If you’ve been training regularly for a while, and have never considered or are on the fence about signing up for meet, do it. Sign up for that meet. First of all, you need to know that one of the best things you can do for your training is to sign up for a meet. Even if you’re a recreational lifter who’s training for general physical well-being, competing is something you should consider.
Over the years, I’ve seen how someone’s training benefits enormously when they sign up for a meet. After signing up, you can notice a shift in the person’s mindset and behaviour towards training – from normal training mode to training for competition mode.
While we’re not a powerlifting gym, there’s a lot of overlap between barbell strength training and powerlifting. So it’s pretty frictionless to transition from barbell strength training to competing in powerlifting.
When clients ask us if they should compete, we almost always say yes. However, more often, we actually have to encourage and persuade them to sign up.
What is holding you back from competing?
“But I’m not strong enough!”
People get hung up over their “low” numbers. As long as you can squat, bench press and deadlift 25 kgs (20kg competition barbell with competition collars) to competition standard, you can join a meet.
Of course, we won’t ask novices to compete when they’ve only been training for 3 months. That’ll be silly.
When we encourage you to compete, it’s only after we see that you’ve been training regularly for a while, and training is something of importance to you. And we certainly won’t encourage someone who regularly misses training, or someone that has certain health issues/injuries that we need to be conservative with.
But these are outlier cases. If you’re a regular lifter, you’ll likely never compete if you’re waiting till you’re “strong enough”.
“My numbers are not competitive”
I had a client who thought this way. He said that he would only start competing when he knew for certain that he could win. That’s silly.
Unless you’re genetically gifted, the chance of you winning at your first meet is very slim (unless you’re the only person in your category). This applies to almost every meet thereafter. The truth is, the average person is mostly competing against themselves.
So if someone says that they must be able to win before they consider signing up for a meet, what they mean is “I’m not going to win anyway, so why bother?” Yes, I do understand that everyone wants to win and nobody likes losing.
Yes, you could train till you’re able to outlift the winners of the previous meets, then sign up for the next meet. Yet, there’s still a chance that you’ll show up on meet day and be blown away by the competition. What happens then? The only way to accurately test if your numbers are competitive is to compete.
“I don’t have the time to train”
The vast majority of our clients already train between 2 – 3 times a week, which is adequate training frequency to prepare for a meet.
We do have a minority of clients who only train once a week, which isn’t optimal. But if once a week is all the time that they can afford to devote to training, we make sure that they understand the limitations. Once a week is way better than zero times a week. These are lifters whom we generally won’t encourage to compete, unless they’re able to increase their training frequency.
Training 2 – 3 times a week may not be sufficient to compete at a high level. But if this is all the time they can spare from their busy schedule, then this is what we have to work with.
But for everyone else, we have to do the best we can with what we have. This means adjusting your schedule for regular training, turning down events to get enough sleep, eating enough protein, cut down on drinking, etc. All these are lifestyle choices that you can make if you really want to.
It’s about prioritisation and time management. You may not necessarily need to train more frequently. For most people, working on their training regularity and improving their recovery strategies can already yield some pretty good gains.
“I can’t lift in front of everybody!”
Call it stage fright or performance anxiety; it happens to all of us.
But the truth is, when you’re out there on the platform and under the heavy bar, you get tunnel vision. The crowd gets blurred out. All you can focus on is you, the bar, and the judges’ commands.
At that moment, I can tell you that you won’t have the brain space to pay attention to what others are doing. But in any case, chances are that they won’t be poking fun at you or criticizing you. In fact, you’d be pleasantly surprised that the crowd and other lifters are most likely to be cheering you on when you’re lifting your attempts.
“I can’t wear a lifting singlet!”
Yes, you do have to wear a lifting singlet to compete. Yes, it’s body hugging, but this allows the judges to clearly see your body position in order to judge the movement.
Beyond that, nobody cares. They’re all more concerned about themselves and their own lifts. Also, everyone is wearing a singlet anyway, so you’re going to blend in well.
Over the years, I’ve handled a number of Masters clients in local and international meets and notice that the people we’ve met are generally friendly and supportive. Maybe because it’s a smaller community with other lifters from a similar demographic (Masters lifters doing what most people think they can’t do “at their age”). If you’re a new lifter, you’ll very likely receive encouragement and cheers when you’re pushing yourself on the platform.
Nowhere does anyone pay attention to how you look in your singlet.
Atul: training to meet strength and bodyweight goals
Atul had always been a skinny dude, with the goal of gaining both bodyweight and strength. He made good progress through regular training and changes to his eating habits, but found himself getting stuck after a while. His strength would still make progress but getting his bodyweight up required consistent attention to diet that he wasn’t quite able to commit to.
Last year, Atul competed in 2 meets – a local meet, which then qualified him to compete in an international meet. Competing in these 2 meets made him diligent and focused in his diet and training. As a result, he made very good progress and became the strongest and heaviest he’d ever been.
But after the meet, life happened – work got busy, social events, yadda yadda yadda. His diet started to slip and his bodyweight dropped. This went on for a few months.
Earlier last month, Atul signed up with his father in law for Hygieia’s upcoming powerlifting meet in May. With a meet on the horizon, it’s as if a switch was flipped in his head. Since then, Atul’s been doing his best to adjust his work schedule so that he can train regularly, he’s paying a lot more attention to his diet, and he’s even changed travel plans so that he can compete. Unsurprisingly, his strength and bodyweight are both getting back up.
Pat: training for the joy of competition
Since we’re not a powerlifting gym, almost nobody comes to us because they want to compete. Usually, clients want to train for various strength, health or quality of life reasons.
But sometimes, as they get stronger, they decide to give competing a shot (maybe with
a bit a lot of encouragement from us). Even for some who think it’s “not for them”, trying out a meet opened new doors.
Pat first started at our gym because her doctor recommended she train to help her osteoporosis. Over time, she got stronger, managed to reverse her diagnosis, and started competing in our little strengthlifting meets at Hygieia.
She then went on to compete in powerlifting meets. And, unexpectedly, a spark was lit. She realised that she loved it. She carried on competing, and last year broke the Asian record for the deadlift for her age/weight category.
5 reasons why you should compete
You’ll increase your commitment to training
Just about everyone wants to do their best at a meet (otherwise why sign up?). It sets higher standards, where you commit to train consistently, eat properly, and sleep sufficiently.
These fundamentals are important, but not normally prioritised, especially the recovery bit. Most lifters get the additional mental strength to push themselves through hard training sessions when they know that they’re prepping for a meet. Some may sign up to motivate themselves to return to training – the meet becomes an incentive to get their asses back under the bar.
You’ll optimise for better progress
When you put in more effort to training and recovery, you’ll definitely see progress because your behaviour is aligned to what is needed for your training to improve. With evidence of progress, you’ll get further motivated to continue said behaviour.
This creates a positive feedback loop, where progress inspires the behaviour and habits that continually support further progress.
While we try to get our clients as strong as possible with or without a meet, having an end-goal to work towards helps give you that extra shove. It’s exciting to see your numbers go up – who knows what they can lift by the time the meet rolls around?
You’ll improve your mental strength
Your limits are seldom what you think they are. Preparing for a meet will take you out of your comfort zone, and test your mental strength. You’ll be lifting weights beyond the limits you’ve set for yourself, while learning how to calm your nerves under stress.
At the same time, training is delayed gratification – it’s hard work now, and you won’t see the fruits of your labour till much later. By participating in this endeavour, you’ll strengthen your mental muscle.
Regardless of how you perform in the meet, you’ll take away a ton of mental strength and the ability to do hard stuff even if you don’t always want to.
Find out what you’re made of
It sounds cliche, but for the most part, you’re competing against yourself. You join to overcome your own limitations.
If you succeed beating your previous PRs, you’ve already beaten your past self. And success is addictive – what else can you do? How much more can you lift the next time round?
And who knows? After a while, your lifts might become competitive.
You’ll find your community
Meets are generally friendly events of likeminded people. Where else can you bond with others who share your passion for lifting?
Learn from other lifters, make new friends, and cheer for those who are competing. Meets are wonderful community events, and the friendliness, adrenaline rush and intensity of feeling on the platform will inspire your training for a long time.
There’s never a perfect time. Just do it.
Still don’t think competing is for you? Give it a shot – if you don’t like it, never do it again. But you might find that you like competing.
Sign up for a small meet that’s less intimidating. Prior to Covid, we used to hold small meets at Hygieia a few times a year. (We even held an “online meet” during Covid restrictions!) If you’re already training with us, you know it’s a small, fun and friendly meet.
If you’re uncomfortable about performing in front of others or wearing a lifting singlet, how about doing your own “meet”? Plan with your coach for an individual “meet” or PR testing day. Do it at your usual gym or home gym, and wear your usual clothes. Just set a date and start training towards it.
Find a friend to compete against. If you’ve got a gym buddy, set up your own friendly competition.
You might never feel ready. But take that leap of faith. Just do it and level yourself up. Your future self will look back and wonder why you ever hesitated to compete.
Our upcoming powerlifting meet, sanctioned by Powerlifting Singapore and the first Masters-only meet in Singapore, will be held on the 28th of May ’23 at our gym. Join us!