Are you a real powerlifter? Can you do this?

I had to ask my self that pretty recently. But as in a “serious, no-really, are you?” way. After I asked myself that, a series of relevant questions flooded me.

“Are you ready for this?”
“Can you step up?”
“Are you competitive enough?”
“People are stronger than you, are you sure you can beat them?”
“But they can already deadlift more than you?”
“What if you miss a lift?”
“Do you have enough time, energy, money behind this?”
“What if you suck?”


I competed in May, at the USAPL Rhode Island and MA state championships in the 84kg open weight class. I planned everything to a T.

It went well for my first competition. I placed 4th in my weight class (out of 8 women).  I hit 325 squat, 158 bench and a 363 deadlift.

I wasn’t entirely happy with my numbers, but they gave me a shiny medal and it felt good to proud of myself. So with that, I set my sights on another meet. Because, well, why the fuck not?

August 27- Newport Open.
I competed again, about 12 weeks later. This time I had upped my inital attempts based on new PRs. Welp, that backfired…kind of. I ended up placing 2nd in my weight class, behind a national champion. Not bad, eh? I hit the same old 325 squat, a 176 bench and 352 deadlift.

Now – sure my numbers look okay. But they weren’t my best, well, besides bench. For some odd reason bench was peaked perfectly and I felt great. My squat was horrible and my deadlift was even worse. But bench was no longer poverty.


It’s been about two weeks now since my meet and I’m back into training. As I reflect back on these questions…

“Are you ready for this?”
“Can you step up?”
“Are you competitive enough?”
“People are stronger than you, are you sure you can beat them?”
“But they can already deadlift more than you?”
“What if you miss a lift?”
“Do you have enough time, energy, money behind this?”
“What if you suck?”

…I’ve literally answered them all, and I didn’t die. My family still loves me, I still have friends and my dog doesn’t hate me. Life didnt end because I missed big attempts. Life didn’t end because my deadlift was lower in my 2nd competition than my 1st.

Life went on. I was sore, I was tired, and damn, I was beat the fuck up. I learned some hard lessons going into that meet. “Oh what were they Shauna?” I’m glad you asked; I would have told you anyway.

1. Don’t do a water cut. Stop. Just don’t. Lift and be strong.

2. Make your first attempts pretty fucking easy, something you can hit 3-4 reps any day.

3. Take your time setting up. Most federations allow plenty of time to set up when you initiate your lift.  Don’t rush.

4. Always have a coach or handler. Don’t go at it alone, even if someone comes with you who has never been a handler, have a good talk  before the meet on how you like to be fired up before a lift. Do you like getting slapped on the back? Do you like someone yelling in your ear? Do you like to be left alone with your headphones? A pinch on the ass perhaps? Whatever – have that person be 100% focused on you. Have then plan your warm ups, load the bar for you, carry your equipment. The less you have to focus on, the  better. Also – just fucking listen to your handler. If someone is bugging you or if you need to adjust something, communicate with that person, but don’t argue with your handler.

5. Bring all the things! I bring my entire life with me:

Competition Singlet
Knee wraps / sleeves
Squat shoes
Foam Roller
Lacrosse Ball
Warm up bands

Competition Singlet
Wrist wraps
Bench Shoes

Competition Singlet
Nose Tork
Deadlift shoes
Baby Powder: Put this inside a Ziploc
Tall Socks
Wrist Wraps
Super Glue: The only good way to quickly repair a callus tear.

PB Sandwiches or Peanut Butter Balls
3 Pedialyte, 2 Gatorade bottles, 2 Gallons of water
Trail mix
Fruit snacks
Pre-workout / Stimulants
Carb shake: 1 scoop whey, 1 packet oatmeal, water
Secondary items: BCAA’s, Creatine, etc.
Mustard: make sure to have some handy in case of cramping
Salt Packets

Sweatshirt and Sweatpants
Extra shorts and T shirt
Extra pairs of underwear and socks
Shoes or slippers for between events
Towel for sweat or to wipe off feet during attempts (baby powder accidents can happen!)

Phone + charger
Federation Membership Card
2 scales for weigh in
Video camera / Go pro for meet footage
First aid supplies
Band aids
Athletic tape
Ice pack
Horse liniment / Capsaicin
Duct Tape
Kilo conversion Chart
Pad of paper and pen/pencil
Toilet paper / wet wipes

Basic idea of weight
Food from hotel (I always steal breakfast from the hotel)
Openers + Attempts in KG + LBs
Rack Heights BEFORE weigh-ins

I am pretty thorough. Never take chances. If you have a gut feeling you may need another piece of equipment or something, just bring it! Also please check with your federation on what kind of singlets, socks, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, elbow sleeves, wraps/straps are allowed. Each federation is different. 

6. Know the rules of your federation. You have the judges to follow, but you also have to make sure you are properly conducting yourself during the meet. Also, Train like you are in the meet. If your federation requires your feet to be flat during the bench press, then train that way. If you have to hit a certain depth on squats (USAPL I’m looking at you!) then practice like you never want to be red lighted, ever, for depth.

7. Don’t eat or try anything new food wise. Eat normally, don’t drink extra coffee or consume large amounts of food if you are super nervous. Try to relax and do as you normally do before big lifts. Don’t over think this. If you have been training, you know how your body responds, don’t complicate things. Also – force yourself to go the bathroom as much as you can. 😉

8. Know your flight and when you go on. You have to always be alert on where you are in the flight plan (har har). I leave this to my handler most of the time, but its good to know every now and then.

9. Make friends with strong people. They have probably done this before. Introduce yourself, chit chat with them. But most importantly, watch their routine (as best as you can while still be focused on you). They will have a good idea on how to properly warm up. Study them, ask yourself what adjustments you might have to make. Don’t change anything right then and there, but champions are champions for a reason.

10. HAVE SOME FUCKING FUN! Powerlifters are some of the nicest, most welcoming people. Cheer people on and you will get the same. I struggled with my first two deadlift attempts because of how fatigued and dehydrated I was, but that didn’t stop a competitor from cheering me on when I finally got my 3rd attempt, locking me in for 2nd place.

And after all of that…here is the video of my August meet!

Keep kicking ass.


2 thoughts on “Your first powerlifting meet + check list!

  1. Hi Shauna, you are very inspirational! I’m preparing for my first meet ever at the age of 40. Does my handler have to be a member of USAPL?

  2. Hi Danielle – yes, they have to be a registered USAPL member (at least thats what the rules state!). I would register them just in case, you may see a deivation in state-run meets. Most of my state-run meets don’t check equipment, so they may be leinent on the handler membership.

    Congrats on your first meet!! When is it? You’ll have a BLAST!

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