By:  Doug Daniels

To Compete or Not to Compete.....

       ....that is the question. Besides 'how do I increase my bench 100 pounds in one month', this is the question I get asked most often through correspondence from lifters looking for advice. Many lifters feel they must achieve a certain level of strength before they can think about lifting in a meet. A lifter I worked out with for a while told me he would not compete until he was guaranteed to win the state title. Boy, that could be a long wait. There can never be a guarantee of victory at a contest unless you exclude everyone from the meet but yourself. A lifter could be totally confident of victory only to find a national level lifter competing in his class to register a total to qualify for a national event.  Other lifters are not as unrealistic. Many just do not believe they are 'good enough' to compete yet. The definition of 'good enough' is yet to be determined. Hundreds, even thousands of runners compete in 5-K races, with only a few having thoughts of winning. Most are there for the event and to compete against themselves and their previous bests.

         Powerlifting is unlike other sports like baseball and football. For the most part, there are no teams to make or qualifying totals to post before you can compete. National meets are generally the only contests where a lifter must first register a qualifying total to be allowed to compete. Team competition in powerlifting is  just a side event for rival gyms and lifting clubs. An aspiring lifter need just pay the entry fee and possibly join the sanctioning organization or take steroid test to be able to lift. 

         The next point to cover is what type of meet should be your first? First look at the upcoming meet section of PL USA for a huge listing of meets around the country. Find a meet close to you. It would be even better if the meet offered a novice category. Novice categories are generally for lifters who have not competed or won contests before. This will put you in a competition with less seasoned lifters who are also trying to get their feet wet. Target a contest at least 2-3 months away so you can train specifically for it. Setting a date will work wonders for your training motivation. Many athletes, who do not compete, get stale and lose interest. Having a date to work towards will put renewed enthusiasm into your training. That, I can guarantee.

        Go to watch a local meet before you compete your first time. This will enable you to get a feel how a meet runs. Be sure to attend the rules briefing. With all the new organizations springing up all over the place, rules may not be consistent. My first meet I lifted at was the first meet I ever attended. If I had watched one previous to this, it would have saved me some anxiety of the unknown. If there are multiple platforms, move around to watch how each one runs. Check out the warm-up room to get an idea how one operates. They can be really wild. If you go with an experienced lifter, he can give you a little insight on what's going on. Don't be afraid to talk to lifters or spectators.
          When you do go to your first meet, go with an experienced lifter to help you through the contest. You will need a helper anyway to keep track of things for you and give you motivation. You, in turn, will be valuable if your friends are lifting also. While powerlifting is an individual sport, it requires some teamwork for best results.

          A critical thing to keep in mind is to make sure you execute your lifts in training according to lifting rules, that is no bouncing off the chest in the bench, squatting high and not locking out your deadlifts. As I said earlier, rules may vary across organizations, but these I just listed are almost standard. You must measure your training lifts in terms of powerlifting protocol.

          Now that you're all ready to send that entry blank in, I would caution you as to the amount of contests that you should lift at per year. Too many meets can lead to too little progress. Lifters need time between meets, referred to as the off season, to build strengths and improve weaknesses and to recover from rigorous training cycles. Lifters who always are competing are probably not improving. Compete in about 3-5 meets yearly. This will provide the motivation to continue to train hard and still allow steady improvement and prevent injury. Do not go overboard.

          I hope I provided many of our readers that have not made the decision to compete yet a few ideas to think about. There are no guarantees in life, except death and taxes, and you do not have to pay taxes. The only rival you should worry about is your toughest one; yourself. If you work hard and smart, and exceed your previous limits long enough, trophies and victories will follow. When you come down to it, trophies and victories do not always translate into success and satisfaction. Keep setting goals and compete against yourself and you can accomplish more than you think. Competition need not be so serious to think only in terms of victories and titles, they are reserved for a few. Competition should be fun and challenging, not life or death. Compete because you love powerlifting. To compete or not to compete; yes.

Want to discuss this with other lifters?
Reproduction of this article, in whole or part, for any purposed other than personal use is prohibited without written consent. Copyright 2000 Doug Daniels.