The Game Plan of a Powerlifting Competition

It has now been a week since the European Championship in King’s Lynn, UK. Since I came back many friends, colleagues and other powerlifters asked me what I did for preparation and also what my game plan was to break two European records (Squat and Deadlift), win a gold medal in my category and achieve three personal bests. So I thought I write a blog about it.

As written in a previous blog, Nutrition – Strong, Simple and Sustainable to get stronger I not only train four times a week, I also eat nutritious food, try to get seven hours of good quality sleep and ensure that I take rest days also.

After having competed in 11 powerlifting competitions, including 5 international ones,  there are 3 rules I follow:

Rule 1: Prepare, prepare, prepare

There are no shortcuts in training – ensure that your technique is spot on, in accordance with the rules of your powerlifting association. Ensure that you regularly practice your main lifts, but also do plenty of auxiliary work, to strengthen the supporting muscles.

Rule 2: Know your personal best (PB)

For me, a PB is has to be achieved in perfect form and in accordance with the rules of  your powerlifting association, not a lift that is grinded out, almost injuring myself in the lifting process.

Rule 3: Pick your competition lifts wisely – don’t let your ego get in the way

Picking your lifts depends on your PB – but also on your form on the day.

1st lift – the opener. This lift gets you in the game. I have learned that I need to calm my nerves first, and show the judges that I know what I’m doing. So my first lift is one that I can to twice in a row, after a late night out or when sick.

2nd lift –getting serious.  Now that you are in the game, you have completed a successful 1st lift,  this is a lift that should be a little challenging, but you should have successfully completed it before it in a previous competition. If you have not competed before, choose a lift that you can do once in perfect form.

3rd lift – push out the boat. Trust in your training. If you have trained regularly, focusing on your main lifts, your technique and auxiliary work, everything should be in place now for your biggest lift.  This is your moment; the reason you came for. But listen to your body when lifting, if something is off, led the weight go.

Overall – don’t get distracted by what other lifters lift. Powerlifting is a sport where you first and foremost compete against yourself. Of course it is nice to win and break records. But my advice is to leave this for your third lift,  when you have already two good lifts under your belt (excuse the pun) and are confident and ready to show them all what for are made of.

In the European Championship I lifted as follows:

  1. Squat: 92.5 kg. 97.5 kg 105.5 kg (ER)
  2. Bench: 42.5 kg, 45.0 kg, 47.5 kg
  3. Deadlift: 122.5 kg, 132.5kg, 137.5 kg (ER)

 

My Powerlifting Journey

Yesterday a colleague asked me how I got into powerlifting – at my age. This is a question I was asked many times before, so I thought I write a blog about it, to describe the beginning of the journey, the painful lessons, the successes, the benefits and what powerlifting does for me.

 

The Beginning of the Journey

I started lifting heavy weights in summer 2015 at the tender age of 54. As I had a month of work I thought it would be nice to get really fit and in shape, see what I achieve with exercise and good nutrition.
I had been a member of a lovely hotel health and fitness club for 20 years. However, none of the fitness routines such as treadmill, stepper and bike aerobics had improved my body, perhaps just kept me in reasonable shape.
I asked one of the fitness staff in the gym to tell me what else I could do “to get rid of the wobbly bits”. I was lucky as the guy I asked was also a strength coach in another gym. He advised me that I should start lifting weights.
I told him that I did not want to get bulky, look like a bodybuilder, but he said that there is “not a chance” as I would not have enough testosterone in my body to build big muscles.
So I thought I’ll give it a try. After a few weeks I saw results, my clothes felt more comfortable, I felt more energetic and lifting heavier and heavier weights made me feel very good. I slowly changed my nutrition, mainly more protein, less sugar, more vegetables. I learned about the importance of sleep, as the whole strength building process happens while sleeping (I’m sure there is a scientific rationale).
Soon I noticed in the gym that I lifted heavier weights than the young guys working out beside me. I looked up the weights I lifted on the web and the world records in my weight/age category were not miles away, in fact, I had already beaten the standing world record in deadlift many times in the gym!

Painful Lessons

So, thinking that I may have a talent for weightlifting I went to get a few lessons in powerlifting. Powerlifting is a form of competitive weightlifting in which contestants attempt three types of lift in a set sequence, squat, bench press and deadlift, which is called “Full Power”. Competitions are also held that include just one of these lifts which are called “Single lifts”, or a competition of two lifts.
In August 2015 I joined the Irish Drug Free Powerlifting Federation and in September I took part in my first competition in Ballina, Co Mayo, a “push – pull” competition, meaning bench press and deadlift.
What a (painful) learning opportunity! Similar to boxing, powerlifters compete in weight category and I thought, and still think, the weigh-in in the early morning is the worst part of the competition. Then I made so many mistakes, wrong shows, wrong belt, wrong technique, nerves….
I was disqualified after not being able to get one successful bench press. I wanted to drive home and cry! What had I been thinking! However after many encouraging words from another female powerlifter, I partook in the deadlift part of the competition, even though none of the lifts would be counted. I achieved three successful lifts, got a lot of applause and again I got a lot of encouraging words. Even though I left Ballina empty-handed, I decided to try again in another competition.

Successes and further goals

By now I took part in four world championships, in Wales, Italy, Belgium and Boston, USA. I broke and set some World and European records. I met other powerlifters from many countries, also passionate about powerlifting. My next goal is to partake in the European full power championship in the UK in May and beat my personal records in all three categories.

Benefits of lifting heavy

So far, I am enjoying the sport. Other powerlifters have described the relaxation aspect of this sport and the reduction of anger, the emotional wellbeing. I agree with them. No matter how much is going on in my life, I can put it out of my head for a few hours every week, without taking drugs. When I am preparing for a big lift there is this intense concentration with one single purpose – to get that weight of the ground. This is a quiet and meditative moment, I notice nothing else but the bar.

What does it do for me?

I think that my competitive sport enables me to manage the other aspects of my life – my hectic personal life, my managerial role in Trinity College as well as my scholarly work. Thanks to my sport I can completely switch off for a few hours a week.
I am now in better shape than ever. I am stronger, feel calmer, the best is really that the training, the discipline and determination gives me the ability to face better everything that life might through at me!