Attempt Selection for Powerlifting Meets

So you’re finally ready for your meet. You’ve trained tirelessly for months and have only nine attempts to show off all that you’ve worked for.  Don’t waste that time and effort by planning your attempts wrong. There is nothing more heart-breaking than seeing someone bomb out by missing one of their opening attempts because they set their openers too high. The second worst thing is having to leave a meet knowing you’ve left pounds on the platform because your third attempts were set too low.

This article will teach you the basics of understanding how to plan your attempts at a meet so you can show off all the hard work you’ve been putting in during your training. My recommendation is to start by setting projections for third attempts, making a smart choice for your second attempts, and making sure you set very reasonable first attempts.


What is your current one rep max in the gym? How long ago was it?  If you know your current one rep max it can be used as a helpful guideline for your third attempt.  Typically in a meet, you want your third attempt to be something equal to or slightly higher than your current gym max. If you don’t have any idea what your one rep max is you can use an online one rep max calculator to help estimate. (I like EXRX) You can take rep sets from your training to calculate what would be smart choices for your final attempts. I recommend using a 3 to 5 rep PR.


Your second attempt should be between 92-96% of your projected third attempt.  It is important to not set this too high so you aren’t fatigued for your last lift, but you still want to build a high total in case you miss your final attempt.  According to The Strength Athlete (more information on this below) 50% of all lifters miss their final attempts on deadlift, and 45.6 miss their third attempts on squat. Keep this in mind while setting your second attempt.


This is the most important attempt.  I’m going to say it again for emphasis so you really understand. THE FIRST ATTEMPT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT. The quickest way to lose is to bomb out of a meet.  The fastest way to bomb out a meet is to miss your opener on squat. Especially if you are about to compete in your first powerlifting meet. Being prudent in planning your opening squat attempt is the best thing you can do for yourself. Easily hitting your first squat starts your meet on the puts a score on the board and sets the tone for you performance that day. The first attempt should be anywhere from 85-92% of your projected third attempt.  In short, this should be something that you can do in the gym every day even if you’re sick. Like Ebola sick. Like dying. Seriously.


Don’t be a doofus, retake the lift instead of increasing the weight.  Do all lifers follow that advice? No.  Should they? Probably.  If it’s your first meet, you definitely should retake a lift if you miss it.  At the end of the day it’s better to be safe than sorry.


I love the Attempt Selection Calculator which is given away as a freebie on Bryce Lewis’ TSA website here. It calculates three options for each attempt selection based on how you feel on a range from wanting to be safe to reaching.  It is by far the most important tool that I keep on-hand for meet day.

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