weight lifting, weight training

Lessons from My First Strength Lifting Meet

On April 20, I drove to Wichita Falls, Texas for a strength lifting meet sanctioned by the United States Strength Lifting Federation.

Strength lifting is different from powerlifting in that instead of bench press being the upper body lift, the USSF uses a strict shoulder press. Deadlifts must be conventional. And competitors weigh out instead of in. I competed in one powerlifting meet in high school, but that was a long time ago.

Each lifter has three attempts each for squat, press, and deadlift. The lifter with the highest total wins.

Here are some things I learned.

  1. No one feels “strong enough.”

Everyone there, from the nine-year-old who only pressed the bar, to the 240 pound thirty-year-old who deadlifted over 700 pounds, knows they can be stronger. At the same time, everyone who attempted a lift, no matter how light, had the respect of all the other lifters.

  1. Powerlifters are a friendly group.

Guys who lifted twice as much as me clapped and congratulated me on each of my lifts. Everyone rooted for everyone else. The competition was more about each person becoming better than about winning. People who had never met before that day shared food and equipment, warmed up together, and took pictures and videos for each other.

  1. Weight classes are not to be fretted over.

It’s common knowledge that it’s best not to cut weight to get into a lower weight class. I knew that, and I didn’t. When I signed up, I weighed 198, which was the top weight for the 198 weight class (90 kilos). If I weighed 199 at the meet, I’d be in the same class as the guys who weighed 220. So, instead of eating like crazy, which I should have done, I did my best to maintain my weight. It worked, but it turns out I’d have placed higher in the heavier class. That doesn’t matter. My point is, I shouldn’t have given it any thought to begin with.

  1. Singlets suck.

All lifters in all federations must compete in a singlet. I know, because I searched for a federation that doesn’t require one. Don’t know what a singlet is? They’re the one-piece stretchy suits that wrestlers wear. My wife calls them onesies.

I already knew that singlets suck. What I didn’t know is that most lifters wear a wrestling singlet instead of a powerlifting singlet because the former covers more of your leg and is more stylish. When you step onto the platform to squat over 400 pounds, you have enough to worry about without being self-conscious because you are a man with large white legs in a one-piece bathing suit.

The videos show me trying to pull the legs down before walking on the platform to lift. That’s all I’ll say about singlets.

  1. Choosing the right weight is half the battle.

I had a plan for my squats, stuck with it, and nailed it. On shoulder press, I stuck with my plan until the third lift. Because it’s my weakest lift, my ego got in the way and I attempted a weight that was too heavy. It was the one lift out of nine that I missed. On deadlift, I again stuck with the plan for the first two lifts, but because the 2nd felt heavy, I was too conservative on the third and could have lifted heavier. Had I stuck with my original plan and got all nine lifts, I would have won the master’s division. (There were only three men in the master’s division, but that’s beside the point.)

  1. It’s scary to step on a platform.

When the platform manager says, “Bar’s loaded,” and calls your name, the room gets quiet. Not only are you trying to lift something heavy, but there are judges, spectators, and video cameras. It’s scary to walk up there. Especially in a singlet.


The meet was a good experience and gave me definite goals to work for. Also, I have a more accurate idea of how strong I am, and I know where I need to improve. I can’t wait for the next one.

About Nowhere Tribune

A husband and daddy, striving to love his neighbors and be kind to his pets. I love good food, good beer, and a few good friends. My other interests are hiking, taking walks, lifting weights, reading books by manly authors like Hemingway and Twain, and splitting fire wood with my bare hands.


27 thoughts on “Lessons from My First Strength Lifting Meet

  1. You’re such a tease. Where’s the video? Women have been tugging and adjusting bathing suits for years, would have been nice to see a man have to for a change.
    Glad you had a good experience. My BIL used to lift, was top in his age group for the state for many years. Me? It’s all I can do to carry the bird seed bag in from the car.

    Posted by rivergirl1211 | April 25, 2019, 8:10 pm
  2. Perhaps another reason to maintain your weight is that you wouldn’t want a singlet that’s too tight or too loose. Nice effort, and I hope you have better luck at your next meet.

    Posted by Tippy Gnu | April 25, 2019, 9:07 pm
  3. Sounds intense! But that is so cool that everyone was friendly and supportive! Do we get to see photos of you in the singlet? Hehe! Congrats on doing so well !

    Posted by pkadams | April 25, 2019, 9:45 pm
  4. Glad you had a good experience. The support part would keep me going back.

    Posted by Darnell Cureton | April 26, 2019, 1:16 am
  5. I’m glad you did well and had fun! I’m also glad everyone here is talking about the singlets.

    Posted by Shayne | April 26, 2019, 10:06 am
  6. Sounds great! And I got a good laughs about the singlet 😂 it would be amazing to get good enough at strength training to consider competing but I’m rather lazy. Anyway, I keep encouraging some members of my family to enter competitions but they never do! Can I ask what made you enter the meet? (Wait… is a meet a competition?? I’ve no idea :\) great read anyway!

    Posted by Diandra Francesca | April 27, 2019, 4:05 am
    • Thanks! Yes, a meet is a competition. I’d been wanting to do one for a couple of years, now. Mainly to see how much I could lift in that kind of setting–to see what I could do. It was fun. You should train and then do it if you think it would be cool. Lots of ladies do!

      Posted by Nowhere Tribune | April 27, 2019, 6:34 am
      • How do you train? Did you get a trainer or was your schedule/eating designed by you? And haha, maybe! Might wait until I’m back in the UK though!

        Posted by Diandra Francesca | April 27, 2019, 6:40 am
      • I won’t tell you how long ago I started training, because I don’t want you to know how old I am. 😉 But I have been doing this for a while. Mostly alone for the last several years, but in the month leading up to the meet, my lifting buddy also happened to be a strength coach, so he did give me some encouragement and some pointers. Most personal trainers really don’t know much about lifting for true strength, though. If you’re interested, send me an email and I will respond with a couple of really good plans. On eating for strength, you just eat a lot of good food–especially protein and veggies.

        Posted by Nowhere Tribune | April 27, 2019, 6:59 am
      • Sure! Is your email on your main page? Thanks 🙂 and protein! Vegan me struggled to get above 30g a day actively trying to eat more of it!

        Posted by Diandra Francesca | April 27, 2019, 7:28 am
      • Yes it is–on the contact tab. Or, johnbird321@att.net 30g isn’t much, Diandra. My goal is a gram per pound of bodyweight, so that’s about 200g for me. I rarely hit it, though.

        Posted by Nowhere Tribune | April 27, 2019, 7:31 am
  7. I went the Olympic weightlifting route for a few years, in training. Competed maybe twice? Because that platform… I still have nightmares. At my first comp, my coach actually asked me if I was ok, because she’d never seen anyone look so pale :/ Turns out I like lifting heavy things only when no one’s watching! All that aside, good work on getting through your first meet! And good luck with the single 😉

    Posted by Erin Haske | April 27, 2019, 11:34 pm
  8. This sounds like a lot of fun! Of course, my kind of fun is more of the kind “going to a café with my parents and lifting a fork containing pie”, but hey, to each their own…

    Also, singlet. Because I’m pretty sure it’s a rule to mention it on every comment now! 🙂

    Posted by Jay | May 7, 2019, 7:47 pm

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