Winning Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection Strategy Revealed

WRITTEN BY Martijn Koevoets

(Image credits go to Ted Sandeen and 22nd Street Barbell)

Today I want to share with you how I pick my attempts at raw powerlifting meets to practically guarantee I will set a PR every time. And how you can do it too.

This approach enables me to achieve a personal record at virtually every meet I do. And at the very least I will never bomb out.

But the beauty of what I’m about to tell you and you can also use it in the gym when setting new PRs. But since this is Powerlifting University, we’ll talk about how you can apply to this powerlifting meet attempt selection when competing in a raw powerlifting meet. Watch the video below.

[VIDEO] Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection

At every kind of powerlifting meet you have three attempts to make the lift and to lift the most weight you can.

you have an opener, a second attempt, and a third attempt.

Normally, your third attempt will be the heaviest and one where you want to set a PR.

Today I will walk you through the warm-up all the way to right up until the last set.

Let’s get started. Let me tell you how I set a PR practically every time I want to.

A Word On Warm-ups

I’m not a big fan of huge, elaborate warm ups. C’mon. You know how to squat. You know how to bench. You know how to deadlift.

There’s no need for me to warm up with the bar for 25 reps, then put on the smallest plates you can find, and then do another 30 reps.

No, you want to save my energy for when it counts and that’s when you want to set a PR.

In total you will be doing 8 sets. From warm up to 1RM. All sets with low reps.

Start out with a set of, let’s say, 45%, 47.5% or 50%. Do 5 to 8 reps with that. Then move on, and go to 52.5% or something like that, and do 3 to 5 reps.

Third set, still warm up, 60%, 62.5% or 65% and do 2 to 3 reps.

So not a lot of reps, just getting used to movement again. Getting your body and CNS prepared for the movement. Work out any stiffness, just preparing to squat.

There’s no need to go heavy or do lot of reps.

Now on the fourth set, start doing singles. On the fourth jump to 70%.

Do one rep, done, boom.

After that, fifth set. Do 80%.

One rep, done, boom.

And now have done five sets. That’s your warm-up, and it’s done.

Attempt Selection Where It Matters

Powerlifting Meet Selection - Powerlifting BlogPowerlifting Meet Attempt Selection: Opener

During a powerlifting meet you will have 3 attempts to set a PR.

I know that most people will say something like take 90% of your one rep max or 90% of your projected weight and start with that.

Or open with a weight that you can do three reps comfortably in the gym.

I’m not a big fan of that because 90% for me is still a little too heavy. 90% is about a weight I can make, but if I have a bad day it will feel heavier than I would like to.

You want to know a little secret?

Nobody cares what you lift on your first lift.

I could open with one plate a side and go back to the warm up area, do the rest of my warm up, come back and put on four or five plates a side. And that is what gets on the record boards.

Nobody cares about your opener, so don’t worry about it. Go lower than 90% on your 1st attempt. Maybe go 87.5%.

It’s 2.5% lower than 90%, it’s not a lot but it’s still enough to give you the confidence that you can hit that weight any day any time. So that’s what I recommend you do.

Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection: 2nd Attempt

After that you can make a fairly large jump of 7.5% to 95%. The second attempt will be 95% off the projected weight you want to lift on your third attempt.

The second attempt is just to build your total. Just to keep next to the guys that you’re chasing or just to make sure you have a good total on the boards.

If you’re in a  in a powerlifting meet and you’ve made your first lift, then all your stress should be gone. You’re  in.

Now you don’t want to fuck that up by going too heavy on your second attempt and leave an enormous gap between you and the next guy you’re competing against.

So on the second attempt go to 95%, it’s a weight you can hit. Even on a bad day you should be able to hit it. You might be done afterwards, but you should be able to hit that 99% of the time. So that’s that.

Now it’s time for your third attempt, and the third should be a PR.

Powerlifting Attempt Selection - Powerlifting Blog

Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection: 3rd Attempt

If it’s squats or benches, then I still wouldn’t go crazy because you still need some energy for your deadlifts in a powerlifting meet. So I recommend to be a little bit conservative.

But the third deadlift attempt is 100% balls to the walls, all out. Most of the time I will make it, and I will pick my 100% of that day based on my previous records or what I did in the gym.

But if you’re doing, let’s say, 200kg / 405lbs as the heaviest in the gym then I wouldn’t go 220 on your third in your competition unless you are really, really, ridiculously confident.

Anyway, I just walked you through how I warm up and how I set a record in the gym or at a meet.

Let me give you a quick summary on how I do my powerlifting meet attempt selection.

Warm up: don’t do a ton of reps, don’t do a ton of sets. Try to limit my warm up sets to 5 sets.

Calculate down from 100% back to and 50%. 00% is the 1RM I can realistically hit that day. Not 100% of my previous PR or not 100% of some other magic number, it’s 100% of what I can realistically make that day.

For your opener or two sets out of your final PR set, go a little bit lower than 90%.

I would go 87.5%. It’s a weight you can always make, and that’s what you want.

You don’t want to have any doubt in your mind on a stressful day like a powerlifting meet if you can make your opener.

Powerlifting Meet - Powerlifting Blog

Nobody cares about your opener so just get in, get it done, and you’ll feel a lot better if you made it.

On your second attempt you can go to 95% just to build your total.  Just to keep next to your competition, and then for third go to 11. Go broke at 100%.

If it’s bench and deadlift, I will still make sure I will hit it.

I wouldn’t go too crazy about it, but on third deadlifts…  It’s on!

That’s the lift you can go crazy unless you just want to make sure you’re placed. Then you got to play the game a little bit more.

This is how I suggest you do your powerlifting attempt selection.

I hope you liked this blog about Winning Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection Strategy Revealed.

Hopefully this helps you with any upcoming powerlifting meets.

Feel free to tweet, tag and share if you enjoyed this article.


Author: Martijn Koevoets
Martijn is head honcho of Powerlifting University, a powerlifter, author, blogger, online coach & extreme metal aficionado. He also loves a good whiskey. He has been featured on websites like EliteFTS, JTSStrength, JMAX Fitness and more.

Get your hands on my cheat sheet for setting up training programs that took a 132lbs. skinny weakling from not being able to bench the bar to deadlifting 3x his own body weight and winning silver at the nationals.



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