Competing on the World Stage: Ohio State is going to Belarus!

Such an honor: Ohio State Powerlifting is going international! Help get us there!

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We need your help!! Help send the Ohio State Powerlifting team to the World Stage!

http://go.osu.edu/tOSU

It is an honor and a privilege to share that I have been invited to compete on an IPF world stage this year: the 1st IPF University World Cup in Belarus, Minsk!

team pic.jpg

In order to truly understand the magnitude of this meet, it is important to understand just how elite IPF meets are. 99% of powerlifters will never have the chance to lift in an IPF meet, as they are reserved for the world’s best athletes. From a club standpoint, this is by far the largest stage we have ever been on. Furthermore, this is likely the largest stage any club sport from OSU has ever been on. We don’t take the task of representing Ohio State or the United States lightly!

OSU coach John Downing accepted the bid and selected the eight strongest pound for pound lifters to represent OSU Powerlifting at Worlds, myself included! The team will be traveling halfway around the world in July and I want you to come along on this journey!

You can follow my training updates for this meet here: https://www.instagram.com/stupidlystrong/

I will also be posting updates here periodically as well, of course!

If you wish to donate and help my team and I make it to the stage, please go here:

http://go.osu.edu/tOSU

It would mean the world to me and the entire team, and we want you to know that we greatly appreciate you.

Thank you!

 

Overcoming Your Bench Sticking Points

How much ya bench? That’s all the bros care about. So how much does it suck that no matter how hard you try, you’ve been stuck at the same weight for months now? Feel like no matter how hard you try, you just can break through that plateau? What you need to ask yourself is: where is my sticking point? If you can answer that, you can focus on overcoming these issues, and you will find that progressing on bench press will come easy to you once again.

There are really 3 common sticking points in the bench press: right off the chest, just above the chest, and lockout.

Off the Chest: The easiest one to address is off the chest. If you find yourself getting stapled with a certain weight every time you attempt it, it’s simply because you’re not strong enough yet. Instead of getting trapped under 225lbs every time you go for it, bench 210lbs instead. Yes, two plates looks a lot prettier than a plate and change. But in order to get stronger, you need to learn to swallow your ego. Work on adding a rep or two every workout, then once you can move 210 effortlessly for 5 reps, slowly add weight, just 5 or 10 pounds, and repeat. You’ll find that, before you know it, 225 is moving for reps just as easily as 210 did.

Another thing to add to your workouts is a pause in the rep. If you’re a powerlifter, this is something you should be doing anyway, as a paused bench press is what’s judged. Pausing the rep will take a lot of momentum out of the press, making the lift harder, and forcing your body to grow and adapt to it. If you already pause the weight, pause it longer. It’s not unheard of for myself to pause a weight for 5 seconds before pressing. This will teach you to stay tight, and how to successfully explode off the chest. Just make sure it’s a weight you can actually control for the entire duration of the press. Remember, swallow that ego at the door.

Just Above the Chest: If you’re failing the movement inches above your chest, it means you need to work on strengthening your pecs and shoulders. My favorite accessory by far is the Spoto Press. Similar to a board press (but definitely more difficult), you’ll pause the barbell an inch or two above your chest (your sticking point), pause it for about a second or two, then drive it up like you would a normal press. Mastering this lift will greatly help you retain tightness in the bottom of the lift, and help to strengthen the muscles at that point in the movement.

Another accessory that will really help develop the pecs and the shoulders simultaneously is the incline dumbbell press. Pick a weight that’s heavy enough to require some effort, but something you can also do for reps of 8-10. For me, this is about 40-50% of my bench press. Be sure to bring the dumbbells all the way down for a full range of motion. To make it even harder, I love to actually pause the dumbbells on my shoulders, and explode out of the bottom of the lift. This carries over into the violent explosiveness needed in the barbell press.

Finally, something like a pec fly is great for isolating the pecs, and strengthening them exclusively, for when your triceps and shoulders are absolutely destroyed.

Lockout: Have trouble with the top half of the lift? You need to strengthen your triceps. My favorite finisher/overload work for bench press is incorporating Mark Bell’s Slingshot. The Slingshot helps make the lift easier at the bottom portion of the lift by stretching the fabric at the bottom, allowing you to “slingshot” the weight out of the hole. As the bar rises, the weight accumulates and the triceps are put on blast. Usually I’ll work with a weight that’s 5-10% over my working set max. It feels fantastic!

A close second favorite: close grip bench press. By bringing your grip in close to the edge of the knurling, and keeping your triceps tucked through the entire exercise will force your triceps to be the main movers of this press, and will really test your pushing limits!

Another accessory you can add to your routine are pin presses! You’ll need a power rack to do this successfully, and you’ll want to adjust the safeties to a height that’s above the chest, but decently below lockout. This exercise allows you to push heavier weights than you may be used to, really hammering the triceps and the pecs at the top of the movement.

And finally, incorporating actual tricep accessories will help to increase their strength.

Why should you listen to me? I’ve increased my bench press to insane levels as a powerlifter, and most recently, I’ve been able to bench press 375lbs at a bodyweight of 180lbs (seriously, watch below!). Using these accessories and incorporating these lifts into my workout has done wonders for my bench press, and I am confident it will help yours as well.

Meet Report: USAPL Future Winter Meltdown

My second full powerlifting meet: results, review, and self critique.

Video of all 9 lifts:


Stats

  • Height: 5’7″
  • Weight: 80 kg/ 176.4lbs

Background and Training

  • 5’7/24/M, I’ve been training as a powerlifter for a little over a year now, and have competed in one meet prior to this one (in July, 565kg @ 83kg). I generally train 3-4 days per week, and squat 3x/week, bench 2x/week, and deadlift 1x/week. I’m following a blend of Nuckols’ programs, and using Prilepin’s chartto guide me in my volume selection for the workout. I don’t really track my diet too closely, just making sure to have high amounts of protein for recovery. And I’m on that creatine juice.

Meet Prep

  • I followed a tapering protocol laid out by CWS, as I felt this taper seemed pretty straightforward and logical (I’m sure most tapering protocols are similar). I dropped volume over a period of a month, and increased weight week to week, until I was performing openers a week out, then just going through the motions during the week leading up to the meet.
  • Sleep has sucked lately; I find myself lying awake at night for long periods of time, but I still try to force myself to bed around 10 (I’m typically waking up at 7 or 8).
  • My weight cut… was just normal dieting. I ballooned up to ~195+ in July shortly after my last meet, and walked around at that weight for a couple of months before I began dieting in October. I reached my goal weight of 182 about a week out from competition, so I ended up just having to maintain weight for a week – fairly easy.
  • Injuries: I was actually pretty happy with my body coming into this meet. My nagging shoulders were pretty well healed, and my hip healed fully from a bout of over-training from squatting 3x per week. Overall, can’t complain.
  • My goals going into this meet: get that 400 wilks, get that 600kg total.

The Lifts

I weighed in at 80.3kg, and went 6/9 overall.

Squat

  • 197.5KG, make: Completing this lift eliminated all of my nerves, and from this point on, I approached the platform in a zen state of mind. Went smooth, as all openers should. 3 white lights, 7.5kg/16.5lb meet PR.
  • 207.5KG, make: Perhaps a little slower than my opener, hit an all-time PR on my second attempt. 3 white lights, 17kg/38.5lb meet PR.
  • 217.5KG, miss: Took too big of a jump, just wasn’t strong enough. 3 red lights.

Bench

  • 165KG, make: So bench fell apart for me today; not sure if it was because of exhausting a lot of energy on the squat, but I was only able to hit my opener. Grinded out 165kg for a questionable 3 white light 5kg/11lb meet PR.
  • 170KG, miss: Burned out, again, strength wasn’t there, 3 red lights after sticking with it for about 5 seconds before failing it.
  • 170KG, miss: Some confusion in setting up the bench for me: the guy before me made a stink about the safety bars being set too high for him (they weren’t), so when they loaded the weight for me, they stopped me mid-setup because the rack height wasn’t set right, so I left, had to come back, re-setup… I know it all sounds petty, but it messed with the confidence I had to make the lift, and this weight didn’t move off my chest at all. 3 red lights.

Deadlift

  • 215KG, make: Nothing to see here. Opener flew up, 3 white lights, ties meet PR.
  • 225KG, make: The lift flew up again, but grip started to go towards the lockout. Another second or two and I may have dropped it. Got it down in time though, 3 white lights, 10kg/22lb meet PR. Officially in the 500lb deadlift club!
  • 230KG, make: My third attempt was a very conservative jump, due to how grip went in my previous attempt. However, to my horror, I realized as I was setting up that I forgot my fucking belt. I ran off the platform, grabbed my belt, quickly threw it on (one notch too tight, but I was in a hurry), setup, and managed to finish the pull easily with 8 seconds left on the clock. I felt like an idiot, but was euphoric that I still made the lift. 3 white lights, 15kg/33lb meet PR.

Results

  • Placed first in the 83kg Raw Open, out of approximately 14 competitors, totaling 602.5kg, which means I got a Wilk’s score of ~410! Woo!
  • I got to pee in a cup because I was “randomly” selected for a drug test. So that was cool.

Final thoughts

  • 12 hour day, with absolutely no sitting down until the end, as I was also coaching and handling my fiance for her first meet. She too did very well, with a total of 250kg in the 63kg class, coming second in the open (out of 7 girls, awesome!) and first in the Junior class (because… she was the only Junior). Even with the constant running around, while I didn’t make all of my planned lifts, I am extremely happy with my performance. Next up: Collegiate Raw Nationals in April!

3 Things I Did to Get a 315lb Bench Press

Bench, FailThat guy bench pressing 325 pounds in the picture? That’s me. I competed in a local raw bench press competition in February 2012, weighing in at an skeletal 149 pounds (I had 4% body fat, to give you an idea of how dense I was). And I pressed 325lbs. And I won best overall.

I used to think that a 225lb bench press (two plate bench press) was simply not in my cards. Then I did it. I never saw myself benching 275lb (two and a half plates). Then I did that. 3 plates? Never in a million years, I’m just too small.

Yep, I did that too.

Just recently, I increased my bench press to 375lbs in a push/pull competition, and this April (2016), I plan to set the Raw Collegiate National bench press record in the 83kg weight class.

So how was I able to reach these goals? How was I able to increase my bench press year after year, even after many have told me that I have reached my peak? Really, I can break it down to three simple, almost common sense reasons:

1) Attack  your weak points

Plateaus happened. The weight would stall for months at a time, and as the weight got heavier, the chance for stalling got greater. So what do you do? Break down the lift, and find out where it falls apart.

I’ll be writing a much more in depth post on overcoming “sticking points” in the bench press, because I feel that I’ve overcome a great deal of them myself. By lifting smart, and changing some variables, you can make the lift temporarily harder in order to make the lift easier down the road. Let me explain.

If you find that, no matter how hard you try, you always fail the lift right off the chest (as most raw lifters do), it means you need to strengthen your pecs. Do this by pausing for 3 seconds instead of 1 second, or by incorporating key accessories into your routine, like dumbbell presses and pec flyes.

Have trouble locking out? Strengthen your triceps! Make the top half of the lift harder by overloading using boards or Mark Bell’s Slingshot. Hammer them with extra tricep isolation exercises! Break them down to create the strongest triceps imaginable.

2) Increase your lifting frequency

If you’re serious about strengthening a certain lift, you need to put the time into it. I used to bench once a week, following the horribly low volume program of 5/3/1. It just wasn’t enough, and for years, my bench hovered around 315-335lbs. When I started benching twice a week, my bench press responded favorably, and jumped to 340lbs, then 350lbs. Now, my bench press has grown to be within pounds of 405lbs, my next big milestone. And I know that, given time, it will fall.

3) Fuel your body

I ate more. More chicken, more beef, more proteins and potatoes. More greens and more oats. When I got to college, suddenly I wasn’t bound to having one dinner. I could eat when my body told me I was hungry.

And my body rewarded me for this. As I took in more protein, and more healthy carbohydrates, my body repaired itself more effectively, and I had more energy in the gym. I would tear down my muscles to the point where I couldn’t even take my shirt off following a workout, and my body would get to work building stronger muscle in its place, because now it had the nutrients to do so.

Fueling your body doesn’t stop at food though. You need to provide your body adequate sleep, so that it can properly utilize those nutrients you’ve given it, and fully repair your body. Sleep is an amazing, and mysterious, part of the day, and it is when you are sleeping that your body does its best to repair itself.

So eat, eat, eat, but also, sleep!

 

 

The Complete Guide to Equipment You Need to Maximize Your Powerlifting Training (and some additional equipment that’s helpful as well)

As powerlifting gains in popularity, many ask: what powerlifting equipment do I need in order to optimize my training to its fullest potential? What powerlifting gear should I buy, and when do I absolutely need it? With the growing number of products being targeted towards powerlifters, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. That is why I put together a list of all of the absolutely necessary equipment you need in order to maximize your powerlifting training (as well as some additional equipment that I’ve found helpful as well). Keep in mind, this is not a list of things needed for a powerlifting competition (AKA powerlifting meets)! That will be covered in another blog post later on.

So without further ado, let’s jump right in with the most important piece of equipment you’ll be needing for your powerlifting career…

Leather Powerlifting Belt

Above everything else, the number one thing you can add to your powerlifting arsenal is a good, quality, leather belt. Belts come in many varieties of thicknesses, cuts, colors, and tightening mechanisms, but essentially, you want a 10mm or 13mm thick leather belt, either single or double prong, with a standard, non-tapered cut. Some athletes prefer a lever belt, which utilizes a lever to tighten and release the belt from around your waist, but I’ve found that (1): levers are a pain in the ass to adjust, if your body is in the process of gaining or losing weight, (2): levers break, and (3): they are generally priced a little higher than pronged belts.

As far as thickness is concerned, you’ll get a lot more stiffness and resistance from a 13 mm belt, but many find 10 mm to be just as effective, and a lot more comfortable to use.

Some of the best belt manufacturers are listed below, and prices for a good belt will run you anywhere from $60 to $200+. Keep in mind, though, that a good belt will last a lifetime.

Inzer Belts

Pioneer Belts

Wahlander Belts

Titan Belts

Powerlifting Knee Sleeves

Some lifters believe they have no need for knee sleeves until they start lifting “heavier” weights. However, I’m more of the opinion that knee sleeves should first be used as an injury preventative before they’re used as a performance enhancer. Knee sleeves will provide your knees with warmth and compression, which aids the lifter in preventing knee injuries. Sleeves for powerlifitng are made of neoprene foam, and can range in thickness from 3-7mm thick, with 7mm providing the most support and warmth. Companies like Rehband have been around for years, supplying lifters with quality knee sleeves intended for this purpose.

More advanced lifters, however, are now turning to certain companies making knee sleeves that not only provide support, but also act as “spring-like” tools to help lifters squat more. Sleeves which are tight fitting and sturdy will store elastic energy as a lifter descends into the bottom of a squat; when the lifter reverses directions, these sleeves will slightly propel the lifter up, and make squatting out of the hole that much easier. SBD makes knee sleeves that are often utilized for this purpose, and recently, Slingshot by Mark Bell has released their version of this sleeve (the STrong sleeves). Which are better? Read my post “SBD vs STrong Sleeves: Which is the Best Knee Sleeve?” to find out my opinion on this matter.

Rehband Knee Sleeves

Slingshot Knee Sleeves

STrong Sleeves

SBD Sleeves

Powerlifting Shoes

Each of the three lifts can take advantage of different kinds of shoes available to lifters, and depending on how much you want to spend, you could have as many as three different pairs of shoes in your bag. Shoes with a thin sole will help your deadlifts, while shoes with a heel may help your squat. If you’re interested in a catch all shoewear, look for something with a flat, sturdy base that can grip the floor well.

Many powerlifters start off with and swear by Converse Chucks, since they can be used pretty well in all three lifts. However, you may find that Chucks don’t necessarily excel as shoewear for any one particular lift, and instead are just OK. If you’re looking to optimize the shoes for the lift, you may want to invest a little more money into your shoes.

Squat shoes, like Romaleos or Adipowers, have a flat base, but a raised heel. These can assist squatters that have poor ankle mobility, making it easier to hit the required competition depth. These are great for squatters that have a more narrow stance, or prefer to squat high bar. Squat shoes may also be used by the lifter in the bench press, as it allows for a bigger, tighter arch, since the lifter can pull their feet back further without their heels coming off the ground (per the rules of the USAPL and IPF).

Deadlifting shoes are shoes that typically have a thin sole, are very flat, and, for sumo pullers, are very grippy. Shoes such as the Crossfit Lite TR Training Shoes, or even specialty shoes like deadlift slippers, both meet this requirement.

Adidas Adipowers

Crossfit Lite TR Training Shoes

Converse Chucks

Chalk

The fastest way to improve your grip strength, hands down. Chalk will provide you a better grip, and keep your sweaty hands from dropping the bar in your deadlift. Chalk can also be used on your traps to keep your back from sliding up the bench in a bench press and to keep the bar in place during the squat. It’s cheap, and it’s always a good idea to have an extra block ready to use in your bag at all times. Just make sure that you purchase Magnesium Carbonate, and not Calcium Carbonate (chalkboard chalk). A pound of chalk will set you back about $20.

GSC Gym Chalk

Talc

When deadlifts start to get heavier, you may find yourself having a harder time dragging the bar up your thighs to lockout. The weight of the bar grinding up your sweaty legs makes for a hell of a finisher. As such, a lot of deadlifters use talc or baby powder on their legs to reduce the amount of friction between the bar and the skin, and therefore makes lockout silk smooth. Just be sure not to get any on your hands, as talc will make your grip useless.

Talc is cheap, just like chalk, so there’s really no reason not to have some in your bag at all times.

Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder

Wrist Wraps

Bench pressing puts a ton of strain on the wrists, as does low-bar squatting. Adding wrist wraps to your gear helps to relieve this strain, while also keeping your wrist in line with the forearms for optimal strength. Wrist wraps are also sometimes used with deadlifts to aid in grip strength. Both Titan and Inzer have top-notch wrist wraps, and Mark Bell’s Gangsta Wraps are gaining prominence in the powerlifting world as well. A good pair of wrist wraps will cost about $30.

Gangsta Wraps

Max RPM Wrist Wraps (My personal favorite)

Signature Gold Wrist Wraps

Straps

When the deadlift volume gets high, and the callouses get torn, it’s always a good idea to have a couple pairs of wrist wraps in your bag to help you finish that workout. They’re cheap, they’re small, and they’re Godsend for volume days.

Basic Lifting Straps

Bands

Bands have multiple purposes that can both assist your lifts and make your lifts more demanding. Through accommodating resistance, you can prepare your body for heavier lifts before you’re actually lifting that much weight. In squats, bench, and deadlifts, you can make the weight much lighter at the bottom portion of the lift, and fairly heavy at the top. Bands are also great for warming up for all three lifts, to prepare your muscles for that movement while preventing injury. I’ll spend about 10 minutes before each session utilizing bands for this purpose.

EliteFTS has a huge selection of bands to choose from, some thin and meant for lighter lifts, some thick and meant to provide super heavy resistance.

EliteFTS Bands


Did I forget anything? Comment below and let me know!

Setting Up the Perfect Arch for Your Bench Press, Every Time

How to set up a bench arch: Instructions on how to create a tight setup for a strong bench press.

In powerlifting, a bench press is considered the act of lifting a barbell while laying on your back, bringing the bar down to touch your chest or abdomen, pausing, then pressing the bar away until your elbows are locked and you are back in your starting position. In most federations, your upper back (traps), buttocks, and feet must remain in contact with the bench and floor at all times, and in some federations, your head must remain in contact with the bench as well. One key aspect most powerlifters utilize to aid them in the bench press is the coveted arch. Some lifters are naturally good at curving their back to form a huge arch, while other lifters struggle and perform their bench press with a rather flat back. I myself have been credited with having a great arch, with many lifters asking me what I do to get my arch so tight. Below, I’ve laid out the steps I use every time I set up for my bench press. This setup puts me in the same position every time, resulting in practically the same lift every time.

The key words here are every time. The more you do this, the better, faster, and easier this setup becomes! Practice this for every set you perform, including warm ups and max effort sets. Do not slack on setup just because the weight is lighter.

So without further ado, here are the steps I take to set up the perfect bench press arch, every time.

1) Retract the scapula – up, back, and down.

2) Grip the bar – in my case, pinky on the rings, bar in bottom of palm, over wrist.

3) Dig in traps, start arch formation.

4) Feet on ground, and force them back as far as I can. Butt planted. The further back my feet, the tighter my arch. Also, this keeps my knees way below my hips, and stops my butt from ever leaving the bench.

5) USAPL rule – heels down.

6) Squeeze the bar hard, Squeeze glutes hard. Get bar handed to you. Pull the bar apart. Engage lats. Brace. Start lift.

Start to finish, takes about 30 seconds.

To see this in action, here is a video in which I perform this routine 3 times in a push/pull competition in 2015. Take a look:

Give this a try. Bench pressing is a lot more technique driven than meets the eye, and this set up has dramatically increased the amount of weight I can move.