By: Savannah Kaminski & Julianna King
The end of summer and fall is a popular time for people to sign up for a meet and try competing for the first time. We have several of our own Fortitudo athletes preparing for upcoming meets across the world. With athletes ranging in experience levels, we still find athletes at all levels can be plagued by meet-day jitters. So we decided to put together an all-inclusive guide on how to best navigate a meet day.
In the weeks before…
At least a week out, do your research on locations and timing of the meet. You don’t want to find out the night before that the gym is an extra 45 minutes away than you thought it was. Debate and decide whether you want to drive the morning of or if you want to find accommodations the night before (split with fellow athletes if possible!). If it’s further than an hour away, we’d recommend considering accommodations.
If you don’t have a coach, we recommend you bring someone who is familiar with the sport/your lifting to handle you and help you through the day. It isn’t an absolute necessity to have a handler for your meet, but it does help ensure a smoother meet and gives you the chance to just focus on the lifts.
Pack your bags!
- Deadlift socks
- Shoes (if you wear multiple, make sure you have all of them packed)
- Knee sleeves
- Wrist wraps
Getting Checked in.
Meets tend to start at different times, but for the purpose of this post, we are going to time things out according to the most common start time – which is 9 am.
Start of meet day meaning registration and equipment check will start 2 and half hours before the meet (6:30 am for the 9 am meets). While you don’t have to be there right at the beginning, I would try to get there within that first half-hour window (so before 7 a.m.). This allows you to get everything settled and checked in before weigh-ins start.
Once you walk in, you are going to stop at a table all set up with a few volunteers working the meet. They are going to check you in and give you your meet-day swag (commonly a t-shirt and kilo conversion chart).
Once you are all checked in, you and your platform equipment will head over to the equipment check. There is typically going to be a referee there to check all the equipment you will be using on the platform. This includes a singlet, socks, knee sleeves, belt, shoes, t-shirt, and wrist wraps. This is a double-check to make sure that everything is approved by the federation you are competing in. Make sure you check in EVERYTHING you are planning to use on the platform, otherwise, you could be asked to take something off and go without it for your lift. That is definitely not a last-minute stressor you want right before you head on the platform (or between attempts).
After Equipment Check…
Once all your equipment is checked in, you will travel close or far (depends on the meet) to a rack (or two) to get your rack heights. They may have two locations for this one set up with volunteers for squat and one set up for bench. It doesn’t necessarily matter what order you go in, just ensure you get your rack heights for bench and squat.
For the squat, you are just checking the rack height, so get under the bar (you can do your typical set up if that helps) and make sure you can walk the bar in and out comfortably. If you feel like you may hit the bar or have to stand in your tip toes, don’t be afraid to ask the volunteers to raise or lower the height. This can feel overwhelming, especially if you haven’t working on combo racks, but take the time here so negatively impact your squat on the platform.
Next, you are going to check your bench rack heights. For this – there is two measurements: rack height & safety height. Similar to squat, you are going set up in your typical manner on the bench, and make sure you can rack and unrack the bar comfortably. The second set of measurements is the safeties. The volunteers are going to ask you to roll the bar off your chest and over your neck to make sure the safeties are at a level where they can catch the bar before it hits your neck. Ideally, there should be a gap between your neck and the bar for a good safety height.
Once you are done with that, locate a spot for your equipment. Try to keep all your stuff together and out of the way. Weigh-ins start 2 hours before the meet (7 am) within the USAPL. Weigh in are called by name in order of lot number (a number determined when you sign up for the meet). Make sure you are there and settled in by the time weigh-ins start, because if you miss your name being called they send you straight to the back (which can be inconvenient for timing warm-ups, especially if you need to do any last-minute bulking or cutting)
For weigh-ins, your name will be called. When they call your name for weigh-ins, they will also expect you to have your openers all picked out and converted to kilos. They will probably have a chart with them but I would try and make sure you have those numbers ready before you walk up to them so you can just read them off. (For all who are curious you can easily convert pounds to kilos by # x 2.205, then just make sure it is rounded to the nearest 2.5-kilo jump on the conversion sheet you have). The same-sex referee will accompany you to the weigh-in and record your weight.. They will typically have you strip down to your underwear to get the most accurate weight.
After you have completed weigh-ins, you are free to do anything you need to do for the final preparations before the meet starts. There is typically quite a large gap of time so this can be used well to eat, stretch, or just get in a good mental headspace.
Rules Meeting & Flight Information
There is usually a lifters rule meeting around 30-45 minutes before the start of the meet where the rules of the meet are all laid out. This is especially good for new lifters to go to and ask any questions they may have and get a demonstration of the proper ways to preform lifts without getting red-lighted.
In a meet, there can be multiple flights – Flight A, B, C, etc. After the rules meeting is typically the best time for flight A to begin warming up for squats. For the remaining flights, a good time frame to begin warming up is right in the middle of second attempts for the preceding flights. ( example flight B should start warming up midway through the second squat attempts of flight A).
Once warm ups start, you are going to want to scout out a good rack. You are most likely going to have to share with other people, so it can be a good idea to pay attention to the weights and heights people are using and try to fit in as best you can. If you snag a rack first, be courteous, and allow others to work in with you. This is the beginning of the fun where you can start making friends with the other lifters.
Timing warm ups can be tricky, but try and make sure you don’t rush too fast through them and get all of your singles done in 10 minutes but also make sure you aren’t take 10 minutes rest between every single. A good rule of thumb is to time your warm up singles about 5-7 min apart. So make sure you time that accordingly with when you need to be on the platform. It can get pretty busy in the warm up room, and energy can be high, so make sure you are vocal about when you want to take your next warm up and the weight you need to do.
It’s Game Time!
Once your warm-ups are complete, the lifters for your flight should be getting called to the platform. There is likely going to be a screen that displays the order of the lifters organized by the weight of their attempts in kilos. It can help to go ahead and get in order as soon as you get out to the platform, so ask the people around you for their names and try and stand behind the person in front of you. The screen will help you keep track of when your turn is coming as well as listening to the announcer. Typically, the announcer at powerlifting meets will start calling people up when they are three out. There is a lingo they use to help lifters order themselves and get platform-ready. The lingo tends to be – “up next” is the next person to go, the second person is “on deck,” and the third out is “in the hole”.
As you wait in line and get closer to your attempt, about 4 or 5 people out is a good time to start getting all your chalk and baby powder where you want it to be. Then when you are about one out, make sure you start putting on your wrist wraps and putting on/tightening your belt (the only thing you can adjust while on the platform is your belt). When it is your turn to take the platform, they will call your name and the head ref will announce that the “bar is loaded”. Once the head ref announces that statement, you have one minute to achieve the first command in the lift. For squat, this is receiving the ‘squat’ command; for bench, this is receiving the ‘start’ command; and for deadlift, this is simply the ‘down’ command.
Once you are on the platform and under the bar, there are going to be commands for each lift you need to listen out for. Due to nerves or excitement, this can often be the first thing that lifters forget to do.
For squat, the commands are “squat” and “rack”. The head judge will give the “squat” command once the bar is unracked and you’re standing fully erect. They will give the “rack” command once you have completed the squat and are standing fully erect.
Bench has three commands “start”, “press”, and “rack”. The ‘start’ command is given once the bar is unracked, elbows are locked, and the three points of contact are in place (in PA/IPF, this is 4 points of contact: head, upper back, butt, and feet on the ground). ‘Press’ is given once the bar is in a stabilized position on your chest, and ‘rack’ is given once the press is completed, and elbows are locked at the top.
Deadlift has one command: “down.” With deadlift, you can go out and start the lift whenever you are ready. Once the bar is locked out at your hips, the referee will call the “down” command and you can place the bar back on the platform.
There are several rules and reasons you can get redlighted for a lift but those are another blog post (;)).
The Rest of the Day…
Once the lift is completed, you have one minute to go to the attempt table and put in your second attempt in kilos. Then repeat all over again for your third.
Once the first lift is done, you will typically have the flow for the rest of the day. Between every change in lift, there is a 10-minute timer for the volunteers to make sure the platform is ready for the next lift (This is important to note for flight A lifters, because it will affect warm-up times). But other than that, all three lifts are run about the same way.
Make sure throughout the day you have fun with it. Make lots of friends, and remember a meet day is just a day. It’s a long day, and a lot can happen. Don’t let anything discourage you, just go with the flow, and do the best you can on the day.
Once deadlifts are over, don’t just leave. This is for two reasons: 1.) they still have awards and you may be surprised with what you could win one and 2.) in many federations, this is the point when you will be sought out if you were selected for drug testing. Once you are notified, you cannot leave the venue until after you’ve tested.
After months of waiting and working, the day has finally been completed with hopefully many PRs and personal wins, and it is time to leave and reward yourself with a big meal and ice cream (our personal favorite:).
Hopefully, regardless of if the meet goes perfectly or you feel like you left some kilos on the platform, you are encouraged to continue competing after the first one. The majority of people only do one meet – break that mold and keep going.