.

On top of all this, nutrition, sleep, and stress should be in check leading up to the meet.

Good luck!

Meet JYM Girl Katie Kollath, MS