by Erik Willis
Competing frequently is something I believe very strongly in. As of the writing of this article I have competed 21 times in the past 5 years, for an above average 4.2 meets a year. If you take out 2012 when I competed in my first meet and that’s it, that averages to 5 meets a year. Did I do a full on peak and taper for all of these meets? No, but I planned out which ones will be priorities and which ones I will do for fun.
This past spring I competed 3 times in 2 weeks, with back to back meets at the Toronto Pro Supershow doing both the 3-lift and bench only. The following week competed in my hometown of Ottawa, and made a PR total attempt on my 3rd deadlift. I had a lot of fun doing all these meets even if none of them were PR meets for me. This raises the question, why do I do this?
- I love competing. I powerlift so that I can compete. The thrill of competition, the excitement of getting the crowd going for a big third deadlift, the satisfaction of knowing that the training paid off.
- Gaining experience. Competing teaches you a lot about how you react under certain pressures. If you don’t know how these things feel then when it comes to a big meet like Nationals they may overwhelm you. A lot of people, myself included, get a lot of anxiety when it comes to meet day and I found I have gotten a much better grasp on the things after competing more frequently and developing a bit of a routine. It’s also much better to try new things at local meet then it is for Nationals when a spot on the Worlds team is on the line.
- Meeting new people. Going to meets and watching is one thing, but to be in the warm up room rubbing elbows creates more chances for friendship. Some of my closest friends are people I have competed directly against on a number of occasions. As an experienced lifters it also provides more chances to help new lifters figure things out. I recently explained to a new lifter why he got red lights on the deadlift, and what he needed to do on his next attempt to get it. He ended up getting 3 white lights and a much better meet experience.
- Added motivation. Signing up for a meet and setting specific goals for that meet has always helped really get focused in training. With nothing on the horizon it is really hard to find the motivation to get those high volume workouts in, but with a meet scheduled I find it much easier to get through those grueling workouts. Some people can get through those kind of workouts without anything coming up but I am not one of those people.
- A gauge of progress. Long periods of offseason can lead to some massive gains in strength, but you may not know exactly where your strength lies. Doing a mock meet is certainly a possibility, but you don’t get the added benefits of the above 4 reasons.
Now there are a number of different downsides to competing as frequently as I do. Obviously cost is a major factor with the meet fees, travel, and hotel. This is why I keep my big meets as travel meets, and my fun meets as smaller local meets with no travel or hotels. Besides that I love competing and it is something I am willing to pay to do.
Another downside is the lack of a real off season. Though this is partially moot if you and your coach periodize properly, there is nothing stopping you from dropping a Friday session and competing on the Saturday and then continuing your hypertrophy block as planned. Maybe you won’t hit 15kg PRs on all your lifts, but there is still experience to be had. You could also focus on a single lift, such as really bringing up your bench press. This is also a good strategy for when you are injured. The lack of squatting going into Nationals saved my shoulders and allowed me to train to a National Record bench press.
Do I recommend attempting 7 meets in the same year you get married? I am not sure yet, ask me when I make it through 2017!
Erik Willis is a 4-time Open National Champion. He’s also medaled at a number of international competitions including a Deadlift Bronze at 2016 Classic Worlds. Find him on IG at @erikwillis.