Should You Hire a Handler for your First Powerlifting Meet?
Years ago, I remember showing up to my first powerlifting meet alone. It was a freaking NERVE RACKING experience and I was so nervous that when I submitted my first attempts, I gave them in pounds not kilos so they loaded the bar WAYYYY heavier than I was capable of lifting.
After a quick correction, they were kind enough to let me alter my attempts to the right format and I took my first and second attempts back to back.
My first powerlifting competition was near Toronto and the biggest upon reflecting on the meet, the biggest challenge that I had with the meet wasn’t a bad program leading into the meet, it wasn’t a poor understanding of the rules either.
The biggest problem I had was that I was trying to do too many things on meet day. Instead of showing up and lifting, I was trying to make sure I had enough food with me, gave in my attempts on time, warmed up at the right time, weighed in with the right information on hand, and so on.
In reality, I should have hired a handler.
A handler is someone who is there on meet day that will smooth out the process of meet day enough that you can pretty much just show up, lift and leave without having to worry about all the little details that make doing a meet so mentally draining.
So, how do you go about finding a good handler?
If you already have a local coach, they should be handling you on meet day as they will know you best. If not, your handler should meet these criteria:
- They have seen you lift at your best and worst
- Have competition experience as both a competitor and handler within the last 2 years IN THE FEDERATION YOU ARE COMPETING IN
- They have reviewed video footage of your lifts to know any quirks that might be particular to you in your technique
- Is generally someone you feel comfortable around, not nervous
Sometimes, an experienced training buddy can be a great handler for a meet. Other times, you might need to contact your local powerlifting federation to get a list of powerlifting clubs/coaches that they would suggest asking.
Once you find a good handler, you should talk with them about your personal criteria for success for your meet.
If it’s your first one, I’d recommend focusing less on hitting any PRs in your lifts, and instead, I’d propose focusing on:
- getting comfortable with the process of competing
- successfully completing at least 7 of your 9 attempts
- Avoiding Injury
- Remembering the commands for the lifts while you are on the platform
- embracing a “first of many” mindset with the meet, not a scarcity mindset
The above can serve as some example goals, but in a nutshell, you should keep in mind that if the goal is to compete in powerlifting long-term, that you should focus on getting good at the lifts and the act of competing first before worrying about the numbers side of things.
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