Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of doing something I never thought I would: competing in an honest-to-goodness powerlifting meet!
For the uninitiated, a powerlifting meet typically consists of three main lifts: barbell squat, barbell bench press, and barbell deadlift. The competitors are divided into various weight classes, and each is given three (one rep) attempts at each exercise to move as much weight as possible. Winners are picked in each weight class based on the total of the heaviest successful attempt in each lift.
Since it’s what most will want to know, might as well go over it first: how did I end up doing?
I was very happy with my performance in the squat. To kick things off, I started out with a reasonably easy 345 pound opener.
I continued on with a moderate 15 pound jump to 360 pounds for a second attempt.
With another conservative 15 pound jump, I finished strong with a conservative 375 pound final attempt. I felt like I had room for an additional five or ten pounds, but the easy final let me walk away from the squat with a new personal best, and a confidence boost to carry through the rest of the competition.
Ah the dreaded bench press, by far my weakest lift. I was off to a good start with an easy looking 225 pound opener, then bumped up to what was supposed to be an easy 235 pound second attempt. Unfortunately my trouble with pause benching caught up to me, and I missed both the second and third attempts at 235.
Even though deadlift is by far my favorite, and strongest lift, I would be lying to myself if I said that my poor showing at the bench press didn’t rattle my confidence. No one likes to get up in front of a large group of people, only to fail. Making matters worse, a faulty bar I had the misfortune of using in the warm up room made me question my double-overhand grip. A grip – for reference – that I’ve easily rack pulled over 600 pounds with.
Setbacks aside, I powered on through. I was wearing a shirt that read “No Excuses” after all, I couldn’t let myself get psyched out. I opened with an easy, and battle tested, 440 pounds. The bar went up so so easily that I was actually partially stunned after it was over; wondering if they miss-loaded the weights.
Now I was back in the game, even if I still was too nervous to go back to my standard grip, I was definitely having fun again. I continued on with a new personal best for my second attempt, 470 pounds.
My plan going into the competition was to go conservative, and to make sure I had a solid first competition experience by making most, if not all, of my attempts in all the lifts. So for the final deadlift, even though I felt invincible, I put in a moderate 485 for my final attempt. That would have allowed me to beat my pre-competition personal best by 20 pounds, not something to scoff at! Thankfully for me, my good friend and training partner vehemently disagreed. Considering how easy 470 went up, he thought I would be an idiot for hitting anything less than 500 pounds as a final attempt. A goal that I have been chasing after for almost a year, something I thought I was still months of training away from.
Apparently not. Not only did I manage to successfully deadlift 500 pounds, it felt easy. Talk about the perfect end to my first powerlifting meet!
In the end I totaled with a respectable 1100 pounds, a result I am quite pleased with for my first competition. I may not have won my weight class (or even placed), but I managed to set two new personal records, and that is definitely something I can be proud about.
My biggest fear entering this competition was how I would react to lifting in front of an audience, a concept that was incredibly foreign to me. Especially considering I only recently began to workout with other people. I believed that my tendency to get distracted during my workout, even mid lift occasionally, would severely impact my performance.
This was a concern I was regularly told to not worry about, that when I got up to the platform the adrenaline would be pumping so hard I’d be barely able to see straight; much less worry about any of the spectators. Regardless of everyone’s reassurances, I was still incredibly worried, right up until my name was called for On Deck on my opening squat attempt.
Stepping onto the lifting platform was a surreal experience. My friends who had previously competed were not exaggerating in the slightest about what happens when you do. As soon as “bar loaded” was called, everything seemed to wink out of existence. Everything except me, the weight, and the person giving the commands. The absolute focus on the task at hand was a new, and incredible, experience. As strange as it may sound, each attempt seemed almost like a dream. One that I would wake up from in the warm up room, barely remembering that I was just in front of a crowd of people.
Overall this competition was an incredible, and exhilarating experience, something I definitely plan on doing again. Though next time, not only I will feel perfectly comfortable inviting everyone I know to come and watch, but will be competing to win, instead of to just set new personal bests.