So You Want To Do A Powerlifting Competition…

Yesterday we’d the Trinity College Ladies Powerlifting Team in the gym for their first training session with us. Sarah is running the show for them for the rest of the year, ahead of bringing some of them towards a competition in January 2017.

There’s a broad mix of abilities – from “knows her way around a gym” to “never touched a real barbell before”. It’s savage seeing people come together like that to have the craic lifting weights.

I overhead a few of the girls asking Sarah about competition next year, and it got me to thinking that there are A LOT of things you should probably know before you do your first competition, that no one will ever tell you.

(you have to learn them by experience)

…so, instead of leaving your in the bush without a map, today and for the rest of the week, I’m gonna give you some practical tips on what you should know ahead of your first comp.

The Irish Powerlifting Federation have 3 open competitions in the first 3 months of 2017, so if you’ve ever thought about it, now’s the time to start training for it.

Team RevFit Powerlifting after our last comp in October 2016

Team RevFit Powerlifting after our last comp in October 2016

AM I STRONG ENOUGH?
No one cares how strong you are – seriously, not a single person gives a shit how little you lift at competition. Even the strongest best lifters started somewhere. They just hung around longer. Everyone on the platform is respected and cheered on regardless of a 40kg squat, or a 240kg squat

WHAT WEIGHT SHOULD I COMPETE AT?
Gon’t worry about how much you weigh – the weight classes in powerlifting are arbitrary numbers to divide up competitors. As a beginner you won’t be competitive. You probably won’t be in danger of making the national qualifying standard for 3-5 years, maybe more, and might not even be competing for national championship top 3 for longer.

Once you get to that point, maybe you start to worry. But until then, eat enough good food to recover, train hard and let your  body settle where it settles.

WAIT, THERE’S RULES?
Familiarise yourself with the rulebook – powerlifting, like other sports has rules of performance. You’re not supposed to start the down portion of the squat until the referee tells you so, and you have to sit all the way down below parallel. You need to pause the bar on your chest when you bench press, and lower your deadlifts under control – they’re all designed to show that you’ve control over the bar. There’s plenty more rules and if you really want to get fully to grips with them before your comp, train with a coach or lifter who knows what they’re doing

DO I NEED SPECIAL EQUIPMENT?
By the letter of the law in the Irish Powerlifting Federation, all you REALLY need are a pair of shoes with rubber soles (basically anything you have), a singlet, a cotton or poly t-shirt (provided it’s not stretch fit like under armor) and a pair of knee high socks for the deadlift. There’s lots of gear you CAN buy, but you don’t “need” it. Like anything else tho, having good gear will help for sure.

If you’re on a budget, check out strength shop.

If you wanna dive right in, SBD Ireland have a great starter pack here: http://sbdireland.com/product/ipf-powerlifting-pack-2/

And no – you don’t “NEED” a belt, but if you’re gonna compete and train long term it probably makes sense to get one since it’ll help you lift more weight and should help you recover faster. Stay tuned for a post later this week on powerlifting equipment.

TAKE CARE OF TRAINING
You don’t get stronger 2 weeks before a competition, only weaker. One of the biggest mistakes I see new lifters make is panicing as they get close to competition. They freak out that they haven’t enough work done, and try to compensate by pushing harder in the final weeks. I’ve some bad news for you.

The most important training is the stuff you do 12-16 weeks out from competition. That’s where the base is built. That’s where the foundation is laid. Come comp day, without that, you won’t be happy with your results. There’s simply no shortcut for doing the hard reps early in your training cycle.

The set up @ RevFit for October 2016's Irish PF RevFit Open

The set up @ RevFit for October 2016’s Irish PF RevFit Open

I’M NERVOUS
Don’t worry if you have a bad competition, especially if its one of your first three – the first few times you compete you’ll be nervous and thrown off – you have to deal with other peoples schedules (you get told when to warm up etc) and you’ll be in unfamiliar circumstances. You gotta deal with referee commands, and the pace of competition can be slow OR fast

On top of that, you may hit peak strength levels a little too soon, or a little too late – that means that even though you were killing it in the gym, you might be a bit “flat” come competition. It’s all part of the learning process and will be the bank of experience you call on a year down the road when you’re competing harder

I DUNNO IF I’M READY YET / I’LL COMPETE WHEN…
Don’t wait to get started – you won’t be ready for your first competition until you’ve done 3 already. The longer you wait to compete, or if you wait to compete until you can “win something” the higher than chance you’ll fuck it all up on meet day.

Beginner and intermediate lifters need to compete 4-6x per year. You’ll be focusing on 3/4 of those competitions for PRs, and the others will be “experience days”. One of my biggest regrets is not competing more when I was getting started.

HALP
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or not sure where to start – ask for help. Powerlifting is the friendliest sport I’ve ever been part of. It can be intimidating seeing cliques of people at comp or in the gym who know each other BUT one thing I’ve learned is that for the most part, powerlifters were never the “cool kids” in school. Not to say they were losers or anything, but they were never the guys or girls that sat at the top of the social pyramid and bullied everyone else.

They’re the most open, warm, welcoming and genuinely caring bunch of folk you’ll come across.

If you’re outside of Dublin and want to find somewhere to train, just pop me a reply and let me know where you are. Guarantee I’ll be able to recommend somewhere.

If you are in Dublin and you want to enter your first comp and don’t know where to start, come train with us in RevFit. As of today, you’re a little under 13 weeks out from the Leinster open.

My diary is completely free the rest of the week, so if you come back today or tomorrow saying you’re interested I’ll send you on all the info and what you’re gonna need to commit to immediately.

>> EMAIL ME USING THIS LINK <<

(…it’ll only be like 3-4 training days per week by the way!)

TL;DR – waiting to compete won’t make you any better at competing, find someone to hold your hand, twist your arm, and push you over the edge for your first powerlifting competition

James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.