Meet Report – 820@132 – March 2014

March 30th, 2014 by Laura

I had a stomach flu earlier in the week and couldn’t tolerate any food until Thursday. I was feeling pretty lightheaded and adrenalin was lacking.

Forgot how to squat. Nothing felt right in warmups, I felt loose and lightheaded and my technique wasn’t there. Just doing a triple with the empty bar had me seeing stars. My last warmup of 245 was a good morning grinder.

Opener: 255 Good (using term loosely) Lift
It went but it felt TERRIBLE. With that technique, I might have been good for 5 more pounds tops. What technique was that anyway? Since when do I look at the floor when I squat??? 275 flew earlier this week much faster than this did. I went ahead and put in for a 270 second attempt anyway.

The back spotter told me to square off my hips. I could see that one foot was a good 8 inches in front of the other but couldn’t fix. My hips just weren’t having it on this day.

2nd: 270 Fail
I sat back and got pinned like the good old days. This is not my normal technique AT ALL. Now I am thinking I am going to total less at this meet than my last (previous meet PR was 270). I don’t normally bounce back after a failed squat. I wanted to faint after every attempt, just felt horrible overall.

3rd: 270 Good Lift
Everything came together, this felt like my technique as of late and I bounced out fast, no sticking point. 280 would have gone like this. Maybe 290, too. grrrrrr.

So I tied my previous meet best of 270, which was a disappointment because there was a lot more in there.

If I thought I wanted to faint trying to squat, lying down on a bench and then getting up was much worse. I couldn’t get tight anywhere, just felt loose and relaxed. I was seriously considering lowering my opener.

Opener: 150 Good (again, using term very loosely)
I got on the bench and the bar was like 4 inches from my nose(?!). I had to unrack with arms completely bent 90 degrees. I have never benched a bar out of a rack like that but figured it was too late to say anything. I lost my setup, was all over the place and wobbling, very sloppy. I did ask them to raise the bar for me next time, but this felt really bad and I thought I was doomed.

2nd: 155 Good Lift
It was fine.

3rd: 160 Good Lift
Surprisingly, felt easy. You can see how much shuffling I had to do to setup and avoid the hip, leg drive was uneven and it looks like I might have come off the bench on the right side of my butt and might have got one red for that, not sure, didn’t check. But looks like 160 is my new ‘bad hip’ max.

I was really worried about this. I usually have a lot of adrenalin for deads, and I take a preworkout before they start which normally adds to that. Today I was woozy, no adrenalin, and all the preworkout did was make me keep thinking I had to pee when I really didn’t.

Deadlifts today were not looking like my normal deads. WAY slower. In warmups, I had a grinder with 335 and nearly fainted. I was worried about my OPENER of 355 even going up, nevermind anything beyond that.

Opener: 355
Did not feel great. The world was upside down and there were stars falling around me for sometime after. I honestly thought I was done.

2nd: 380 Good Lift – Grinder
I committed to the lift, either it was going up or I was going to pass out on top of it. I really love grinders but this was the shakiest, stutteriest mess of CNS shock I have ever subjected myself to. It really shouldn’t have happened but somehow it did. I couldn’t believe this went up and just knew nothing else would. 400 was NOT in the cards this day. Put in for 390 and was sure I wouldn’t get it.

Going by how messy 380 was, I was done. Then I realized that I actually really, really want 390.

I felt really empty taking this. Not like emotionally (well, maybe that, too, deadlifts suck the life out of me haha) but physically. I felt really hungry all of a sudden, floaty, and like I had nothing left to give. Whatever that driving thing is that makes you gut through heavy weight was gone. But I still really wanted 390. In all truth, this felt like a gut-wrenching HELL with everything in my body telling me to stop. But it went up, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know I had the capacity to grind through something that came off the floor so slow and started dragging before it even cleared the knee. But I actually feel really good now knowing that I can.

So in summary
Squat: 270 (tied previous meet PR)
Bench: 160 (+5 meet PR)
Deadlift: 390 (+15 meet PR)
Total: 820@132 (+20 total PR)

Shoulder Setup

February 19th, 2014 by Laura

Since i have a knack for misinterpreting cues, the ‘squeeze your shoulder blades’ cue had me tensing and bunching soft tissue so tightly, I was in an awkward position and my arms were almost straight out to my sides for bench. My overhead work was awkward, too. For me, the ‘squeeze’ cue for bench has no stopping point. Maybe because I’m very flexible, or maybe just my skewed interpretation.

Retraction of the shoulder (as prescribed in the bench), to me, means push the shoulder blades down. Again, no real stopping point if you are a bendy person. I tend to overemphasize that movement with the overlying muscles (squeezing with no purpose).

I started reading about “packing the shoulder” regarding overhead movements at first.

Shoulder Packing
When Coaching Cues Attack! “Packing the Shoulder”

In a nutshell, you pull the shoulders into their sockets. There are a lot less ‘options’ trying this overhead than there are horizontally, so I spent some time getting acquainted with what this felt like with overhead movements:
retract overhead

Then I tried it horizontally.
retract back

Next, I worked with horizontal dumbbell retractions, straight arm pulldowns, and setting up properly for all horizontal and overhead pushes and pulls.

Moving on to bench, pulling the shoulder into the socket was a short and strong movement, like clicking a padlock shut. There is a definite stopping point – pull it in and that’s it. Click! (Or, NO click since my shoulders are now in a safe position).

This position was immediately stable. I felt the entire bra-strap back fat region light up (for lack of better term), which is the same area that I force to light by twisting the bar. I was able to pull out the bar with my lats and let the weight settle heavy in back rather than wobbling all over the bench. My ROM feels shorter.

I performed some heavy unracks with this setup and felt invincible. For some extra confidence, I partial benched weights that I hadn’t even been able to unrack in weeks prior.

At this time, this seems to cover most of my bench shoudler setup, and the leg drive into the bench is taking care of the rest.

Maybe this will evolve to figure out how to “squeeze” on top of what I am doing. Or, maybe the squeezing action is intrinsic with the retraction. There is an instant connection to the heel of the palm, a sturdy and straight wrist, pinky and ring finger, lats, and a tight grip.

This was applied to all upper body movements and diminished shoulder pain greatly. Overhead pressing performance improved immediately.

Video Comparison
In my first bench session after the shoulder setup revision, I easily benched a weight that I nearly failed 2 weeks before. It was not ‘perfect’, but there are obvious stability differences between the first clip and the second.

It is embarrassing to see the second clip in this vid. The bar is wobbling everywhere. Not sure why I decided to lift my feet UP and slam knees together when I normally rely so heavily on leg drive.

Flat and Round Back Deadlifts

February 4th, 2014 by Laura

My positioning through the deadlift is pretty good in the sense that I stay behind the bar and do not drift. On max pulls, I allow for some rounding of the upper back. It makes for a shorter pull but it can turn into a real grind at the top. It looks like this:

(Grinder at :58. Fail at :11.)

Even when the lift gets locked out successfully, a friend pointed out that it might read as being hitchy and suggested some drills for a tighter position off the ground.


Here were the results:

Before: Empty Bar

After: Empty Bar

There was a notable difference with the empty/65lb bar.

Before: Blocks

After: Blocks

It eliminated the hitch off the blocks. The weight in the ‘before’ video was 370 and only 300 in the ‘after’, however the hitchy pattern was present even in lighter sets prior to this fix.

Concentrating on the new cues had me thinking a lot, killed my enthusiasm and drive off the floor and I had some false starts. This is new and still in a ‘thinking’ stage so that is to be expected.

Later, I failed a 350 dead on the floor; it didn’t budge. That was a weight I have been able to pull pretty easily for over a year. After that happened, I scrapped the whole flat back idea and retried the lift, reverting to the rounded style. 350 flew like an opener. Minutes later, I was also able to pull 400.

(Side view at :20)

If I round, I’ll have an easy time off the floor and tough lockout. If I keep a flat back, the lockout will be easier – if I can break the floor. Which I cant. I’m failing 50 pounds under my max with a flat back. I’m scrapping the idea of using a flat back on a max for now.

Since this was something new, I expected to have a little struggle and regression before building back up. But I am not convinced that a flat back pull could be the best option for my build. My strengths in the deadlift are speed and leverage as opposed to the brute strength of being able to maintain this back positioning. This style kills my floor speed and the more upright posture puts my hips even farther back than my long femurs had them in the rounded position. I feel like my current pull style has more potential.

That said, I’ve realized that I can cheat a lot of exercises just by dipping my shoulders forward a bit. I’ll do it in movements like lunging, and in post-surgery therapy exercises. That little rounding of the upper back lets me do a LOT more – at the expense of neglecting what I am actually trying to accomplish with the exercise.

I will not be changing my competition pull style, but I will be doing a lot more flat back training.

Bench Cues

February 1st, 2014 by Laura

Notes on my current bench style

Bench Setup
1. Feet narrow
2. Forehead to bar. Then, Head, Traps, Upper Back on bench.
3. Wiggle feet back (not so far that the hip explodes).
4. Shift feet out to engage glutes.
5. Shorten distance between shoulders and hips.. Point chest at wall behind me.. Test drive to upper back.
6. Take bar deep in hand and lock it tight
7. Pack shoulders, push into sockets
8. Tighten everything, huge breath.
9. Pull bar out with lats, very small and forceful movement. Not a giant bunny hop.
10. Re-sink weight by retracting again (pull down with bra strap back fat muscles if can’t figure out how to retract again from there)

Cues for Execution of Lift
1. Big Air
2. Pull bar into lats
3. Stay under the bar
4. Triple Pause (makes me grip the bar harder and be deliberate as it nears the chest as though i were still triple pausing rather than panic and loosen up)
5. Flare elbows ** ( admittedly, I really don’t know what I am doing with this yet. I am freaking out so much at the chest again I can’t even think about anything other than getting the hell out of there, so this is for later )

Videos of Good Bench Days

Bodyweight Bench for Reps

165 Touch and Go, was able to get knees farther below bench here

170 Paused


Squat Cues

January 25th, 2014 by Laura

I used to struggle pretty badly with squats, feeling like I was in a different body every day and the same cues wouldn’t work from one day to the next. This is no longer as much of an issue. I will still keep note here of what helped in the past incase I need it again in the future.

Pearl and Dragon/ Yin-Yang

Pearl/ Dragon was passed on to me as a cue from a Weightlifter friend. His squatting cues are pretty much the only cues that make complete sense to me and have improved my high bar quite a bit.

‘You know the Yin-Yang symbol. It has nothing to do with good versus evil, or this versus that.. It is simply a symbol for BALANCE. You gotta have balance.. Without balance, there is only imbalance. I know that sounds obvious, but think about that for a moment.

At any rate, the pearl in Asian culture symbolizes peace, serenity, tranquility, patience.. The dragon symbolizes aggression and courage.. The two must be balanced when you lift. You have to be a pearl when you need to be a pearl. You have to be a dragon when you need to be a dragon.. BALANCE. If you are too much of a pearl, you will miss the ability to lift your potential 1RM.. If you are too much of a dragon, your form will be all over the place and your lift will be inefficient as a result of wasted energy.

So think Yin-Yang when you squat. You are a pearl on the way down, and turn into a dragon on the way up. The lift starts and ends in the head with the right mindset.’

Thank you Joel!

Instead of putting the energy into specific body parts and questioning positions, stopping points, timing and intensities, this helped me reconnect with the lift and feel out what needs to happen and when.

Lat Pulldown, Tight Glutes, Brace
3 simple cues for less noise, best used when my squat is already flowing ok.
Think of behind the neck pulldown
Get ready to bounce off glutes
Brace core and stay upright as if going to front squat


Videos From Decent Squat Days

Russian Squat Assault

November 3rd, 2013 by Laura

Just wanted to stick this here though it is easy to remember; it is just the 3-week base mesocycle of Smolov stretched out to 6 weeks (2 sessions per week instead of 4). From the Pavel book listed below.

170% 4x975% 5x7
280% 7x585% 10x3
370%+10lbs 4x975%+10lbs 5x7
480%+10lbs 7x585%+10lbs 10x3
570%+15lbs 9x475%+15lbs 5x7
680%+15lbs 7x585%+15lbs 10x3

Spacing out the days makes it easier on the body and is still usually enough to provide a volume contrast with whatever programming I was doing leading up to it. If not, then 3 days per week works too. It doesn’t have to be crammed into 4 sessions per week like the original Smolov.

You can lower the reps and up the sets if you are really struggling (do 9 sets of 4 instead of 4 sets of 9).

For deadlifts, I’ve only tried running speed cycles alongside this. It seems to be a good fit. My dead usually goes up alongside the squat anyway in spite of not training it heavy.

Bench Banding

November 2nd, 2013 by Laura

To keep tightness on unrack
Brocksteins – loop band around the bar to pegs on back posts of cage and practice unracking

For a more stable base with the upper body and keeping lats active during bench
Bands around wrists

To engage glutes and core
Bands around knees

For leg drive
Bands looped through belt to feet. Video below. (Thank you to Euqinom for this tip)

When I am in off seasons or in lighter cycles, I seem to get a bit lazy with some technique elements. I won’t notice until I start working closer to my max. Adding band set ups periodically during those times (whether I think I need it or not) help me refresh and reinforce things I might not notice have slipped.

Pelvic Tilt Correction During the Deadlift

October 4th, 2013 by Laura

Prior to this fix, my deadlift technique was 2 separate movements of driving heels through the floor, then bringing hips into the bar. Fails with this had my hips out far behind the bar at lockout time with me trying to reel them forward horizontally. At the same time, the weight is pulling me down in front so in addition to bringing hips closer, my shoulders need to retract back to get to lockout position.

This video is on a deficit and against bands, but it shows the 2 distinct movements clearly, and how I even plan for it just before the lift. I am also drooping my shoulders over the bar on the way up which really kills my lockout when combined with the hips too far back:

Here is a failure with hips far back at a meet:

Pelvic Tilt Correction Video
This video helped me out quite a bit. Tilting sooner than I naturally wanted to and thinking of it the tilt early in the lift lessened the amount of work I was doing and got me an easy PR.

Methods for enforcing this included just drilling it in with speedy reps and speed pulls against heavier bands. The bands force me to tilt sooner and highlight if I am dragging my hips in from way out behind me again.

Pelvic tilt timing might have had such a dramatic effect on me because like many women, I am constantly struggling to correct my excessive anterior tilt. But whatever the reason, this got my deadlift moving again.

Here was my 375 pull where I was very happy with the timing of the tilt:

Meet Report – 800 @ 131.6 – October 2013

October 1st, 2013 by Laura

RPS 17th Annual Power Challenge Boston

My ultimate goal for my 2 year powerlifting anniversary was to break into the 800’s. The more realistic goal I was hoping for was to crack 400 wilks with 790. But with all of the things I ran into at the end of this cycle, I was just going to have fun with it and accept that i would probably total less than my previous best.

I weighed in at 131.6 in clothes.

Opener: 245
All whites. But it felt like crap. Wasn’t totally ready.

2nd attempt: 265
Good lift. Figured I was done since I felt that folding forward fight going on at the top and hip was getting tight.

3rd attempt: 270 (5lb gym PR, 10lb meet PR)
Since I had never had success with 270, I decided that I would give myself the tightest wrap job you ever did see. But my hand slipped while wrapping and I accidentally punched myself in the face. I almost started crying but I think the extra adrenalin helped me focus.

Getting that extra 5 pounds on my squat threw me for a loop. got out the pen and paper, crunched some numbers, and 790/400 wilks looks like it might be a possibility after all!

During my bad pre-meet week, I failed a 150 bench (which i was supposed to triple). But it didn’t stop me from making it my opener. Honestly, if I failed 150 at a meet even on a lousy day at this point, I deserve to bomb. Bench irritates the joint issue I am having more than anything else. Was nervous that I would either bomb out here, or set hip off badly enough that I would have to skip deads.

Opener: 150
Arched but kept leg drive to bare minimum. Easy, good lift.

2nd attempt: 155
Barely made the press command, kind of jumped it a bit. Around now is when I really start needing that drive to a greater extent so was grateful to at least get that lift.

3rd attempt: 160 no lift
I was driving the weight up and felt the joint searing, but still needed some more drive to get to lockout. In a split second made the decision to jump ship and spare the joint. 5 pounds on bench isn’t worth losing 300+ on my pulls. Spotters were ninja-like. When I decided to bail, I bailed out fast, and they caught the bar.

So now I add stuff up again (I was surprised that I even made it that far) and realize that I only have to match my previous best deadlift in order to get my 790/400 wilks score. Slapped on some fresh pain patches, drank a preworkwout thingy and took a baseball to the hip…

Once again, my warmup timing was way off. I warm up very minimally for deads and ended up being done a whopping 30 minutes before my opener.

Opener: 345 ( I think… Now that I think of it it might have been 335 but whatever, it was opener-easy)
Felt like nothing, like I was picking up a pen off the floor.

2nd attempt: 365
Was nervous because my total was riding on it (shooting for 790). It actually felt decent. I thought I might be good for another 5 pounds.

Now, I realize I am SO friggin close to my original fantasy of breaking into the 800’s!! How the heck did that happen?!?? But I failed 375 at my last meet… So do I play it safe, and go for 370 so I at least get some sort of deadlift PR ( and a 795 total). OR, do I just bite the bullet and go for what I really want, 800?

I wanted 800 pretty damned bad so decided, how about I just pull up 375 and succeed if it kills me. Problem solved, haha. Bundle of nerves though!

3rd attempt: 375 (10lb PR)
EASY! I got psyched up for this big, slow, grinding, gut wrenching pull. I think I got so fired up anticipating that, that the weight went up without much struggle.

I ended up with:

270 squat, 155 bench and 375 deadlift for an 800 total.

I am in disbelief that 800 actually happened, but very happy of course.

My first meet with RPS 2 Octobers ago, was 555@142.
Squat: 175, Bench: 115, Deadlift 265
Over a 2 year period, I gained 245lbs on my total and lost 10 pounds in body weight.

Sidenote, i am pleased that I didn’t have to condemn my socks. I am usually a very boring dresser at meets but I got socks to represent my roots. They say ‘one love’ (for JA). If I sucked at that meet, the socks would be condemned, but now I can enjoy them without feeling like they are cursed.

Bench Tech Problems and Solutions

July 26th, 2013 by Laura

A collection of bench issues that have come up and ways they have been fixed.

Problem: Can’t find lats
A. Pinkies and ring finger (Pavel)
B. Retractions pre-bench
C. Straight arm pulldown, light row, plate hold, pull up hold
D. Bench with fat Gripz
E. Hyperextend elbows along with shoulder retraction

Problem: Chest flattens
A. Point chest at wall behind you
B. Head, neck, then upper back on bench, in that order
C. Bring butt to shoulders
D. Raise chest (duh)
E. Move feet closer to head
F. Take bigger air

Problem: Cant remember how to retract or set shoulders
A. Don’t attempt to retract until leg setup is done
B. Use leg drive to push into bench
C. Hold arms out super-straight and stiff/ Hyperextend elbows along with shoulder retraction
D. Twist bar
E. Push against bar a bit to slide shoulders into sockets
F. Bench with fat Gripz

Problem: Hip Pain
A. I went too wide. Set up narrow and angle feet out for drive.
B. I went too far back

Problem: Messy bar path
A. Chest flattened or some other inconsistency that is changing the angles at the top
B. Not paying attention. Focus. Count to 4 in my head on the way down, build tension at each point and connect the dots.
C. I don’t have a stable base. See ‘Cant remember how to retract or set shoulders’
D. I’m flaring my elbows off the chest

Problem: Messy unracks that feel heavy
A. I don’t have a stable base. See ‘Cant remember how to retract or set shoulders’
B. Not retracting or resettling the weight
C. Twist the bar out of the rack
D. I’m using too much momentum to ‘jump’ the weight out of the rack

Problem: Missed leg drive
A. Angle feet out and push into upper back
B. Keep drive engaged on way down and let it build
C. Hip thrusts pre- bench
D. Get legs totally set up and test drive before attempting to set up shoulders. The leg drive set up simplifies what I do with shoulders to one small step whereas if I do it fist, it feels more hit or miss/ complicated

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