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What do I need to know about my first powerlifting meet

covering for your first powerlifting essentials for best performance

Stepping onto the platform at your first powerlifting meet can be a defining moment in your athletic journey, filled with anticipation and the desire to showcase the results of your rigorous training.

As someone who has mentored numerous world-record-breaking powerlifters and observed countless championships, I’ve seen competitors either excel beyond their gym lifts or falter under the pressure.

The key to landing on the successful side of this spectrum lies in a well-planned strategy. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through essential steps to prepare for the final days leading up to and including the day of your first powerlifting meet.

Remember, these are guidelines meant to steer you in the right direction, not rigid rules to follow.

Sleep Plenty

sleeping before first powerlifting meet is essential for lifting more weight

In the week before the contest, ensure you’re sufficiently rested—avoid any late nights or early mornings. Even if it’s new for you, take this seriously now.

I also advise avoiding stimulants during the week of the contest, and perhaps a bit before, too. You’ll not only sleep better, but your usual pre-workout will feel as effective as the first time you tried it. You’ll be an energetic powerhouse ready to conquer the stage.

Avoid Novelty

Maintain your regular morning routine in the days approaching a contest, especially on the day of the contest. If your usual breakfast is light and nutritious, don’t consume two All-Star platters at Waffle House.

Avoid potential negative reactions from unfamiliar foods or supplements. Haven’t tried creatine? Consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight throughout your preparation? Postpone trying anything new or altering your dosage until after your three lifts.

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Only Cut Weight If You’re a Dedicated Competitor

eating before your first powerlifting meet, maintain energy and therefore strength
Young bodybuilder eating chicken white meat.

Your goal in this sport is to be as strong as possible, and no one becomes stronger while significantly reducing calories. A drastic weight reduction can damage your long-term objective and impair your performance on the day of the contest—coaches have witnessed this countless times.

The sole instance—really, the only instance—you need to reduce weight is if you’re competing for a significant title or world record. Your first contest should not be that occasion. Likely not even your fourth. And if you do reduce weight, be realistic about its potential impact on you. By competing at your training weight, you’ll feel confident and prepared to achieve personal records.

Warm up As You Normally Do

Warm-up adequate for the strongest lifts and exertion for your powerlifting meet

Adhere to your usual warm-up routine. Remember that at powerlifting contests, you’ll typically find only 45-pound plates, 25-pound plates, and possibly 10-pound plates. If your final warm-up squat is usually 320, it might need to be 315. Be prepared to adjust.

If the contest is fast-paced, your warm-ups will differ from those at a prolonged event. I’ve seen powerlifting contests last from two to over 16 hours.

Weather can also influence your warm-up. One August, I attended a contest in Texas where the warm-up room was 105 degrees with 70 percent humidity. My preparation differed significantly from what I’d do in January in an unheated gym in Minnesota.

Your Opening Lift

The opening lift is important for your first powerlifting meet

There are various federations and rules, but the primary rules are consistent: For squat, bench, and deadlift contests, you receive three attempts. You cannot reduce the weight from the previous attempt; you must either maintain the same weight or increase it. If you fail all three attempts on any lift, your total is disqualified.

To achieve your best total, you must choose your attempted weights wisely. This is more than just a regular 1RM test! Your initial attempt, or “opener,” sets the tone for the day. This is the judges’ first impression of your lifting style. For factors like depth, this can be critical.

Planning Squat Attempts

squat form and setup for powerlifting

For the three lifts, I suggest being most cautious with squats. A significantly heavy failed attempt, or even a strenuous one, can exhaust you for days—not just the remainder of the contest. Begin your squats with a weight you could comfortably do for 3 repetitions—in other words, less than what you’ve been considering your one-repetition maximum during training! This is typically around 89-92 percent of your goal for the contest.

Use your second attempt to boost your confidence by selecting a weight you’re certain you can lift confidently—around 94-97 percent of your projected maximum. This needs to be a sure success. You must complete that second attempt.

Your final attempt should depend on how smoothly your second one went. Depending on your condition, you may finish with anywhere from 98-102 percent of your contest goal. Enhancing Squats Starts from the Ground Enhancing Squats Starts from the Ground Reebok’s Legacy Lifter II is a shoe designed for top-notch performance on the platform. The heel, the straps, the grip—it’s all engineered for achieving personal bests.

Planning Bench Press Attempts

barbell bench form and setup for powerlifting

Follow the squat guidelines for determining your bench press attempts. However, if you’re feeling strong, you can be slightly more ambitious with your bench press goals because a failed bench press won’t tire you out before deadlifts.

Planning Deadlift Attempts

deadlift form and setup for powerlifting

Plan to start your deadlifts light enough to guarantee a successful lift and remain in the contest. Generally, at this stage of a contest, you’ll be somewhat tired and might need to select a lighter weight than you anticipated. Remember, the deadlift is an emotive lift and typically has the most significant training carryover for most athletes. Heavy deadlift

For your initial attempt, start with 88-91 percent of your projected maximum. Your second attempt should be 95-98 percent of your projected maximum. Conclude with 97-104 percent of your projected maximum, based on your condition and whether you need to lift a specific weight to secure a podium position.

Looking to follow the best powerlifting workout routine? Click Here To Download PumpX and easily add Laith’s exercises to your workout!


I’ve participated in numerous contests and, believe me, it’s completely normal to feel anxious at a contest. As long as it doesn’t overwhelm you, this mental state can actually enhance your performance.

Nonetheless, remain as relaxed as possible until it’s your turn. Ask your coach or training partner to stay with you to help maintain your calm and lessen your anxiety. I prefer to breathe deeply and meditate to soothe my nerves.

Check out this article to get stronger: Why am I not getting stronger?

If you’re new to powerlifting, be aware that one of the greatest aspects of this sport is the strength community’s extraordinary helpfulness. Introduce yourself and make new acquaintances.

Focus your energy, sleep well, eat well, and I’ll see you on the platform!

Still Not Getting Stronger?

You’re in the gym regularly, but those gains just aren’t showing.

What gives, right?

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PumpX is like that gym buddy who keeps you honest. It tracks everything you do – every set, every rep. Why’s that matter?

Because you can’t improve what you don’t measure. You think you’re pushing yourself hard, but are you really? This app shows you the cold, hard facts.

Getting stronger isn’t just about throwing weights around. You’ve got to be smart about it.

Know your numbers, see where you’re improving, and tweak your workouts as needed. PumpX helps you do all that. It’s like having a coach in your back pocket.

So, if you’re serious about bulking up and getting stronger, it’s time to stop guessing and start tracking. Get PumpX.

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