So You Think You Had a Bad Meet?

TAGS: competing raw, training raw, UPA Winter Rack Attack, meet results, Old School Iron Gym

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This article is a hybrid meet write-up/advice for lifters as they leave their own meets regarding an issue I see a lot (especially on social media). This past weekend I competed at the UPA Winter Rack Attack at Old School Iron Gym in Cleveland. It was my second meet this year in my return to competing raw after competing in March at XPC Finals in the multi-ply division. My goal for this year has been to get used to competing and training raw again and identify weaknesses I need to hammer in training to get back to a larger meet.


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The training for my first raw meet (in a few years) in August went great, and I went 9/9 with several big PRs. The past few months were more hectic in preparation for this competition, as I’ve been traveling almost every week for my full-time job and for seminars (which has been awesome). My training has been a lot more bare-bones without training partners or a regular powerlifting gym, and I think in a lot of ways that has helped me. It has forced me to cut out the BS and just do what I know works. On the flip side, however, it also made it easy for me to neglect a few things with assistance work that helped build my lifts over the summer.

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Between the craziness of work, getting sick the week before the meet, and my grandfather passing away the day before, I didn’t feel quite as good going into this meet as I did the previous one. In the past, I think I would have panicked a lot more about not being ready or worrying about failing. But I’ve learned the value this year of accepting that, in most cases, life doesn’t suddenly stop and become perfect because you have a meet.

I think sometimes in powerlifting, we make a habit of taking small PRs and real accomplishments for granted because we create these huge meet goals in our heads with a perfect day in mind. I can’t tell you the amount of social media posts I see along the lines of, “Well, I had a pretty awful meet, didn’t hit the numbers I wanted. Still hit all PRs, so that’s good. I’ll get my numbers next meet.”

Um, so you hit all PRs but think you had a terrible meet? I get it. I’m competitive and feel the same feelings when I don’t hit what I want. I miss a PR deadlift and can tell no one wants to talk to me for a little while because they know I’m pissed. But I think people need to realize how much that kind of self-talk (beyond meet day) sets you up for burnout and quitting the sport after a few meets (when things inevitably start to get tough).

The longer I compete, the more I realize that not only is any PR a big step forward, but the idea that every meet is going to be a great one is ridiculous. Not only that, I’ve found personally that I learn more from a meet where things don’t go as planned than I do from a perfect meet. I have much better adjustments to make to my training following this meet than I did after my 9/9 meet in the summer.

Getting back to this latest meet: I went 6/9 and finished with some good and bad. I went 3/3 on Squat with a 38.5-pound raw PR (562 pounds) and felt good about a great start to the meet. It was a large meet and was moving pretty slowly, so we had about two and a half hours between squatting and benching. With my adrenaline back down and still being sick, I didn’t feel real great going into bench but I always pick my openers light so those are never a concern. I hit my opener of 330 pounds and took a jump to 352 pounds, which I also got fine. My best raw bench (in competition) is 370 pounds. I went for a PR but it wasn’t happening and I stalled out at lockout.

We had another several hour break and then moved onto deadlift. I opened with 585 and it moved quickly. I had to decide if I wanted to take a small jump to 605 and then go for a raw PR (628 pounds), or just jump straight to the PR attempt. With feeling drained and not wanting to waste energy, I decided to go straight to the PR and missed it twice right at lockout. I haven’t missed a deadlift at lockout in a long time, but I just couldn’t get my glutes and hips to work for me. I’ll have some good things to work on for next time. Overall I finished with a good squat PR and some close PR misses on my other lifts.

Could it have gone better? Absolutely. But with hitting a squat PR and then identifying some things to work on for bench and deadlift, I know I took away good things from the competition that I otherwise wouldn’t have known without competing. My next training cycle will address the weaknesses and build on the strengths. Then we’ll do it again in the spring.

In a culture where things come and go quickly, and gratification is typically immediate, I encourage you to embrace the progress that builds over time. There are two things I think you could take away from this article:

  • Compete. Even when life and training aren’t ideal, make it happen. The lessons are invaluable.
  • Appreciate the progress that builds over time. Set lofty goals, but also learn to appreciate the small PRs that will be the stepping stones to those goals over time.

Do those two things consistently over a period of time and I think you’ll be surprised at the goals you accomplish.

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