One of the most important skills you can have in powerlifting, is the skill of attempt selection…… yet I see so many poor attempt selections every competition I hold, from lifters, and coaches.

In most cases, a lifter often falls in one of 4 categories. 

  • Pessimist. 
  • Neutral. 
  • Over zealous. 
  • Trusting 

As a coach, one of the biggest jobs I have is managing a lifters expectations, to ensure we hit the biggest total we can on the day. 

A pessimist will be quite happy to sell themselves short in fear of failing a lift, and It takes a lot of work to get them to believe they can hit the numbers I want them to hit. 

They can make our day hard through self doubt and little confidence. 
Generally their total will be a bit lower then what we could have hit. 

A neutral lifter is a better lifter to handle then a pessimist, but generally isn’t too invested in their attempts. Obviously this makes my job hard because if their not invested into their attempts, how can they give it 100%? 

An over zealous lifter, the lifters which is the hardest to handle, and generally the lifter I always end up in arguments with when they try to override my attempt calls. This is the lifter that leaves kilos on the platform through missed attempts. 

A trusting lifter is the best lifter a good coach can ask for, and luckily is the lifter I get to coach most. 
A trusting lifters never questions a called attempt, believes they can get the attempt, and is 100% invested. 

So how do we actually pick the attempts? 
Do you open at a kilo or a percentage or your current max? Maybe. 
What about for a second? Just under/over your current max so you can walk away with a new PB? Maybe. 

It really depends on what you want to get out of the comp. 

The goal for my lifters is to place as high as possible, whether that’s first, or ninth. 

The first thing you need to decide is your opening attempt. 
Obviously, this will be below your current max. Somewhere around 92% is a good place to look, or something you can hit for a solid double. 

What about your second and third attempt though? 

The only thing that matters, is the bar speed from your opening attempt. 
Was it fast? Go up by a lot. 
Was it slow? Go up by a smaller jump. 

That’s literally the only thing that matters. 

I don’t care what you did at your last comp, not in the gym. You need to take what’s there on the day if you want to achieve the biggest total you can. 

If everything goes smooth on your opener, you always want the jump to be significantly bigger from your first to second, then your second to third; especially on the squats and deadlifts. 

So many times I see people add 20kg from their first to second attempt, then 20kg (or worse 30kg) from their second to third…….. and miss. 

If you want to add 40kg from your opener to your third, do it in a 25+15, or better yet, 30+10.

If we compare 2 lifters with the same goal, but different attempts, we can see how drastically it changes their total.  

Best lifts are 220/142.5/270

Jess 
180-200-220x – Best squat 200kg. 
125-135-145x – Best bench 135kg. 
220-250-280x – Best deadlift 250kg
Total 585kg. 

Terry 
192.5-212.5-220x – Best squat 215kg. 
130-140-145x – Best bench 140kg 
247.5-272.5-280x – Best deadlift 272.5kg
Total 625kg. 

As you can see, both lifters had the same PB’s at the start of the meet, both lifters took, and missed their thirds, but Terry out totaled Jess by 40kg because he was much smarter with this selections. 

40kg can be the difference between 1st and 16th place. 

Do you not feel confident in taking that big of a jump between your 1st and 2nd? Train it.
Take progressively bigger jumps in your warm ups to prepare you for comp day. 

The biggest piece of advice I can give you though, is get a quality coach. 
Don’t just settle for the local PT, find a powerlifting coach, one who has experience in comps. 

Look at the success rate of their lifters. Are they going 8 or 9 out of 9? Or 4 from 9? If it’s the latter…… maybe see who else is around. 

At the recent Busta-Nut8, my guys went 45/45. All hit PB’s, all hit their total goals, all placed as high as they could have, and all walked away without injury.

That’s a successful day out. 

If you don’t have a coach, and can’t find a coach, try and get a reliable training partner that can help you with attempt selections. 

I know for myself a 180kg squat, and a 295kg squat both fell heavy! 
Obviously the 180kg squat moves faster, and a set of eyes watching me, can tell me how fast, and how much I should add for the next attempt. 

Hopefully this small write up will help a lot of newer coaches and lifters, and you can start maximizing those totals! 

Until the next one, 

Stay strong,
Scott Wasson. 
Valhalla Strength – Head Coach