Adventures in Powerlifting: MEET DAY(s)

I’m a total deadbeat and never wrote about the Twin Cities Open, and now it’s too late. Really, it is, because I can’t tell you much about the actual day aside from it being fun and hectic and kind of disappointing results-wise. Being honest, that’s the reason I never wrote about this meet. It’s super disingenuous, but I was looking forward to crowing about all my PRs, and instead I felt pretty crummy about my results (except on bench; I fucking killed that lift). So I’m sorry. Part of sharing my passion for lifting should encompass the lows as well as the highs. I mean, not every day is going to be a great day, and that’s OK.

That said, I recently competed in a different meet: the Western Wisconsin Open. This was part of my post-TC Open plan to make big improvement in both lifts and confidence (which was pretty much in tatters). First, though, let’s exorcise those meet demons.

Buh-bye Goals

If you recall, I was looking for a 700 lb. combined total (that’s the total of my three best made attempts), broken out roughly into a 275 lb. squat, 150 lb. bench, and 300 lb. deadlift. And, yes, I’m aware that those things add up to more than 700 lbs. That’s wiggle room. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough wiggle room because my best lifts actually totaled just 658 lbs., with a Wilks score of 269.31. (What is Wilks, you ask? Wilks is a coefficient that semi-effectively modifies results for relative strength, allowing individuals with differing body weights to compete against each other. The USAPL site has more information on Wilks and a calculator, just in case you’re interested.)

Squat: 107.5 kilos (234 lbs.)
Bench: 70 kilos (154 lbs.)
Deadlift: 122.5 kilos (270 lbs.)

So, squat and deadlift were competition PRs, but still below my  previously tested 1RM for each. My bench, like I said, killed it with a 9 lb. PR. Despite that one bright spot, these were not the results I wanted. However, in training as in life, you don’t work with what you wish you had, you work with what you actually have. And what did I have? Room for improvement.

Where to Now?

So, when I first started this series, I mentioned finding a baseline for your 1RM, or maximum weight for a single rep. You can use a calculator (like this one), or follow a testing format to help identify your 1RM, but understanding where you’re at is super important for setting realistic goals. The problem with goals, even realistic ones, is sometimes you don’t achieve them.

The great thing about testing, is that when you hit a new PR, it becomes your baseline and you get to start all over again with planning your next moves. So, rather than wallow in my disappointment, I turned my focus to the next meet where I really wanted to put on a good showing: The Minnesota State and Midwest Open. Back in February, this was my first officially-sanctioned meet (you guys, that’s less than a year ago; I’m a baby in powerlifting terms), and I’m super excited to compare year-over-year results.

I started on a new rate of perceived exertion (RPE)-based program, which was set to last 9 weeks, with the final day testing maxes with a mini meet. After that, my plan was to embark on a hypertrophy program for 6-9 weeks and transition into meet prep toward the middle/end of December. Well, lo and behold, the Western Wisconsin Open aligned perfectly with max testing for the first 9-week cycle, so I signed up.

Meet Day!

Western Wisconsin was sort of a “throw-away” meet for me. I wasn’t worried about making competition weight (in fact, I weighed in approximately 13 lbs. heavier than at the TC Open), I wasn’t in it for a medal (I’m never in it for a medal), I just wanted to leverage the platform to effectively gauge my progress. And this time, I wasn’t disappointed. Just check out these results:

Squats: I went 3 for 3, with made attempts at 245, 260, and 270 lbs. (shown above)

Bench: I went 2 for 3, with made attempts at 145 and 160 (shown above), and a missed attempt at 170 lbs.

Deadlift: I went 3 for 3, with made attempts at 265, 285, and 300 lbs. (shown above)

Yes, you’re reading that correctly. The weights at this meet were in pounds, as opposed to the usual kilos—no big deal, but it did momentarily throw me off, since I had all my lift weights in metric and had to back-convert to imperial. My meet total was 730 lbs. compared to the 658 from August, and my Wilks score, despite those 13 extra pounds, went up an astonishing 18.4 points.

As with every other meet I’ve competed in or attended, the feeling of camaraderie was epic. I got a chance to chat with a few women who were lifting at their first meet, talked with a few other people who I’d seen around at meets but never talked to, and cheered hard for the other women (and men) lifting during my session.

This meet was unique in that there were several whole families lifting. One of my favorite moments was watching a 13-year-old, 85-pound slip of a girl deadlift 2 1/2 times her body weight. She was there lifting with her mother, father, and twin brother. I can’t even begin to expound on how fucking adorable that was.

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