Meet Report – IPF Classic Worlds 2017

On Monday, I lifted at the IPF Classic World Powerlifting Championships. The day was a blur – an amazing meet, surrounded by the best lifters in the world, in a country I never imagined I’d ever visit. If you’d told me three years ago that I’d ever represent New Zealand at an international sport, I’d tell you that you were crazy, but here we go. This week has been a massive inspiration for me – I’ve been here in Belarus 7 days now, and all I know is that I want to get back on that platform, in a black soft suit, again.

Water Cut and Making Weight

Although I’ve done a couple of practice water-cuts in the past, I’ve never had to cut to make weight, in that respect, Worlds was a novel for me. Before leaving New Zealand, I was up around 96 kg, and even up until 2 days out I was waking up around 95 kg. I used water, carb, and salt manipulation to make weight, and my recomposition strategy consisted mostly of Powerade and as many carbs as I could stomach!

Although it was always the plan to come into Worlds a few kilos over and water cut in, it was actually a little stressful, especially because my weight was dropping much more slowly than I expected. I ended up going to bed the night before weighing 93.8 kg, and expected that I’d wake up around 92.8 to 93.2 kg. I actually woke up at 91.22 kg. I really struggled to keep weight on throughout the day. I was eating and drinking, and weighing myself every hour or so, but only managed to get up to 92.7 kg, and then by the time I weighed in I had fallen back to 91.66 kg (202 lbs) again.

So that didn’t exactly go to plan, but at least I made weight, and now I know that I can drop a significant amount of weight through carb and salt manipulation if I ever need to.

setting up to squat

Setting up to squat my third attempt

Squats

Squats have been my bugbear lift since forever, and if you’ve read some of my other recent meet reports, you might have noticed that I’ve ended on a 202.5 kg squat 3 meets in a row.  Given that, I was incredibly nervous coming to squat on Monday.

It turns out I needn’t have worried because squats went essentially perfectly to plan. My warm ups felt a little sluggish because my quads weren’t really doing anything, but we opened on 195 kg, which moved a little slowly, so took the plan B jump to 205 kg (2.5 kg comp PR.) I think my quads were just a little sleepy, because they seemed to wake up on my second attempt, warranting a 7.5 kg jump to 212.5 kg (468 lbs) third attempt, for a 10 kg competition PR.

In the hole squatting 212.5 kg

In the hole with 212.5 kg

Bench Press

After squats finished, I was shaking like a leaf (which was probably some combination of nerves and caffeine.) Nonetheless, we only had a 9 lifter flight to turn around, so there wasn’t a lot of time to try and chill out and stop shaking. Bench warm ups were snappy (much snappier than squats.)

We opened my bench on 142.5 kg, which was easy and smooth, so jumped straight to 150 kg (1.5 kg competition PR, 331 lbs) on my second, which was a little slow. It felt good to finally get the 150 kg monkey off my chest (pun intended), but I really expected to be able to hit 152.5 kg on the day, but it didn’t happen. My back cramped up during my third attempt, but fortunately some Voltaren Gel meant that I didn’t lose any time warming up to deadlift.

On the plus side, I didn’t leave any kilos on the platform here – by taking the smallest possible jump, I didn’t miss out on anything on my total.

Deadlifts

deadlift lock out

My third deadlift attempt at IPF Classic Worlds 2017

I was so excited to deadlift – I’ve been itching to have a run at 265 kg since messing up my third attempt at Auckland Champs a couple of months ago. We decided to take a slightly more conservative opener than we have in the past, opening at 237.5 kg. I honestly don’t remember how the lift went, but it must have gone okay because Angus bumped me to 252.5 kg for my second attempt. After that, I didn’t let him tell me what my third was, I just went out and made it look as fast as possible. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t use nose tork before my last deadlift, which I think was the right decision, as I kept my position well and actually made it look like I know how to lift.

I found out a few minutes later that there was only 257.5 kg (568 lbs) on the bar. It was a little less than I had hoped for, but there was nothing to be gained by taking a bigger jump, and it locked in a nice PR and an 8/9 day (which for a Worlds debut, I’m stoked with!)

Summary and Take Aways

I went 8/9 (missing my third bench attempt), totalling 620 kg at 91.66 kg body weight (1367 lbs at 202 lbs), giving me a 393 Wilks. I set a 10 kg competition squat PR, 1.5 kg competition bench PR, and a 2.5 kg competition deadlift PR, for a 15 kg total PR. The numbers weren’t quite what I’d hoped to hit, but for the first meet I’ve done outside my own country, with all of the associated complications that come along with that, I’m beyond happy.

I had a few things I want to fix from my last meet. The first was that I was too light, and that I needed to get more reliable scales in order to help fix that. Although I was still too light this meet, I had been as heavy as 96 kg, and I still made weight without compromising my performance, so I’m going to say that I succeeded on that front. The second point was that I was struggling to drown out the random background noises when I was trying to get my head in the game. I’ve got some sweet noise cancelling headphones now, and they worked perfectly (and are now covered in chalk). Finally, my last point to fix from my last meet was poor glute activation while squatting. I’m not totally sure that I’ve fixed that, but I do stay a little more upright and my knees cave less while I’m squatting, so I’m definitely making progress on that front.

I’ve got a few things to fix going forwards. Foremost in my mind is my bench. I’m not totally sure what’s holding it back, but there must be something I’m doing wrong because it’s only moving incredibly slowly. I’m going to track down Avi Silverberg and pick his brains for a bit, and see if he can help me. Secondly, I just need to get stronger, but there’s nothing new there!

Before I sign off, I have to say a huge thank you to my coworker, handler, and friend, Angus Blair. It would have been a totally different day without you dude. Anyone who tells you that powerlifting isn’t a team sport is playing a different game.

There have been so many other cool things about this trip (including getting adopted by the Canadian team), but they can wait for another blog post. For now, good luck for all of your training, and I’ll see you all next time!

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How Much Coffee is Too Much Coffee?

One could probably argue that I have something of a caffeine addiction. Two double-shot espressos in a day is a light day, and a higher use day would be more like 4 double shot espressos and a 200 mg caffeine pill before training. This begs the question – how much coffee is too much coffee? Instead of littering this blog post with links to boring research papers, I’m just going to leave a link here to the examine.com page on caffeine, which has a great summary of the effects of caffeine and links to most of the relevant research.

By the way, this post is totally not just an attempt to justify my addiction. I swear.

Coffee Beans

Examine.com lists “liquid crack” as an alternative name for coffee!

How much Caffeine?

So that we’re all on the same page – how much caffeine is actually in coffee? That’s a trickier question than it first appears because there are a lot of variables which come into play. Different beans have different caffeine contents, which affect the final coffee, brewing time, water pressure, temperature, and so on all affect caffeine content too. Having said that, the rule of thumb I go by is that an espresso shot is about 80 mg, and a cup of plunger coffee is about the same.

In research, caffeine dosing is usually quoted in terms of “mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight” (mg/kg), usually something like 4 to 6 mg/kg. If you happen to read the research, be careful! A lot of the research is done in rodent models, but because of metabolic differences, rodents can handle much higher relative doses! You would have a pretty bad time if you were giving yourself 10 mg/kg more than occasionally.

 Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant and has all the effects you’d expect from any stimulant – elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, increased power output, increased time-to-exhaustion in aerobic exercise, increased serum concentrations of adrenaline and noradrenaline, increases in fat oxidisation and acute cortisol, improved reaction time, increased training volume, decreases in perceived exertion… Unfortunately, there are some negative effects too. Obviously, if you’re hypertensive or pre-hypertensive, increasing your blood pressure isn’t a good thing. If you’ve got high intra-ocular pressure, caffeine will increase your intra-ocular pressure even more. One of the main effects of caffeine is increased wakefulness which is great if you’re about to go into an exam or boring meeting, but much less great if you’re about to go to sleep.

Dosing for Effects

Most of the beneficial effects of caffeine start at relatively low doses. If you’re caffine naive (i.e. don’t use it a lot) then as little as 100 mg will give you the energy boost that you’re probably looking for. For peak athletic performance, you’re looking at more like 5 mg/kg body weight (which means for someone like me, I’d be looking to have about 450 mg before the competition, and maybe top that up with another 200 mg after a couple of hours.) The biological half-life of caffeine is something like 5 hours (depending on individual differences) so if you’re competing in a long event you do need to top up.

The bad negative effects don’t start until much higher doses. I’m guessing a little (because it’s unethical to do this on humans!) but I suspect something like 12 mg/kg or more would start being pretty uncomfortable, and about the point where the shakes, high blood pressure, and anxiety that results from caffeine consumptions start to outweigh the improved power outputs. It’s pretty hard to overdose on caffeine – the LD50 is about 195 mg/kg, which for most people would require you to just sit down and eat a jar of caffeine pills.

Cycling Caffeine?

Until recently, the conventional wisdom regarding caffeine was that it needed to be cycled, as it would lose effectiveness with repeated exposure. A recent study (which I can’t seem to find, please let me know if you can find a link to it!) showed that this doesn’t seem to be the case, so there really isn’t any need to cycle off caffeine. I plan to continue to cycle my use, but non-performance reasons.

The examine.com page on caffeine hasn’t yet updated with reference to the new study and still suggests cycling caffeine (which isn’t harmful!)

Stimulants as a Skill

Bear with me here. I have a working hypothesis that using stimulants is (in part) a skill. When you haven’t done it before, it’s just weird and scary. If you drink coffee, try to imagine you had never tasted it before. You drink this weird black liquid that smells amazing but it kind of bitter, and 20 minutes later your heart rate is elevated, you’re kind of anxious, and you’ve started sweating non-stop. That’s fucking weird, and it’s probably going to stop you from being able to fully take advantage of the improvements in power output that you might otherwise get.

Think of it like wearing knee wraps, or a sling-shot for the first time. It doesn’t add anything to your lift, you might just fall on your face, and it’s mostly just a lot of new stimuli all at once. By the time you’ve used it a hanful of times, you’re much better at using it effectively.

So what am I saying with this? Basically, I’m suggesting that you don’t start using caffeine the first time on competition day – use it in training at least a few times before you get on the platform caffeinated to your eyeballs!

So… How much can I take?

As far as I can tell, excessive caffeine will make you uncomfortable a long time before it becomes dangerous, so unless you’re taking caffeine sufficiently close to going to sleep that it is going to keep you awake, take as much as you feel like you want. If you’re taking it for performance reasons, starting with a dose of around 5 mg/kg on competition day seems to be a good bet. Your milage may vary.

That’s my thoughts on caffeine. Have I missed anything important? Do you use caffeine, and if so when and how much?