Tag: Raw Powerlifting

Powerlifting Meet Openers and Attempt Selection Strategy

The Best Powerlifting Meet Openers and Attempt Selection Strategy To Win

Are you struggling to choose your attempts for your next or first powerlifting meet? Or do you just want to know the best way to max out in the gym? Then read on my strong friends and get ready for a new PR plan! This article is all about how to choose the best Powerlifting Meet Openers and Attempt Strategy to win!

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USPA Powerlifting Openers and Attempt Selection

How To Choose Your Lifts Wisely

Recently I was able to attend a small charity powerlifting meet held at Ironworks Gym. At this meet, there were some strong lifters, as well as those just testing their strength just for fun. It was a great powerlifting meet and everyone had a lot of fun, but I noticed that very few of the lifters knew how to choose their openers and attempts.

They would complete their first lift and then take suggestions from anyone around as to what they should attempt next. Very few of them had a plan and as stated by Legendary Powerlifter and Coach Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell

“If you don’t have a plan, you plan to fail.”

– Louie Simmons, Westside Barbell

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So, this article on how to choose the best openers and attempts is for those of you that need a plan for success in your next Powerlifting Meet. My Powerlifting Team of Strength Warriors and I have all used it to make sure we never bomb out of a meet and always hit a PR by the end.

So, get ready to take notes and let’s begin…

Article Overview:

What is Powerlifting?

“Powerlifting is a sport in which the goal is to become as strong as possible in your chosen division for all three lifts.”

First, powerlifting is a strength sport in which the goal is to become as strong as possible in your weight class and division for all three lifts; the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift.

In powerlifting, you get three attempts to lift the most weight for each lift. The heaviest completed weight for each lift is added to your accumulative total for that day. However, to complete a lift you not only have to lift the weight but must do so with proper technique

Every Powerlifting Federation has its own set of rules and regulations on how to perform each lift. So check your Federation Rules before you start training in order to practice the proper technique.

Learn proper lifting technique for the: 

The Goal of Powerlifting:

“…you cannot win a powerlifting competition just by simply being strong.”

Next, the goal in powerlifting is to obtain the highest total [weight lifted] that you can. So, you cannot be weak in any of the three lifts. You must be at least proficient in all three lifts so that you can have the greatest chance of obtaining a competitive total against other lifters in your division.

With that being said, you cannot win a powerlifting competition just by simply being strong. You must have a strategy that makes you stronger than other competitors. That is why attempt selection is so important for all lifters. You have to be smart and strong to win.

“You must have a strategy that makes you stronger than other competitors.”

The Goal of the Lifter:

Finally, though winning is nice, the goal of any lifter should be to lift the most weight they can on competition day. To lift the most weight, and get the highest score you can, you must complete each lift. The more lifts you miss, the more weight you leave on the platform.

Beginners should always aim to go 9 for 9, or completing all 3 attempts in each of the 3 lifts. This will help beginners stay conservative in their attempt selection and give the highest chance for obtaining a high total.

More advanced lifters should also aim to go 9 for 9, but getting at least 6 for 9 is still okay. This is because as an advanced competitor you are going to have hard competition, whether that is against others or yourself. So advanced lifters need to aim high on their third attempts and push their limitations. These are the lifts that will define the elite from the competitive.

What is more important for advanced lifters is too beat the competition. Sometimes you will win, and sometimes you will lose, but that is competition. You have to compete and test your boundaries. So do what you can, but go for glory and don’t hold back!

To put it simply, if they go for 225 kilos (496 lbs), you better go for 227.5 kilos (501 lbs)!

Have A Smart Attempt Selection Strategy

Your strength levels will determine how much you can lift on that given day, but your attempt selection is crucial in obtaining the highest total.

Remember, once you have chosen your attempt, you cannot go back down in weight, so you must stay smart. If you do an attempt that is easy, yet jump too high on the next attempt and cannot do that weight, there will be pounds/kilos left on the platform that could have been added to your total.

So your strategy should be to stay reasonable on your first two attempts before going for absolute maximums on your final attempt.

1 Rep Maximum vs Projected Maximum:

Before we get into the percentages of each attempt, let’s go over the differences between a maximum and a projected maximum. The difference between a 1 rep maximum or personal record (PR) and a projected maximum is simple.

  • 1 Rep Maximum = The max weight you have done recently, using proper competition style form.
  • Projected Maximum = Your best estimation of the most you can do based on training and your experiences. Usually, about 5-10% more than your true max when you started a proper 12-Week Powerlifting Program.

However, for a maximum to count though, it must be performed under the same rules and regulations as the competition you will be in. For example, you may have a standard bench press PR of 300lbs but in competition, you must pause on your chest. This pause can take away from your gym lift maximum bench press because it has longer time under tension and you must press from a static position. With this in mind, it is a better estimate for you to use your pause bench press PR while keeping your hips down and following all the rules of competition as your maximum.

Also, you should practice the competition style lift often in your training, so that you build strength with that technique. It is still important to overload with a standard bench press technique, but always be practicing your sport as if you are in competition as well.

Projected Maximum

Most powerlifting programs base all training percentages on your current true maximum. From a proper 12-Week Powerlifting Program you can expect about a 5-10% increase. For example, if you start with a squat program with a 500-pound max, you can estimate a 525-550lb projected maximum after 12 weeks. This estimation is used only on competition day for choosing your three attempts.

The projected maximum should only be used by advanced lifters with years of experience and multiple competitions under their belt. Advanced lifters know their limitations and are much better at estimating their gains from the training they have done over the course of multiple years.

Beginners and moderately experienced lifters should not use this because their gains may still be somewhat inconsistent. This may lead too over projecting your abilities which can lead to missed lifts in competition.

Be Honest

Another thing to consider is that just because you lifted a particular weight one day in the gym while you were feeling good, does not mean you will be able to reach that same weight on competition day. The goal should always be to hit new PR’s during a competition, but there are numerous variables that can affect whether it is a good or bad day for any of the lifts you are doing.

Overall, when selecting weight attempts, just be honest with yourself and think reasonably towards your abilities. It is better to estimate too low and surprise yourself in competition rather than aim too high and miss lifts, possibly losing you the competition.

“…just because you lifted a particular weight one day in the gym while you were feeling good, that does not mean you will be able to reach that same weight on competition day.”

Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection

Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection Strategy: Openers (1st Attempts)

First, know that attempt selection is different for a beginner versus an elite lifter. For example, your opener will vary greatly depending on your powerlifting competition experience. However, every lifter should always choose a weight that they have a high probability of completing for each attempt.

For beginners, your first attempt should be a weight that you can do for 2-3 reps, even on a bad day. This is about 90-95% of your true 1 rep maximum.

For elite powerlifters or those with experience, the first attempt should be something that you know you can do. This is also about 90-95%, but of your projected maximum. Consider it a final warm-up lift before you attempt your 100% max on the second attempt.

Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection Strategy: Second Attempts

Next, your second attempt depends on how your first attempt felt. If it was easy, take a reasonably large jump of 5-7%. If it was hard, to take a small jump of just 3-5% or less than 10 kilos.

This attempt should be around a 3-7% jump to reach 95-100% of your maximum. If you are a beginner, be conservative and wait to hit the big weight on your third attempt. You still NEED to hit this weight, so don’t jump too high yet.

For more experienced lifters, your second attempt should be your projected maximum for the day. The reason you need to go for this weight on your second attempt is so that you have two attempts at it if needed. If you get red lighted or even just fail the lift for some reason, you can go for it again on your third attempt. 

This weight is around or just over 100% of your maximum. It is the weight that simply must be done in your mind. It is why you showed up that day. So go out there and get it!

Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection Strategy: Third Attempts

Finally, your third attempt dependents on your second attempt. No matter how the second attempt went, the next weight you choose should be something you know you can do.

For beginners, this is usually between 100-105% of your current 1 Rep Maximum. 

Again, it needs to be a weight you know you can do. Usually, it is a weight you have done before. Of course, we all want to hit a new PR, but it is more important you get the lift, rather than set a PR in your first powerlifting meet.

Just make sure that the jump to the third attempt is less than the jump taken between the first and second attempts. This will help you avoid missing your third attempt, as your body is more likely able to handle a smaller weight jump.

By taking a bigger jump up in weight compared to your third attempt you risk overstressing your body with too great of a stimulus that it may not be prepared for. Decrease your jumps from each warm up and attempts will better prepare your body for the weight to come.

For Advanced Powerlifters

For elite lifters, this should be just around or above your absolute projected maximum. Often this is 100-110% of your old 1 Rep Max and should be a PR lift.

This is the all-out lift that makes champions. So, go out and surprise yourself!


Powerlifting Max Mindset:

In the sport of powerlifting, you must have a strong and competitive mindset to succeed. You must believe in yourself more than anyone else. You must have full confidence in every attempt that you do. If there is any doubt in your mind then you have already failed the lift.

It takes extreme focus and determination to push your body to the limit as you move with perfect form.

Knowing this, it is difficult for a competitor to select their attempts while in competition. You may know best what your body is capable of, but you must stay confident in your abilities. This is often detrimental for lifters that choose their attempts because they often overshoot their abilities while being confident. So it is recommended that you have someone choose your attempts for you.

This can be anyone. They do not have to know your abilities or even what powerlifting is about. They simply must know your goals for the day and have a plan set in place that you have already given to them prior.

The day all depends on each lift as it is completed but if you give them some options to choose from or consult with them between lifts it will allow you to stay more focused on the lift rather than the weight.

Overall, just never go into a competition alone. Always bring back up. I mean, someone has to hold the camera…right?

“You must believe in yourself more than anyone else.”

Mathias Method Strength Family

Summary of How To Pick Openers and Attempts:

For Beginners:

  • Try to go 9 for 9! Don’t miss any lifts!
  • Open with about 90% of a max weight you have done before (with competition technique) or something you can triple on your worst day.
  • Base your second attempt on how your opener felt. If it was hard, only bump it up a little. If it was easy, go for about 95% or a weight you can double.
  • Base your third and final attempt on how your second attempt felt. If it was hard, only move up a little. If it was easy, choose a weight you are highly confident you can do. Remember, it’s not about a PR. It’s about what you can lift that day.
  • Of course, always redo any attempts you miss whether they be due to technical errors or failed lifts.

For Advanced Powerlifters:

  • Also, try to go 9 for 9! Do what you can that day and only truly push your final attempts.
  • Open with your final warm-up weight to your second attempt. This is usually 90-95% of your projected maximum.
  • Base your second attempt on how your opener felt. If it was hard, only bump it up a little. If it was easy, go for the weight you came to do. This should be 100% of your projected maximum.
  • Base your third and final attempt on how your second attempt felt. If it was hard, only move up a little. If it was easy, go for a PR and show the world what you are made of!
  • Always redo any failed lifts.
  • For missed lifts due to technical errors, use your honest judgment as to whether you can correct it or not before moving up in weight.

Powerlifting Meet Attempt Selection Strategy: Conclusion

Overall, powerlifting is a great sport for anyone that wants to get stronger and test their abilities. Powerlifting will make you better at any sport you do. It takes focus, hard work, dedication, self-confidence, and a very strong mindset to compete in.

I recommend everyone that strength trains compete at least once because it will force you to have good technique and give you a goal to strive towards in your strength journey. Just remember to make a plan for choosing your attempts and never go in it alone.

Always have some support and make some new friends at every meet. It will all help you grow as a person and may motivate you to continue your growth.

So make a plan, stay focused, and execute it with perfection. You are now more informed and better prepared to estimate your best weights at your next powerlifting meet. So go dominate and keep getting stronger my friends!

Strength to you, 

Ryan J. Mathias

Owner and Creator of MathiasMethod.com

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Powerlifting for Men

Powerlifting For Men

500 squat

Powerlifting for men is different than powerlifting for women. This is because women are generally able to handle more workloads relative to their one rep maximum, versus men. Men are genetically stronger so they can handle heavier weights, but cannot do as much work compared to women who do strength training.

This means that women can handle more work and frequency of training, while men require less work and need more time to recover from weight training. At the same intensity relative to their one rep maximum, women can, and should, do more repetitions, while men cannot, and should not.

When programming a powerlifting workout for men there should be more sets and fewer repetitions. When programming a powerlifting workout for women there should be fewer lets and more repetitions.

For example, for a squat workout, men should do 8 sets of 3 reps using 80% of their one rep max, while women should do more like 6 sets of 5 reps at the same intensity. The workout for men would total 24 reps while for women it would total 30 reps.

The main difference between powerlifting for men, versus powerlifting for women, is men get big and bulky with strength training while women get slim and sexy, or more toned. This is due to hormonal differences. Men naturally have a lot more free testosterone than women which makes any sort of new muscle stimulus lead to growth. For women, the same stimulus still leads to growth, but at a much slower rate. So women tend to just burn fat with weight training workouts instead of growing.

Of course, with strength training, women can become stronger than men. It just takes longer due to slow growth rates.

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Example Powerlifting Workout For Men

This is an example powerlifting workout for men based on the Mathias Method Strength System.

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Squat Workout For Men

Warm-Up & Technique Work:

Weighted Chin-Ups                                                               – x 25 total

Box Jumps                                                                             3-5 x 3

Pause Squat (<50%)                                                             3 x 5

Main Lifts:

Squat                                                                                        8 x 3 at 80%

*Overload Set                                                                         1 x Daily Max

Deadlift                                                                                    4 x 6 at 60%

Accessory Work:

Dumbbell Rows                                                                      4 x 6-8

Dumbell Curls                                                                        4 x 8-10

Side Planks                                                                            3 x 45 sec.

Mobility Work                                                                        10+ min.

To learn everything you need to know about strength training and powerlifting for men, get our complete Mathias Mathias Method Strength System Guide!

How to Powerlift for Men

As you can see, powerlifting for men is pretty simple. However, how you do your workouts is just as important, if not more so, than what you do. It is all in the details because the details can make or break a lifter.

That is why we created the Mathias Method Strength System. To teach powerlifters and athletes the most effective ways to build strength.

All you have to do is follow the system to know you are getting the best results. You can apply it to your current powerlifting program, or get one from us.

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Mathias Method Powerlifting

Powerlifting done right!

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raw powerlifting squat

Powerlifting is the sport of strength! It is a competitive strength sport that takes years of hard work and consistent dedication to become proficient at. If you want to perform well, then you need to be strong!

What makes powerlifting so great is that it is the perfect place for everyone to start! This is because powerlifting focused primarily on building strength, using proper technique. Many people want to go straight into training for specific goals but have nothing to build off of. Then they train in circles and never reach their goals.

Strength is the base for all other training goals.

Powerlifting provides a solid base of strength that everyone needs before moving on to more specific training goals. By getting stronger it is easier to:

  • lose weight,
  • build muscle,
  • look aesthetic,
  • be healthy,
  • prevent injury,
  • move athletically,
  • increase performance,
  • run faster,
  • jump higher
  • and more!

By getting stronger it is so much easier and faster to obtain these other goals without being held back by weakness!

Powerlifting Done Right!

The Mathias Method Strength System was made for powerlifting, and focuses on how to get stronger the right way! It is based on strength first, with an emphasis on how to lift properly, and uses smart programming with a simple design created for success!

The Mathias Method Strength System is perfect for powerlifters because it was made for powerlifting!

Whether you are an absolute beginner looking to learn how to get stronger or an advanced Strength Warrior looking to perform better in competitions, this is for you!

We teach you everything you need to know from how to lift properly, to program design, to choosing your competition attempts.

If you truly want to do well in powerlifting and build the most strength, then you need to go above and beyond what other programs may have you do. You have to add in more work and do the hard stuff. The things that are not always fun, but always work.

To start, you have to use only the most effective weight training exercises that build the most strength and muscle mass. Machines are great if you need to build up one small muscle group, but not nearly as effective as free weights when it comes to strength. Every lift in powerlifting is a full body exercise, so make sure your whole body is working. Don’t think to target one area. Target as many muscle groups as you can at once and whatever is weakest will become stronger.

If you are not getting stronger, then you are getting weaker.

What Is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is the sport of strength! It is a competitive strength sport that takes years of hard work and consistent dedication to become proficient at.

The goal of powerlifting is to build as much strength as possible. Powerlifters then test their strength with 3 power lifts; the squat, bench press and deadlift. The more weight they can lift with these 3 exercises, the stronger they have become.

Powerlifters use the most effective power lifts to get bigger, stronger and faster. The squat, bench press and deadlift are the absolute best exercises to build strength, which makes them the focus of this strength sport.

If you want to build the most amount of strength possible for your body size, then you need to be squatting, bench pressing and deadlifting, often. These 3 lifts allow you to lift the most weight in the gym and create the greatest stimulus for growth.

Overall, powerlifting is all about using weight training to get stronger. The focus is on improving your entire body’s strength using the most effective power lifts and accessory exercises rather than muscle specific machines.

What Is A Powerlifting Meet?

A powerlifting meet is when powerlifters test their strength by attempting maximal lifts on the squat, bench press and deadlift. Each lifter gets 3 attempts at each lift to lift the most amount of weight. If the maximum amount of weight they can lift increases in one or all three of these lifts, then they know that they have become stronger!

There are numerous weight classes for lifters to attempt record-breaking lifts in, ranging from 50kg-140kg+ (110lbs-308+lbs). Lifters are further divided into groups of different lifting styles ranging from no equipment (100% RAW) to geared lifting (single or multi-ply lifting suits).

Every powerlifting federation has different rules and regulations for how to lifts must be performed, but for the most part, the rules are simple.

Powerlifting vs. Bodybuilding vs. Weightlifting

Powerlifting is different than Olympic style weightlifting, (which is done in the Olympics) because weightlifting focuses on the snatch and clean & jerk lifts to test their speed, strength, and technique of a lift, where powerlifting focuses on brute strength. 

It is also different than bodybuilding because powerlifters focus on staying within a certain weight class where bodybuilders simply focus on aesthetics or looking lean and muscular. Powerlifters do not need to look good, they just have to perform well. It is said that comparatively, bodybuilders look really strong, where powerlifters ARE very strong.



Custom Powerlifting Program

Powerlifting Mass: Volume Training Program

Powerlifting Power: Dynamic Training Program

Base Of Strength Training Program [Digital Version]

How To Squat Guide and 12 Week Strength Program [Digital Version]

How To Bench Press Guide and 12 Week Strength Program [Digital Version]

How To Deadlift Guide and 12 Week Strength Program [Digital Version]



How to Squat

How to Bench Press

How to Deadlift

How to Sumo Deadlift

How to get Stronger

How to Build Muscle Mass

Choosing your attempts

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What is RAW Powerlifting?

The Definition Of RAW Lifting

The definition of RAW Powerlifting. Plus, the minimum and maximum amount of lifting equipment and gear you are allowed to use in competition.

raw powerlifting squat

The following is the definition of what we powerlifters consider a lift to be done “RAW”.

“RAW” determines the assistance you are allowed to use for training and testing your lifts. What we consider to be RAW is the same as what most sanctioned Powerlifting Competitions also consider to be RAW.

This is different than what is considered to be 100% RAW. 100% RAW means without any assistive equipment at all, as if you were only lifting in shorts and a t-shirt.

RAW lifting allows for some safety equipment to accommodate more people and promote the safety of the lifter, above all else.

To be considered RAW when lifting you can use the assistance of:

  • a weight lifting belt,
  • non-supportive knee or elbow sleeves,
  • chalk as needed,
  • and wrist wraps if needed.

*Non-supportive knee and elbow sleeves are used to promote joint safety by keeping them warm but add little to no actual lifting support.

This amount of equipment promotes the safety of the lifter while allowing for only necessary assistance.

Overall, the lifter has to do the lift, not the equipment.

The more equipment you use, the more you have to rely on when it counts. It is best to only use what you need to be safe and save the rest for when you absolutely need it.

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Drugs and Supplements

Being RAW also does not allow the use of drugs or special supplement regiments that greatly improve a lifter’s strength, recovery or muscle growth.

Basically, if you would fail a drug test using it, then it is not RAW.

To be clear, no supplements are needed to make your program work as effectively as possible. It is all about how much you put in.

Lifting Equipment

Lifting equipment is anything that directly improves your ability to lift more weight. This could be very light assistive gear, such as knee or elbow sleeves, all the way up to extremely supportive gear, such as lifting suits.

One of the most common pieces of equipment to be used is a lifting belt. When used properly, a lifting belt allows you to better brace your core for stabilization by increasing the intra-abdominal pressure placed on your spine. By increasing stabilization you are enabled to lift heavier loads.

Equipment can improve lifter strength and safety, but can also have adverse effects when used improperly.

If any one piece of equipment is used too frequently, then it will limit your body’s ability to grow stronger in that area. Essentially, the equipment will become a crutch that then must be used every time training occurs in order to keep up with the strength developed in other non-supported areas.

The most effective way to use equipment is only when it is necessary.

For example, when using light to moderate loads (<75%) avoid using any equipment at all to build greater strength in all areas. Then when you put on equipment for maximal loads (>80%) you will be that much stronger.

Even if you have an injury, only use the equipment when you need it. If your injury does not hurt, then do not cover it up with equipment. Allow it to grow stronger.

When you are building strength, use little to no equipment.

When you are testing strength, use whatever you can to improve your lift.

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