Should You Expect to Win at Your 1st Powerlifting Competition?

Is winning your first powerlifting meet a realistic expectation? What should you plan to do at your debut meet?

Doing your first powerlifting competition can be a very exciting experience.

Back in the day, you used to be able to sign up for a powerlifting meet a couple weeks beforehand by mail (and a cheque enclosed in the envelope).

Things are a little different now. Here in Vancouver, BC, we see a lot of meets get posted up on the BC Powerlifting website every year. When registration opens for those powerlifting competitions, they commonly fill up in less than 10 minutes. If you’re slow to the punch, sometimes you can get put on a wait list and get lucky.

The increase in the popularity in the sport of powerlifting has been really interesting to watch over the last 10 years or so since the ease of access to good quality information has never been better. In today’s article, I’d like to highlight some common expectations I try and set for lifters that I work with who are preparing to compete for the first time.

Of course, not everyone’s goals will align perfectly with this, but this should serve as a good starting point for most aspiring powerlifters, with the most important point to focus on as you get your first prep underway – in my professional opinion.

By far, the #1 idea to consider when you sign up for a powerlifting meet is to ask yourself the question: “What do I need to accomplish on meet day for me to be happy with my first powerlifting competition?”.

As simple as the above is, it can be hard to avoid falling back on some seemingly default answers of “huge PRs”, “1st place”, “national record”, etc.

While there’s nothing wrong with being a really competitive individual, often lifters will self-impose a TON of internal pressure when they put these goals in there due to the artificial sense of urgency that the above creates.

As a powerlifting coach and a lifter who has been competing for over half of my life now, I can offer a bit of perspective on the matter.

Imagine how funny it would look to train your face off for a beer-league baseball game and then celebrate some huge victory after crushing the competition. On the other hand, that same level of super hardcore training and aggressive celebration might be more warranted if you had just won the national baseball championship, right?

Training for your first meet is no different.

Everybody’s first competition is what’s called an “open” competition. There is no qualifying total. You can literally sign up and lift 50 lbs on each lift. Don’t get me wrong, there can plenty of strong people there, but you’re in the shallow end of the pool still.

So, instead of thinking of “crushing the competition on meet day” at your first comp, I’d recommend focusing on a few of the following instead with the idea that this first meet is the “first of many” rather than anything else:

  • going getting 7, 8 or 9 successful attempts
  • not missing any commands
  • getting used to the timing of a competition day
  • MAYBE hitting a small PR on your lifts

Once you’ve reached a level of competitiveness where you can obtain a “qualifying total” (QT) that would let you compete at the state/provincial level, then I’d suggest putting more weight into chasing podiums and records since you’re starting to compete against the “big dogs” at that point. There are no controls at an open meet for who shows up – sometimes you get world-level lifters there, sometimes it’s all newbies. At the state/provincial level and up, all of those meets have a required QT so the field is automatically more competitive.

So, the evolution of your powerlifting goals could look something like this:

  • Start out with:
    • getting used to the PROCESS of competing,
    • no major focus on numbers in comp,
    • disregard weight classes and focus on building overall strength,
  • Progress to:
    • hitting PRs,
      • getting strong enough to reach a state/provincial QT
  • Long term:
    • hit state/provincial/national (or even world) records,
      • If you can do this in a lower weight class, consider a water cut
    • podium finishes,
    • build to a national QT (or even qualify for worlds)

Adding all the extra pressure of hitting PRs, chasing podiums, etc is simply unnecessary for most lifters at their first meet since they probably don’t even have the strength to accomplish those goals in the first place if they are new to the sport. Instead, those goals should be more mid to long term targets for their training as they become more experienced in the sport of powerlifting.

PS – Here’s 3 ways I can help you:

1. Join the Powerlifting Unlimited Community for a free copy of my Powerlifting Competition Tool. 


2. Follow me on Instagram (@strongeryoupt) for free lifting advice, programs and more powerlifting content.


3. Apply to join my “Momentum Program” and become a case study. We’ll work with you 1-on-1 (in-person or online, depending on location) to consistently increase your PRs.

It takes less than 60 seconds to apply HERE in order to find out more information and see if you’d be a good fit.