Are You Ready for Your First Powerlifting Meet? How to Drop the Stress and Lift the Weights!

Guest Article by Sarah Conomacos. Sarah is an online trainer, she has a bachelor's in exercise science and will shortly be returning to graduate school for her masters of science in nutrition. She's a nationally qualified powerlifter mom of 1. She lives in Hawaii, and you can look for more content soon on her website

So you’ve been lifting for a while and you’ve really begun to get into a groove

with it. You feel strong, you feel powerful and you’re thinking about taking things to

the next level. You’ve seen photos and videos of these strong confident women

throwing weights around at powerlifting meets and you think that this might be just

the thing for you! But then, doubt creeps in. Am I strong enough? Do I even belong at

a powerlifting meet? What will people think of me in a singlet? And then the passion

you once had for a new goal begins to dim into a flicker of self-doubt. 


Countless times I have seen women talk about wanting to do their first

powerlifting meet but for various reasons have some reservations about it and are

afraid to pull the trigger on signing up. I, myself, am a new powerlifter. I have only

competed twice (this past June and July,) and I have my third meet coming up in

October, so those new powerlifter worries still resonate with me. My competing

experience is limited, so I am clearly no expert, but I think I can offer some words of

wisdom to those looking to take the plunge and compete in your first powerlifting


 Sarah at the 2016 USPA Nationals Deadlifting 270lbs at 112lbs.

Sarah at the 2016 USPA Nationals Deadlifting 270lbs at 112lbs.


Am I strong enough?

Above all, I believe this is the most common reservation I see to signing up

for your first powerlifting meet. The worry of if you’re going to be strong enough to

compete or if you are going to embarrass yourself and everyone is going to be sitting

in the crowd silently laughing at you. I know the whole, it’s you against you, phrase

gets thrown around a lot in the fitness industry, but I truly believe it is applicable to

powerlifting meets, especially your first. If you can squat to depth, bench with a

pause, and deadlift (no matter the weight) then yes, you are strong enough to

compete! The other competitors and those in the crowd aren’t coming to judge you

for what you can or cannot lift. They are they are there to support you, to cheer for

you while you grind out a new PR.


Do I really have to wear a singlet?

Part of competing in powerlifting is looking like you compete in powerlifing,

which means wearing a singlet. For those not familiar with a singlet, it’s essentially

like a leotard for lifting (with legs thank goodness.) They are one piece outfits

usually made with some sort of spandex type material. Although, not the ideal outfit

it does serve a purpose when competing. Wearing a singlet makes it easier to tell if

proper lift regulations were met while performing the lift (i.e. proper depth was hit

during a squat.) I’ve seen many women express concerns about having to wear the

singlet in public, which is absolutely understandable since a full body super tight

outfit isn’t exactly on the top of most women’s ‘favorite clothing’ list. However,

powerlifting is a sport that welcomes all kinds of bodies, in all different sizes. And

instead of being self conscious of how you look, I challenge you to feel empowered

about what your amazing body can do.


But what if I don’t win?

As with any sport, it is completely natural to want to be competitive in

whatever you are competing in, however sometimes that competitive drive can

become constricting when questioning how you will do at a meet. You may be in the

mindset of, “what’s the point of competing if I don’t win?” In the fitness world today,

it seems that there has been a lot of emphasis put on showing up to win (I have

especially seen this in the bodybuilding world,) however, I truly believe that

powerlifting is genuinely more focused on improving one’s own performance rather

than going for the simple goal to win. No there is nothing wrong with showing up,

and kicking ass and seriously if that is you then you go with your awesome self! But

it’s ok to show up, and have your primary goal just to be getting a total versus a

certain placing.

 Sarah squatted 186lbs at the USPA Nationals at 112lbs.

Sarah squatted 186lbs at the USPA Nationals at 112lbs.


Helpful tips for your first meet.

Below are some tips and suggestions that I have been told during my first few

meets. These aren’t original ideas from me, but rather suggestions from seasoned

powerlifters that might come in handy on meet day.


Openers: Trying to figure out what your openers should be on meet day can

be extremely stressful, especially if you are going at it by yourself without a coach.

The general advice I have heard on picking openers is that it should be a weight you

can easily do a triple on a bad day. You want a weight you can easily make just to get

yourself on the board; you can go for the heavy weights on your second and third

attempts if you choose to do so. Remember, if you miss your opener you can only

stay the same weight or increase, you can’t decrease so pick something you are

100% confident you will make.


Practice your commands: Once of the biggest differences between lifting in

the gym and lifting on the platform is that you must follow the official commands

during a powerlifting meet, something often not done during regular training. Each

lift has it’s own set of commands. For the squat you have the commands, “squat” and

“rack.” For bench it is “start”, “press” and “rack.” And for deadlift you simply have

“down.” I highly suggest practicing these commands with someone who is familiar

with them (and about how long they should be, this is especially helpful during the

pause command while benching,) so you can go into your meet feeling prepared and

not off guard by the difference. NOTE: command rules may be different depending in

the federation that you are competing in, so please read your rulebook and be

familiar with how your federation conducts commands.


Cutting weight: A big question when entering your first powerlifting meet is

what weight class you should enter. For most people, it is often suggested to just

walk into the meet at whatever weight you naturally are. There are a few cases

where it would make sense to cut weight such as if you are trying to set a record,

qualify for another meet (such as nationals) or if you are just slightly over the next

weight class and it would be simple to get under the cut off weight. However,

choosing not to cut weight helps to eliminate yet another variable when it comes to

competing at your first meet.


Preparing for meet day: When meet day finally rolls around you want to

make sure that you are ready for it. Making a list of the equipment you need and

double or even triple checking your bag to make sure everything is in in it is a good

plan. I would also suggest taking food and beverages with you since meets can take

several hours and you want to make sure you are able to keep your energy up. When

picking out what gear you will be using, make sure you are familiar with your

organization’s rulebook and what gear is and is not allowed for each division.


Signing up for you first meet is both exciting and scary, but the experience of

competing on a platform in front of a crowd of people cheering you on is unlike any

other I have experienced. I hope that if you’ve been back and forth about competing

in your first meet that you feel a bit more at ease with the decision and decide to go

for it. I’ll be rooting for you!