Competing In Powerlifting: Priceless Experiences
“The bar is loaded (TBIL)”, shouts the head judge, as I approach the platform with nothing but extreme focus and determination, with my knees suffocated from the wraps. The squat command was given, and it seemed like an eternity until I heard the “up” cry from behind. Like a rocket, the barbell launched with ease.
Hell yes, was the initial thought, until I took a false step (I’m blaming very poor platforms for this one) prior to the “rack” command. At that point, the mental games begin. I knew I was strong enough, but it is more than just muscle and brawn. Having coached powerlifting for over 8 years, I knew better than to increase the weight before a “good” attempt had been logged.
Now, I am walking the walk. Throwing me into the fire, there was extreme amounts of pressure to get a good lift and compete well. The second attempt came around. The adrenaline was pumping with the fear of surviving the meet coursing through my veins. “TBIL, squat, rack”.
3 white lights. Game On. It was time to compete now.
“Add some weight,” I told my trainer. And I sat and waited until the bar was loaded for the third time. 242.5 kilograms loaded. As I approached the rack, the bar was already moving up. I unracked, stepped back, and waited on the “squat” command. There it was; uber disappointment. As my hips drifted back, so did the platform. I felt the immaturely set-up, flimsy, carpeted platform leaning backwards. Balance was lost and so was the third attempt. Considering myself a “squatter,” the mental game is now challenged.
Three hours later (I wasn’t in charge of the meet); I begin to warm up for the bench press. I was feeling strong throughout the non-shirted warm-ups to 275. The shirt went on, and 335 and 355 went up very well and easy with an exaggerated pause. “TBIL.” I approach the bench with calmness and focus. I adjust my shoulder blades, set my feet and off we go. “Start, Press, Rack,” says the head judge.
Wow that was easy.
Let’s add some weight, I thought. To my dismay, I looked and saw 3 red lights. As I curiously asked the judges, they explained that I brought the bar too low toward the “belly”. Really? Are you kidding me? What Federation is this? …And it’s ABS, Ms. Official, not a belly. Next lift, same weight, same result. As I breathed through a sticking point, they felt that the bar dipped.
Here we go again is what I was thinking. Now, I am in survival mode once again. Two red lights away from disqualification, I get focused and get psyched as much as possible for the third and decisive attempt. I grab the bar, squeeze it hard, pull it down, and away it went. It felt like 135 during the warm-up. I could have pushed 40-50lbs more, but I had to make sure I stayed in the meet. I look back and saw 1 red light. What was it for? Who the heck cares? I am in the meet and moving on.
They say the meet begins when the bar hits the floor. That was the mentality that I was taking. Opener was projected light and easy. Crap, a slight adjustment at the beginning of the lift caused a small dip. I was hoping all of the judges didn’t catch it, but they did. Once again, an opportunity evades me.
The plans were to PR on the second lift (540), and hopefully have some more to win the meet at the end. Playing it smart, I attempted the opener a second time. It was as easy as it could possibly get. Now was the time to PR. The question was to barely PR or to try and win the meet. I wanted to be smart and not greedy. I chose to try 540, and I am still kicking myself. It went up easier than my opener.
To sum it up, I finished with 1400lbs total, an injury free body, and a ton of experience. It is amazing how much we can learn from one meet. I feel confident that future meets will go much smoother, and I will know my gear much better.
I will have shoes with thick heels if there is another crappy platform. I know that I can widen my bench grip more and get a better competition press. I know that my belt needs to be lined up higher in order to get down for the deadlift.
It was a sub-par performance overall, but the lessons learned were priceless. Any of you who feel that powerlifting is not a sport; you might want to think twice. The mental game of succeeding or failing a third attempt to avoid disqualification is just as bad as having the last shot, losing by one with 5 seconds left in the game. Feel the rush and Load the Bar. I promise you, too, will have a priceless experience.