Analyzing Powerlifting Meet Performance, Building Future Strength

Updated June 11, 2020

By Fred Ashford from the MAB Forum.

The meet’s over. This wasn’t your greatest lifting day. You are eager to get back to the gym. But, get back and do what?

The week after a powerlifting meet is a great time to reflect on what went right, what went wrong and where the lifter goes from here. Analyzing your results from a powerlifting meet is part science, part art, somewhat part mysticism and more than anything else…instinctual.

Evaluating Your Powerlifting Pre-Season

Lifts at a powerlifting meet are simply the result (or by-product if you will) of months of preparation. Therefore, it makes sense to start all the way back to your pre-season training. And there are several variables to look at:

  • Was the training sufficient and progress enough to gain strength?
  • Did the lifter improve form in the big three?
  • Was there sufficient recovery?
  • Was the training injury-free?
  • Did the lifter properly feed his body?
  • Was training consistent?
  • Did stressors from the ‘outside’ affect training?
  • And was the off-season long enough?

Evaluate Your Powerlifting Meet Prep

Next a lifter should evaluate the 6-8 weeks of meet prep. Some lifters (the author included) simply drop the rep range down and perform the same routine leading up to 10-14 days prior to the meet. They will deload the last workout and set openers on their best 3 or 4 rep set.

Other lifters follow a targeted process where an anticipated max (or 3rd attempt) is set before meet prep. The lifter follow prescribed loads set on a percentage of max usually starting out at a moderate percentage and progressing up to around 95%. There are other elaborate and sophisticated protocols and some very simplistic as well.

The analysis is fairly simple and requires a total and honest refection of one’s platform results. That is – did the lifts on the platform reflect the gains realized during the off-season? Again, many factors contribute to the answer: did you take sufficient time to rest prior to the meet? Was the meet prep also injury free? Was outside stressors kept at bay?

A Look at Your Meet Day

And finally – a hard look at your performance during meet day.

  • Did you warm up properly?
  • Did you time your warm up effectively?
  • Did you maintain your groove (form) throughout the day?
  • Did you pick your attempts correctly?
  • Did you eat a good breakfast and stay fueled throughout the day?
  • Did you stay hydrated?
  • And some high level self-critique: did you adjust to the judges’ eyes?
  • Did you practice platform generalship?
  • Did you pick your attempts strategically?

Make a List, Check it Twice

After you’ve taken a hard look back through your pre-season training, your meet prep and performance on meet day – make a list of those behaviors you would have changed to improve your results. Then look at those one or two ‘things’ that would have made the greatest impact. You have just uncovered the root cause of any performance issues you experienced on the platform. This will help you (and/or your coach if you employ one) design a program or tweek your current one for any upcoming meets.

I’ve just applied this process to my own training. I am a 53 yr old Masters 2 raw push/puller. I lift push/pull due to a 2011 injury (quad tendon rupture) and can’t squat over four without puckering real tight in the hole so push/pull it is.

In November, 2013 I benched 479 and deadlifted 655 at a 312 lb body weight. During that same meet I attempted a 705 deadlift and subsequently detached my right (supinated) distal biceps tendon. This was surgically repaired by Thanksgiving 2013 and by February I was rehabbing in the gym with light weight and high volume.

Let’s jump ahead to November of 2014. It has been a year since the biceps tendon rupture (only my second debilitating injury in 30 years of PLing) and after three months of heavy training I found myself on the lifting platform once again. I gained another 10 lbs of body weight in an attempt to drive my bench up. I was hoping, in vain, to close in on 500 lbs. I ended up benching 457…missing 484 at lockout. I only got in my opener at 606 on the deads and experienced significant hammie cramping. I had hamstring issues during training in mid-September and I also felt my hams cramp during the bench on meet day.

There you have it. Disappointing to me on several levels. So…a week later – what did I learn?

I went all the way back in my log and discovered the rehab was a looooong process. I couldn’t have rushed it if I wanted to but – three months of strength training just didn’t cut it. I needed more. High volume did nothing for me except prep the muscle during rehab. Required but not desired. I also realized that in my attempt to gain weight I allowed my conditioning to go to crap. My hammies didn’t cramp because of any form deficiency. I was simply out of shape.

I’ve taken my analysis and I am applying it to my training routine. In a nutshell – I plan on a full body routine x 4 reps per movement. I also intend to lose 50 pounds via a whole foods diet and apply HIIT cardio 4 days a week. Basically, I need to train heavier, lose weight and get my fat ass in shape. After 30 years of powerlifting and at an age of 53 – I learn something new from every meet. I encourage you to take a hard look at your last meet and adjust.
Good lifting.

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