Your First Lifting Meet

I started a little series called Your First Weightlifting Meet that went into detail how a trainee should prepare for their first Olympic Weightlifting meet. I will follow up that post with some general stuff you should know about the meet itself. There will also be a powerlifting version of this post, and it will be either written by or commented by my friends (and powerlifting veterans) Andy Baker and Phil Stevens.

Today, I’m just going to give very general guidelines for competing in either sport. This will not be comprehensive on purpose as it will help you start thinking about what will happen on meet day.

Get Someone To Handle You
No, they aren’t going to have their hands all over you, pervert. “Handling” someone at a meet means you are their platform coach, and you will be dictating their attempts. If you are going into your first meet, it would be preferable to have an experienced lifter helping you out. I understand that this is a luxury for most people, but if you can weasle your way into it, your experience will be profoundly different.

A good platform coach will count your attempts (weightlifting) and/or know where you stand in your flight (powerlifting). They can update you on this knowledge so that you know when to hit your warm-ups in the warm-up room, or they will even dictate your warm-ups. They will be your objective friend, deciding what jumps you should make in your subsequent attempts. If this is someone that has been working with you, they will also be able to help out with your technique. In other words, having a platform coach will make you feel better. I’ve been fortunate enough to coach with and be coached by Rippetoe at meets. He is very good at challenging his lifters when they need an extra kick in the ass. My friend Josh Wells has helped me out a lot as well, and I don’t know if I would have had the small amount of success I have had without them.

Be Smart
Choose an easy opener, especially on your opening lift of the competition. You should gracefully execute your first snatch and you should fucking annihilate your first squat. This will set the tone for the rest of your day. You will do something that you know you can do. This means you are hitting a routine snatch — something you’ve done in training plenty of times. In powerlifting, this should be something you know you could do for a triple. You want it to be easy so that you get on the board. If you bomb out (or miss all of your attempts on that lift), then you don’t total. Trust me, you don’t want this to happen.

Your second attempt can match a gym PR so that you can bring your competition total up. The third attempt should be your PR attempt. If you play it smart, then you’ll add to your total with each lift. Your goal in your first meet should be to go 6 for 6 in weightlifting and 9/9 in powerlifting. This means you’ll play it a bit conservative, but this is fine in your first meet. It leads me to my next point…

Have Fun
For fuck’s sake, you’re in your first lifting meet. You don’t want to go home disappointed, so purposely set yourself to enjoy it. You want to walk away knowing that there was more weight on the bar. If this happens, then you’ll already be thinking about PR’ing at the next meet. You’ll feel so razzed and accomplished. This is what is supposed to happen. The last thing you want is for your first meet to turn into a shit storm. So be conservative with your attempts. Open with something that is painstakingly easy. It should be so easy your teeth hurt. Do something moderate on the second attempt. This means that you would have had to have done it before. Third attempts are when you do something hard. Stick to this template. Have fun. For fuck’s sake.

Oh, yeah. Don’t cut weight. That’s silly. You don’t need one more thing to worry about if this is your first meet. If you think you are going to be competitive in a certain weight class, then you will deal with that later. Just sign up for the meet, don’t worry about your body weight, lift well, and then take stuff like this into consideration. Don’t be silly, just set yourself to have a good day.

The previously mentioned Andy Baker will also talk about how a novice would tailor their linear progression to get ready for a meet, so stay tuned for that.

26 thoughts on “Your First Lifting Meet

  1. I’ve been keeping up with the site for awhile now and figured this would be a good day to start posting.
    I have my first weightlifting meet coming up on April 10th, BC Junior Championships. Live up in Canada, still 18. Lifting in 77kg class with the lofty goal of a 200kg total.

    BW 165lbs
    Back squat 275 x 5
    Deadlift 320 x 5
    Press 135 x 5
    Bench 225 x 5
    C&J 230
    Snatch 170

    Weighed about 145 lbs at 5’11” at the beginning of fall semester ’09, plan on being 200 fall semester ’10.

    Cool. At 5’11” you could be at least a 94 kg Oly lifter. 105 down the road, too.


  2. What are some legit WL/PL associations I should be looking into? I want to compete in both WL and PL and USAWL and USAPL don’t stop by Arizona much so I was looking for other competitions… anyone know of other good feds/associations?

  3. Hey everybody, this is my first time posting here and I just wanted to say I love the site and I will be competing for the third time in WL on april 3rd. I’m currently down to just 235 pounds (so I can cut down to the 105 category) for my competition although I hope to maintain at least 250 pounds BW for most of the year.

    I coach weightlifting in North Bay Ontario and I’ve helped prepare several guys for competition on the provincial level. I’ve got them using belts, log books and linear progression on their squats and pulls. Most of my boys are about 14-15 years old so they are a bit too young to progress every single session on the presses but they will be soon. And all of this is thanks to the good influence this site has had on me.

    Glad to hear it. Are you having them micro-load their presses? I have lots of kids ranging from 12 to 16, and they can all make progress, albeit slower.


  4. Good calls on the not cutting weight and having fun at your first meet. I’ve seen too many newbs go into trying to cut 6 lbs in one day to make weight and go for all-time PR’s on their second attempts, and then end up going 3 out of 6 in their first meet. That never leaves a good taste in your mouth.

    I also would recommend that any newbie in powerlifting do their first meet Raw first, too. Dealing with bench shirts, suits, etc. adds a whole extra element that is not needed and does not build confidence in a first meet. It just makes an already stressful situation more stressful. Get the first meet in and then decide if you want to use the gear after that. At least you’ll know sort of what you are getting into, then.

    Good call. You’d think the equipment issue would be intuitive, but you never know.


  5. I’m a female and I have been following this site for a little while now. I was introduced to lifting through CrossFit, and I have recently fallen in love with it! Its what I look forward to now! I have been asked several times when I’m going to start competing, and I really want to. I know you guys are having a training camp coming up, but I can’t make that one. ANy news on when the next is? Thanks~

    It will be scheduled in mid to late May. This is Josh’s website, and it will have more info as it is available.


  6. I have my first meet coming up in two weeks & this Friday I will squat 180kg / 405lbs for a 5RM(or I plan to at least). I’m using TM so I wont really know what I can squat for a 3RM though I might be able to guess. What I had planned to do is open with my 5RM which should be 405lbs & make 10kg jumps for the other 2 attempts which if I make those attempts would mean 2 PRs. Do you think this is a plausible approach? I plan to do the same with my Bench & DL, except obviously take smaller increases with the bench.

    You can tweak the Texas Method to prepare for a meet. It would be idea to do so. E-mail me if you wanna talk about it.


  7. I plan on having my boys start progressing on their presses soon it’s just that half of them were doing hockey about five days a week or competing in WL once a month ever since november so I didn’t want to wear them out mentally in the gym by having them try to progress their squats, pulls AND presses all at the same time.

    Now that both hockey and all the major WL comps are over though I plan on having them all start an eating & lifting program that’s similar to what you guys do. Just going heavy on one oly lift each session then add weight onto their squat, press and pull for five.

    As a side note I’ve created two monsters. All my boys are damn good but one of them is 70’s massive and the other is retard strong with potential to grow 100 pounds in the next year. My biggest boy is 6’4 260 pounds at 15 years old. He’s finally got the mobility to squat properly and his best squat so far is an effortless 110 kilos for five. He just needs to continue getting below parallel.

    Getting the presses up is going to make their Oly lifts go up. I wouldn’t neglect them even when they are in season. I have a softball player with shoulder problems, and presses and chins are what holds her together.


  8. My first competition is coming up in May: the Houston Highland Games. If any of you here are in or near Houston, and are either participating in this games or have done a HG in the past, I’d love to talk to you. There are a couple of events (caber toss, esp.) that I will be under-prepared for, and I’d like to do what I can to get my technique down.

  9. Nice article Justin. Well timed as my first meet is coming up on May 15th. Looking forward to seeing Andy’s article.
    BTW, I tried 395 on squats again on Tuesday, allergy-free, and got all 3 sets of 5. My next workout will be 400 and its exciting to think that the first time I squat 400 lbs will be for a set of 5.

  10. @DaveN
    my first HG competition is going to be the saturday after next and ill be sure to let everyone here know about my experience and lessons learned.

  11. My bad, I meant they weren’t doing the whole linear progression on the presses and chins like they are with squats and DL but they were still doing them heavy and occasionally making PRs.

  12. Great advice! I did my first powerlifting meet last weekend at the USPL Alabama State Championship in Talladega. I went with a group from Quest Gym in Duluth, Ga and we all used the same coach who showed us around, directed our warm-ups, set our attempts and spotted/coached us in the lifts. I was left to simply stay in the moment and enjoy myself…had a blast!!!

    Your advice on the attempts is spot on. I was 7/9, missed my 3rd squat when I didn’t go low enough, but it was a PR by a ways and I just chickened out at the bottom. I missed my last bench press which was also a PR because I got so excited and was so intensely focused on the weight that was easier than expected that I forgot to wait for the ‘up’ command…rookie mistake.

    By the time we got to the DLs we were the last flight so the whole gym was watching us. I nailed the 3rd attempt which was a PR by 30 lbs.

    I’m jacked about doing another meet and breaking the 1,000 total.

    The only mistake I made was working hard to make weight at 220. It was actually kind of a fun challenge to drop 4 lbs in 10 hrs, but an unnecessary stress and waste of energy. Next time I’ll just compete at where I am which will probably be closer to 230.

  13. This is totally off topic and I’m just bitching but I feel myself calming down already as I type. I have been going to my gym (LFF) for a long time. This place has one squat rack and of course about a hundred different machines-typical. I usually laugh to myself when I read about some of yalls run-ins at the gym with total douche bags and your fairies doing dumbbell curls in the rack. Never have I had this problem before until today… I walk upstairs today and there’s FOUR guys at the ONE squat rack. They’ve got the barbell loaded with like 165lbs. I walk over and ask, “how many sets you guys got left?” “Oh just a few more.” Cool, I decide to warm up some where else and start with presses first today. I keep these guys in my sights the whole time so I can snag the rack when they leave but they never did! Instead the four of them are in and out doing rows, curls, and pushups. I’m like “hey guys how much longer you gonna be over here?” Replied with “Can’t you see we’re fucking working out?” I respond with telling them to “do these gay fucking muscle & fitness workouts somewhere other than the only squat rack in here!” (they had M&F open on the floor) They guy who decides to tell me to “fuck off man” is the littlest guy in the group who of course is working out in a wife-beater and fifty-nine 50 ball cap. Needless to say I walked out ready to kill and I’ll attempt to crush some weights again early in the morning. Hopefully no one gets in my way in the morning. A home gym would be so nice right about now.

    Ehhh, this sucks. Could have been handled better.
    “There is only one squat rack here, do you guys think we could switch places so I can squat?”
    “Sure man.”

    Fucking irritating though.


  14. That’s a fantastic write up.

    “Everyone here is working against the same thing here: gravity. You don’t see guys trying to psych each other out. There’s just you, and the bar, and that’s it.”

    Great stuff.

  15. This is definitely some great advice. My coach also lifts, but he is taking the opportunity at my first lifting meet to be a coach. We also deal with the numbskulls who constantly tell us to hurry up from the squat and the benches, but we are excited to be around people who are fighting the same battle against gravity.

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