In preparing for a powerlifting meet, I have seen lots of overthinking, overworking, and over-stressing when it comes to people figuring out how to setup their training cycle to perform the best on competition day. Even athletes that aren’t powerlifters, or aren’t competitors on stage can benefit from this system, designed to maximize each training day. This system is not only simple to understand, it’s also easy to implement, and works like a charm every time. I call it the 3, 2, 1, 0 Meet Countdown.
The first piece of the countdown has the athlete focus on dialing in what they are going to attempt at a meet. They are required to define those numbers (or close to them) in advance of the meet. It is important for a lifter to have these numbers defined so they are not second guessing their attempts on competition day. This allows them to focus on their performance. There is enough pressure on the day of the meet, so anything you can solidify beforehand has a positive effect. The less the athlete has to worry about, the better. This is accomplished by the following progression:
3 weeks out – Lifter attempts the planned 3rd attempt at the meet / max attempt
2 weeks out – Lifter works up to planned 2nd attempt at the meet
1 week out – Lifter works up to planned 1st attempt (opener) at the meet
0 weeks out – Week of meet, lifter makes zero attempts until day of meet
The second piece of the countdown manages the workout volume leading into the meet. Combined with the overload and then deload in maximal attempts listed above, we begin the “realization” phase. The realization phase is when you deload in a manner that your central nervous system (CNS) and muscles recover at a greater rate than the fatigue induced by the increased workload. It is important that this is timed correctly so you don’t also begin to lose the training response from your workouts that has developed your strength levels. When applied properly, the realization phase allows you to realize your full potential strength without being overcome by CNS and muscle fatigue.
The second piece to the countdown is, again, mind-numbingly simple and easy to implement. In a typical training session, I let my athletes do no more than three assistance exercises per training session following their core lift (a recent article by Nick Horton articulates this fairly well, albeit he does three total per session where we do a core lift followed by three assistance).
3 weeks out – Lifter continues using 3 assistance exercises after core lift
2 weeks out – Lifter drops to 2 assistance exercises after core lift
1 weeks out – Lifter drops to 1 assistance exercises after core lift
0 weeks out – Week of the meet, the lifter does zero assistance exercises and only light stretching
And there you have it, the 3, 2, 1, 0 Meet Countdown