Deciding on Your Attempts at Competition (Powerlifting Edition)

A couple weekends ago I hosted a mock meet for my Saturday powerlifting crew. It was a lot of fun and many PRs were made. Several people told me they loved the experience of being put on the spot to make a lift, with people watching and cheering for you. You can't replicate that sort of adrenaline rush in a normal class where you can take all the tries you want at the pace you want.

It makes athletes better by getting them to tune in to their mindset and body more closely. Even in this sort of situation, where there isn't much on the line, you all the pieces need attention.

One of the big stressors of new competitors is deciding what attempts to take. Today we're going to talk about choosing attempts for a powerlifting meet. I can't give you numbers, but I can give you points of consideration.

Opening Attempt

Usually you have to give your opening attempts for all three lifts when you weight in, which could be the day before you compete. The key here is to go conservative; depending on the meet, you are allowed to increase your starting attempt, but sometimes you cannot lower it. Think of a weight you can make for three on a meh training day. If you feel good during your warm-ups, increase it. If you've had to drop weight before the meet, it can be hard to gauge how your body will react as you try to reconstitute your weight.

Second Attempt

Now you keep in mind what your ultimate goal is. Is this for experience? Are you trying to qualify for something? Are you trying to win? To know what kind of jump you should make you need to have an idea of your ultimate goal.

The second attempt usually isn't the time to go for a persona record, but if you're feeling good, you can get close to it with the idea you break your past PR in the third attempt.

You also will call your jumps differently based on the lift. I know for most people, big jumps in the bench press are a bad idea unless you have time between attempts to hit an intermediate attempt off-platform. You have more wiggle room in the squat, and even more in the deadlift.

The exception to this is if this meet is your only chance to qualify for another meet and you have to hit a specific total. In that case, you might want to take a bigger jump in the squat, bench the best you can, and then deadlift what you must.

Third Attempt

You might think I'm going to say "go for broke" here. But this is your last chance at upping your total.

In the squat and bench, you're better off pushing the envelope a little but being more risk adverse to better ensure you're adding to your total with each lift. Like mentioned earlier, the deadlift typically give you some wiggle room for bigger jumps if you still need to make up some ground, so that's where I'd say "go for broke" if it's a matter of moving up in placing or making a qualifying total.

The Big Picture

The general trend is to let yourself take more risk with each attempt, and take more risk with each lift through the day. Powerlifting meets usually run all day, which can make or break a person depending on how they handle the long wait times between lifts. But as you watch the numbers fall out of the competitors, you can usually make more informed risks on your second and third attempts.

Of course, the main thing is to have fun and know you worked really hard to get to where you are.