For the experienced guys out there, what signals did you encounter as you were reaching your peak for competition? Obviously being fresh for the meet is key, but before your taper/rest/end of peaking block what did you experience?
A lot will depend on whether your peak is well planned or not, and of course external factors like work, sleep, etc.
Assuming your peak is decently set out and you’re following it properly, as it progresses you’ll feel shittier and more beat up as it goes on. Exactly how this plays will depend on where your heaviest week is and what you do between it and meet day.
Let’s say your heaviest week is four weeks out. You’ll probably feel pretty ok on Monday but by Friday or Saturday you’ll start feeling beat up. Three weeks out chances are your weights will feel the same or heavier than the week before even though they’re lighter. Two weeks out you’ll just want to be done. The weights might feel a bit better because they’re lighter again. Meet week you’ll rest, and by meet day you’ll feel rested. That’s the planned attempts feeling like shit.
Shitty means just that. Niggles will probably pop up, and you’ll need to do what is necessary to address them if you know what that is. If you don’t, you have to decide whether to figure out how to fix it or take a bet that you can get away with just monitoring it. You might even not want to train, and that’s just the fatigue and possibly mental stress. Those are all pretty normal and nothing to worry about. It’s part and parcel of peaking.
Feeling tight is an issue. It means you aren’t stretching and mobilising properly and that, during peak, can ruin your day very fucking quickly.
Technique feeling shit in that you aren’t able to execute properly is a major issue, and it means most likely the weights are too heavy. That’s on whoever is picking the weights and the solution is to drop the weights so you can actually move them properly. If it’s just the weights feeling shit but your technique is stable, that’s just the fatigue.
We peak for five weeks. Week two is where we take a fatigued max, and it’s towards the end of week two that fatigue really starts to come in. Week three is the hardest, where we hit a couple of a singles at 90 per cent of our fatigued maxes. They probably feel heavier than anything in week two. Niggles tend to kick in sometime around here too, but they’re usually ones I know how ti fix. Week four is hard too, but more because I’m just about as fatigued as I’m going to get and all i want to do is get things over with. The weights are lighter though. Week five is rest with a lot of eating, sleeping and stretching. By around Friday I’m ready to go.
There are different ways to do things, but generally I try to avoid beating myself up too much because it doesn’t seem to have any benefit. Boris Sheiko said something like “it’s better to come into a meet under trained than overtrained”, that’s pretty much how I see it. You don’t get stronger (in terms of 1rm performance) by getting more fatigued, you get better by perfecting your technique with near maximal weights and you can’t do that if you feel like crap.
Normally, you would be doing less volume and less assistance work in the weeks before a meet so despite the fact that you are going to be lifting heavier than usual you should be more recovered as well since the workload is lower. If your technique is feeling off then something is wrong, but since you mention mental fatigue and lack of drive then this might just all be in your head.
Do you use deloads on a normal basis? There are some people who take pride in never deloading and then things fall apart when it comes time to peak for the meet because they have accumulated so much fatigue over the last few months. Fatigue management is important.
Well, I have certainly made mistakes during this peak. I hate to admit it, but it is true. As this is my first ever meet, and two more later this year, I am still learning to navigate the meet prep landscape and trying to find out what works and what does not work. However, from this meet prep experience, there are a few things I can say:
I need to manage expectations and learn to be prepared to fail. As someone who was raised to never fail, sometimes it is a hard pill to swallow when you do. In powerlifting, there will always be someone stronger and because of this, you might not always get to stand on the podium. Hell, you might even come dead last. It all depends on who shows up. With it being an OPEN competition, there will likely be some more advanced, stronger lifters there. All through this meet prep, I can honestly say I have been too fixated at times on hitting certain numbers. Sure, goals are great, but at times I have been so fixated on the numbers rather than focusing on the training at hand.
The length of my peak. Honestly, 7 weeks was just too long. The first 3.5 weeks everything was going smoothly, then all of a sudden, BANG, most sessions have been huge ups and downs. After week 5, I realised that the rest of this peak was going nowhere. For the next two meets, I want to spend less time in a peak.
Working my way down to the 83kg class. For this meet, I am competing in the 93kg class, but I wanted to start working my way down so that I didnt have to cut too much during next meet prep (probably not the smartest move for this meet, but I was thinking more long-term). During my hypertrophy/strength blocks my weight hovered around 95/96kg. Since starting my peak and tidying up my diet (not consciously cutting calories), my weight has dropped from 95/96kg to around 88kg. The curse of my genetics is that I cut easily like a mother fucker, you would not believe. While I havent noticed a typical drop in performance, I certainly havent gained any. Probably why my peak slowed down or went a bit erratic. As a 5ft 7/8 guy, I feel like I can fill out the 83kg class better and build on that, than the 93kg class. I am not obsessed with abs, but I have a small frame and I cant see myself properly filling out the 93kg class as comfortably as the 83kg class.
Switching to low bar. Honestly, I spoke to a few coaches at my gym and they all said it was a good move to switch to low bar for the meet. For me, low bar just felt better, stronger, more balanced, and the weights I were grinding in high bar, just became alot smoother and faster in low bar. However, the mistake I made was trying to keep my grip too close on low bar. In high bar, I can have a super close grip without any shoulder/elbow problems. Unfortunately, after 3 low bar sessions, I was struck with some nasty elbow tendonitis, which has also affected my bench. I will stick with low bar for competitions, but the low bar did screw me up in other ways for this meet.
Ultimately, I would say my prep went from smooth to pretty dam bad. I have one week left (3 sessions), so really this week its about hoping my elbow does not flair up and I can practise out my second attempts without problems.
I think it is safe to say I made all the mistakes in the rookie textbook when it comes to your first meet. It is frustrating because your put alot of effort, training, planning and preparation into the meet only to have it backfire on you. But, it gives me something to work on for the next meet.
Powerlifting is really something I want to keep doing for as long as I live and hopefully one day step on a national/international stage. Coming from a bodybuilding family, bodybuilding was never my competitive aspiration. So everything for powerlifting I am learning as I go along.
It all depends on what you are doing, saying you are in a peak is one thing. If you have been doing singles at 90% or more for 7 weeks then that could be an issue.
That’s a recipe for disaster right there. Under normal circumstances, you don’t want to be making any significant changes to your body composition close to a meet. Bulk or cut several months out, other than that you could do a water cut the week of the meet but that’s it.
This is a sport where more muscle will equal better performance. Unless you are already at a world class level at your bodyweight, or are carrying way too much fat, you should be looking to get bigger over the course of time. If you were already 96kg and you haven’t done a meet yet then you should slowly fill out the 110 or 105kg class.
Yeah, that will fuck you up. Some people can’t do a lot of low bar squatting without arm or shoulder pain anyway. Taking a break from low bar after the meet is a good idea. Right now I’m doing all my squatting with a transformer bar.
Just be realistic about your expectations and open light. Plan attempts based on what you know you are capable of, not what you think you should be able to do.
You can start a training log here and ask for advice, it would probably help.
You are indeed correct sir. I think the weight change certainly slowed and threw things of balance for me this prep. The next two meets, I want to make sure my weight is consistent and not dropping continuously during my peak, and if need be, wait until the week before a meet to do a water cut.
Regarding the low bar squat @chris_ottawa, yup, it has literally destroyed my right elbow. Although when it feels good, it’s a much stronger movement for me (in comparison to high bar), but I will only use it close to comp. Outside of comp, I am really going to stick with high bar and safety bar squats for my volume work.
Ultimately, I love this sport and I am super pumped for these meets. I never saw myself as a bodybuilder, but as a strength athlete. But deep down, I am also frustrated with myself. I wanted so bad, for this to be a perfect prep. Perhaps there is no such thing as a perfect prep. Only a prep that you can improve upon for next time.
I always try to keep in my head this quote: it is not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you are prepared to get back up.
The positive out of this prep is that I know NOT what to do for next prep.
Aside from moving your grip out, a thumbless grip can reduce strain on your elbows. Ideally, it would be better to do a decent amount of low bar squatting heading into a meet rather than mostly high bar or SSB.
Typically, I don’t know many PL’s who go into a meet healthy without something nagging them.
When you’re trying to peak your strength, stuff is gonna hurt.
My last contest in June of 18, I took vacation (no lifting at all) 2 weeks out from the meet. Got home and ended up with bronchitis. So no lifting for two weeks total. I did the meet sick and if you’ve had bronchitis, you know how the breathing sucks.
Still squatted 601, bench 374, pull 551. Squat and pull were both PR’s.
Basically if you’re training is right throughout the year, you should technically only need about 4 peak training weeks to peak and be ready to go.
Yeah 4 weeks is what I ran my last few peaks. I usually feel really good going in. Andy huang said something on this. Basically saying you aren’t going to gain any strength in that time you’re just honing your skill with near max weights. I didn’t understand that for a long time and wrecked myself nearly every time I peaked.
If a lifter is keeping his competition lifts in the 75-80% range for 5s and alternating training sessions with lifts that mimic the competition lifts in the 8-12 rep range for a moderate weight, he stays fresher longer and keeps the pressure off the joints longer.
So depending on how you respond, you might only do competition lifts once per month and keep the variations for building muscle and alleviating joint pain to a certain extent.
As you get closer to competition, I’d probably start with the competition lifts for sets of 8 for a couple weeks before starting the 4 week peak. During the peak, I’d mostly be concerned with heavy singles but nothing max. You do 4 weeks of heavy singles and you will put up some big numbers on the platform because you’ve given your joints the rest they need.