Top 10 Meet Day Tips for the Competitive Lifter

TAGS: newbie, competing in a meet, Eric Maroscher, meet preparation, novice, squat, powerlifting

The competition site is full of seasoned lifters and newbies alike. The warm-up area is often just controlled chaos. Some lifters warm up early, and some jump in later, throwing things off because they want just one plate to start with. Oftentimes, there aren't any twos, fives, or tens to be found, and everything from the bars and racks to the benches is different than at the gym. To top it all off, you have to be ready to lift when the flight starts, not when you feel like it.

The bottom line is no matter how strong you are at your gym, there are many, many variables that you can't control at the meet. However, here are some tips to make the meet scales tip a little bit more in your favor. Sometimes controlling the smallest variable is all it takes to separate you from your closest competitor.

In the past, I've provided a few tidbits here and there about controlling what you can about the meet. As I get more emails requesting me to add to the list, I'm happy to bring you this expanded list that has been very helpful to me as a competitive powerlifter ever since my first meet in 1989. Feel free to share these tips with your training partners, as I can pretty much guarantee that some of these will be of great benefit. Ever onward.

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#1 Know your squat/monolift height and bench press height in inches before you leave your gym weight room

Simply put, get a tape measure out and measure the distance from the bottom of the barbell to the floor for squats and from the bottom of the barbell to the (pushed down) back pad on the bench. Do that at your gym after you heavy set so that your numbers are the most accurate.

Remember, your heavy set (especially as an equipped lifter) will have the squat bar at its lowest height and should account for the bar bending under X amount of weight and your stance being wider because of the brief, suit, and wraps. Unless the meet you're competing in and the gym that you train at are both fortunate enough to have all elitefts™ equipment, chances are your gym equipment and the meet equipment will be different. Take out your tape measure at the meet and measure your heights as soon as you get there so that the height is exactly the same as it is in your training environment. You'll save the hassle of being in a line for thirty minutes instead of warming up, and you'll reduce the risk of being off a half-inch, which is a dangerous difference with your max effort squat on your back or when you're trying to lock out a max bench press only to find that you can’t reach the upright with the fully loaded bar’s bend.

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#2 Make a list and check it twice

Create a list for your bag that you can check off as you pack. This will give you peace of mind and also keep those anal retentive lifters out there from constantly having to recheck what they packed...or is that just me?

Here are some ideas for your list from one that I've used for over twenty years:

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#3 Bring an extra pair of knee wraps

You're in the mix at the meet for third attempts. You're in the hole and being wrapped. Right before your second leg is wrapped, the wrap comes out of your wrapper's hands and unfurls. There isn't any time to stop, roll it up, and start again. Simply grab that extra pair and wrap fast. That can make all the difference.

Make sure that you use both sets in training so that there's equal wear on the wraps.

#4 Bring a square to share

Bring a roll of toilet paper. Bigger meets are often held in hotel banquet type locations. These are meant to hold business men and women for an hour or so for a presentation or lecture. There is always a janitorial person assigned to these areas for a certain number of times during shifts. Folks, there is a huge difference between five suits going to the bathroom to wash up or stop in after their morning Frappuccino and hundreds of powerlifters, most over 200 pounds, who have been eating and hydrating like there is no tomorrow going to the bathroom following their weigh-ins. There isn't any way the hotel folks can keep up with the “demand” placed on the facilities. Be prepared and bring some toilet paper.

If the meet is at the local gym with just two tiny bathrooms, there's even more reason to be prepared. Now, let’s move on to less personal issues, shall we?

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#5 Bring Krazy glue

Krazy glue is great for that time when you're pulling and you tear the skin on your hand. This is an old trick that powerlifters and gymnasts have used since the product came out. This is something you want to play with before you need it in a meet. Sometimes that initial hand tear on the opener can be fixed prior to the big weights going on. Sometimes the tear is too big. However, if not, this can work a miracle and keep you from missing a heavier weight because your skin gives out on that heavy, third attempt.

The key to this is to know how to use the Krazy glue beforehand. Most importantly, make sure that you have it 110 percent dry before touching that bar. If the flight is moving fast, there might not be enough dry time, which is why this is something you want to experiment with at the gym.

#6 Know your warm ups

The warm-up room is pretty crazy. Although powerlifters are the most helpful and giving folks around, they also don’t want to have to wait for a newbie to figure out what his next warm up is. Typically, an experienced lifter will be at the monolift/squat rack and will put the lifters warming up there in somewhat of an order. But that order will vacillate due to the warm-up weights. Be ready with your numbers and have your knee wraps on so that you're ready when it's your time at the rack.

Bonus tip: The more you can train with just 25s and 45s as you warm up to your training weight, the better you'll be at the meet because twos, fives, and tens can be strewn about and not always at hand. Not all lifters can make those jumps, but if you can up until your last set or two, it will be beneficial to you.

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#7 Know your attempts

Rule of thumb—the opener should be written in pen. It should be something that you can own on any day regardless of whether or not you're fully warmed up, regardless of whether or not the squat rack was just a little too high or low, and regardless of how deep the judges are calling. It should be something that you can take for at least three reps. Remember—nobody ever asked the winner what his opening attempts were. Put your ego in the drawer and lift smart. Lifting smart allows you the benefit of lifting heavy on the third attempt. If you miss your opener due to weight, that is 100 percent something that you could have controlled.

The second attempt should be written in pencil. It can be adjusted if you find that the judging is super strict, the bar is a substandard 45 pounds, or the platform has give (or any number of variables that can impact your squat). The third attempt should be based on how well the second attempt felt. If you wanted 750 pounds and you just barely squeaked out 710, it's better to add a few pounds to your total than miss the 750 pounds because that was the number you had picked based on gym/training lifts.

Remember, a meet is its own animal. If it were the same as the gym, there wouldn't be any need for a meet. There isn't any place for ego in the meet. It isn't always the strongest lifter who wins but rather the strongest, smartest lifter. Know your attempts.

#8 Mail in your equipment

This is something that I've done in the past, but it's dependent on air travel and shipping prices. As an equipped lifter, I have so much more stuffed in my elitefts™ travel bag than when I competed raw. At times, it was easier and less expensive to UPS my bag of equipment plus my clothes for the weekend to the hotel I was going to stay at than travel with the bags on the plane. Again, this all depends on airline prices and bag weight, but it's something worth looking at if money is tight.

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#9 Know the records

If you're a powerlifter who likes to break and collect powerlifting records (and who doesn’t?), go online prior to the meet and see what the records are in your federation, division, and weight class. Have those written down with your attempts on a 3 X 5 card (if you're an old powerlifter like me) or handy in your smart phone if you aren't a master aged lifter. I personally like the 3 X 5 card. You might find yourself in a situation where the record is within reach, but the win isn't or any other combination of scenarios. Also, if the meet is a national level meet, know the records because you can use the chips to break a record. It's better to smoke a record with the chips than barely miss it because you went up just a kilo or two too many.

#10 Spin the bar

In the gym, you pull your weight and then the next deadlifter changes the weight, sticks on the little spring clips, and the lifting continues. At a larger meet, the collars are typically those high quality collars that hold fast. The loaders will load up the bar for you and then tighten the collars. More often than not, the collars are very tight and that inhibits the bar from spinning freely. Thus, when the weight is lifted off the floor and the plates rotate, the bar does as well. That will pull the bar out of your hand or tear your skin if you can hold on (see the Krazy glue tip). By placing your foot on the knurl of the bar and spinning the barbell back toward you, you'll allow that bar to spin freely as it is designed to do. Then you won't be a slave to the frozen bar rotating with the rotating plates.

If the bar is so tight that trying to spin the bar doesn't work, place your foot at the top of the inside plate and push outward with a couple nudges. This will allow for the bar to spin as it is designed.

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Bonus #1: Kilo plates feel different

When picking your attempts, be aware that kilo plates (which will be used at the bigger meets) feel different, especially when pulling. Kilo plates are as tall as the standard plates that you'll find in your gym, but they're very thin and narrow. Because of this, the weight distribution isn't as spread out over the barbell sleeves as conventional pound weights. You'll especially notice this if you have fatter plates at your gym.

When deadlifting, the further out the weights are distributed on the bar, the “easier” the deadlift bar will come off the floor due to the weight being distributed in a wider manner. The bar will bend a little further and the weight will be further away from you, making the pull harder with kilos and easier with the wider pound plates. This is something to keep in mind when it comes to the deadlift. This might make you want to have a lighter than normal deadlift opener (see tip seven).

Bonus #2: Ask the judge to clean off the bar

The use of baby powder is unique to the deadlift. Lifters lift the weight and the bar slides up the powder that they have on their legs. After several lifters, that powder can build up, making grip an issue.

As a lifter, you can ask the head judge for a courtesy clean of the bar. Personally, I do this prior to all my deadlift attempts because most lifters don’t. The head judge will first use the wire brush on the knurls to clean out the caked in chalk, so my grip will be better. Then he or she will wipe the bar clean of powder so that there isn't anything slippery on the bar that can impair my grip. I know the bar will still glide up my legs, as I, too, will have powder on them.

If I need just an extra moment to ready myself, I'll also ask for the bar to be cleaned because it affords me that extra few moments to mentally flip the switch in my head prior to the attempt. If you're going to do that, you must remember to do that while the bar is still being loaded. Once the bar is loaded, it's go time. Shh! That's more of a secret than a tip.

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Bonus #3: Use ammonia ampules

Ammonia in a bottle is great for training at the gym, but sometimes, depending on how old or new the bottle is, the ammonia could be old and weak and thus useless (or brand new and strong enough to split your brain in half). At the meet, I recommend that you use the ammonia ampules. They are very consistent and the last thing you need for your heavy final attempt is a dead bottle of Nose Tork. Travel with them in a little Tupperware container so that they don't get crushed by accident.

 

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