By:  Doug Daniels  

     Your last attempt at a meet signals the logical end to your training cycle for that meet.  At that time, itís a good opportunity to review and critique your training methods used to peak for the meet.  But what also should to be reviewed is your activities at the meet.  This includes everything starting from your commute to the meet until your last lift.  Preparing for a contest and the actual competition itself can be compared to a business preparing to introduce a new product or system.  Much time is spent preparing the product for introduction, but what is as just important, is how well it is made available or put on the market.  Mistakes anywhere along the way can hamper the end goal.  For powerlifters, our product or goal is our meet performance.

    There are many aspects of the competition that can be reviewed, many of which are under complete control of the lifter.  First of all, we can examine the commute to the meet.  Some meets are a great distance away and require several hours or more of commute time.  For these, the best bet may be getting there the day prior to avoid rushing or at worst, missing the meet altogether due to an unforeseen circumstance.  Getting there the day prior would allow you to arrive fresh without the tiring frustrations of early morning travel.  If the meet is local and requires a short commute, still endeavor to arrive with time to spare.

     Food and beverages consumed the day of the meet are important to success and maintaining a high energy level during those long contests.  Many lifters like to eat high carb breakfasts the day of the meet to sustain their energy.  This is fine but I would avoid eating anything you are not used to.  This could cause some gastro-intestinal problems that can wipe out all your hard training in a single stomach cramp.

     Having food and beverage available at the meet can really help.  Again, I wouldnít suggest some unusual concoction.  I would suggest some Gatorade type drinks and some fruit.  Sandwiches are not a bad idea especially if there is not good food available at or near the meet.  Bring a cooler to keep everything cold.  If you experienced problems at the meet due to something you ate, try to identify what it was and stay away from it next time.  Things that seemed to digest well should be tried again for the next meet.

     Hopefully, before you leave home, you checked to make sure you brought all your lifting equipment, including spares.  If you forgot something valuable, develop a checklist or some other reminder to take them along next time.  Having your gear nearby and available during the meet is important also.  It is very frustrating to need wraps or chalk and find itís somewhere else just before an attempt.  Keep your equipment organized and readily accessible.

    While weíre on the subject of lifting gear, we should evaluate their performance.  Did they fit correct or are they worn out and need replacements?  A meet is a good place to get info on other brands of lifting gear such as squat suits and knee wraps.  If something sounds promising, purchase it and give it a try during your next training cycle.  If it proves superior, use it for your next meet.  If not, use what you have or try another product.  Each brand of squat suit, etc., performs differently and can be more effective for one lifter than another.  So keep open to new products and developments in lifting gear.

     Evaluate how your attempts were chosen.  Many lifters come to a meet with an idea of how they would like to see their attempts go.  Letís say open in the bench and 300, take a 15 pound jump to 315, and go for it at 325 for a third.  Sometimes this isnít the case.  Those attempts donít go the way you planned.  That 300 opener felt a lot heavier than it was supposed to.  A tough lift at that weight may require you to drop your second attempt to 310.  There are times when that 300 feels like paper and youíre good for more than you had ever thought.  Experience is the best source of how to choose your attempts at the meet when your lifting does not go the way you had expected.  If you have a competent coach who knows your abilities, he can help you with these decisions.  If you make mistakes, use this as experience you can draw upon for future contests.  Always come to a meet with realistic expectations, but be prepared to make intelligent and realistic adjustments.

    Warm-ups are very important to success at a context.  Aside from a sinking ship, not too many places are more chaotic or free-for-all than the meet warm-up area.  Seldom is there enough equipment or room to go around.  The vast majority of lifters will allow others to work in with them, but you must be aggressive and ask to be part of the warm-ups going on.  Choose lifters with similar strength levels as yourself.  Itíll be a big inconvenience for everyone involved if you want to warm-up with superheavies if you only bench 300.  Thatís a lot of plates to take off and put on.  If you donít keep tabs on how soon youíll lift, you may have to lift before youíve taken a final warm-up or on the other hand, you may finish your warm-ups too soon and have to wait a long time to lift.  In any case, you are exposing yourself to injury as well as lessening your chances for a good lift.  Iíve seen too many lifters miss attempts because they were in the warm-up room when their name was announced to take a lift.  If you had a problem in this area, make sure at the next meet you plan in advance when to start taking warm-ups and how many to take.

     During the actual meet, it helps to keep track of where you are after the squat and the bench.  Even if you are not threatening to take first place, knowing how close you are from other competitors may help in selecting attempts in the deadlift.  This can make the difference between a trophy and coming home empty handed.  As the attempts progress, keep tabs on whatís going on and make adjustments if possible.  Too often a lifter complains that if he knew what a close competitor was taking in his next attempt, he could have won a trophy by adjusting his attempt by just a few pounds.

     Occupying yourself during the times when you are not lifting is worth considering.  Make sure you have comfortable clothes to wear while waiting.  Sweats make sense at meets where it can get chilly.  Listening to music can help during these times as well as when  waiting to lift in the on-deck area.  Perhaps taking a walk outside the meet area can help to clear out the cobwebs.  Fresh air can work wonders after spending hours around sweat, chalk and DMSO.

     Over time, lifting tends to make us bigger and heavier.  Making weight can get more and more difficult.  This could be signaling you that a move-up in weight class would be your best ticket.  A tough diet to make weight can really sap your strength level.  If this is the case, consider making the move up.  It may take a year or so for your weight to be efficient at the new higher level, but training will be more productive and enjoyable.  On the other hand, you may determine that lifting at too high a weight may not be desirable or healthy any longer.  If so, work to lower your body fat level by reducing your fat intake and adding some fat burning exercise to your training.    

      As you can see, there are a lot of factors to review after your last meet attempt is taken.  You donít need to think about all this stuff right after the meet.  Sometimes we need to get our minds off the meet and go and relax and eat and drink things we couldnít before trying to make weight.  Much of this may seem common sense and it is.  A friend said he didnít like my articles because they were mostly common sense stuff.  Sometimes it helps to review aspects of our training.  All training articles need not be about some revolutionary training method or hot supplement.  Remember that the best routine and attention to nutrition can all be wasted if we blow it at the meet.  Our product is the result of all our efforts.  If you evaluate your meet activities like you do your bench routine, you can greatly increase your chance of success.

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Reproduction of this article, in whole or part, for any purposed other than personal use is prohibited without written consent. Copyright 1998 Doug Daniels.