On Sunday 10th February 2013, I competed in the Great Britain Powerlifting Federation East Midlands Unequipped Powerlifting Championships 2013, at Letchworth Weightlifting Club. This was my first powerlifting event which I plan to write about in reasonable depth - some info may be obvious to some but useful to others, so bare with me.
Firstly, let's clarify the event. Powerlifting consists of 3 attempts at 3 lifts (so 9 lifts in total) - squat, bench press and deadlift. The unequipped means you are limited to wearing a lifting belt, wrist straps and knee sleeves, specifically singly ply neoprene (GBPF allow this in the unequipped / raw meets but other federations do not). I used the belt and wrist straps (for the bench press only), but not the knee sleeves.
I arrived at 9:30am on a rainy Sunday morning. First task was to weigh in - 78.9kg so comfortably in the 83kg class. This was where I thought I would be. To be honest it did not matter what class I was in. Coming into the event I knew where I was lifting wise, and I would not be breaking any records. For reference, the GBPF records for Senior (over 23) unequipped in the East Midlands division at this weight class are 200kg squat, 130kg bench press, 270kg deadlift and 600kg total, whereas my best total in training is about 2/3 of that. But this is the beauty of powerlifting - unless you are elite level, you are only chasing your best lifts and aiming to beat them, not beat records and other lifters.
Lifting commenced at 11am. I was in the second flight. Flights mix together certain weight classes and then work through all 3 attempts at a lift, then the next flight does their 3 attempts at a lift, then you move on to the next lift until all 3 lifts are complete. Thankfully 83kg was the heaviest weight within the first two flights - the 93kg class and above had to wait until 2pm before lifting!
I began with the squat. My best training lift was 142kg. I was hoping for 125kg, 140kg then an attempt at 150kg. I managed to get 125kg ok, then I failed at 140kg. I completed the lift but powerlifting is very strict on following commands. In the squat there are two - first one to commence the squat once the lifter is deemed in place and ready, and the second once the squat is complete prior to racking the bar. I finished the squat and began to rack the bar before I got the command, so got two red lights. You have 3 judges - one head judge face on, and one on each side. Each judge scores the lift white (good) or red (fail), and a good lift requires 2 out of 3 white lights (remind anyone of X Factor?!)
My confidence was a little knocked at this point. I did not want to try 150kg, fail and end up with a 125kg score, far from my best. So I ignored my ego and opted for a safer, yet still personal best attempt of 142.5kg, and thankfully got 3 white lights!
Next up as bench. As I train alone, I do not push the bench press as far as I possibly could. Lack of spotter means I adopt the "bounce" off the chest at the bottom of the bench, so I do not get stuck under the bar. In powerlifting, this is a no-no. The bar must touch the chest and come to a pause, before being given the command to press. This is a whole different ball game! My best bounced bench press in training as 90kg, but as I had to pause I opted to lower my opener from 80kg to 75kg, to ensure I got a lift on the board. 75kg was successful, so I went on to 85kg. This was much more difficult but I ground it out, just. I played safe and tried a third lift of 87.5kg, but I could not press it. A little disappointed but if I'm honest, 85kg was a good lift for me with the pause.
As an aside, powerlifters tend to adopt a very arched back when benching, so that only their shoulders and butt touch the bench. This is advantageous by reducing the range of motion, but also putting the bench press onto a slight simulated decline. I will need to learn to do this!
Last up was the deadlift. My best training lift was 175kg and a few times I have tried 180kg and I could not move it. This was therefore my goal today. First lift 155kg, was ok. Second lift 170kg was better. Third lift was 180kg and BOOM, nailed it thanks to the cheering in the crowd from my wife and brother. Very pleased.
This meant I had an overall total of 407.5kg, which I will happily take. In the under 83kg senior class, this put me in last place. However when I got my certificate I was told 4th (out of 4). There are no losers in powerlifting - hell I may have come last but I got some personal bests, and some great experience which will shape my training for the next few months and drive me to improve.
A few other points to note.
Thankfully this was a shorter day than at first thought. I began lifting at 11am and finished about 2pm. Food wise I ate a few bacon sandwiches - one before the squat and one before the deadlift. In between lifts I ate bananas, cereal bars, and drank coffee and sports drinks. I found it kept my energy levels high.
The warm up area was 3 areas which had 3 squat racks (prior to the squat), 3 benches (prior to the bench) and just a bar and weights (prior to the deadlift). Plenty of space, plenty of weight and good areas for prep.
The atmosphere was also great. There was a total of 37 lifters, of which there were maybe 8 or 9 in my flight. Lots of cheering from the crowd, encouragement from the other lifters, and overall a great day.
I'm now hooked, and will be thinking about my training over the next few months so I can beat this total and keep progressing. My goal by the end of 2013 is to get 455kg - this would equal 1001lbs. Is this too much of an aspiration? Maybe, but I'm going to damn well try to get there and smash some of my bests on the way!
I've had some ideas and have some questions after the meet, so I will endevour to write a short series of posts about these.
So, below is a video of my 9 attempts, 7 of which were good and 2 were fails. Enjoy!