Good Attempt Selection… It Will Set You Free: Part I
It’s surprising and saddening to me to see the results of some of the higher level powerlifting meets around the nation. There are more high level and excellent lifters out there than I could have ever imagined yet, and this is the part that saddens me, so many of them are failing to put together the performance they are capable of on the platform. It is becoming a rampant problem that these guys aren’t able to put up their best totals and it has nothing to do with their strength or lifting proficiency. You do all of this immensely hard work for months at a time with no competition only to show up and not perform to your expectation or ability. Take a minute to consider that on meet day you may be doing something wrong.
I’ve got news for you guys; just because you have a friend, or group of friends, who is very strong doesn’t mean that friend should be calling your attempts for you. There is a fair amount of research that has been done by world class coach Matt Gary which points toward the best totals almost always being put up by the people who make the most attempts. Matt is not all talk, either, he has spent roughly the last ten years collecting and analyzing data while practicing what he preaches coaching Team USA in international IPF competitions. I am very happy to have had the opportunity to learn from and befriend someone who I consider the best in the business.
So if making the most attempts will build you the best total, where is the disconnect here? Is it not our primary goal on the platform to build the best total possible? This is what powerlifting is all about. Being the best at a single lift doesn’t win you anything. Single lift PRs are something you can achieve in the gym. Do them there and leave your ego there with them. When it comes down to meet day we want for you to leave the platform knowing that you have achieved the best possible performance overall. This generally means that you shouldn’t be taking your PRs on your second attempts. The best totals win classes and the best Wilks win meets. Sometimes achieving these personal best totals and Wilks requires sacrificing a single lift PR in pursuit of the larger goal. People fail to grasp that by focusing all their desires and all of their effort on a particular squat, bench, or deadlift bench mark that they are on a swift and painful route to failure.
Your opening attempt, second attempt, and third attempt should all be planned in advance. If this isn't something you already think about before your meets then I suggest you immediately make this change. All three of these should have individual ranges that you're open to moving within based on how you're feeling that day. Opening your bench on 452 and missing your following two attempts on 496 is both less impressive and less effective than opening on 426 and finishing your third with 476. This is without mentioning that one of these two strategies is far more favorable in terms of competition performance. Matt says it well in that the winners of meets are not always the strongest lifters, and the strongest lifters aren't always the best lifters. Be the best competitive lifter you can by making the most lifts overall. A statistic, again from Matt Gary, shows that the best powerlifting competitors are seeing on average 7.4 out of 9 lifts completed per meet.
Just remember that the goal, first and foremost, is to lift the most weight in total. This will make you the most competitive within both your weight class and the competition as a whole. Second to that we can think about personal bests on individual lifts. And third to that we can involve strategy on chasing the lifts of another very close lifter to win your class. Prioritized in this order you will find that your more skillful attempt selection will bring you closer to where you want to be.
Coming up I will highlight some strategy to help you out on meet day. Check back and I hope that I’m able to help you put together the best performance you’ve had yet. You work too hard to get any less.
- Hani Jazayrli, TeamTSA Coach