trainingpowerliftingnovice

Powerlifting Meet Introductory Guide

Preparing for a powerlifting meet without having had quite a few under your belt can be a daunting experience. This will especially be the case if the meet is your first. With that in mind, this article elaborates on some of the more important things to keep in mind in two articles, both as you prepare for the meet in your training, and how to conduct yourself on game day.

Firstly, let’s look at each of the lifts in turn: squat, bench and deadlift, after a brief intro to the MASS powerlifting rules. Then we’ll look at some of the other aspects of the day such as logistics, mental and nutritional prep, and finally we’ll cover the details of choosing how much weight to attempt for each lift.

 

Introduction to lift rules

MASS will be conducting their meets under GBPF rules. As an affiliate of the IPF, the GBPF has strict book rules, but there may be slight variation due to encountering different referees, human error from the same referees, and as an introductory event, some relaxation relative to high level meets (for example, the pause on the bench command may be somewhat shorter, or more benefit of doubt may be given to squats with borderline depth, compared to say, the GBPF Nationals).

This should be no cause for panic, as long as you understand the standards required of your lifts and practice them in training to that standard. While this will be covered in the rules briefing at the meet, which you should attend anyway, the process and commands of each lift as well as common issues will be covered here.

 

The Squat

 

MASSPowerliftingsquat

The squat has 2 commands. ‘Squat’ and ‘Rack’. After you are called to the platform, you will set up under the bar and walk it out. When you are standing upright with hips and knees locked, you will then be told to squat.

After receiving that command, understand that you are not under time pressure to squat. The command merely signals that you will be allowed to start at any time after that. It’s usually after the command that you will take in your breath for the rep. Making eye contact with, nodding at or otherwise acknowledging the main referee up front may reduce the wait.

After finishing the squat, you will have to stand still momentarily to demonstrate control of the bar, only after which you will be commanded to rack. This is a common cause for failing a lift; practice this call with a training partner leading up to the meet.

When in training, always ensure that you squat to depth. This is one of the most common causes of judges failing squats. You must ensure that the hip joint at the top of the leg (which is more or less at the crease of the hip) drops below the top of your knee.

Taking videos from a direct side-on view with the video camera at between knee and hip height is the best way to evaluate your depth. Good lighting and brightly coloured clothes will help you to perceive the hip crease more easily.

 

The Bench Press

 

IMG_5414

The bench press has 3 commands. ‘Start’, ‘Press’ and ‘Rack’. After setting up under the bar, you will unrack the weight (or it will be lifted off for you by spotters) and hold it with elbows locked until you are given the Start command. You will bring the bar down until it touches your torso and hold steady until told to Press. After finishing the rep, you will hold the weight with elbows locked out until told to Rack.

In training, ensure you practice holding the weight at full lockout before starting and after finishing. Practice with a considerable pause. Pause length may vary slightly depending on the judge and lifter’s style of benching, but the more quickly you bring the bar to a complete halt on your chest, the shorter you can expect to wait. The IPF has a few other subtle technicalities in the bench set up you have to contend with as well, namely that your whole foot must be flat on the ground and that your head must be in contact with the bench at all times after the first command has been given. Keep that in mind when training.

 

The Deadlift

 

IMG_6666

The deadlift is very simple in comparison to the other two lifts. It only has the ‘Down’ command. You will approach the platform, grip the bar and stand up with the weight. The down command will be received when you have locked the weight out fully. You will then return the weight to the ground without letting the bar leave your hands.

Keep in mind that hitches (resting the bar on your thighs) and any downward motion after you start pulling in the deadlift will earn red lights. When returning the weight to the ground, you may let the weight fall freely, but the bar must clearly remain in your hands until it hits the ground.

For additional references, you may consult pages 16, 17, 18, 19 of the IPF rulebook

It may also be helpful to watch videos of lifters in the IPF and their affiliates to understand the technique and standards required. The GBPF Classic Nationals and USAPL Raw Nationals are great places to start, simply plug the comp names into YouTube…

 

Keeping your head on Game Day

Depending on the available space and the total number of lifters and spectators, the venue may be crammed and a bit chaotic, with varying finish times from late afternoon to the mid-evening or later. You may spend 6 hours or more at the meet venue, so prepare accordingly.

Handlers and Groups

Go in a group, or with at least one person who can accompany and ‘handle’ you. Ideally, you’d bring along a friend who has lifted in a meet before and knows the flow well enough to keep you out of trouble.

Even if the person is inexperienced, you stand to benefit from their assistance. They can keep an eye on your belongings, keep you updated regarding the schedule and flow of the meet (more on that later) as well as film your lifts. If they’re new, they will need to be carefully and clearly briefed beforehand (by you) to know what their responsibilities are. They will have to be adaptable, alert and perhaps more than anything, have an interest in seeing you succeed at the meet.

Schedule and Timing

There is a good reason to know the meet schedule. This is to ensure you can time your warm ups well so you begin your attempts so that you’re primed to lift with minimal fatigue, and can time other things like stopping heavy food intake.

Knowing your flight (lifting group) start time will tell you when to start warming up and stop eating heavy. You’ll want to begin your warm up at least 25-30 minutes in advance, especially on the squat. Err on a longer warm up time if you’re uncertain. It is after all, easier to slow down than speed up a warm up. Don’t be afraid to take a warm up weight more than once if you’re way ahead of schedule.

There are 2 parts to this, with the first being the flight you belong to and the next, your position within the flight. Flights are just a way of grouping lifters to keep waiting time manageable. For example, a meet with 20 lifters may be split up into 2 flights of 10 each, so we don’t wind up waiting for 20 lifts between attempts. In other cases, one may have flights in two groups (or more), with a break between the groups. [e.g. Group 1: Flight A,B – break for 2 hours Group 2: Flight B,C]

Let’s consider the meet set up at different ‘zoom’ levels.

Using myself as an example (my name is Dan Chin), let’s consider that I know I’m 4th to squat in Flight B and I have the following ROUGH information (don’t take these as exact examples, in reality we may have 3 flights in a group or larger flights to give a longer break between each different lift).

  • Group 1 (Flights A,B): 1300 start
  • Break for 2 hours
  • Group 2 (Flights C,D): 1800 start
  • Flight A: 1300 start
  • Flight B: 1330 start

Meet sequence (Time-Flight):

  • 1300-Flight A squat
  • 1330-Flight B squat
  • 1400-Flight A bench
  • 1430-Flight B bench
  • 1500-Flight A deadlift
  • 1530-Flight B deadlift

The first thing I’ll do is to stop heavy eating by about 1200. From there, only snacking and drinking. I’ll also start to warm up by 1250-1300 to secure a place in the warm up room as well as allow for extra time when working between others’ warm ups.

Next, I take a look at the schedule for the individual lifters.

 

temp

You can see here the schedule of each individual lifter in his flight. I’m 4th to lift in Flight B, which begins squatting after Flight A finishes. Since I’ll prefer to have between 7-10 minutes rest between my last warm up and my opener, I work by counting the names that come before mine, starting with Patrick Fixler. I hit the 9th name when I count Maxwell Ha. With about 1 minute for a lifter to finish, I plan to hit my last warm up single when Maxwell takes his 3rd attempt squat (in reality, getting it in roughly when Flight A is about halfway done with their 3rd attempts will be good enough). If I work further backward, I know that my penultimate warm up should be done as Flight A rounds up their 2nd attempts.

As you can tell, it does seem like a lot to take care of. However, if you have help, it becomes much less difficult to keep track of what stage the meet has reached at any point. In some cases, the progress of the meet is tracked on a large LCD screen or a projector. You can watch the spreadsheet changes to see where things are at.

If you are the first flight in the group, things will usually start on time and will not be subject to the variation that comes with waiting for the previous flight. Just count the number of lifters the will lift before you in your flight, keep an eye on the clock and hit the last warm up when you want it.

 

Food and Supplements

 

food

Come equipped with food. Make sure it’s familiar, ideally something you can eat before a normal training session without any issues. Whether it’s whole food or candy doesn’t matter, but it must keep you fuelled without causing gastrointestinal distress. Supplementing with protein and carbohydrate powders may be a great idea, especially if you’re hungry right before a lift or eating food right after.

While you should take advantage of ergogenic aids like pre-workouts or stimulants, I will warn against going all out on stimulants until the deadlifts. If you burn out an hour before it’s time to pull because you got hopped up on 4 scoops for your first squat 4 hours before your deadlifts, you’re going to have a bad time finishing up. Scale back slightly the consumption of anything like stims and sugar that may cause a crash in energy levels if this applies to you until the deadlifts begin. A non-stim pre-workout may be very helpful here.

For good reason, this section does not discuss anything related to glycogen or water levels carb depletion or water cutting to make a weight class. As a novice, this should not be under consideration.

Introduction to Matt Gary’s attempt selection process

 

Matt Gary

The approach I recommend on attempt selection is based on Matt Gary’s approach. As a consequence, the following closely paraphrases articles that he has written, which you may look up on the net to verify.

Matt Gary is the owner of SSPT, a USAPL Platinum training facility in Rockville, Maryland. He has trained numerous lifters, including those who have reached USAPL Nationals and IPF Worlds meets. Matt is, however, perhaps even more well-known for his platform coaching and handling skills, which means that he often is involved in handling the US national team at IPF international meets. He employs this very system of attempt selection in the field, to great success. However, in addition to having a good system backing him up, Matt’s skill and experience often enables him to call in 3rd attempts that leave less than 2.5kg left in the tank when he needs to.

To get right down into the nuts and bolts, attempt selection should be something that’s well thought out advance and based on reliable and recent data. Good attempt selection will prioritize ensuring that you don’t bomb out, or take what you have on the day before even considering PR’s.

You should aim to hit a minimum of 6 lifts in the meet. Keep that in mind and be prudent in picking the first 2 attempts, taking reasonable risks on the 3rd.

 

The First Attempt

Your 1st attempt, the opener, will be very important, especially in the squat. It sets the tone for the rest of the attempts and perhaps for the rest of the day. Open reasonably, but lighter if in doubt. The weight should be roughly 90-92% of your projected max, or 100% of your best triple with solid form.

You should be certain of getting this. It should be a weight you can take for a single under even very poor conditions within reason. Treat it like a final warm up. If you have to get psyched for this, it’s probably too heavy. Drop the weight. Likewise if you’re feeling unusually beat up. That shouldn’t happen on game day, but sometimes it does. Make a course correction.

There are few things that will bum you out more than missing an opener, and Matt Gary’s data has shown that those who miss a first attempt are likely to miss subsequent lifts. Dominate this lift and let things snowball as you build your confidence.

The Second Attempt

The 2nd attempt should be considered a springboard more than anything else. As such, it’s generally not the place to take a PR. Still, if results from training have been unusually good and your projected maxes have far surpassed old bests, then taking a PR is not out of the question. That’s something I’ve done several times without issue.

This is usually 95-98% of your projected max. I like to take a bit more than my best double. Use this to build toward the 3rd attempt, which will be the best place to take a PR. Conversely, if the first attempt felt a bit slower than expected, you should adjust expectations and scale back by aiming slightly lower, perhaps 93-96% (taking 100% of your best double is a fairly safe bet here).

The Third Attempt

The 3rd attempt will be the place to take a PR. While generally no percentage is assigned here, if everything is on track, it will be at roughly 100% of your projected max. It is often prudent to take a small increment, such as 2.5kg over your best, especially if you’re an advanced lifter and progress comes slowly, but if you’re feeling good, being aggressive is fine.

Generally, you would not want the jump from the 2nd to 3rd attempt to be larger than the 1st to 2nd attempt. On top of that, if a PR does not feel like it’s in the books, there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a smaller jump without a PR, to add to your total. The total ultimately matters more and a PR total is still a PR.

So, in short, be reasonable in selecting your weights. Prioritize not bombing out, and building up to a larger 3rd attempt rather than going too heavy too early and losing out on building a total.

 

Applying the Maths; Course Corrections

I offer two different approaches to building your attempts. You can begin with a goal weight, or your opener. If you begin with an opener/your best triple, add 10% to get a 3rd attempt, then split the difference between 1st and 3rd, then add 1-2% to get your 2nd attempt. Conversely, if you begin with a goal weight, subtract about 10% to get the 1st, then split the difference and add 1-2% to get your 2nd.

Whichever way you start, if you suppose that you have a best triple of 190kg OR a goal weight of 210kg (using an opener of 190kg yields a goal weight of 210kg and vice-versa, so they’re equivalent), a sensible approach to writing out attempts along with a Plan B in case things feel bad, may look like the following:

  • A1: ~90% = 190kg – A2: ~96% = 202.5kg – A3: ~100% = 210kg
  • B1: ~90% = 190kg – B2: ~94% = 197.5kg – B3: ~96% = A3: 202.5kg

You can see that the absolute values correspond well to the suggested percentages from the text.

It would be a good idea to write things out on a piece of paper so you can refer when deciding between continuing aggressively and dialling back if things don’t feel right.

In order to make a good decision on modifying your opener or deciding between Plan A and B, it’s important not to overestimate how heavy the weight feels. The best indicator of how much you have in the tank is how fast the bar moves. Therefore, if time allows, you should run over to quickly peek at footage of your lift before submitting 2nd and 3rd attempts. This must be done quickly though, as you’re often asked to submit within a minute of finishing the last lift. If not, a trusted friend with lifting experience could be asked to rate the lift and give you another opinion.

As an important final note, it is almost never a good idea to increase the weight after failing an attempt for any reason. Find out why you failed and rectify it when you repeat the weight. If it’s for lack of strength, you must be nuts to think that you’re suddenly come back and kill a heavier weight after failing something lighter. For issues of technique, increasing the weight generally only makes it harder to correct an issue. As a novice lifter, it is hard to imagine a scenario where you would fail a weight and then make a heavier weight.

 

Written by Dan Chin
Edited by Shaun Howell
About the author:

Dan Chin has been training for nearly 4 years, with the last 3 years dedicated to improving the powerlifts. He is a recent addition to Reactive Training Systems’ coachee roster and holds a wilks of 350, with a meet total of 520kg and a gym total of 547.5kg in the U93kg class. He values knowledge as a tool to get more results from one’s efforts.

 

Want to get involved in MASS Powerlifting?
Click the picture below…

 

mass powerlifting

FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+
Read More

josh bridgeman

From the SPC stage to UKBFF National Finals…

Name: Josh Bridgman
University: Loughborough University
Degree programme and year: Masters: International Business. Just Graduated.

In brief, walk us through journey from SPC to UKBFF National Finals?

From the SPC, I decided to try my luck at a UKBFF Qualifier in Cumbria in June! Fortunately I came second and gained qualification into the British Finals this coming Saturday (3rd October). Between June and October I went travelling around America, but still trained twice a day and added some size! Now its the final week after cutting down my body fat again for the last 8-9 weeks.

Tell us a bit about the UKBFF National Finals – what’s it all about?

UKBFF National finals are an accumulation of the UK’s best physique/bodybuilding and Bikini athletes. The top 2 or 3 who have competed in one of the many qualifiers around the country then qualify for the final.

What was your motivation for entering the UKBFF scene?

It was natural progression, coming to an end at University, the next competition for me to do was UKBFF. It is the most recognised federation in the country so I thought I would try it out!

How did MASS SPC prepare you for the world of professional bodybuilding?

MASS SPC is a fantastic stepping stone for professional bodybuilding. It gives you Vital experience and the classes David puts on have helped me so much with my stage presence and confidence. Moreover, the friends gained in the process are for life and that’s something I will value forever!

 

 

Matt Marsh Photography

What is it about stepping on stage that keeps you coming back for more?

The adrenaline rush, the fans shouting and screaming, the fact that all the people on stage with you have worked months if not years just for 5-10mins on stage. It’s every ounce of effort you have that has been put into this moment all coming true. Relishing in it is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had! It’s a bug!

What was the main thing you took away from your experience at the SPC?
The SPC was the start of my journey. I will never be so thankful for David to pushing me into doing this event! It has really kickstarted my passion for fitness and bodybuilding and now my career.

How has your prep evolved throughout this journey?

Prep has changed so much each time! I now take a more calculated approach which allows me to relax a lot more and not stress about getting lean enough, because when the plan is in motion, nothing will stop you! I’m using lower carbs this time around, as well as lower fats and higher protein has really helped me keep my size and continually lose bodyfat. It’s all a learning curve and I will most likely change things the next time around as that’s the best way to learn!

 

 

11986990_1610652739187427_9118591795027702562_n

Training

How would you summarize your approach to training?

Pretty Brutal if I’m honest. I like to warm up very well, get blood into the muscle I’m working, and then go for an all out assault on that muscle. Taking to failure through the positive part of the motion and then failure through the negative part of the motion. Complete failure to force the muscle to grow!

How does your training leading up to a show vary from the off-season?

Leading up to a show volume will go up, training intensity will go up, rest time will go down. Generally aiming to burn more calories and fully fatigue the muscle! Also introduce cardio when I need to. Anywhere from 10-30 mins 2-5 times a week.!

How do you personally determine what constitutes a ‘good workout’?

A good workout to me is when you can’t give anymore, because if you come out the workout and you could of given that extra rep or set, then why not? Someone else is probably doing that so why shouldn’t you?

 

 

12036448_1617200325199335_8724791258992512603_n

How has your strength been affected by cutting?

Strength always takes a big hit, but for me it’s no problem as I leave my ego at the door. Bodybuilding is not about moving the most amount of weight possible, it’s about sculpting and perfecting your physique – sometimes it needs a more calculated approach rather than blunt force trauma!

What will you be doing back stage to pump up on Saturday?

Back stage I will have some dumbbells and just go through an all out circuit for upper body, getting blood into my muscles and generally getting my heart rate bit higher. I won’t over do it though; you don’t want to get fatigued before you go on and have to pose – keeping your abs tight while breathing heavy is not fun!!

Do you think that training or nutrition plays the greater role in achieving a stage-ready physique?

Both. People say its 70/30 or 60/40 or honestly for me its 50/50 If you don’t put everything into both then there’s no point in the other. 100% diet and 100% training. If you don’t train well, your diet becomes useless, other than making you a healthier person etc. And vice versa.

 

 

12039413_1615460292040005_3925181476462629712_n

Nutrition

Do you subscribe to a certain way of eating?

I do IIFYM, but I remain lactose and dairy free (personal choice) Generally my diet is based around whole grains and lean meats – I don’t have pizza, burgers and other foods which are considered unhealthy (unless it’s a cheat day!). I do this for wealth of life and making my self as healthy internally as externally. So lots of vegetables bit of fruit and a balanced diet.

Does this approach vary in the off-season?

Not really no – I will just increase the amount of food I eat compared to on season. Maybe a few more cheat days and if I want something I will generally have it.

How have you tried to counteract hunger whilst cutting?

Taking my mind off it! Going for a walk or generally remaining busy takes my mind away from food. If you’re bored, or if I’m bored at least, I head straight to the fridge!

Have you had any slip-ups along the way where you have deviated from your diet?

Nope. I have implemented days where I can be more relaxed on my diet; this allows me to focus on keeping to the plan during the days where they are scheduled. Generally my cravings and hunger problems are contained by these relaxed days! Though I’ve been close to caving in!

 

 

josh bridgeman

How have you handled social eating or meals out during your competition journey?

I have my scheduled days where I can go out with friends for food and generally relax more. This keeps my sanity level stable! But throughout the week I do not eat out.

How have your primed your nutrition during peak week?

I have done absolutely nothing! I calculated it perfectly this time around, allowing me to cruise into the final week, not having to change anything as I feel I am lean enough and ready for action!

Have you planned a post-show indulgence?

Cheesecake. I am a fiend for cheesecake. I cannot wait!!

What is your post-show nutritional strategy going to look like?

I’m going to have to reverse diet, and slowly taper off my cardio. Ended up on relatively low calories this time around with quite a lot of cardio. If I just stop and start eating with no cardio… Ill definitely gain a lot of unwanted fat. I’m thinking it will take around 4 weeks for this to end and for me to get into a full bulk, which I intend to stay in for a long time! Time to put on some muscle as I’ve been dieting most of the year.

 

 

10296410_1430085687244134_3489135706015530750_o

An inside on what it’s really like to be a bodybuilding competitor

What are some of the sacrifices you have had to make to reach your goals?

I don’t see my friends too much as they go out and eat a lot. I train twice a day most days so I have had to put people on hold for a long time. Generally putting myself before others, it’s a selfish sport at the end of the day. But I am excited for catching up with everyone and getting my relationships back with some people! hahaha

What has been the hardest part of prepping for the finals?

Honestly, this is my 5th prep this year, my body is telling me no more! The diet is really getting to my head, I get mood swings and if I’m hungry, I’m generally Hangry (hungry and angry).

Who has motivated or inspired you through the tough days of contest prep?

My Mum has done so, so much for me this prep. She tells me to keep going everyday, positive motivation from someone like your mum is so valuable when putting your body and mind through contest prep!

 

 

11182044_1567214040197964_1400238971568303801_n

Can you share with us some of your top ‘hacks’ for surviving contest prep?

Drink lots of water… Eat wholegrains to stay fuller for longer. But essentially there are no quick-fixes or hacks, ultimately, you either want it or you don’t.

Can you confess to trying out any whacky strategies in pursuit of the dream physique?

Haha! Let me think… I have tried stupid workouts… lots of food… Old school techniques. But nothing works better than hard work and putting the basics into action!

Tell us a bit more about your Youtube channel:

Originally, I started my Youtube channel just to document my movement through the fitness industry. Now, it’s more of a passion. I want to make my channel everyone’s channel. If I post a video on, let’s, say ‘carbohydrates’, then I want anyone who can add to what I’ve said to comment so that when people arrive at my channel, theu will get more than just my personal perspective (I’m so far from knowing everything. Also I just love editing and making videos!

 

 

What are some of the stereotypes about bodybuilding you want to shake off?

We are not all meatheads. We are more approachable than your average human. We love what we do so don’t challenge us as to why we do it; it’s the same reason you play golf or football or anything like that. We do not (well, I do not!) eat chicken rice and broccoli everyday haha! It can be fun.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

I want to grow my YouTube channel, along with my physique and hope to compete in the USA eventually and the Olympia if possible. But until then I will just keep grinding!

If you had one piece of advice for a student thinking of competing in bodybuilding, what would it be?

Do it. Just Do it. If you don’t like it then you don’t need to do it again. But I guarantee if you’re interested in bodybuilding, you will love it!

 

Josh Bridgeman
MASS SPC 2015 Champion
Facebook Josh Bridgeman Fitness
Instagram @joshbridgman
Twitter @Joshbridgman2
YouTube Josh Bridgeman Fitness

 Interview by Emma Pudge

 

FacebookTwitterPinterestGoogle+
Read More