By Jaime Rice
20 weeks ago I began exclusively training for powerlifting, switching from a bodybuilding program. The past 20 weeks were both challenging and fun trying to get improve my form while building over all strength.
All my training and hard work came to fruition on December 5, when I competed in my first sanctioned USPA Powerlifting Meet. It was more rewarding and fun than I could have imagined!
If you have never been to a powerlifting meet, it’s definitely an experience. Brightly colored singlets, superhero deadlift socks, beards and donuts were everywhere. Lifters of all ages, shapes and sizes show up to lift heavy with the never-ending support of the crowd. The youngest lifter was 13 and the oldest was 65! It was so awesome seeing a sport that has such a wide range of ages and a category for each and everyone of them.
Powerlifting requires slightly different attire than an NPC bodybuilding show. Instead of my blinged-out bikini, stage tan, makeup, and heels, I wore a singlet (I refer to as my onesie) and Chuck Taylor’s. I have to admit I love how quickly I can get ready for a powerlifting meet vs Bikini, much more my style.
My weekend started with my weigh in at 5:30pm that Friday night at the weigh in. I want to compete in the 123LB/57KG weight class because it’s easier for me to maintain a 120-125LB weight year round. The next weight class down is 114LB and truthfully I don’t want to do what’s necessary to cut that weight.
I only used water manipulation and no cheats the week prior to make sure I weighed in under 123.5 or 57kg. I had no issue, weighing in at 120 (53kg) thus, solidifying my choice to stay in the 123.5. After the weigh-in, I ate pasta and bread for dinner to load up on my carbs and prepare my body for the heavy lifting the next.
The meet started right at 9:00am and women lifted first, first up was the squat. I was about the 7th lifter, lift position depends on your opening weight. My coach had picked my openers and second lift attempts. He also gave me suggestions for my third lift depending on how the others felt. This was key for me! Otherwise I would have been lost and opening with way too much weight, probably wearing myself out.
There are three judges; one positioned in front of the lifter and two on either side of the lifter. Each is responsible for watching the lift and making sure the lifter follows the commands and hits all the points in each lift. The judges are in control of a light- red and white. If they think the lift is good then you will get a white light- if the lift is bad then the dreaded red light will pop up. Two white lights means the lift is good. Two or more red lights and the lift is bad and will not count towards overall total.
I opened with 220LB which felt really easy and good. Based on that my second lift was 225LB which was also good. My third lift I decided to for a new PR (personal record) of 236LB. I unracked the bar and walked the weight out, waited for the Squat command and got all white lights! I can’t explain how gratifying it is to lift more than twice your weight!
Now I waited. The men had to lift and this took some time. After about 2 hours we were up again for bench. I hit all three lifts of my lifts and all white lights! Third lift was 132LB, not a PR but I didn’t think I could get 137LB due to how my second lift felt.
More waiting after bench and another 2-3 hours later it was deadlift time! First and second attempt were too easy, the judges even told me to go way up in weight so I went for it! I debated between 248LB and 253LB. Either would be a new PR, but if I missed it then I would not get my goal, which was to get an overall total of 600LB. I decided to go conservative for my first meet – which was really hard for me! I stepped up to the bar took a deep breath and grabbed the bar. It went up fairly easy and kicked myself for not going for 253LB, but I had a great new PR! I ended with an overall total of 616LB and went 9/9 on my lifts!!
During the meet I met some really cool and interesting people. My favorite lifters were a husband and wife team competing in the 62-69 year old age range, and they killed it! It was amazing watching how everyone rallied around them during each lift- competitors, judges and spectators all cheering. The support for each lifter struggling for the new PR (personal record) was incredible.
I was the only female competing in the 123.5LB open raw weight class, which means I won my class. Even though I only competed against myself, I did better than I ever had and was able to measure my success based on past performance.
One of the biggest differences between NPC bodybuilding and powerlifting is I am able to measure my success/failure. In bodybuilding what the judges looked for could change from show to show. Some judges prefer the bikini girls to be more conditioned and hard while others like a softer look. The hard part was trying to figure out how the judges wanted you to look on a given day. This means 14 plus weeks of training for a particular look could mean nothing if the judge wanted to look the other way. It was all very subjective and very hard to “improve” in a sport where you don’t know what the standard is.
With powerlifting, I either lift the weight properly or I don’t. That is all! Add the fact that I can be more balanced with my diet year round and get stronger, to me its a no brainer- this is my sport! I am also out to prove that I can lift heavy weight and not turn into a bulky man beast like some still believe will happen. There are plenty of 104LB women out there that can deadlift 300LBs and they are tiny! Ladies lifting heavy does not make you bulky, it makes every aspect of your overall fitness better!.
I will always have a special place for bodybuilding and may compete again. For now I am a powerlifter and cant wait to hit new PR’s and show that I am not strong for a girl, but just strong.
All three of my lifts