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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Meet Report – Auckland Champs 2017

Yesterday I competed in the Auckland Powerlifting Champs at a 93 kg junior. The day didn’t quite go the way I wanted, but I’m not unhappy and I learned a few important things. I decided to use the Auckland Champs as a dry run for Worlds, and a few important points fell out throughout the day for me to learn from, so I definitely walked away feeling like I’d won.

Squats

Okay, I was actually pretty unhappy here. I came into squats feeling great – my knee didn’t hurt, my back felt great, and my warm-ups were super smooth. I wanted a win on squats because in my last two three lift meets I ended on 202.5 kg, despite having hit lots of (seemingly) important PRs in the mean time. I’d hit PRs in every rep range coming into this meet too but just couldn’t deliver. I hit 190 kg for an easy opener, jumped to 202.5 kg according to plan, but 202.5 kg wasn’t very good, so opted for a more conservative jump than originally planned up to 207.5 kg. Unfortunately, I ran out of gas about halfway up and had to get carried back into the rack (thanks for the save, Corey.)

I don’t think I’ve ever been as angry about missing a lift as that squat. Having now had some time to think about it, and looking back at the videos I can see a few problems that I’m going to need to address coming into worlds, most notably my apparent complete lack of glute activation in deep hip flexion.

Bench Press

Bench Press was meant to be my lift, and even though I didn’t get the number I wanted (150.5 kg), I think we played the smart game and came out on top. I opened on 140 kg, and had planned to go 145 kg then 150 kg. Unfortunately, the ‘press’ commands were pretty ruthless (though admittedly I was pretty loose on my chest for the 140 kg)  so we opted to take 147.5 kg for my third. I think I was the only lifter in my flight to hit my third, so that stands to me as evidence of smart decision making, and we managed to claw back a lot of the lead that I’d lost from the squats.

I think this also justified my switch into benching in flat shoes (check out those white Adidas Originals?) Normally, I struggle to keep my ass down when reps get hard, but my ass stayed firmly planted and still managed to get some leg drive going. I’m going to stick with the flat shoes going forwards.

Deadlifts

I was just 0.5 kg behind the lead coming into deadlifts, so at this point, my handling team went off to play strategy games while I talked smack  relaxed and refuelled.

Deadlifts went off more-or-less without a hitch (except the bit where I didn’t lift the weight.) I opened on 240 kg, and jumped straight to 255 kg, and it felt so good – I swear I thought I was good for 265 kg then and there. My handlers ended up submitting 263 kg in an effort to force another lifter into making a mistake, but I missed the lift and ended up placing second.

I didn’t miss my deadlift due to weakness (nor due to grip, which is kind of what it looks like in the video), but because I was out of position and wasn’t going to be able to save it. I used ammonia for that third deadlift, which is normal for me but I suspect is actually a mistake. I think that on the performance-arousal curve that I’ve mentioned before, I nailed it for my second, but took it too far for my third and got sloppy. No more ammonia for me for deadlifting.

Conclusion and Summary

I totalled 605 kg at 91.1 kg body weight, for 384.88 Wilks. That was a modest PR, but considering not peaking, the long press commands, and the gamble of a third deadlift, I’m happy with it.

There were a few things that went basically perfectly. My eating was on point; at no point did I feel tired, nor bloated, nor unwell, which was awesome. My handling team are amazing, and it was the first time we’ve all worked together at once and I’m stoked that it came together the way it did.

Three distinct points for improvement fell out too.

Firstly, I was way too light. 91.1 kg?? I could have made the 83 kg class if I’d wanted to 4 weeks ago. My own personal scales said I was 94.0 kg the night before and 92.6 kg before leaving home in the morning. Easy solution – get more accurate scales, and try to get up to 95 kg by June.

Secondly, my earphones were inadequate. Although I’m not one to shy away from conversation and the long-held tradition of shit-talk in the 93 kg class, sometimes it’s important to be able to drone out the background noise. I’ll get some noise cancelling headphones so that when it’s time to get my head in the game, I can create my own little world of concentration when I need to.

Finally, the aforementioned lack of glute activation when squatting. This is slightly harder to fix, but I’m going to do everything I can here.

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The Performance Lab Powerlifting Team

Before I sign off, I want to thank my teammates in Performance Lab Powerlifting. You guys are awesome, and I’m proud of everyone’s performance over the weekend. Angus, Amie, and Carli – you guys did a great job of handling my diva-ass out the back and I don’t think I could have put together the same performance without you. I’m looking forward to competing again with you soon!

That’s my meet report for regionals this year. Remember there’s just 9 days left to buy your Two White Lights tee shirts, so get in quick. Have you competed recently? What did you learn? Share it with me in the comments down below! See you all on the platform soon.

Two White Lights Tee Shirts

I got a really exciting email yesterday. It had a bunch of attachments, some of which were very boring, and some of which were rather more interesting. Here’s the first part of one of the attachments.

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So, I guess that means I’m officially going to the IPF World Classic Powerlifting Championships! What better way to celebrate than to kick something off that I’ve been thinking about for some time now?

Back last year sometime my sister made me a sweet “Two White Lights” tee shirt (and also a #benchmoretobenchmore shirt!), and then at the Oceania Powerlifting Championships in December my entire family showed up wearing them! A few people asked about where we could get them, so I decided to do a limited run.

 

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My family and girlfriend wearing TwoWhiteLights tees (featuring IPF legend Geno ‘The Pirate’)

So here’s the deal – if you want a tee shirt they cost $30 NZD + shipping if you live in New Zealand, or $35 NZD + shipping if you live elsewhere (~21 USD or ~19 Euro). Shipping will be $4 NZD within NZ, $8 to Australia, or $14 to most other places. I’ll happily combine shipping for any number of items for no extra cost.

All orders need to be in by the 18th of April, and production and shipping will take 2 to 3 weeks from then.

To purchase, fill out this form (one form per tee) and I’ll email through Paypal or Direct Deposit details.

Thanks for your support!

 

 

Meet Report – Asia/Oceania Championships 2016

Yesterday I got back from my first ever international powerlifting meet, and my first time representing New Zealand (at anything.) Despite an average meet, it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. I made some friends, met some incredible lifters, and spent the entire week hanging out with some of the people I like and respect the most in the world.

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The author and some friends; Victor Liu (Instagram), Yani Zhao (Facebook, Instagram) and Angus Blair (Instagram.) Yes, Yani got into a club wearing jandals (“thongs”)

I feel reinvigorated after this meet. Although I don’t think I forgot why I enjoy competing in powerlifting, Oceania’s reminded me what it’s really about.

I compete as an under 93 kg Junior. If you’d rather watch a video than read my verbose meet report, here are all my lifts from the three-lift meet.

By The Numbers

Tuesday – Bench Only

I actually lifted twice at the Asia/Oceania Champs, once as a bench-only athlete, and then again in three-lift three days later. It was a bit of an experiment, never having done both so close together. I weighed in at 89.95 kg, and basically sat around eating oats for two hours before lifting.

Lifting was moderately disappointing; I opened on 142.5 kg, and it was probably the slowest that weight has ever moved. I made the jump to 147.5, and it was slightly better. I took a final jump to an ambitious 152.5 kg for my third, but I wasn’t even close to being able to lock it out.

142.5 kg (314 lbs) – three white lights
147.5 kg (325 lbs) – three white lights
152.5 kg (336 lbs) – three red lights

That gave me third in my class (it was a small class), and I guess you can’t complain at a medal in your first international meet! Unfortunately, I don’t have the videos of these lifts.

Overall, I was a little dissapointed here, but walked away feeling confident that I had a second shot at that bench PR on Friday.

Friday – Three Lift

I (mistakenly) thought that having done bench only three days earlier, I would be less nervous for the main event, having lost my international virginity (so to speak.) Man, was I wrong. The more I watched, the more nervous I was. I barely slept the night before, racing through a combination of final deadlift attempts and hypertrophy microcycles in my head.

I weighed in at a cool 90.05 kg, and again spend my time eating oats, drinking Powerade, and enjoying the best (well, only) coffee I’d had in nearly two weeks.

Squats

I consider myself a pretty terrible squatter, and I had tweaked my back (physio suspects a bulging disk, but no MRI to confirm) and didn’t expect to be able to go over 90%. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my squats weren’t moving too badly on the day. Angus wasn’t as happy as I was, and dropped my opener to 187.5 kg (good move) at the last possible second.

I ended up taking 202.5 kg on my third, which is an equal PR, and faster than last time (plus pain-free.) Although it wasn’t the 210 kg I was aiming for three months ago, I’m can’t even bring myself to be annoyed by it. I went 3/3 on my worst lift, equalled my PR (maybe with a little in the tank) and didn’t hurt myself.

That actually means that I haven’t missed a squat in competition all year and adding a total of 17.5 kg since this time last year. I came away from these squats feeling pretty good, and with a plan to make my squat somewhat less of a national embarrassment by next year.

187.5 kg (413 lbs) – Three Whites
197.5 kg  (435 lbs) – Three Whites
202.5 kg (446 lbs) – Three Whites

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Post meet smiles

Bench Press

If I could totally forget about bench press, that would be cool (but then I might not have learned anything either.) Bench press was, in a word, shocking. I was pretty fried from the bench-only meet three days early, and it showed in my performance.

I opened on 142.5 kg and made it look really hard. As Tuesday’s opener had looked kind of similar, we made the same jump to 147.5 kg on my second. I was surprised by a pregnant press command, ground out a slow and sloppy rep, and lifted my ass off the bench. By the time I retook 147.5 kg on my third I was so fried that I could barely get it off my chest.

MEDIOCRE.

So, aside from being kind of disappointed (my new Australian friends would say I was devvo), I learnt a few things here. The main one is that the SRA curve for max effort bench press is much longer than I had hoped – definitely not 4 days, possibly more like 6 to 8 days. Whilst I can’t say that I’m hugely surprised, it’s good to know for sure.

Learning things doesn’t add anything to your total on the day, and I feel like I left a lot on the table here compared to what I’m capable of while fresh. Also, interesting fact – I’ve missed 6 lifts in competition this year, 5 of which have been bench press attempts (3 in three-lift comps.) That suggests I need to reconsider some aspect of my training or attempt selection (in fairness, two of those failed jumps were 2.5 kg or less, so I didn’t leave anything on the platform by missing.)

142.5 kg (314 lbs) – Three Whites
147.5 kg (325 lbs) – Two Reds
147.5 kg (325 lbs) – Three Reds

Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a dark horse. How do they work? Do deadlifts respond to peaking more than bench or squats? Is ammonia the secret to going Super Saiyan?

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Seconds before a dramatic failure

For context, in the block leading up to Oceania’s, I missed 237.5 kg from the floor, 250 kg from the floor, 250 kg from blocks (twice), 260 kg from blocks, halved the volume of everything I did, and hurt my back (not all on the same day). Despite that, I had a not-bad deadlift day on the platform. After a poorly timed fire alarm (I was four lifters from my opener when it went off), I opened at 237.5 kg reasonably smoothly. 250 kg proved to be a bit of a tough second, though I locked it out (eventually.) We decided to take a conservative third that would lock in 5th place if I hit it (257.5 kg), but I wasn’t patient enough and lost position off the floor. As soon as it dipped above my knees I dropped the bar.

The 250 kg was actually enough to give me third place in deadlifts, and that makes me really happy. I’ve identified my main deadlift fault (losing position off the floor) and I know how to fix it, so I can come back with an even better pull next year.

Another fun fact – this is the first time I’ve failed to lock out my final deadlift in a meet.

237.5 kg (523 lbs) – Three Whites
250 kg (550 lbs) – Three Whites
257.5 kg (568 lbs) – Three Reds

Conclusion

Although by the numbers this meet was (much) less than stellar, I came away from it feeling great. I learned some important things, identified some weaknesses, and had a great time (and let’s be honest, in amateur sport that’s the main thing that matters.) I have a plan for the next 12 months, but more on that another time.

So that’s the story of my first international meet, and what a week it was. If you ever get a chance to go to a meet like this, I couldn’t recommend it enough. Hope everyone’s training and/or competitions have been going well. Hope to see you all soon.

Meet Report – NZPF Bench Champs 2016

On Saturday was the NZPF National Bench Champs for 2016. I was pretty un-pumped leading into this event. It was reasonably close to the three-lift champs, awkwardly spaced from the Asia/Oceania Powerlifting Champs, and honestly bench-only meets seem a bit boring to me. I had to go because it was the only way to secure my spot on the national bench team for the Asia/Oceania champs. Accordingly, I decided not to taper, peak, or even do any strength training in my lead up to this event. I came fresh out a hypertrophy block, having hit a grand total of three paused singles in the six weeks preceding it.

Despite myself, I actually started getting a bit excited as the even got closer. There was only one other junior male on the starting list, but his best competition bench and mine were close enough on Wilks that it would be a battle for first overall.

The event was held in Rotorua, about an hour from my parents’ house, so Katie and I drove down on the morning of, in time for the luxurious 8 am weigh-in (more like 8.20 by the time they figured out how to unlock the weigh-in room!) I weighed in at a super-light 90.55 kg, and nominated an opener of 137.5 kg. By this point, I was starving, so downed McDonald’s hotcakes and a flat white.

Annoyingly, my competition never showed up. All I had to do was not bomb to be the New Zealand Junior bench press national champion, which seems like a very hollow victory.

The Lifting

I opened on a conservative 137.5 kg because I didn’t really know what I was capable of. I’m glad I did because the press commands were a bit on the long side, and I don’t want to get into the habit of missing commands! I took a small jump to 142.5 kg, which actually felt even easier than the 137.5 kg.

My final attempt was 145 kg, which felt really good and moved quickly. I was really happy with this – only 3.5 kg off my best even bench in competition, despite being about 4 kilos lighter and being fresh out of a hypertrophy block. Unfortunately, I received two red lights on this attempt; one for my ass lifting off the bench (which was probably legit) and one for heaving. I felt a bit ripped off by the heaving call, and even having reviewed the video, I feel it was undeserved. (I would have contested it if there had been anything other than pride on the line.)

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Team A7 Oceania at the National Bench Champs! 

Despite everything leading up, I enjoyed myself at the meet. It was fun to get on the platform in a low-stress environment, good to see some friends hit some huge weights, and I was actually reasonably happy with how the weights moved. I think I’m in a good stead for Asia/Oceania’s now!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted. Hope everyone’s training has been going well, and I promised to (try) to post more often.

Meet Report – NZPF Nationals 2016

NZPF Unequipped Nationals were in Christchurch last week, and what a week it was. Canterbury Powerlifting put on a great meet, it was smoothly and professionally run.

I flew down with Angus, Katie, Alisa and Amie, and we all lived in a house together pretending to be professional athletes for a week, which was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to doing it again for the Oceania Champs.

I’m going to kick off a series of blog posts about Nationals with my reflections on my own performance, so without further ado, here’s my meet report for the NZPF Unequipped Nationals 2016.

Meet the Characters

Angus Blair – my handler and training partner. Angus makes all the decisions on meet day, and makes sure I’m lifting with my muscles and not my ego! His tactical decisions are responsible for a lot of my good performances.

Keith Miller – long time rival. The first time we competed was at the Auckland champs in 2015, which he beat me by like 50 kg. Keith has traditionally been 15 kg or more ahead of me coming out of squats.

Thomas Botica – I first met Botica via Instagram when we realised that I beat him at our respective regional championships by just 0.5 kg. I’ve since trained with him, and we both knew that today was going to come right down to the line.

Tom Hart, Ben Hanara, and Haris Butt – the phenoms who were nominated >30 kg ahead of everyone else.

Video

Here’s my meet video, including all nine lifts. I’ve turned the sound right down because these were mostly filmed on a GoPro in a case, so it was all muffled anyway.

Prep and Weigh-Ins

I’ll cover my actual training coming into Nationals in detail later, but my last couple of training sessions were approximately 3 x 3 at 70% for each of squat and bench, and 5 x 3 at 50% for deadlifts, two days out and four days out. I was actually a little worried that I had cut my taper too fine, and that I wasn’t going to recover in time; these last two trainings felt pretty terrible. My squats were slow, and bench just felt sloppy. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought that (I was still suffering from triceps tendonitis two days before the regional benchpress champs), but it turns out that I needn’t have worried.

My weight had been pretty well behaved leading up to Nationals, I was generally floating around 93.2 kg, so I gave myself a little water cut and woke up on the morning of at 92.4 at home, so I downed some oats before weighing in. I weighed in at 11 am at 92.2 kg and started eating. I think my recomp went better this time than ever before – I had three sachets of oats, 1.5 L of 50:50 powerade to water, and a coffee within 40 minutes of weighing in. I was pleasantly not-quite-bloated and spent most of the time before my session started talking shit with my fellow under 93 kg juniors. A special shout-out to Botica, who managed to get his weight from 92.8 to 98 kg in under 90 minutes (I was a measly 95 kg).

Squats

My squats felt a little sluggish in the warm-up room. The floor wasn’t carpeted, it had this strange rubber matting which was a bit slippery, and I couldn’t get my glutes properly engaged. Despite that, I stuck with my original plan of opening on 190 kg (which was my previous comp PR and nominated squat). Fortunately, it moved well and Angus actually offered me a 200 kg second. I wasn’t confident enough that 200 kg would set me up for a smooth third, so decided to take 197.5 kg. That felt good, so Angus decided on 202.5 kg, which ended up being right on the money. The bar came to a complete stop just above the sticking point (I actually thought it dipped), but I managed to get it moving and lock it out, for three white lights. I’m glad the refs were kinder than I am, because I would have red lighted it! Looking back on the video, it was faster than it felt (but not by much!)

I was very pleased to note that at this point that I was just 7.5 kg behind Keith, rather than my usual 15+ kg. Botica pulled 222.5 kg from somewhere, which was amazing to watch!

There are a couple of take-aways from my squats. Firstly, my training sleeves are getting pretty loose, and I’m glad I picked up a new pair for competition. Unfortunately, that’s quite an expensive trick that I can use every meet! Secondly, my new squat stance (feet close, and less external rotation) seems to be working well for me, however I need more quad and more glutes (max and med) to really be able to make the most of it. Although my squat is comparatively my weakest lift, I think it’s the lift I was happiest with this meet, and a 12.5 kg PR is nothing to sniff at!

Bench Press

Conversely, my bench press felt really good in the warm up room. My bench training had gone really well, and I was hoping to hit 150 or 152.5 kg. My opener (140 kg) was smooth, if a little slow, and I made the jump to 147.5 kg. Unfortunately, that moved quite slowly and I got one red light for my ass coming off the bench. I’ve often had issues in training with my ass lifting, but this was the first time it had happened in comp (and I thought it had stayed solidly planted.) Angus made the call to take a small jump to 150 kg, which I was just too weak to get off my chest.

I was a bit disappointed with bench, especially as I have hit up to 148.5 kg in comp before, and 150 relatively well in training. Fortunately, because I had made such a conservative jump, I didn’t leave any kilos on the platform. The main take-away here is that I have no idea how to peak for bench; I think I peaked about 8 days early (where I hit 145 kg for a paused double), so I’m going to go back and see what caused that and see if I can replicate it in the future.

Deadlift

My deadlift warm ups felt great! I opened at 225 kg, but I honestly can’t really remember the rep at all. I was willing to take up to 242.5 kg as my second, but only needed 240 kg to make sure I was lifting after every one I was directly competing with. At this point I was tied with Botica on sub-total (and lighter) and a few kilos ahead of Keith. Angus thought that pushing Botica to a 255 kg deadlift would be enough to force him to miss, giving me the 4th place. My third was thus 252.5 kg, which was a 10 kg PR. Again, I don’t really remember the lift, but I know that I got three white lights. [As an aside, apparently the MC was giving me shit about my deadlift – “Oh, he takes the round backed deadlift approach. It’s a good thing there are no points for style in powerlifting!” Fuck that guy. Fortunately, I had too much ammonia to hear him.] After taking my third, I ran around to the audience to see Botica pull his final deadlift – he definitely didn’t have anything more in the tank, but it was a great pull and he locked it out, securing himself a 4th place finish, and relegating me to 5th.

The main thing that I can take away from deadlifts is that my deadlift peak worked exactly as planned, I hit basically exactly what I thought I was good for. In training, my hardest deadlift session was 225 kg for a double, and most of my volume was under 210 kg, which definitely doesn’t look like someone good for > 250 kg, but  with a taper and enough ammonia, anything is possible.

Results and Summary

I squatted 202.5 kg (446 lbs), benched 147.5 kg (328 lbs) and deadlifted 252.5 kg (557 lbs) for a 602.5 kg (1,328 lbs) total. That was a 22.0 kg total PR, I placed 5th in a very competitive class, and finally beat my long time rival, Keith Miller (who totaled 592.5 kg). I didn’t quite beat Botica this time around (he totaled 605 kg; where did that 222.5 kg squat come from??), but when it all comes down to the last three deadlifts, you can only enjoy the battle.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but the battle for first, second and third was even tighter than for fourth, fifth, and sixth. Ben Hanara, Tom Hart, and Haris Butt all totaled 645 kg (1,422 lbs) and the decision came down to body weight.

Two days later I realised that I had actually set a new Auckland record for the deadlift and total ( as well as already holding the bench record.) I guess the next stop is the squat too!

Next year is going to be epic. The 93 kg junior class is absolutely stacked, and the competition is only going to get tighter.

How did you all go with your recent meets? Are you happy? Do you know what you need to improve on for next time? If you’ve got anything coming up, best of luck, otherwise, see you on the platform!

Training Review – Auckland Champs 2016

For the first time this macro-cycle, I wrote my own training from scratch. It was a bit of a gamble, but Auckland Champs went really well and I learnt a lot from the experience. Now, I’ve finally found some time to sit down and think critically about my training: what worked, what didn’t work, and thoughts on what I might do in the future. If you haven’t read my meet report (or you really want to read it again), you can find it here.

What I did

I wrote a strength and peaking block from scratch for my build up to Aucklands. Before this, I’ve always used cookie-cutter programmes from the internet which I’ve modified, or had someone else do my programming. Writing from scratch was an experience, and though it was slightly daunting at the time, I’m glad I did. I ended up writing a four week strength/peaking hybrid block (plus a one week deload), and a two week peaking block (plus a one week taper.)

Most of my previous training has been Sheiko or Norwegian based, so the Russian influence is pretty strong in my programming style. I also got a lot of my ideas from Mike Israetel’s book, Scientific Principles of Strength Training. Big thanks to Angus and Jing for talking me out of most of the stupider ideas.

The layout was simple: lift four times per week.Bench heavy twice, and light twice. Squat heavy twice. Deadlift heavy once and light once. Do a variation after every primary lift. Hit a heavy single for each lift once per week. Do abs, back work, and hamstrings after primary lifts. In the peaking block I hit about my second attempt 3 weeks out, doubled my openers two weeks out, then had some low volume three lift days as I got closer to the meet, before tapering.

“Heavy” for me usually still means far from failure, usually 5 sets of 3 at 80% (85% for bench.) Light bench days were 4 x 4 at 75% ish, and light deadlift days would usually mean just do snatch grips deadlifts or similar. 

What Worked

My peak seemed to work really well. Aside from my bench, everything felt like greased lighting. I’ll probably use a pretty similar structure in the future, thought I’d like to be able to extend it to three or four week (+ taper) in the future. Doubling my openers, hitting my seconds (even though I felt like I was dying when I did it) was a huge boon I think. Those trainings were long and hard, but if you can hit something for a double, while fatigued, to a good standard in training, you can certainly hit it on the platform.

My deadlift training was pretty much on point. I am coming to terms with the fact that my hips can’t handle high deadlift training volumes, so being on the lower side here was good. Over time I’ll try and increase the volume I can handle, but that’s a long term project. For now, one heavy and one light session seems about right.  Angus also introduced me a light deadlift protocol which he found useful, so I might try to increase that to one heavy and two light sessions per week in my next strength mesocycle.

I feel like the two light bench sessions per week were really key. Bench has a small range of motion, and so long as you’re doing it well recovers quickly. Two hard sessions a week don’t do it for me. Adding the two lighter sessions added ~32 working reps and ~ 3600 kg of total tonnage per week, without significalty impeding the heavy singles and triples. As they say #benchmoretobenchmore (actually, I don’t think many people say that. It might just be me.)

What Didn’t

My  bench was a little bit lacklustre on the day (despite the , and it took me a little bit of reflection, but I think I figured out why.  For my squats and deadlifts, I tend to work at ~80% for the majority of my training, but (as I think is the norm) I find bench press a little easier to recover from, so I do my real work at ~85% of my projected max. I use a very Sheiko-esque taper, which means triples at 75% 5 days out and 70% 3 days out as a baseline. For my squats, that means a 10% (of max) reduction in absolute intensity and a 48% reduction in volume per session, which seems about right. For my bench though, that meant a 15% reduction in intensity, and a 59% reduction in volume per session. Looking back, I think I tapered too harshly for bench, and I might have peaked a little early. I have a few ideas on how I’m going to modify this for my next meet.

TL;DR: bench felt hard, because I tapered too hard. 

The other thing about my bench was that I hit my tricep/shoulder MRV way too early. Because I was doing competition bench four days per week and four variations per week, I ended up clocking nearly 50 sets of bench and bench derivatives per week in the first two weeks of my strength cycle. Unsurprisingly, my elbows didn’t like that very much, and I was dealing with moderate tendinitis for most of the training cycle. Lesson learned: cut back bench volume (a little bit.)

What Next?

I’m going to keep doing my own programming for the immediate future. I’ve enjoyed the experience, and I think I got a lot out of it. My next meet will likely be the Auckland Bench Press Championships (I can get another shot at figuring out that bench taper), and my next full powerlifting meet will be the New Zealand National Powerlifting Champs, in August!

So, hopefully I haven’t given away all of my secrets. I’ll try to get back to more regular posts now, so keep an eye out! Train hard, and I’ll see you guys on the platform.

Meet Report – Auckland Championships 2016

 

What a weekend; long (not in the relaxing way), chaotic, emotionally charged. For me, the weekend peaked on Sunday morning, but there was so much going on the entire three days. I’ll do another post later on what happened for the rest of the weekend, but for now, just my meet report.

 

Video of the day, courtesy of Kent Alombro. Check him out on Instagram – @kent_nexus.

Meet the Team (and the Opposition)

There’s a few people I’m going to mention multiple times, so I’ll introduce them all here. (Yes, I have three handlers listed! Angus was lifting in the afternoon, so we tried to make his job as easy as possible.)

Angus (@angusblair) – My main handler/coach. Angus is also a coworker, close friend and general mentor. I wouldn’t be where I am without you man, thanks for everything you do.

Katie (@katie.lifting) – My girlfriend and number runner when Angus needs to do weigh ins! I’m proud of your performance Katie, thanks for helping out yesterday.

Catherine (“Cat”, @catshon_) – Newest member of the family, and great to have around. Thanks for coming in and loading plates and keeping me sane when you could have been sleeping in! Very impressed with your performance this weekend.

Keith (@keithmillerhimself) – highest nominated lifter in my class. King of smack talk.

Sam “Tilby” (@tilbyyy) – lifter I’m constantly neck and neck with. I just edged him out for bronze at Auckland’s last year! Great bench presser.

Mindset

I went into this meet telling myself only two things. Firstly, don’t worry about the weights. That’s what your handlers are for; you just think about lifting it. I don’t think I argued with Angus at all on attempt selection, I didn’t even think about the weights between attempts, just what I needed to do. The other thing I promised myself was that I would only worry about one lift at a time. Only think about the second squat after the first squat, only thinking about benching after finishing squatting and so on. I think my mind becomes my own worst enemy most of the time, so being able to focus on only one thing at a time really.

A Shitty Start to the Day

Before even getting to the venue in the morning I –

  1. Got a text saying my ride was still asleep
  2. Had a sore back from sleeping on it in an odd position
  3. Threw up on the side of the road.

It’s a good thing bad things come in threes, because as soon as I threw up I felt fine, and the rest of the day went essentially perfectly!

Weigh-in

I weighed in at 90.90 kg (for the 93 kg weight class), and got my gear check and rack heights done early on (the referee doing the gear check liked that my socks were orange and purple striped). I spent the next 45 minutes (until T – 1 hour) forcing down rice and watered down powerade. It was unpleasant, but there was shit talk to be had with the other competitors in my class.

Squats

Squat warm ups were a bit of a nervous affair, after my sub-optimal start to the day. Fortunately Angus and Cat were around to load my bars, and keep me occupied and on schedule. I might have gone a little crazy in that last 30 minutes if I had only had my own company.

Historically, my squat has been my worst lift, so I was stoked to learn that I wasn’t the first lifter of the day. I ended up opening 9th (for non-powerlifters; lifts take go from lightest to heaviest within a flight, so the first lifter has the lightest squat and the last has the heaviest) out of 14. I opened on 175 kg, which felt like it flew. My only qualm was that it felt like about 4 seconds before I got given the command to squat (it was probably more like 1), which disrupted my set up a little bit. Angus made the call to set my second attempt at 182.5 kg. With some reminders to breathe properly (thanks Cat), I spent ten minutes refocusing on making the next lift as perfect as possible: clearly Angus thought it went well because he called for 190 kg for my third. That was a big call for me –  I’ve never hit a third squat in competition before, and my squats have been extremely inconsistent. It ended up moving much faster than I thought it would, giving me a 5 kg lift time PR, a 15 kg competition PR, and giving me a great start to the day.

(Tilby squatted 185 kg, and Keith hit 205, but missed 215).

Bench Press

The plan for bench was (a) to build my total by putting kilos on the bar and not missing lefts, and (b) to try secure the 93 kg Junior Auckland bench press record. My only serious competition for the record was Sam Tilby. Tilby and I have been neck-and-neck for bench since we met, and it is always good to exchange some smack talk with him.

The refs had been pretty ruthless on the press commands (making them longer than typical) for most of the competition, so I decided to drop my bench opener from 140 kg to 137.5 kg, tying with Tilby for the heaviest opening bench of the 93 kg men.

Angus set my second attempt to 145 kg (according to plan), which Tilby matched. I don’t think I’ve ever hit 145 kg faster than I did yesterday, but it was still slightly too slow to justify a large jump for my third attempt. Angus made the call to set my third attempt at 148 kg (you can make 0.5 kg jumps for record attempts), which turned out to be the best tactical decision of the meet. Tilby set his at 145.5 kg, clearly expecting me to miss 148 kg, leaving him with the record and the best bench of the day. Tilby missed his third, so I walked out to take my third… All I remember about the attempt was hearing Angus yelling at me from one side, Carli yelling at me from the other, and then shaking hands with the guy giving the hand outs (perfect handouts by the way, LJ) afterwards.

Boom. Auckland Junior record. Heaviest bench press of the flight. 0.5 kg lifetime PR, and a 18 kg competition PR.

Rawry

Celebrating my second bench attempt. Photo courtesy of Michael Chen Photography, who did a fantastic job of capturing the AUSPA team over the weekend. 

Deadlifts

I didn’t realise it going in to the deadlifts, but I was only 2 kg off the lead at this point. As background knowledge, I have deliberately not posted any videos of myself deadlifting to social media for about 6 months now. I also submitted a fake opener, which Katie changed to my real opener in the final seconds before openers got locked in. My only plan, aside from being deceptive, was to pull whatever I needed to lock in a podium finish.

I seem to remember throughout warming up for deadlifts, Tilby saying to me that he was intending to pull 245 kg for his third about 6 times. At the time, I remember thinking “huh, I don’t think you’re good for 245 kg man” and “I heard you the first three times” but not saying anything. I later found out that he heard from someone (my team has a mole!) that I was planning on pulling 240, and he must have been trying to goad a response.

I opened my deadlift at 215 kg, which felt like I could have done it for a set of 4. According to plan, we set my 2nd attempt to 225 kg, which felt like an unloaded bar. I wasn’t watching, but apparently both Keith and Tilby’s second attempts moved a little slowly. At this point, Angus pointed out to me that I was only 2 kg off the lead, said that if I took 242.5 kg I had a chance at the gold medal. I said back (okay, I yelled back) “I can pull 242. Give it to me.” And that was that. Tilby matched me, with 242.5 , and Keith put down 243 (another record attempt.)

So, it all comes down to the final three deadlifts. I have the lowest lot number, so I pull first. 242.5 will put me out in front; gold, and a deadlift and total record to match my bench. Some how I know I can do it, even though it’s a 17.5 kg jump, and a 17.5 kg lifetime PR. I take a huge whiff of ammonia, and walk out onto the platform, set up just like I had been visualizing. Reach down, grab the bar, and pull! It felt like forever between putting the bar down and the lights coming on: two white lights, one red. Good lift! Next up is Tilby, but the bar doesn’t even break the floor. Finally, it comes down to Keith’s final deadlift: 243 kg to wrestle back the win. I certainly can’t fault his pull – it was fast. I can’t even bring myself to be annoyed; I would rather come second after a great battle that comes down to the last pull than to waltz straight into first place.

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Locking out my last deadlift – photo credit my sister! @bri_briar

Results

Squat – 190 kg, Bench – 148 kg, Deadlift – 242.5 kg, Total – 580.5 kg (2.5 kg off gold!) giving me a 368.74 Wilks Score.

Wrapping Up

And that’s how a perfect meet goes down: 9 for 9, 58 kg total PR, lifetime PRs on all lifts, a record, second place… I almost achieved the mythical 27 white lights too, but got one red for hitching on my last deadlift (we all know that Two White Lights is best anyway.)

I couldn’t have done it without the team I had supporting me, you guys are the best.

That’s it guys – I’ll have another post up soon summarising the rest of the team’s performances. Train hard, and I’ll see you on the platform.

Dieting (the smart way) – part 2

So my first mesocycle is done and dusted (see here for the training plan and here for the first part of the diet stuff) and now I’m into my strength block and maintenance calories for four weeks (I’m actually a week an a half in now). I was extremely happy with the results of my diet, so here I’m going to present a) what I did, b) results, and c) how I felt about the whole process. So, on with the show.

What I did

My goal calories were 2500 Cal per day, consisting of 220 grams of protein, and with minimum fat and carb goals (which is basically me saying fill up the rest of the calories with anything.) I gave myself a leeway on calories of +/- 200 because I am a total novice at everything to do with nutrition, and I didn’t want to have it end up ruling my life. I did try to make each week average to 2500 though, so I wasn’t eating 2700 every day.

In accordance with the principals outlined in The Renaissance Diet I tried to make sure my fats were far from my training, my high GI carbs were close to my training, and my protein and lower GI carbs were spread out through the day. Because I tend to train in the evening (but before dinner) this means fatty breakfast, balanced lunch and dinner, and a preworkout meal high in high-GI carbs (“shitty carbs.”)

An example day might be:

Breakfast
Shake (300 ml milk, 1 scoop whey, 2 tablespoons peanut butter)
Lots of coffee

Lunch
250 grams mince on 3/4 cup (rice cup that is) of jasmine rice, 200 grams mixed frozen vegetables

Snack
Banana, oat bar
More coffee

Pre-Workout
1 scoop whey mixed with 1/5 cup of sugar

Dinner
300 grams chicken breast, 3/4 cup of jasmine rice, corn cob

I also took a few supplements. I took a multivitamin each morning, to cover my micro-nutrient bases, Metamucil twice per day (a fibre supplement), 5 grams of Creatine Monohydrate in my morning shake, and 400 mg of magnesium each night (sleep aid.)

To track myself, I took a bunch of measurements once a week or so, and weighed myself each morning.

Results

Capture

But wait, how did you gain lean mass on a caloric deficit?

It’s pretty difficult for non-novice athletes to be able to put on lean mass while on a caloric deficit, which makes some of the numbers in the above table kind of unbelievable. It’s worth considering a couple of things:

  1. As far as hypertrophy goes, I was chronically under-trained, so it is possible that I was responding to a new stimulus like a novice
  2. There’s a fair amount of measurement error

How I Felt

Fine. I felt fine. In the past when I’ve gone on diets (and done so poorly) I’ve ended up light-headed, losing strength, cranky, hungry etc etc but for the most part I felt absolutely fine. By the end of the 5th week I was starting to feel a kind of general craving to eat more (it wasn’t really hunger as such… not exactly sure how to describe this) and I think that if I’d intended for my diet to last 8 weeks or more I would have incorporated refeed days or maybe a week long diet break, but as it stood I didn’t need those things to feel generally satisfied. I even managed to work in the odd bit of ice cream or cookie.

The other thing is I felt balanced here – I wasn’t scrambling to measure and weigh everything, which I think (for me at least) is quite healthy. It meant that the food/diet didn’t become an obsession, and that it’s probably possible for me to maintain this level of tracking indefinitely.

I did slip up on occasion, there were days I didn’t weigh myself or lost track of my macros, but they were few and haven’t hampered my progress in anyway. It’s all a learning experience anyway, and I’m better now than I was when I started. (Even Layne Norton advises the odd “YOLO Macros” day, and I think that’s a good approach.)

I couldn’t be happier with the overall results of the diet and hypertrophy block combined; losing fat, gaining muscle and putting myself in a much better position for my coming competitive year. Hope all of your training is going well!

Me trying a spinal decompression

RP Hypertrophy Review and Training Update

I’ve just finished the fourth week of my hypertrophy block, the first of three mesocycles coming in to the regional champs in early April, so I figured it would be a good time for a training update and to review the program I’ve been running.

RP Hypertrophy

The program I’ve been running for the last four weeks is the Renaissance Periodization Hypertrophy program, which is a five week program (four training weeks, plus a one week deload) designed for either gaining muscle mass while gaining weight, or maintaining muscle mass while cutting. This is usually your first step in a macrocycle – building the base, so to speak. I decided to run it while on a caloric deficit because I started over my weight class limit!

I have run the four day version of the program, which has me doing essentially an upper/lower split, twice a week. The gist of it is that each week the sets become more intense, heavier, and there are more of them. The program is well put together, with a very nifty spreadsheet that makes it easy to keep track of what you’re doing week to week.

Volumes

The training volume increases pretty quickly on RP Hypertrophy – from the first week which is essentially a joke, it accelerates to week three where you hit your Max Recoverable Volume (MRV) and then in week four you exceed it. (If you want to know more about this, read Scientific Principles of Strength Training or hit me up; I’m always keen to talk about programming and sports physiology!)

I like graphs, so here’s a visual representation of what I mean.

Capture

The volume increase is pretty drastic – especially notable in the squat. (The deadlift volume drops from week three to week four; I couldn’t maintain the volume that week. Long story short, trap bar deadlifts suck.)

True to plan, in week three I was flirting with my MRV (read as: I started feeling not-fresh at the beginning of each training) and by week four I was feeling downright shitty (sore all the time, my appetite disappeared). I’d like to apologise to anyone I snubbed or was grumpy to in that time.

In the beginning of week four I was feeling pretty beaten up, so I convinced these guys to do some banded spinal compressions with me. I (left, @rawrylynch) went first and couldn’t get enough band tension, though I still got what I wanted out of it. @yuliquay (middle) got into a way better position than I did, I think she had fun. @angusblair tried too, but he’s heavier than me and basically ended up on the floor, even though we put the band higher up. I felt better afterwards, even though we look ridiculous!

Anyway, along the way I set a bunch of rep and volume PRs – I high bar squatted 130 kg for 75 reps in a session, close-grip benched 110 kg for 10 reps, and comp-grip benched 120 kg for 8 reps (touch and go).

I could not be happier with the results I’ve had from this program. I’ve been tracking some measurements through these past four weeks, and on all counts it’s gone extremely well.  I’ll do a full write up on this in about two weeks after finishing this phase of my diet, but basically I’ve gone from 93.0 kg @ 17% body fat to 90.6 kg @ 13% body fat (4 kg fat lost, 1.6 kg muscle gained.) Due to some apparent resolution problems with my scales (more on that in the diet post), inherent inaccuracies in the Navy Body Fat Calculator, and human measurement errors, I don’t actually believe I’ve gained that much muscle while on a deficit, but its a good indicator that I didn’t lose any muscle, while dropping 2.4 kg (0.6 kg per week, ~1.5 lbs per week).

That’s a damn good start to the year. Now its time for me to spend a week playing video games and deloading (and some lifting) before spending a few weeks getting really strong!