After a long day of squatting, benching, and deadlifting, your powerlifting meet is officially in the books. You may be leaving with a strong feeling of satisfaction after a day of PRs, white lights, and awards or maybe your car ride home consists of quiet introspection about why you missed lifts, got red lights, or even bombed out. No matter which situation you're in, one feeling will be present when the dust settles: an overwhelming desire to be better next time. A big part of improving the performance at your next powerlifting meet is the work you put in further out from competition (or the “off-season”).

Depending on what type of periodization you use for training, you may have a different technical term for the time further out from competition. However, for the sake of simplicity in this article, we will just refer to this period of time as the “off-season.”

The first step to planning your off-season programming is to figure out exactly what you need to work on. For this step, we’ll take a page out of a business textbook and perform a SWOT analysis. In business, a SWOT analysis provides information that helps an organization see how its resources stack up against the external environment (or competition) and analyze what needs improvement moving forward. This can easily translate to the powerlifter’s analysis against his competition as well.

The SWOT analysis consists of gathering information on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the organization. The strengths and weaknesses are specific to the individual organization (or in our case, powerlifter), and the opportunities and threats involve external factors like business competition/economy (in our case, federations, gyms, and other lifters).

When examining these factors as it applies to your own lifting, it is important to be honest with yourself. This is where it can be beneficial to have a training partner or coach who you know will keep you accountable and be brutally honest with you (both about positive and negative things). If you choose to ignore an issue in training, don’t expect a different result come next meet time.

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Below are some questions to ask yourself regarding each component of your SWOT analysis:


  • What was successful at your competition (i.e., made weight easily, felt good, completed attempts, hit PRs, won awards, left injury-free)?
  • What personal strengths made those successes possible (i.e., stayed consistent with diet, performed necessary mobility and prehabilitation exercises, maintained good level of GPP, used effective planning structure for attempts in training, programmed wisely leading into meet, trained consistently, had good technique)?

The strengths portion of your analysis is very important because you want to capitalize on the areas that you can build on from your last training cycle/competition. Even with a poor meet performance, there were likely still some positive elements to your lifting that you don’t want to get lost in the mix of your training evaluation. No matter what your meet result was, you don’t just want to change everything for the sake of change. Strengths must be built on, and you can’t do that if you completely scratch everything because of a poor meet performance.


  • What was unsuccessful at your competition (i.e., couldn’t make weight, didn’t put weight back on, missed attempts, got injured)?
  • What personal weaknesses contributed to the above (i.e., inconsistent diet, improper weight cutting strategy, unwise/inconsistent programming, missed training sessions, neglected mobility, neglected assistance work)?

This is where honesty is really important, not only with what was unsuccessful at your meet but why it was unsuccessful. Yes, you got red-lighted on squats, but was it because your technique broke down, you didn’t pick wise attempts, or you didn’t go to depth all throughout your training cycle? Again, this is where training partners or coaching can be very beneficial in your analysis.

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  • What external opportunities present themselves in the time between now and your next competition (i.e., optimal training environment, experienced training partners, coaching, time, equipment)?

This is a crucial aspect of the SWOT analysis that takes some critical thinking on your part. Think about opportunities that you might not have taken advantage of in the past as well as new opportunities that may present themselves as you move forward in your powerlifting journey. This can involve your training environment or even the federation that you choose to compete in.


  • What external threats pose themselves in the time between now and your next competition (i.e., lack of time, unavoidable life situation, laziness, lack of accountability, injuries)?

Think of these external threats as a double-edged sword. Some of them may be unavoidable situations that you must work around like an injury or work schedule. Others may be issues like lack of accountability or laziness that you must consider as something to address moving forward.

These are some examples of questions you should be asking yourself as you perform your own SWOT analysis. As you write these items out, you should begin to see a picture of what your next several months of training should look like. Something about putting these things on paper truly makes you realize the areas you must work on. In order to plan where you're, you need to fully understand where you’ve been (and where you currently are).

The second part of this article series will explain how we can use the information organized in the SWOT analysis to begin programming for your all important off-season.