T Nation

Element_26's Powerlifting Adventure

It’s about time I started keeping a log online somewhere, and what better place than here?!

First up, my current stats:
Height: 6’2’’
Weight: 102kg
Age: 21

Best lifts:
Squat: 155kg
Bench: 122.5kg
Deadlift: 165kg
Power Clean: 100kg
Press: 72.5kg

Training history:

I started lifting weights as a chubby 17 year-old with absolutely no idea what I was doing. I spent two years making consistent but unremarkable progress, and made all the usual beginner mistakes: I didn’t educate myself properly, I followed pseudo-bodybuilding routines and was overly obsessed with being lean and ripped, rather than big and strong.

That all changed a little over a year ago. I stumbled T-Nation and realised that I had to stop ‘working out’ and start training. I bought Starting Strength and Practical Programming by Mark Rippetoe and started reading everything I could on lifting for strength. I was horribly weak at first, but found the strength programmes to be hugely motivating and enjoyable.

Athletic ability has never come easily to me, and I’ve always had to work myself into the ground to achieve even average results (that just makes the successes and new PRs even sweeter though).

By sorting out my nutrition, working hard in the gym and surrounding myself with other guys at my uni who are into powerlifting and strength training, I’ve been able to make decent progress over the last year, although I’m still far from being considered ‘strong’. Now I’m ready to embark on my own journey into the world of powerlifting.

Short-term goal:

I plan to enter the GBPF All England Championships on 23rd August. I will be competing raw and have set myself a target of achieving a 485kg total (170/130/185). I’m shooting high given my current strength levels, and will have to work harder than I ever have before in the gym over the next couple of months, but that’s why I’m doing it!

Long-term goals:

One day, I WILL record an elite total in a major national meet. I’d also like to achieve a 2xBW raw squat, a 2.5xBW deadlift and 1.5xBW bench press within a year.

Please feel free to ask questions or offer any advice. I’ll try and get some videos up along the way as well. Oh, and I use ‘sets x reps’ notation in all my workouts.

08/06/09
Intensity Upper

Bench Presses (Paused):
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x1
110x1
120x1 (PR)
122.5x1 (PR)

Presses:
60x2x6
60x2x5

Pull-ups:
BW+10x4x5

Face Pulls:
11.5 platesx3x14

09/06/09
Volume Lower

Squats:
60x2x5
80x3
100x2
120x1
130x5/5/5/4/5

Power Cleans:
90x3x3

Pullthroughs:
16.5 platesx3x15

Incline Leg Raises:
8x1x7
8x2x6

Today I was working in with two guys I regularly train with - we all happened to be squatting today. One worked up to a 250kg single @ 85kg bodyweight (in multi-ply gear). It was impressive to watch, and motivated me blast through my first three sets with a measly 130. 5x5 with this weight would have been a volume PR, but I was shot by the fourth set and didn’t get all 5 reps. I was determined to rectify this on the last set, but one of my training partners suggested covering the mirror behind the squat rack with a towel so that I could get used to lifting without that visual aid in preparation for the meet. Holy shit did that make a difference! I got the 5 reps, but the last 2 were horrible grinders, and form was pretty suspect. I’ll definitely have to start learning to squat without a mirror from now on.

I was pretty knackered after the squatting, so dropped the weight and volume on power cleans (I had planned on doing 6 triples with 95kg). Then did some lighter assistance work.

Oh, and the multi-ply squatter let me try out his weightlifting shoes for a couple of light sets of squats at the end of the session. Even though I was only using 60kg, I found them much more stable and comfortable than my Chucks. Guess they’ve jumped straight to the top of my shopping list…

hey element,
Just wanted to stop by your log, since you’re starting it out. So you have two volume days and two intensity days? I take it you deadlift on your intensity day? I’m just curious what the rationale is for your set up.

Also, why power cleans?

Yeah, I split up my routine into 2 lower (squats, deadlifts and assistance) and 2 upper body (bench press and assistance) days each week, with one intensity day (kind of similar to a Westside ME day) and one volume day for each.

This evolved from aspects of programmes I had tried in the past, with a few modifications to make it more tailored towards powerlifting. I enjoyed the volume/recovery/intensity template from the Texas Method, but have never really progressed as fast with full body workouts as I have with upper/lower splits. I also tried Joe DeFranco’s WS4SB3, and had some success with it, but found the relative infrequency of squatting and deadlifting wasn’t ideal for me.

As for power cleans, I use them as a ‘light’ deadlift variation on volume day. Mark Rippetoe suggests using them for this purpose because the more dynamic movement has carryover to increasing the deadlift. I could also do speed deadlifts for the same purpose, but I find power cleans fun so thought I’d keep them in anyway!

11/06/09
Volume Upper

Bench Presses:
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x1
105x5x5 (PR)

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Presses:
27.5x3x7
27.5x1x6

Barbell Rows:
85x4x6

Seated Dumbbell ‘Power Cleans’:
12.5x1x10
12.5x2x9

12/06/09
Intensity Lower

Squats:
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x2
120x1
140x1
150x2 (PR)

Deadlifts:
60x5
80x5
100x3
120x1
140x1
160x3 (PR)

Romanian Deadlifts:
110x3x10

Incline Sit-ups:
55x3x6

Really pleased with today’s session. 2 PRs are keeping me moving in the right direction towards my target total for the competition, and the deadlifts were pretty comfortable. I was using my training partner’s weightlifting shoes for squats again today, but covering the mirror with a towel again made the lift much more challenging. Still, I have plenty of time to practice without it. All in all, a very good week of lifting!

15/06/09
Intensity Upper

Bench Presses (Paused):
20x8
60x5
80x3
100x1
115x3 (PR)

Presses:
60x1x5
60x3x4

Pull-ups:
BWx2x(1/2/3/4/5 reps) = 30 reps

Face Pulls:
11.5 platesx1x15
11.5 platesx2x14

I’m really satisfied with my progress on the main lifts; I’m hitting PRs almost every session on those, so it seems this programme is working well for me. However, I was frustrated with my (lack of) performance on the presses today - I was using a different bar to normal which felt a lot thicker and more awkward, but I should quit looking for excuses and smash out the reps anyway! Oh well, 4x6 with 60kg next week then.

For pull-ups, I decided to use Pavel Tsatsouline’s ladder system, as described by Chad Waterbury in a recent article. My bodyweight has been increasing steadily for the past few weeks, and I’ve just about been managing to keep getting 4 sets of 5 with 10kg strapped around my waist during this period. I was getting a bit bored of doing that every week though, and wanted to give this a go. I can’t say I’m a big fan - those 30s rest periods are killers, and the final mini-set of 5 in each ladder had to be kind of ‘rest-paused’. For 10 extra reps than I would have normally gotten, but without the extra weight, I’m not sure it was worth it.

16/06/09
Volume Lower

Squats:
20x8
60x5
80x3
100x2
130x2x5
Technique work

Speed Deadlifts:
100x15x1

Pullthroughs:
16.5 platesx3x15

Incline Leg Raises:
9x1x6
9x2x5

After my smug, self-satisfied gloating in yesterday’s post, karma came and gave me an smack in the face today. My squatting today was abysmal. I forgot to take a towel to the gym to cover the mirror, and despite trying to avoid using it as a visual aid, I got a rather nasty reminder of how my form has gone out of the window in recent weeks. I’ve been making steady progress with my squats on volume days, but seem to have developed some nasty habits - GM’ing out of the hole and allowing my knees to buckle inwards. After 2 pretty miserable sets I decided to strip off some weight and focus on technique. I might return to box squatting next week as this has sorted out similar technique problems for me in the past. Thoughts anyone?

Not much else to report today… I used speed deadlifts instead of power cleans because I fancied a change, and progress on PCs has stalled recently. Speed pulls were fun.

18/06/09
Volume Upper

Bench Presses:
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x1
107.5x4/5/5/4/5

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Presses:
27.5x3x7
27.5x1x5

Barbell Rows:
87.5x4x6

Seated Dumbbell ‘Power Cleans’:
12.5x2x10
12.5x1x9

Nothing much to report from today, other than a very odd performance when bench pressing. My training partner was late, so I asked somebody else for a handoff for my first set. The guy wasn’t really strong enough and I had to try to take some of the strain and lift the bar off of the hooks, which messed up my arch a bit and caused me to miss my final rep. On the fourth set I simply ran out of gas but had a longer rest before the last one and psyched myself up to get all 5 reps. Not a bad session overall, but I would have liked 5x5.

19/06/09
Intensity Lower

Squats:
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x2
120x1
145x4 (PR)

Deadlifts:
60x5
80x5
100x3
120x2
140x1
165x3 (PR)

Romanian Deadlifts:
120x9/7/8

Incline Sit-ups:
60x1x10*
60x2x5

*I used a half ROM for the first set only.

Today is my very last day at university and I celebrated with squat and deadlift PRs! I was aiming to squat 145 for a triple, but felt I had another rep in me so went for a fourth and smoked it. Wearing a belt cleared up all of the problems I was encountering on Tuesday (I only ever use a belt on my lower body intensity days) so that was a bonus. My form wasn’t exactly beautiful for the deadlifts - a little too much thoracic flexion for my liking - but they came off the floor easily enough and my lockout is always relatively strong. I’d guess my max isn’t far off of the 185kg target I had set for the All-England, so I may have to set my sights a bit higher now! Adios fellas, I’m off to celebrate the culmination of three years of uni life…

22/06/09
Intensity Upper

Bench Presses (Paused):
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x1
110x1
120x1
125xF

Presses:
57.5x2x6
57.5x2x5

Pull-ups:
BWx3x6
BWx1x4

Face Pulls:
27.5x3x20

I’m back home from uni now, and this was my first session back at my old gym. Not exactly a hardcore facility, but it has the basics. I didn’t have a great session today though. I intended bench 120kg for a double, but just had no power off of the chest for the second rep. Probably shouldn’t have attempted a single with 125 but I was annoyed at not making the double.

Everything else was done with very limited rest periods because I was working in with other people, which accounts for the slightly reduced performance. I’ve really got to find a way to improve my pull-ups though.

23/06/09
Volume Lower

Box Squats:
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x2
120x4x5
120x1x3

Power Cleans:
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

To reiterate, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. After a pretty decent box squat session, I moved onto power cleans. On the first rep I shrugged hard and realised I wasn’t going to rack it. In the next split second two conflicting thoughts flashed through my mind. Instinct told me to just drop the bar, but somewhere deep in my sub-conscious a conversation I had had with management clawed its way to the forefront of my thought processes. The gym doesn’t really allow power cleans, but the trainers don’t mind me doing them if I’m quiet about it.

So, I tried to drop the bar back down onto my thighs. Bad fucking idea. 100kg slammed onto my right knee, with the particularly harsh knurling ripping my skin for good measure. I was able to keep my dignity intact (just about) as I hobbled out of the gym. Fish oil, ibuprofen and ice packs have kept the inflammation down so hopefully I’ll be fine and dandy in time for Friday’s heavy squat/deadlift session.

25/06/09
Volume Upper

Bench Presses:
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x1
107.5x1x5
105x3x5
105x1x3

Seated Dumbbell Presses:
28x3x7
28x1x6

Barbell Rows:
87.5x4x6

Seated Dumbbell ‘Power Cleans’:
12x3x12

Benching wasn’t brilliant on Thursday - everything felt very heavy! I reckon the barbell I always used at my uni gym was a little lighter than 20kg; it was supposedly an olympic bar but all my major lifts this week have been a real struggle. I’ll just have to get my head down and power through.

Everything else went well though - a PR on the dumbbell presses was nice.

26/06/09
Intensity Lower

Squats:
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x2
120x1
140x1
160xF
145x1

Deadlifts:
60x5
80x5
100x3
120x2
140x1

Front Squats:
80x4x8

Ab stuff

I feel a little ashamed calling yesterday’s session an ‘intensity day’. I was hoping to work up to a max single with 160kg on squats, but failed pretty hopelessly! Now that I’m back home I can’t use my mate’s powerlifting belt, so had to rely on a shoddy, thin bodybuilding-style belt instead. It didn’t give me much support, and it showed! That single with 145kg was very hard and it was 10kg off of my previous squat 1RM. Maybe I need more ab or lower back work?

Deadlifts were equally frustrating. My right leg is still sore and swollen from the knee upwards, but whilst I just ignored it when squatting as soon as the weight got a bit heavier on deadlifts I knew I wasn’t going to be going heavy on them either. Now that I think about it, I should have done some halting DLs to the kneecaps, since I’m weakest off of the floor anyway; instead I did several sets of Front Squats. I hadn’t done those for a very long time but they felt pretty good. Anyways, I’m off to ice my leg some more and pop some Ibuprofen - hopefully it will be back to normal in time for my lower body volume session on Tuesday.

Hey Element_26 (maybe we should call you FE for short?) You seem to have a good plan and sensible goals.
Couple of questions, what do you consider an elite total? What uni you at? I train with a few lads at Lancaster uni.

Hi Old Dax, thanks for commenting. I’ve just finished my degree at Nottingham Uni - there’s a few very strong lads training there and it was cool lifting in that environment.

It seems there are a few different systems of classification hanging around the web. Here are two that I’ve looked at:

http://www.powerliftingwatch.com/node/1793

http://www.elitefts.com/documents/elite.htm

I’m planning on competing raw for a little while yet, but will probably dip my toes into the equipped pond at some point in the future. Whichever system I’m measuring myself against, I still have a very long way to go to an elite total!

29/06/09
Intensity Upper

Bench Presses (Paused):
20x8
40x5
60x2x3
80x3
100x1
120x1
130xF (1-board)
130x2 (2-board) (PR)

Presses:
57.5x2x6
57.5x2x5

Pull-ups:
BWx3x12 (various grips)

Face Pulls:
30x3x15

I made some boards over the weekend and wanted to try them out today. After working up to an easy single with 120kg, I jumped to 130kg and tried a single with the 1-board. No dice. I went again using a 2-board and managed a hard double. 130kg is my goal for the upcoming comp, so that wasn’t a disaster I suppose.

For pull-ups, I used 4 different grips today: wide grip pull-ups, medium grip pull-ups, medium grip chin-ups and close grip chin-ups. 3 reps of each with 10s rest in between for 3 sets. It was good fun, and I’m hoping this is something I can stick with for a while, since I haven’t made any progress on pull-ups for ages.

30/06/09
Volume Lower

Squats:
20x8
40x5
60x5
80x3
100x2
120x5x5

Halting Deadlifts (to kneecaps):
60x5
80x5
100x3
130x2x5

Pullthroughs:
50x3x15

Woodchoppers:
20x3x11

A decent session overall. I’m beginning to dread my lower body volume sessions, as squats haven’t been going brilliantly recently. I’ve let my form get sloppy chasing weight increases in the last couple of months. So today was a self-evaluation kind of thing. I used a weight heavy enough to bring out some of my form problems, but not so heavy that my form was a total shambles. I reckon I need to train my abs harder - I usually work them relatively heavy for lower reps but I felt that they were the weak link for me towards the end of these sets - I need more endurance.

My thigh is still bruised and mangled, so I did some light halting DLs and made sure technique was absolutely picture perfect. I’d rather have done some kind of dynamic pull but this will have to do for now.

02/07/09
Volume Upper

Bench Presses:
20x8
40x5
60x3
70x2x3
90x1
107.5x2x4
100x3x5

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Presses:
28x8/6/7

Barbell Rows:
82.5x4x8

Seated Dumbbell ‘Power Cleans’:
12x3x14

Another day, another below-par session. My training has been frustratingly poor since I got home from uni, despite the fact that I’m getting more food and more rest here! Anyway, I’ve been reading articles by Dave Tate and Eric Cressey on benching, and figured my technique could use brushing up a bit. I tried making some adjustments today, but actively tucking the elbows and pulling the bar down to the chest really messed with my groove. I need to get some videos up here soon to check my form.

On the plus side, I ordered a proper belt and it arrived today. I’m hoping for a decent heavy squat and deadlift session tomorrow and then I’m off to the BPC Brits to help out my mate on Saturday.