Thinking about doing your first powerlifting competition? Well here are some pointers of what a "Meet" is all about and how you should go about preparing for one. When most people think of powerlifting they think of these huge guys lifting thousands of pounds, they get intimidated, and they think to themselves, "There is no way I could compete with that." Well, there are some huge guys that do lift a lot of weight but most of them are at an elite level and you most likely won't see an elite guy at your first competition. In all honestly though you should hope some top names in the sport are there because most of them are more than willing to help out anyone that needs it and also it is strong motivation to watch them lift. Powerlifters are a so called family, they all look after one another.
Okay so you've been training hard, getting stronger, and now your first meet is coming up. You should take the week of the meet off from your training so your body can recover.
Next thing I recommend is to figure out what weight class you want to be in as soon as possible and start maintaining that weight or even stay below that weight up until weigh-ins. Next, find out when weigh-ins are, some meets have early weigh-ins and some meets require you to weigh in 2 hours before lifting. The absolute worst thing you could do is cut a lot of weight for a 2 hour weigh in and then try to put it back on (I'm speaking from experience). If the weigh in is the day before then you can cut the weight that week, weigh in, and then start taking in some water and gatorade, then start eating. If the weigh in is 2-hours before then you need to make sure your weight is in check the week of the meet.
Okay, you've got your weight where you need it. What should you eat leading up to a meet. I recommend a starchy carb like pasta the night before the meet (if your weight is not a problem), this will keep your body fueled. When you wake up you should eat another starchy carb (I like oatmeal). Now your be fueled throughout the day with a steady stream of carbs. About an hour before the meet starts you should take in some fast acting carbs like gatorade, an energy drink, and anything else that has sugar in it. This will give you the fuel you need right away. During the meet you want to keep taking in those fast acting carbs. Before, during, and after the meet you need to be drinking plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated as well.
So you know what you need to pack for food, what else needs to go in your bag? You need your singlet, your lifting belt, your bench press shirt and squat/deadlift suit and also your knee wraps (If a geared competition), lifting shoes, deadlift socks, chalk and baby powder (Most meets will supply), wrist wraps, proper underwear (most meets require briefs), a change of clothes, a towel, and your camera.
When you get to the meet site you will probably have to sit through a rules clinic, but your going to already know the rules before hand because you need to go on the federations website and thoroughly read their rules. You need to then practice these rules in the gym during your last week of training. I can't stress this enough. I can't count how many times I've seen a new guy miss lifts for dumb reasons because they didn't know the rules. The best one I saw was when a guy laid down to get ready to bench with his headphones still in his ears. So after the rules clinic that you didn't really need to hear because you already know the rules you will have a certain amount of time to warm up. Here's where it can get a bit tricky. You need to find out where you are in the flight (the order of lifting in your group). If you are one of the first few lifters than you need to warm up early. If you are in the last few lifters than I recommend having your last warm up set while the first or second lifter makes his attempt. You don't want to be sitting around for a half hour waiting to lift, you'll get cold and your warm-up will be ineffective. So make sure you time your warmup correctly. Next thing is if you are competing in a geared competition make sure you have your gear on and ready to go BEFORE your up. You don't want to get called up to the platform and not have your knees wrapped already, this will leave you hurrying and most likely will not turn out good.
Here's how most meets will run. The first flight (group of lifters) will warm up, squats come first. Then the lifters will make their first attempts starting with the lightest attempt and ending at the heaviest attempt. Then lifters will make their second attempts the same way, you have to be careful though because you may not be lifting behind the same people anymore as the order of lifting can change. After the second attempts, lifters will then make their third and final attempts. After third attempts the next flight (group of lifters) will make all three of their attempts. This is where you will get to relax, eat, and gear yourself up for the bench press. If there is only one flight then usually you will get a break and then you'll start warming up again. Bench press and deadlift will go the same way the squat went.
As this is your first meet you don't want to bomb out of it, this can ruin the experience. I highly recommend you start with light openers (first attempts). Just get a lift in so you'll have a total. You cannot go down in weight so if you miss your opener, your stuck with it or a heavier weight. If you miss all three attempts you are disqualified also known as bombing out. A lot of lifters recommend opening with a weight you can do 3 reps of in the gym. This is a good guideline. The way I usually plan my lifts is...My first attempt is super light, something I don't even have to get hyped up for, it's just to get on the board. My second lift is around my max, I like to go a little lighter than my max just to make sure I can have a decent number at the end. My third lift is all out and usually a personal best. So if my max was 650, I'd try 655 or 660 depending on how I felt. Be prepared with your openers for each lift before the meet because you'll have to give all three of them to the scoring table before the meet starts.
I might have forgot a few things, but this should get you started and make you feel better about your first meet. Remember powerlifting is about having fun and breaking personal records. Compete for yourself, test your strength, and most of all just enjoy the ride. Powerlifting is one of the greatest sports out there and it involves even better people.