Recap of my first Powerlifting meet

If you have 30 seconds, read the summary
If you have 15 minutes, read the entire post.

Summary

  1. The goal was to total 480kg (1055lb) in the u74kg class and I got 480kg on the button!
  2. I am still at the very early stages of my powerlifting career and I still have a long way to go
  3. I had so much fun at the meet and can’t wait to do it again. My plan is to train at least a solid 4 months before competing again, this means that my next competition won’t be until early next year.

Note: This post is part of my personal training diary so I may not explain every concept/acronym in detail like in my other “guide” type posts. These type of posts might not read so layman as a result and may even be boring to some people! (after all who likes to read about some random beginner lifting right? That’s not very inspiring/motivating at all. Watching superstars squat 10x bodyweight on YouTube, now THAT’S interesting). I do apologise if that is the case.

If there is anything here that does not make immediate sense, feel free to google it for the moment – I definitely intend to write and expand on these concepts in upcoming posts though!

For those of you who read my post about how I got started would know that I competed in my first ever powerlifting meet on the 25th of September 2016. The event was called ‘Hercules of the Hills II’ and was hosted by Adonis Athletics, the gym that I train at! I have finally had the chance to sit down and review the meet, specifically:

  • My diet/training leading up to the meet
  • Performance at the meet
  • How I felt about the meet as a whole experience and
  • My goals moving forward

Preparation for the meet

For the month of July, my weight hovered around the 77-78kg mark. This meant that I would have to lose about 4kg (~5% of my bodyweight) to fit in the under 74kg class. Most people would say that this would definitely be manageable to lose overnight with some water manipulation. My coach actually advised me to not worry about the 74kg class and just enter into the 83kg class. This was very good advice as I definitely wasn’t going to hit any world records or anything anyway. Your number one priority for the first competition should be to go in, have some fun and enjoy the experience!

However, knowing that water manipulation was a very common procedure for most athletes I thought it would definitely benefit me to get some experience under my belt. That way I would have a better idea next competition how heavy I could get away with being and how far out for the comp I needed to be. In saying that, I did not want to try and lose 5% of bodyweight during my first water cut and ruin my lifts on the day particularly because I knew I’d be nervous etc. I decided to start a very conservative cut so that I would be much closer to 74kg by the time I was 2 weeks out from the competition.

Training was going well and I did not want to compromise it by putting myself into a massive calorie deficit. This would only make recovery tougher and unnecessarily add to my stress levels. I used the numbers recommended in my posts here and here.

My maintenance or Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) was estimated to be around 2500. I wanted 1 refeed day of 2500 and aiming for a -0.5% bodyweight change per week gave me an estimated daily target of 2000 calories.

I weighted myself each morning (and sometimes night – more on this in a later post), recorded my calories for the day, my protein and fats/carbs in that order of priority. What you’ll see below is how my weight tracked over the 8 weeks leading up to the meet:

tc-meet-prep-diet

The grey dots show my weight in the morning each day. The blue line is essentially the trend line or what’s called the “Moving Average”. Each day, it takes the average of the last 7 days. This can identify trends over time by averaging out the daily fluctuations in weight which are quite common. Weight fluctuations are caused by various factors including gut residue, hydration levels etc.

Some things to consider

  • Weeks 1 – 6 (Standard Diet Weeks): As can be seen from the daily weight readings, they fluctuated up and down but had a slow downward trend.
  • Weeks 6-8 (Peaking Block): Notice the steeper and more consistent drop in weight. Each day the weight was either the same or lower and the overall moving average had a very obvious downward trajectory

As you can see it took me about 8 weeks to drop roughly 4kg. In the last 2 weeks I made some diet adjustments for the purpose of short term weight manipulation. This was achieved by cutting out fibre (to reduce gut residue) and I slowly decreased my carbohydrate intake 1 week out to drop additional water weight. I also increased fat intake during the last week so as to keep my total energy intake roughly the same.

I ended up weighing in at 72.7kg. As mentioned I was quite conservative in my diet and also in my water cut. Considering that I felt quite good on the day it gives me a lot of confidence going forward – either giving me more options in starting out at a heavier weight or choosing to be a bit more aggressive in my cut!

Training leading up to the meet

The training leading up to the meet was a pretty vanilla standard linear periodisation block whereby I started off with lower intensity higher repetition work. The intensity increased gradually and although repetitions decreased, overall volume actually increased due to adding additional lower rep heavy sets. The intensity percentages in the graphs below are based off the 1RM test back in June 2016 where my numbers were Squat/Bench/Deadlift: 155kg / 105kg / 190kg.

As the meet came closer, training for the lifts became more and more specific which was expected, I was deadlifting only with the Eleiko bar which was the bar used in competition and practicing my competition pauses for benching.

As you may have read in one of the previous posts, I actually injured my ankle in 2016 due to some drunken shenanigans at a friend’s wedding. After a couple of months of not training my lower body at all my squat and deadlift maxes tanked. Ever since then they have never been close to the December 2015 numbers. For me personally, this training cycle leading up to the meet was not so much about trying to become super strong, it was more about rebuilding my confidence and feeling comfortable under heavy load.

Another factor which contributed to a little unfamiliarity was my decision to switch from high bar squatting to low bar squatting. This meant that I was still trying to find the comfortable bar and foot positions which felt awkward for the first couple of months. Funnily enough, leading up to the meet, the Squat was probably the lift I felt most comfortable with. Weights each week were moving in the right direction and each training session felt great!

squat-training-june-16-sep-16

Notes:

  • Week 6 and 8 were deload weeks, hence the dip in volume/intensity during those weeks
  • The volume of each lift appears to decrease gradually until week 10, this is only because these tonnages do not take into account accessory movements. During these weeks I was performing much more accessory movements, whereas Week 11 moved away from accessories to focus purely on the big 3 lifts.

For the bench press I have never practised the competition pauses/calls so that was a big learning curve. I generally found that my sticking point was coming out of the bottom of the press movement. This would suggest that my weakest link in the bench press are my shoulders.

bench-training-jun-16-sep-16

Deadlift was the other lower body lift which was never the same post injury. I have never handled anything over 200kg (my max in June 2016 was 190kg) and load wise I was very far from 190 for a very long time during the majority of my training. The heaviest load I handled during my peak week was 180kg.

The other thing I was struggling with was my hip position in my deadlift. My hips generally started higher than my coach would have liked and also rose too early meaning I was kind of good morning the weight up. This is obviously not ideal and it was something that I was struggling with a little bit. I was constantly changing the way I executed the lift to experiment with what felt most comfortable and natural.

deadlift-training-jun-16-sep-16

Actual Meet Performance

Squat: 150kg / 160kg / 170kg (330lb / 350lb / 375lb)

As expected, I felt the most comfortable in my squat, the 150kg opener flew, 160kg which previously was my all-time personal best – flew. The last squat of 170kg felt OK. It wasn’t a walk in the park, I definitely had to muscle it a little but it definitely wasn’t a 10 second grind. I personally felt that I had a little more in the tank but did not want to fry my CNS which would leave me fatigued for the remainder of the competition.

I must say though that although it looked quite easy on camera, being my first meet I was nervous as hell and sweating like a nun in a cucumber field! I was so jittery from the caffeine and just had butterflies throughout the first half. It certainly did NOT feel like I was in my own body during the lifts!

I literally forgot all the queues that I’ve been practicing. I even forgot all my usual pre-lift routines/rituals i.e. I usually visualise and imagine completing the lift in my head first before I actually go and do it physically -> I didn’t do that at all, I just went into it! It honestly felt like a disaster in my head and I was shocked to hear and see how well it went afterwards.

Bench: 100kg / 102.5kg / 105kg (220lb / 225lb / 230lb)

I came into benching still feeling pretty nervous and I actually felt that the opener was heavier than it normally was in training. This messed with my head and affected my confidence I think. Thankfully my coach psyched me up for the second lift and this adrenaline gave me momentum for the second half of the competition.

The 105kg bench felt good. I genuinely felt that if I went any higher I may have risked failing the lift so it was good pick by my coach and we both agreed that we got the most of the bench that day. I must note that it is in fact a PB as I have only previously benched 105kg without the pause (was just touch and go).

One thing I noticed was that my pauses at the bottom of the bench felt a little long. This was possibly because it took me a while to stabilise the bar when hitting the bottom position. This definitely sapped my strength for the press command and this is something I’ll need to work on in the future.

Deadlift – 180kg / 195kg / 205kg (395lb / 430lb 450lb)

As discussed above, due to not having enough time to experiment with the ideal deadlift set up and not having enough practice put me off my game. Luckily for me, at this point in the comp I was finally starting to relax and enjoy the meet a bit more. I ended up not thinking about the perfect set up/execution at all and had so much fun deadlifting!

The progression was very similar to the squat where the opener felt easy, second lift was OK and third lift felt good with a bit left in the tank.

Upon reviewing the video, I think my hips still rose a little too early so that definitely requires a bit of tweaking in the coming months.

Results and how I felt about the meet

My goal was to total 480kg and that’s exactly what I got! I was very happy because I was initially only aiming for 450kg in my head. 480kg was sort of my stretch/dreamer/YOLO type of goal so I was over the moon when I got it.

As nervous as I was in the first half, I loved every bit of the competition and am actually slightly addicted to that feeling of competing now!

Moreover, I felt so humbled by all of the support from my family, coaches, spotters, fellow athletes and most importantly my partner Donna! As over dramatic as it sounds, I cannot put into words how much her undying support in whatever I do means to me.

Even though I placed first in the 74kg on the day I know that I am still a beginner in the powerlifting scene. Most of the top guys in Australia total 650kg+ whereas the strongest in the world total 800kg+ so I have got a LONG way to go, but the road ahead actually excites me! I’m glad I am not one of those people with ridiculous amounts of raw talent where I don’t ever need to train and can total 600kg for fun on a bad day. I personally feel a much stronger connection to my lifting, and I’m more motivated to work even harder at it and grow even stronger as an athlete and as an individual person.

tc-deadlift-2

 

Goals Moving Forward:

As fun and as much as I’d love to compete again as soon as possible (especially because the PA membership expires each calendar year!) I am hoping to take a bit longer of an off-season to work on my strength. I am conscious that training to gain strength is different to training in order to express your strength. Which is why I am happy to take at least 4+ months off to work on becoming a more complete athlete and competing again early next year! My current block is the usual boring high volume stuff, definitely not my favourite part of training (I dislike pump work and love the heavy stuff) but you do what you gotta do!

 

Toni

Toni is management consultant by day and an amateur powerlifter also by day.. he sleeps at night. He loves to strive for personal development and he achieves this through training, reading and maybe even writing.

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