elitefts™ Sunday edition

Mistakes by a First Time Lifter

This article is about a lifter who I talked with over the internet a few times. I won’t mention any names or places, but he knows who I’m talking about. I watched a disaster happen at his first meet. There are a number of things that he and his group could have done differently to help him through his first meet. So, let me introduce you to "Lifter X." This is his story.

Not enough help

Lifter X came to the meet with great intentions. He never lifted in a meet before, but he had his warmups all planned out. With the partners he found a few months prior, he was going to help out and lift. This is where his problems started. His partners, who lifted in meets before, were lifting in the same meet. They were in the first flight, and Lifter X was in the second. Lifter X was planning on helping his partners, who were in the first flight, while he did his warmup at the same time. One or two people who were not lifting were also helping to wrap knees and get the lifters ready. However, X was trying to be a good partner and help and cheer and warmup all at the same time. It’s hard enough to warmup with only one person helping you and even harder warming up by yourself. If you ever go to a meet where a crew of lifters are competing, you’ll notice that they have an abundance of helpers for each lifter. Some lift and some help at each meet. They lift or they help and the next time, they switch. Our crew had seven lifters over the course of a two-day meet with five non-lifters helping out. It’s so important to have people there just to help.


While Lifter X was running back and forth from the warmup room to where the lifters were, he was missing his warmups and skipping some that he most definitely needed. The bar was heavier than usual, and people were jumping in and out, taking weight above what he wanted. So, he jumped in and skipped one or two warmups and did triples where he planned to do singles. Be prepared for different equipment in the warmup room. Some bars will be 50, 55, or 60 pounds or more whippy, thicker, or knurled. You have to make do, and do your best to stick with your plan. Helpers hate unloading a million plates, but if you need to take 135 and 700 is on the bar, then it has to be done. Stay with your plan! For the bench, Lifter X wasn’t ready because he was helping his partners. By the time he took his last warmup, he was called as the first lifter of his flight three minutes later. Stay with your plan, make sure you take care of yourself, and know where you are in the flight. Give yourself time to get everything together and prepare for your lift — about 7–10 lifters after your last warmup.

Take an easy opener

If you’re going to your first meet, you should be attempting to go nine for nine. Now, I’m sure some people will disagree, but in my opinion, you should open with something you can do on the worst of days. Then, move to something that will be hard, but you know you can still do. And, for the third attempt, go all out or for a PR, just get some numbers on the board and have something to work with for the next meet. You don’t want to open with something that may or may not go. Lifter X opened with something he thought would be easy, but with today’s gear, nothing is a given. Do what you feel comfortable with and don’t be afraid to take a smaller jump. The weight you did in the gym three weeks ago doesn’t mean anything. This is your first meet — get numbers on the board.


Gear is another one of those things that some people will agree on while others will disagree. In my first meet, I used a single-ply shirt, a loose double-ply to squat, and a single-ply to deadlift. My numbers weren't great, but it got the job done. If you’re going to your first meet, don’t worry about having gear that's so "gangsta," you either smoke the weight or can’t get down and miss. Start slow and graduate to better gear as you get stronger. I’m not against gear. I think there's a time and place for each person to move up to better gear. If you have great partners and people to show you how to use gear and you have a good base of strength, then maybe it’s ok. But, if you’re going to the meet to bench 250 at a body weight of 220 then maybe you should worry about getting stronger, not getting better gear. There will be a time for that.

Not enough thinking

When Lifter X was going up to bench, he got so geeked-up that he put his pinky finger on the rings, instead of taking a max grip. He didn’t realize this until after his second attempt, when he had a hard time touching. He moved out his grip and settled down, but burned all his energy trying to lock out a weight that he had missed twice before. Think about what you came to do. Do it exactly the way you do it in the gym, and go through your verbal cues. Your coaches should also be giving you verbal cues that they know will help you. You were born with a brain. You might as well use it!

Eat something

Lifter X was so busy all day from 7AM when he arrived in the warmup room until before his bench that he didn’t eat or drink anything. He finally choked down a sandwich, but still didn’t consume any liquids because he was still peeing and didn’t want to mess up his warmups. If you're nervous and tried to re-hydrate yourself after cutting weight, you'll be peeing like a madman. But, you still need to drink something. As far as food goes, I’m not saying you need to eat normal meals because odds are you won’t have time to go and eat. But, get something in your stomach—a protein bar, apple, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Whatever it is, it will go a long way. But, you have to eat something. Try and get it into your system after each third attempt when you know you’ll have a little time before you start to warmup for the next lift.

The bomb

If you can’t tell by now, Lifter X bombed in the bench. At the time, it feels like it’s the end of the world, and you just wasted 100 bucks. Well, guess what…it’s not the end of the world, and maybe next time you’ll take something from this experience. Lifter X seems to be ready to get back into the gym and make some more improvements on his training and how to approach his next meet. With a little help and coaching, I am sure he’ll do much better next time.

Ask for help

As big and crazy and tough as a lot of lifters look, most are the most generous and easy-to-approach people in the world. If you’re at a meet by yourself or have someone helping you who doesn’t know what in the world is going on, then ask for help. Most people are willing to help you put on a suit, give you a hand out, call your depth, or anything else you may need. With that said, remember that their first priority is their lifter. So, don’t go to a meet and just think, “Yeah, I’ll just show up…someone will be there to help me.” No, bring your own help. But, if something goes awry, then 99 times out of 100, if you ask, someone will help.

Learn something

Lifter X seemed to disappear very quickly after his bomb out. Maybe he and his group were leaving to go home. I don’t know. But when you go to a meet, talk to everyone — people that are stronger than you, people that have been around for awhile, and people that have better form than you. Before you leave, try to pick up any new exercises, form corrections, or weaknesses you may have. Find out what other people are doing for their training, and try to better your lifting arsenal. Don’t leave the meet with just a stupid trophy. Take something of value back home and apply it, so you can become a better lifter. And when you get stronger, share your knowledge with those weaker than you. It's appreciated, and that’s what makes this sport continually grow. When you first started lifting, I bet you had people there to share their knowledge with you. And if you didn’t, I bet you wish you did. So...share your knowledge.