Your First Powerlifting Meet & Performing Under Pressure

Powerlifting’s a simple sport. You show up and squat, bench and deadlift three times each. You move the heaviest weight you can to form the best total.

Pretty basic, but like a lot of other lifters, I can look back now and remember making plenty of mistakes at my first powerlifting meet.

Here’s how you can avoid the common mistakes made on meet day and smash PR’s on the platform.

Don’t Change Your Daily Habits on Meet Day


Make the day routine like any other day.

Start the day off right by getting enough sleep the night before.

Continue with you morning routine and your other daily habits that give you a sense of comfort and keep you relaxed.

Reduce stress by doing the same things you normally do.

Keep Your Diet & Supplementation the Same


Keep your dietary habits the same and eat the foods you normally eat. Just like your daily habits, it’s relaxing, and you know how you’ll respond.

Meets can go nearly an entire day, stay hydrated and prepare some food and bring it with you.

No need to eat as much as humanly possible. A last minute feast isn’t the trick to having a good meet. Consistently train hard, follow a good training and nutrition program leading up to it for the best possible outcome.

Everyone’s supplementation is different. Just like the rest of your diet, keep your supplementation routine. You don’t want to take too much of something, or anything new only to find you don’t react well to it.

Don’t Cut Weight

weight cut

If you’re new to the sport, don’t cut weight.

Too many newer lifters make the mistake of cutting a ton of weight for their first competition, only to find that their strength is nowhere near where they want it to be.

Hold off on cutting weight and go in as strong as possible.

If you’re an experienced competitor and you’re looking to cut weight as efficiently as possible while maintaining your strength, read this.



No new equipment on meet day.

Make sure all your equipment is allowed by your fed and use the same belt, shoes, wraps, and any other gear you’ve been training with all cycle.

New equipment the day of the meet is going to do more harm than good. Wait until after the competition to try out anything new.

Find out what kind of equipment your fed uses.

Monolift or squat rack, squat bar or power bar, stiff bar or deadlift bar, etc. Train with the same equipment that you’ll use at the meet if it’s available to you. If it’s not, no big deal. Walk your squat out like you normally do if you have never used or seen a monolift before.

A common mistake I see is people squatting facing a mirror during training. Squat facing away from the mirror. There won’t be one on meet day and you don’t want that to be the first time you’re squatting without one.

Also, don’t forget your singlet!

Know Your Federations Rules & Regulations


There’s a million different federations. For the most part the rules are the same, but there can be minor differences.

I made the mistake of not reading the rules for my first powerlifting meet and trained heels up for the bench, only to find out at the meet that I had to bench flat footed.

Read up on the rules and judging beforehand.

Train using the commands.

There’s nothing worse than smoking your lift, only to have it turned down because you jumped a command.

*Find a meet near you:

Travel Arrangements


If you’re traveling, try to stay somewhere close to the venue. You don’t want to spend hours in a car right before you step on the platform.

If you’re cutting weight you may need a shower/bath, steam room/sauna. Find out if where you’re staying will have everything you need.

Double check that you brought everything including your equipment:

Singlet,  squat/deadlift shoes and socks,  belt, knee sleeves/wraps, wrist wraps, chalk, baby powder, Advil, warm-up tools, and anything else you regularly use.

Stay Focused & Reduce Pressure


There are two big mental mistakes I see being made leading up to a meet.

The first is creating a ton of build-up to meet day.

Feeling pressure and excitement is perfectly normal. In fact, I don’t know why you’d want to compete if you didn’t feel any. Use those feelings to fuel your competitive nature rather than letting them overwhelm you. You want to avoid creating undue pressure — the freak out.

If you struggle with stress leading to a competition, try to remember that it’s just lifting weights. You do it all the time. You’re good at it. Just go out there and do your thing!

The second mistake is thinking you need to get psyched up before you lift. Screaming, yelling, slapping, head-butting, etc.

If that works for you, do it — just make sure if you’re saving enough energy for the whole meet. Don’t gas out on squats.

If you’re like me, it’s a huge distraction for you. Stay focused. Let the energy of the meet boost your adrenaline.

If the weight on the floor doesn’t get you going, leave it there.


The warm-up room can be hectic. Stay focused and  go through your routine, stretching, rolling, whatever it is you normally do.

When it’s time to hit your warm-ups, leave yourself enough time, but not so much that you’re finished 30-minutes before your first attempt.

A simple way to do figure out when you should start is to ask the meet director how much time until you begin your flight. Find out roughly how long before you’ll be up, we’ll say 30-minutes.

Time your rest periods. Let’s estimate 4-minutes between each of your warm-up attempts.

Warm-up attempts: 45, 135, 225, 315, 405, 435, opener of 500.

You’ll be ready for your opening attempt right when you need to be. You won’t be rushed or stale.

Don’t be shy to put whatever weight you need on the bar when you need it and follow your timer.

Openers & Picking Your Attempts


Open with something relatively light. Pick something you’re 100% sure you’ll hit. Gain confidence with your opener, it’s going to set the tone for the rest of the meet. You don’t want to miss your opener, or worse, bomb out.

A good rule of thumb for your opener is something you know you can triple. I tend to do around 90% of my target.

Have a plan for your attempts. Be willing to adjust based upon how you feel. My general guidelines: 1st attempt @ ~90%, 2nd attempt @ ~95%, 3rd attempt @ ~100%.

Too often people aren’t realistic about their attempts. There’s nothing inherently special about meet day, adrenaline won’t give you a 100lb boost to your deadlift.

Don’t be married to a number. Pick something attainable rather than wishful and take home PR’s.

Take Your Time


Don’t feel rushed. You have plenty of time when you’re called to the platform. No need to hustle under the bar and go.

Go through your mental checklist just like you would any other lift. Take your time, get setup properly and blast the weight up!

Have Your Coach Or Training Partner With You 


Have someone you trust there with you.

It’s good to have the support and help if you need. Someone with experience to wrap your knees, check the flights, hand you off,  get you food/water, and anything else you need to make the day go smoothly.

Go Compete & Meet People!

If you’ve got the itch to compete, do it. A lot of people talk about wanting to compete, but “their numbers aren’t strong enough yet.” You’re ALWAYS going to want bigger numbers.

Competition is motivating. One of the best ways to hit bigger numbers is to sign up and have the competition as motivation.

The experience is invaluable. Every competition teaches you something about the sport and yourself.

Make an effort to talk to other competitors. I always enjoy meeting and learning from others at the competition.

If you’ve got the urge to compete, don’t hesitate. Just go out there and do it!


Be prepared and go into your meet feeling confident.

This starts with a good training program.

You want to be your strongest on the platform. If you’re interested in learning more about how to peak for you meet, send me an email at with “PEAK” in the subject line. You can also sign up for my free newsletter for my 12-week deadlift program. It’s the exact deadlift template I used to hit my first 700lb deadlift.

Reduce your stress on meet day by continuing with your normal daily habits.

Warm-up properly, pick your attempts wisely, smash PR’s, meet new people and enjoy the whole process!

Share Button

6 thoughts on “Your First Powerlifting Meet & Performing Under Pressure

  1. Carol

    Read your article. I did my first meet on March 4th at the age of 62. The couple days before I was a nervous wreck especially since I was not lifting at all….just rolling, rolling, stretching, stretching. So the day came and when I saw the list I was the first on the platform. What, first? The nerves were gone and I did my first squat. After the other 15 in my flight I did my second and then my third. Hit all 3. Bench I hit 2 of the 3. Deadlift I hit all 3. Did PR’s on all of them. Now I hold a NYS and World Record for my age and weight class. I was so pumped and am ready to do another one! S: 160, B: 130, D:240
    Your article did hit home!

  2. Pingback: CROF Weekly Update October 25th - Crossroads of Fitness

  3. Pingback: Best Fitness Articles - September 20, 2015 - Personal Trainer Development Center

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *