Having competed in over 15 powerlifting meets I have at one point or another made the following mistakes and/or have seen other lifters do likewise. Hopefully this article will help new lifters who are planning to do their first competition or even more experienced lifters to learn from others’ mistakes and not compromise their performance on meet day.
Mistake #1 – Weight Loss
Whilst a lot of lifters cut weight before meets, this is usually a planned controlled process done in order to lift in a lighter weight class that their usual bodyweight permits, hence somebody who normally weighs around 105kgs (and would be in the 110kg class) would drop 5kgs or so before a meet in order to compete at a lighter (and potentially easier) bodyweight class. Different feds have different rules regarding weigh-in procedures; some have weigh-ins 24 hours before the competition, whilst others only have on the day weigh-ins.
Obviously the former permits a bigger deviation in how much weight can be dropped as there is the 24 hours available from weigh-in to meet time, therefore this gives the lifter some time to regain weight (and some strength that might have been lost from the weight loss), whereas feds which stipulate the weigh-in only on the day of the meet do not allow the lifter a huge discrepancy in weight loss, as he/she would suffer a huge drop in performance if there is severe weight loss just a few hours before lifting.
However the mistake that certain lifters make and have made (me included) is losing weight when there was no requirement for it, in other words the weight loss would not lead to a change in the weight class that the lifter would compete in. For example if a lifter normally weighs 99kg (eligible for the 100kg class) and then prior to the meet at the weigh-in he weighs 96kg (still 100kg class), this 3kg weight loss is pointless and counterproductive as the drop in weight has not led to the lifter switching to a lighter weight class and will likely have a negative impact on strength.
So why do beginners and even some intermediate level competitors do this mistake? One reason could be the fear of gaining weight and as a result having to lift in a heavier weight class; say the aforementioned 99kg lifter might have the fear of weighing over 100kg at weigh-in and as a result lifting in 110kg class, so a result this fear of putting on weight would lead to a restrictive diet and as a consequence weight loss occurs when not required.
Likewise a lot of lifters tend to lose weight close to competition time due to the stress that occurs during this period. For many lifters the desire to do well (or just not to embarrass themselves) at the meet might entail them to get severely stressed and this could lead to weight loss. Competing in powerlifting meets will additionally require a fair bit of travel which could disrupt eating patterns; this effect is further compounded when competing abroad, as result maintaining bodyweight proves even more challenging.
The bottom line is that lifters who are not planning to cut weight for a meet should be wary of unplanned weight loss and should control harmful factors such as fear of weight gain, stress, travel or anything else that may lead to weight loss. All the hard work completed in order to be well prepared for the meet can be undone just due to a slight drop in weight, so lifters should be cautious of this the next time a meet approaches.
Mistake #2 - Inappropriate Food
This mistake relates to consuming food or drink on the day of the meet or the day before which might have an adverse effect on performance. Common culprits are spicy food or high amounts of dairy products, but in reality it can be many things and only the lifter would know how different food or drink would affect his or her body.
Last thing you want whilst at the meet is running to the toilet in between each attempt (this situation becomes significantly worse if lifting equipped), so the day before competition and on the day itself make sure to stick to food products you know will give you fuel but at the same time are easily digestible and will not give any unwanted surprises.
Mistake #3 – Insufficient Warm Up
This relates to the specific issue of a warm up for each lift at a powerlifting competition. First-time competitors need to understand that warming up at a meet is not the same as when training in the gym. At the gym you have the rack all to yourself or perhaps you share it with a couple of other people. You go at your own pace, taking your time with warm ups, having sufficient but not excessive rest between sets.
At the meet this becomes a different story where you might have 10-20 lifters at a time wanting to do a set with only maybe 2 squat racks/monolifts available, also all of the competitors have different strength levels so a lot of time will be spent on changing the weight on the bar. For these reasons it is likely that after doing a warm up set the lifter might not have the chance to do another set for some time and as result would get cold between sets, as well as not being completely ready when the time for the 1st attempt arises.
Whilst the severity of these situation will vary from meet to meet (due to factors such as number of lifters and amount of lifting equipment in the warm up area), there are 2 things that can be done to make you get the most out of your warm up. The first thing you should do is start warming up early, as in not 10-15 minutes before your 1st attempt. Doing so will give you plenty of time to do enough sets that you feel ready and confident once you start on the platform, in addition you will avoid the unnecessary stress that comes when you have to rush your warm ups right prior to the actual lifting.
The second thing that will help you feel warm and ready, is as simple as keeping yourself warm. Between warm up sets and even all 3 attempts put more layers of clothing or track suit bottoms on (anything to keep you warm) to prevent the muscles from cooling down. This point is particularly important when competing in colder climates, so make sure to have extra clothing on for the period when you are not lifting.
Mistake #4 – Lack Of Sleep
This is a pretty simple mistake that doesn’t even require much explanation yet many lifters (even advanced ones) fall prey to it. All lifters regardless of whether it’s their first time competing or whether they are at an elite level and aiming to set records will have anxiety and nerves before a meet. As a result the quality of sleep the night before is unlikely to be optimal (if there is even any sleep).
Whilst one can point out that the adrenaline rush during competition will offset any negative effect that the lack of sleep might have, it is still strongly advised to try and get as good a good night’s sleep as possible. The adrenaline rush will definitely kick in but it must be remembered that powerlifting meets are an all day affair and it is possible that the poor sleep the night before will hamper your performance as the meet goes on to the latter stages.
The night before, try to relax as best as you can, get rid of any negative thoughts you might have in regards to the meet, and best of all don’t even think about the meet at this time. Although these recommendations are easy on paper and much harder when you are feeling the pressure of the competition, staving off this mental strain and attaining a sufficient amount of sleep the night before would lead to a much more pleasant meet experience as well as avoiding a potential decline in performance.
Powerlifters of all levels make mistakes at meets which through their own experience they will eradicate for future occasions. There are plenty of other potential mistakes that exist, the list above deals with common mistakes encountered by first-time competitors and lifters who are still relatively new to the sport.
Hopefully this article would help these individuals enjoy their experience of powerlifting competition and permit things to go as smoothly as possible.