This past week I competed at the USAPL NE Regionals in Philadelphia, PA and had, by far, my worst performance at a meet ever. The reasons for the performance are multifactorial and I’ll attempt to briefly expound on them so others can learn from my mistakes.
I’d also like to thank all the judges, officials, and meet promoters/sponsors for putting on such a good event. It goes without saying that the judging was strict, yet fair. The overall purpose for this meet, for me, was to go out and break some PR’s. I wasn’t as concerned with posting a high total (because I’m already qualified for the Arnold), which is why my attempts weren’t conservative at all. I ended up going 430/309/530 and ending up 44lbs shy of my best total that I posted at Raw Nationals back in August. Recently, I’ve hit a 345lb paused bench and pulled 545 like it was nothing. I was expecting some big numbers, but alas, they were not to be. I did however, get this sweet pic:
Notice the power of the ‘stache!
Now for my mistakes.
1) Letting my form get away from me.
Most people tell me I’m a “technician” when it comes to form. I’m normally very meticulous with my setup and pay attention to detail, but this all went out the window during my last few weeks of training and at the meet. Squatting, for instance, on none of my attempts did I “set my back” or take a big breath and contract my abs against my belt. Additionally, I don’t remember setting my upper back and lifting my elbows hard. It was essentially a train-wreck. I’ve got to get back to basics and make doing all these things automatic. Here are the steps for successful setup in the squat:
– Take even grip on bar (as narrow as flexibility allows), get under bar and make sure it is placed in the appropriate low-bar position (underneath spine of scapula). Straighten wrists, lift elbows up and stand up to unrack the bar.
-Take as few steps as possible to “walk the weight out”. Step feet outward to appropriate width and turn toes out to correct angle.
-Squeeze chest up (keep elbows up), set low-back into normal extension. Take big “belly” breath and contract abs hard against belt. Tighten EVERYTHING!
-Initiate descent thinking about “KNEES OUT” and “DRIVE HIPS UP”. Hit the bottom hard and drive the hips up all the way to lockout.
-Wait for the rack command, applause, and accolades.
I did precisely none of these things and was off my game for sure. Bench press was more of the same. My grip was off, as was the bar path, eye focus, and tightness. Finally, on the deadlift I failed to set my back and hips at the appropriate angles and the bar moved away from my legs on the way up, forcing me to miss a weight I should have smoked. If I were giving my form a grade, it would be a D. Seriously.
2) Not getting serious about my diet until it was too late.
Yea, Thanksgiving was the week before the meet and I had some serious weight to cut. Cutting carbs, calories, salt, and water at specific times the week before the meet made me just barely squeak by when it came time to weigh-in. This was compounded by the fact that the weigh-ins weren’t until noon the day of the meet. With that kind of weigh-in (and lifting taking place 2 hrs afterwards) it was a dumb idea to cut that much weight and expect a PR performance. It’s definitely possible to cut the weight and then lift, but probably not at a super high level. In short, I should have gotten more serious about 4 weeks out from the meet, making the cut much easier and productive.
I brought zero intensity to the meet, although I’m not sure why. Maybe the cut took the wind out of my sails, but seriously there was no pep in my step when it came time for PR attempts. That being said, all of my openers still felt stupid easy. This tells me the strength was there, but my focus and aggression to take it to the next level just weren’t there.
4) Warm Up Timing
You’d think that by now I’d have my warm-ups timed appropriately, but somehow if left to my own devices, I still manage to screw the pooch. I was in the 2nd flight and thought I should start warming up right before the first flight went out. I was hoping to take my final warm ups towards the end of their 3rd attempts. What happened, however, was me taking 5-7 minute rest periods between my warm up attempts and then getting cold after my final warm ups as they prepared the platform for my flight. In retrospect, I should have started warming up at the end of their 1st attempts, with all foam rolling and mobility work taking place before that point. Like most, I don’t take much rest between warm up attempts and prefer to take my last warm up within 2-3 minutes of my first heavy attempt. I was about 5-10 minutes early each and every time.
Overall, it was just a bad meet for me. I still got second place and if I would have got my last squat counted and my 2nd bench and DL attempts I would have had a good shot at winning, or at least competing for the win. As it sits, I’m super motivated to start preparing for the Arnold coming up in March. I’ll be moving up a weight class and my overall goal is to be top three, set an elite total (1471), and break all my old PRs. Look out world, this is gonna be epic!