More than six weeks ago—pretty much the second I was finished with Ragnar and returned from Chicago—I started training for the Twin Cities Open powerlifitng meet. My coach Shawn broke up training into three main cycles: 4 weeks of strength building, 4 weeks peak, and 2 weeks taper. This first mini-cycle was relatively easy, and comprised of four three-day weeks. Each day focused primarily on one of the lifts: squat, deadlift, and bench press, plus accessories. Each day also included a variation on the lift from the previous day. My typical training week looked something like this:
Day 1: Back squat, deadlift variation (Dimmel or Romanian deadlifts), accessories (barbell row, core)
Day 2: Squat variation (front squat), bench press, accessories (tricep extensions, hammer curls, incline dumbell press)
Day 3: Bench variation (close grip), deadlift, accessories (tricep pushdown, dumbell curls, shrugs)
The weeks started off with higher reps/lower weights and progressed to lower reps with higher weights. And, on the final day of week #4, we tested my 1 rep max (1RM). Testing did not follow the format I suggested before because Shawn doesn’t like failed reps. Instead, testing was done meet-style (3 trys at each lift), and I’m super proud to report that I hit PRs in every lift!
Lift 1: Squat
I started off at 225 lbs., which was my previous 1RM. Success! I shouldn’t use an exclamation point there; of course it was successful. For my 2nd attempt I went with 235 lbs. and made it easily (that’s PR #1). Attempt #3 was 255 lbs. Now, you may remember how I said I was shooting for a 250 lb. squat by the end of the summer. well, I need a new goal, because my current back squat PR is 255. Want proof? Here it is:
Lift 2: Bench
Benching is decidedly my weakest lift. Upper body strength is not my strong suit (pun intended), and I have difficulty accessing the power to press heavy. Work in progress. Anyway, I started off at 130 lbs., and made it no problem. Set number 2 was 140 lbs., which I made, but barely. Shawn said it would have been a white-light lift.* He called it at this point, having judged (probably correctly) that I wasn’t going to make anything higher than 140. Still a PR, so I’m not complaining. Much. I really want to improve this, and am going to be working bench hard over the coming weeks.
Lift 3: Deadlift
My first attempt was at 265 lbs., which I made easily. My 2nd attempt was a PR at 275 lbs. And, my 3rd, 285 lb.-attempt was an unmitigated disaster. Typically I find deadlifting easy from a form perspective. As Shawn says, it’s a really natural movement for me. Sadly, at my 285 lb. attempt, I had a stupid form break-down (as it happens the same one that caused me to fail my third attempt in my last meet), which blew the lift. I also slightly strained my lower back—don’t worry, it was nothing major; after a couple rest days, which I needed anyway, I was in good shape.
You can see in the video how my hips came up too soon, leaving me with a poor angle for bringing the bar up. This was likely due to not holding my core/trunk tight enough. The thing that was so terribly annoying is that I know I could have made that lift. Well, that just means my next PR will be that much larger.
Next cycle is my peak and taper, in which I work like a crazy person then ease off to give my muscles a good amount of recovery before the meet. And, don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it. And, sooner this time.
*In powerlifting competitions, there are three judges; at the completion of a lift all three make a determination whether the lift was good—i.e., it complied with the rules. A good lift gets a white light, and a non-compliant lift gets a red light.