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Finding my first powerlifting meet.

Carrying on with adventures in powerlifting.

Once I decided that it might be fun to try competing in powerlifting competition, I was presented with my greatest challenge yet - working out how to go about that.

Powerlifting is a fairly niche sport, there's lots of really keen athletes and lots of resources out there (thank you internets), but they tend to be polarised between the fairly superficial, which helped me decided that it was something I wanted to pursue, but didn't tell me how, and the completely specialist, that assumes you are already in and know what's going on.

I did a bit of a Google and found a competition fairly close to home, almost exactly at the point where I will peak my current training cycle. Brilliant. But it's not that simple....

All powerlifting competitions happen under the auspices of a federation, and to enter a competition, you have to be a member of that federation. Some competitions also require you to qualify, which means as a beginner you need to start in an open competition, to get some official lift numbers down.

Different federations have different rules and sometimes different classes of competition under their umbrella.


Choosing a federation


So I decided to have a word with someone who knows stuff - the owner of the gym I train at is a competitive powerlifter. His first advice was to decide which federation I wanted to compete in. This isn't a lifelong commitment, like choosing your team in Pokemon Go, you can change federations from year to year or even subscribe to more than one.

From our conversation I learned that there are effectively 3 major criteria which I had to consider.

The first is the social aspect. Some federations are known to be "friendlier" than others, also, if you already know someone who is competing in a particular federation, then joining the same one means it's easy to support each other and attend events together.

The second is the rules they compete under. Some federations are drug-tested, others aren't. If  you compete in a drug tested federation then you need to make sure you aren't taking any medications on the banned list. If you compete in an untested federation then you need to be aware that your competitors could be taking performance enhancing drugs and that is going to affect your position in the field.

Weight classes also vary between federations, and that might be something to consider.

There's also the kind of competition. Equipped competitions allow supportive suits, knee wraps, all kinds of kit to stabilise the body and get more out of the lift. Raw competitions allow less or no equipment (most allow belts and knee sleeves, but it varies). Classic allows some basic supports, but no suits.

For a laugh you should watch this video of Meg - usually a raw lifter, trying to get into a squat suit (from about 8 minutes). Equipped lifting takes dedication.


The last thing to consider is the availability of competitions. It's all very well finding a lovely federation with rules that suit your needs, but no good if they don't have any competitions you can get to!

My final decision was to join British Powerlifting, because they are the ones hosting an open meet, just an hour's drive for me, at a convenient point in my current training schedule. I'm also going to go to watch the nationals with the British Powerlifting Union and see what they are about.

The kit


Even for raw competition, a certain amount of equipment is necessary. I'm considering this after choosing a federation because the rules for kit requirements vary between federations. British Powerlifting operates under IPF rules, which are fairly strict. As well as specifying the technical requirements for all the kit (right down to the appropriate stretchiness of your singlet and the length of your t shirt sleeves) they have a very specific list of makes and models for equipment that are considered legal in competition. Local level meets are reportedly less strict about kit requirements, but that's up to the organiser and it's probably not good economics to buy an unapproved lifting belt because one competition will allow it, and then find the next won't accept it.

For a classic meet, my equipment list goes like this:
  • Belt (mine is a 13mm thick 4" wide lever belt)
  • Knee sleeves (wraps aren't allowed for raw/classic in IPF)
  • Wrist wraps (like a thick bandage that supports the wrists)
  • Singlet (like a wrestler)
  • T shirt (for hygiene and modesty!)
  • Knee high socks (they are big on people not leaving blood on their barbells, the socks are for deadlifts)
  • Shoes (I like to deadlift barefoot, so I have some deadlift slippers which are as minimal as it gets, and I squat in firm soled lifting shoes)
And that's a lot of stuff for an "unequipped" competition :D

I also learned that knee sleeves are a workout in themselves.


Finding the community, and the information


Honestly, I don't know how anyone did this before the internet. I'm going to quickly summarise the sources of information that have been super useful for me.

There's a few really useful places on YouTube for info. Juggernaut Training have a channel that includes a lot of really useful videos, including one that takes you step by step through what to expect on your first meet day and some really in depth coaching videos. Megsquats produces some fun vlog style content. Generally videos with people like Alan Thrall and Silent Mike are good for geekery.

All the federations have their own Facebook pages, some also have community groups where you can chat and ask. There's also a good Powerlifting Women community on Facebook (if you are a woman) and this Instagram is fun to follow (even if you aren't a woman).

It's taken a bit of digging, but I'm really excited to be discovering not only the sport, but a whole bunch of really awesome people.


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