Powerlifting Meet Prep Part 1
Posted on December 07 2018
A “Tactical Athlete” should typically train like any “Hybrid Athlete.” What this means is that a Tactical Athlete should have the strength, endurance, speed and power to do whatever he or she is called upon to do when called upon to do it. This is hard for many gym rats because it means sacrificing a bit of potential in one area or another. The strongest men in the world on the stage don’t have a chance in the world catching Lance Armstrong on a bike and Lance Armstrong doesn’t have a chance in the world of overpowering Brian Shaw in just about anything. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t be stronger than most, more powerful than most, or run longer than most. In fact, your job depends on it.
While our programs generally are a blend of all components, there is a focus in one or the other to maximize growth in weak areas. In other words, if you’re trying to build strength, focus on strength while maintaining cardiovascular capacity. If you’re trying to boost cardiovascular capacity or endurance, just do your best to maintain strength. In the end, bring everything together and dominate the field. But I’m out of the service now and it has afforded me an opportunity to truly focus in any area I choose at the detriment of another. Doing so provides me a window into the sport and a chance to explore new elements that may carry over to the Tactical (or Hybrid) Athlete.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll know that I signed up for my first Powerlifting Competition. I’m six weeks in on the training and wanted to do a quick recap for anyone interested in stretching their boundaries and trying something new.
Even the best coaches often have others coach them. A coach can see things that you may not and you can always learn something new to pass along to your own clients in the future. Therefore, I’ve been following Juggernaut Strength Trainings Meet Prep. Chad Wesley Smith has coached some of the top Powerlifters in the world for decades so who am I to question his techniques? I signed up for a 12 week program although the meet was a little further out.
Having come off about 10 months of Strongman Training, I had been neglecting my squat and bench press. So for week 1 and 2 I just worked on “the big three” to get back into the groove and dial in my form. The good news for me was that I hadn’t lost much, if any strength in these areas. My Back Squat had even possibly improved by 10-20 lbs. There’s a thing called muscle memory and it’s real. You’ve just got to turn those nerve receptors back on. But 4 weeks ago it was time to officially jump in.
The program follows a typical 3 weeks on, 1 week deload. Doing so provides the body the ability to recover with the intent being that you will come back stronger and more powerful after. Each cycle then changes in volume and intensity. I’ve been doing four days per week while still doing our strength conditioning circuits on Saturdays (a fifth day) with Sheepdog Strong’s Alpha Squad. The 4-day program will have you doing a squatting variation for 2 days, a bench variation for 2 days, and a deadlift variation for 2 days in an upper body and lower body split. So far there has been no overhead pressing although I believe the new Juggernaut AI program brings that into play. Each day starts with the Main Lifts and then works Supplemental Lifts. The Upper Body days end with some isolation work in the shoulders, triceps or biceps. With appropriate rest between each set, the workouts are taking me anywhere from 1.5-2.5 hours to perform yet for the sake of time, I will often superset the isolation movements taking only a 30-45 sec break between each movement. If it’s performing shoulders, chest, and biceps for instance, I will do each consecutively with a 30-45 second break between each which means that by the time I get back to my shoulders, they’ve rested…to a fair enough degree…a good 2-3 minutes.
The issue with any downloadable program is that it is built generally for the masses and does not specifically account for a given individual’s weak points. In the deadlift for example, are you weak off the floor or weaker at lockout? Same with the Bench Press. For the Bench Press, if it’s your lockout, your accessory movements should focus on your triceps. Additionally, board presses may be called for. But the cookie cutter program will not tell you this. You have to identify it on your own. While I’ve been following the program to the letter, for these next four weeks I’m considering changing up some of the accessory movements and supplemental accessories to address my known weak points. For my deadlift I’m concerned with my strength off the floor so may add in some deficit pulls or half reps to the knees (pull to the knee, back to the floor and then the full rep for a rep count of 1) to build strength there. For the Bench Press my lockout is a bit touchy so I may include more tricep work as the last few inches of any Bench is in your triceps.
For this prep I have elected to stay away from alcohol which is something I’ve never really committed to before. It being the holidays with all of the holiday parties and events, this has been difficult but I haven’t touched a drink in 4 weeks. I believe that this has allowed me to recover quicker and helps me stay focused throughout the day and in the gym. This is an area that I’m quite proud of as alcohol has been ever-present in my adult life, sometimes to a detrimental degree. I’ve tried to increase my caloric intake during this time and there has been a noticeable weight gain so far, going from around 189 lbs to around 196 lbs. I’ve got to watch it here as I signed up for the 198 lb class. So now it’s trying to maintain a steady weight as I don’t want to have to worry about cutting for the competition.
Regarding supplements, I’ve been sticking to a simple Whey Protein and Creatine combination though I have recently included Animal Stak to help with weight management, Animal Pak for an increased vitamin intake, MRE from Redcon1 as a snack (and more weight gain), and Universal’s Torrent for post-workout. Universal’s Torrent is a great tasting shake with carbs and protein together, one of the few with both, and it tastes great so it’s almost a post-workout reward for me that I look forward to. But most of my nutrients I’m trying to intake naturally with plenty of eggs, chicken, brown rice and sweet potatoes, etc… the usual strength diet.
At the time of this writing, I’m in deload week. By the end of the third week I was ready for it as each of the main movements required an Absolute Max of 4-5 reps and the supplemental or accessory movements were at an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) of 9. But now that deload week is almost over, I’m chomping at the bit for more. The mental game and discipline during this period is often the toughest for me as I constantly want to push myself in the gym. But by the last day of Week 3 (really week 5 if you count the first two weeks before the program officially started), I was more than ready to take some time with less volume or weight.
Foam rolling is something I’ve never been disciplined at doing but I’ve included it at the end of each day while drinking my post-workout shake and believe that it’s helped prepare me for the following days work. I’d like to go get a professional sports massage at some point but so far it has been relegated to one of those massage chairs that you might see on sale at a JCPenney that you can drape over your recliner. There’s definitely some tight muscles that I can feel the inner massage balls popping over as it works its way up and down my back.
My biggest concern so far has been my sleep schedule. Because of my 9-5 job, the work I do with Sheepdog Strong, the personal training or program writing for clients and the balancing of all this with family time, I’m often not putting the first plate on the bar until 8:30 pm which means the workout will go until at least 10. Often at this time, I have yet to even eat dinner and I really prefer not to eat right before bed or so late. In all I’m only getting about 5-6 hours per night to include weekends. But nothing in this life is ideal or works in your favor. It’s up to us to put in the work anyway.
So far I’m excited for this opportunity so my workouts are intense and I’m enthusiastic to get to work each day. There have been a few late nights where I’ve just been frustrated with how late it was, tired I was or the piling work-load outside of the gym. But so far this has not been enough to detract me from a full prep. I’ve got some totals in mind but have consciously tried to keep those thoughts from my head. My goal for this first meet is simply to have a good time, push myself, learn and see where the cards lay at the end. I have always been my worst enemy and demand excellence from myself. But oftentimes that mindset has been detrimental and led to disappointment or an attitude where after the fact, if my goal was not met, to not take pride in the many things that I did indeed overcome. Of course the day of, my mindset will likely change.
Stay tuned for Part 2…
As an aside, I’m using this competition to raise awareness and funds for the Marine Raider Foundation. The Marine Raider Foundation is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit organization established in 2012 to provide benevolent support to Active Duty and Medically Retired Marine Raiders and their families, as well as to the families of Raiders who have lost their lives in service to our nation. The Foundation aims to meet needs unmet by the government with an emphasis on building personal and family resiliency and supporting the full reintegration of wounded, ill, injured and transitioning Raiders, their families and MARSOC’s Gold Star Families. Please visit the Facebook “Reps For Raiders” Fundraiser at https://www.facebook.com/donate/473670616373930/ or go directly to https://marineraiderfoundation.org and donate today!