This has been years in the making. I was first introduced to the world of Powerlifting in early 2010 by a guy on my Personal Training course in Cambridge. I was a complete training novice, with a degree in Sports Science - a dangerous combination.
One of the first big revelations was the importance of building a programme around compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls / rows).... Enter Mark Rippetoe and Starting Strength.
My new contemporary pointed me towards a book called 'Starting Strength' and I loved it straight away. I'm not sure why exactly i loved it so much, but it probably had something to do with the fact that the author himself was a badass, and it sounded a lot more fun to me to lift something real heavy 5 times compared to something a bit lighter for a 'nosebleed inducing' 10-15 reps as was my previous gym experience. Rippetoe would hypothesise things like, "have you ever seen a guy with huge guns that couldn't squat over 300 pounds," and got me completely changing the way I looked at resistance training.
I started researching the way other athletes and coaches trained and it was all pointing towards the same thing... get strong in the 3 main lifts (at least to start with).
Fast forward 3 and a half years to my first Strongman competition and I was introduced to Progressive Training Systems over in Northampton, who really impressed me. After a little chat with the owners Ali and Faye I decided I wanted to train with them and enter my first Powerlifting competition in early 2014.
Committing to a competition definitely has been the best thing I've done to improve my lifts and results because it forced me to train consistently - I didn't want to come last, and more importantly I never wanted to embarrass myself at any competition. Now I understand that just by turning up and competing you're already a winner and doing better than anyone who looked at the competition and said, "next time." I was nearly one of those guys, but fortunately Andy "Iron Mac" McKenzie helped me locate my nutsack - you can read about that here: Maybe Next Year
And so to the day itself. Turn up, weigh in - no problem, except as i strip down to my boxers I'm told, "you're not expecting to lift in them are you?"
Shit. I knew the rules were strict on what you can wear for an unequipped meet. I had my weightlifting leotard, regulation knee sleeves, belt and shoes, but I'd missed that all lifters must wear standard briefs and long socks for the deadlift. Here was a lesson in preparation and reading the rules thoroughly (all 26 pages).
Fortunately I found a friend who treated me to a pair of official GBPF y-fronts, and I was good to go.
I walked through to join the rest of the athletes, where i was greeted by Ali who settled me down with a pep talk, revised my opening lifts and found my height for the squat rack. In hind sight, I'm glad I revised my lifts and went for something I was comfortable with. I had never lifted in front of so many people, and to someone elses command, so it was good to open with something guaranteed.
The athlete's were instructed to warm up. I got comfortable with the squat and did something like:
20 x 5, 60 x 3, 80 x 3, 100 x 2 and 110 x 1. It felt great - enough to feel the weight on my back but didn't really take anything out of me.
My opener at 120kg felt light and I fired it up with ease. I confirmed my next lift of 130kg, also felt easy, so then finished on 135kg, which was my current gym PB. I'm happy that I got 9 white lights here and in my next competition I'll be opening with 135, and aiming to get into the realms of 150.
4.56 on the video.
This lift was probably the one I was most apprehensive about. The commands are strict and you mustn't move until instructed, or attempt to the rack weight until told to do so. Feet must stay down, bum remain in contact with the bench and the bar must come down all the way to touch the shirt.
I'm always amazed that in every gym the bench press is one of the most popular lifts and yet you never see anyone complete a single rep that would pass for a competition bench press (unless they're one of my clients).
In the gym I've squeezed out 105 on multiple occasions, and even 110 with a close grip (strange), but none of that mattered now. Ali had convinced me to drop my opening weight to a comfortable 90kg... smashed it. 95kg next... smashed it. 100kg... should have smashed it, but i mis-cued the action somewhat. I let the bar slip way down my chest towards my abdomen and then really had to fight to get it back up. My wrist slipped and I rotated the bar enough for the path of movement to jolt and was give a couple of red lights for it. Bugger.
Triple digits next time, no problem.
12.39 on the video
In my opinion, the daddy of all exercises - the most weight you can pick up off the ground.
Get your long socks out... wait, what... Borrow some long socks off Ali (thanks), and put on your new canvas £10 shoes from Tesco.
It felt like a lot of pressure was off having gotten the technical squat and bench press out the way, the only instruction for the deadlift is, "lift".
My best gym lift at this point was 175, but that was way back in February. Since then I'd had an Axel deadlift at 195kg at East Midland's strongest (see previous post), and some really heavy farmers walks / pick ups, including this 200kg 5m walk 2 weeks ago.
Warmed up to about 140, and then went to wait with my competitors. Opened with 175kg... quick, easy. 185kg, PB attempt - smashed it. It was heavy, but no real battle. Final attempt of 195kg - got it up, but received at couple of red lights for bending my knees and slightly hitching it. Not disappointed as I got my PB of 185kg, and I was glad to just get it up. Last year i set myself a target of 2.5 x body weight dealift, and I creamed that, so I'll be honing in on triple body weight next year.
20.05 in the video
An absolutely fantastic experience that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys lifting weights. I can't wait for my next competition where I will definitely be exceeding my current PBs of 135 / 95 / 185 and total of 415kg.
Massive thanks to all those who organised the event and helped on the day. The speed at which the plate loaders move is incredible and really helps move the day along.
An even bigger thanks to the guys at Progressive Training Systems; Faye, Sam and Nina my lifting buddies and especially Ali who has basically coached me for the past 4 months through 3 competitions in which he's been competing as well!
More Powerlifting please!