A 10-second Google search can find about ten million pre-meet checklists. It’s really simple to make a list of food and equipment you might need on the big day. But the actual meet is only one day in what’s probably an 8, 12, or even 16-week training cycle.
It’s just as important — maybe more! — to make sure that you’re staying on track along the way. Here are seven things to ask yourself before you get deep into the trenches.
1. Am I healthy enough for meet prep?
This is the first question you should ask yourself because if you’re not healthy, then meet prep — or any serious training — is a non-starter. Injuries will hold you back more than anything else in the sport, and if you can’t train full-bore while you’re getting ready for a meet, then you’re not going to be able to build the confidence you need to perform on the platform.
Now, keep in mind that you need to be “healthy enough.” If you’re a powerlifter, you’re going to feel a little banged up some — maybe even most — of your competitive career, and that’s okay, as long as the issues you’re dealing with are manageable. If you’re a little sore getting out of bed in the morning — well, that’s part of the game. If you’ve got a herniated disc or torn muscle, that’s something you need to address before resuming intense training.
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No, not on this set, but I did give myself a nice #hamstring pull ten days ago. #bruised up real good but @kinetixbodyscience fixed me right up — read my approach to #rehab on @elitefts (LINK IN BIO)! I hit light #squats three days after hurting it and today nailed this 285×5 set with just a soft #neoprene belt (essentially #beltless, but with some extra #warmth for safety). @rehband #powerlifting
2. What are my goals for this meet?
Goals are your guideposts for meet prep. Without goals, you’ll often find yourself feeling lost somewhere around 4-6 weeks before the meet, and then when training really gets hard, 2-3 weeks later, it’s almost impossible to stay motivated and push through.
“Goals” don’t need to be numbers you want to hit on the platform. Your goal might simply be to put up a total, or to have a good time. In fact, those are both fantastic goals, no matter what your experience level is. But if you don’t have any goals, you need to set some.
3. Am I the strongest I could be right now?
This one is a little less crucial than the two questions above. I don’t think you necessarily need to be at your personal best to compete. However, I do think that it’s important to improve over time — ultimately, that’s what training is all about. If you’ve been recovering from a major injury, or if you’ve been doing meet after meet after meet without a break, and you haven’t made noticeable strength gains since the last time you competed, it might be worth reflecting a little on why you’re competing in the first place.
4. Do I have a plan to improve?
This one is simple. Yeah, it’s cliché, but if you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail. If it’s your first meet, your plan or program can be very basic. Otherwise, bust out the training journal and ask yourself two questions: first, what went right during your last meet prep? And second, what went wrong? If your training program doesn’t account for both those questions, you need to think about it a bit more before you get started.
5. How much stress do I have in my life right now?
I’ve written a lot about how physically and mentally stressful meet prep can be, and how your body doesn’t differentiate all that much between sources of stress. If you’ve got a lot on your plate at home, at work, or anywhere else, it might not be a great idea to add another significant stressor to your life.
6. Do I have a support system to help me deal with that stress?
No matter what, you need a support system if you want to be a successful lifter. Whether that’s a coach, a significant other, a training partner, or all of the above, your meet experience will be significantly more rewarding if you can share both the highlights and the low points with people you trust.
7. Am I excited to smash some weights?
At the end of the day, we lift weights for fun. And the more fun you have, the better you’ll perform — period.
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So that whole pec thing may have been a #falsealarm – feeling pretty damn good today with 295 beltless for 5 singles and a set of 5 in deadlifts. But honestly, injuries are often a #mindfuck just as much as a physical problem, and it’s always #bettersafethansorry 🤕 A week or two after a minor injury, you should be physically able to get back at it, but it can still be #scaryaf. Nothing wrong with that! Start too light, take it slow and controlled, and put yourself in an environment where you feel most comfortable. That’s why I hit up the #kinesiotape today and got @elevated_ape to spot me with all of 185 pounds, despite feeling zero pain or tightness in any movement. Take it slow, it’s not a race! (In case you’re wondering, I think I mistook a serratus spasm for a pec pull.)
If you can answer all of these questions, and still feel confident in your prep, chances are that it’s going to be a great one. On the flip side, if you can’t answer one or more of them, or if your answer is one that doesn’t “feel” all that great, you should make it a priority to address that before it’s too late!
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Feature image from @phdeadlift Instagram page.