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2023 USAPL Maryland Death by Iron 10/14/23 - Powerlifting Meet Retrospective Analysis

Updated: Jan 21

Deadlift Attempt

I somewhat recently competed in the USA Powerlifting Maryland Death by Iron on Saturday October 14, 2023. I never got around to this post until now due to Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc., but it's now 2024 and I'm 6 weeks out from my next meet, so what better time to recap my previous competition! In this Powerlifting Meet Retrospective Analysis, I'll review my performance on the BIG 3 along with some lessons-learned and technical changes I will consider in preparation for my next competition in March 2024.


Disclaimers:

  1. I am not endorsed or endorsing any of the products or brands listed below. They are identified for context, informational, and entertainment purposes only.

  2. There is footage of me in a singlet. If that offends you, then look the other way.

  3. Any views and opinions expressed are my own and are not affiliated with USA Powerlifting or any brands listed below.


THE EVENING BEFORE

If you checked out my previous retrospective analyses, you know I have a history of sleep management issues the night before a meet. This time around, I did manage to get some better sleep, and I think there were some environmental and circumstantial factors that contributed. First, this meet was only a 45 minute drive from where I live. Second, this was the first meet where I lifted in the afternoon session. Not having to wake up at 5:00 or 5:30 AM to make a 7:00 AM weigh-in was really nice. Being able to get extra shut-eye combined with sleeping in the comfort of my own familiar bed was likely a contributing factor to being one of my better performances.



MEET DAY

I got out of bed at 8:00 AM, as opposed to 5:30 AM in previous meets, to pack, answer the call of nature, shower, etc. Weigh-in was at 12:00 PM but I didn't try to get there early since I had a pretty good idea of what I would weigh in at. I am a creature of habit so immediately after weigh-in I enjoyed two (2) chocolate chip croissants and 24 oz. of iced coffee to kick things off. I normally train fasted so I didn't want to eat too much, and the chocolate chip croissant iced coffee combo seems to be something I can handle consistently on meet day.


For this meet, lifters had to use liftingcast to enter all rack heights and bench safety heights. This was a bit nerve racking as 1) I had never done that before and 2) cell phone signal coverage was terrible. Verizon service seemed to be spotty in the gym, so I had to go outside if I wanted to have internet access. I do think it's a little much to expect every lifter to have a smartphone capable of accessing the internet, especially with the rise of dumb-phones.


This leads to my first lesson from the meet... always carry a hard copy or local copy of any information you need for a meet. If you are 100% analog, this probably doesn't apply to you, but if your meet-day checklist, meet card or strategy, powerlifting federation membership, etc. are in a digital format, be sure to download a local copy to your device in the event you do have spotty internet access.


Lesson 1:  ...always carry a hard copy or local copy of any information you need for a meet.

Squat


I started warming up for squats around 30 minutes before my opener per usual. This is also when I opened my first can of monster energy zero sugar ultra sunrise, which I consumed throughout warmups and finished after my opener. The warmups and opener at 180 kg went well, so I added 10 kg for my 2nd attempt. The 2nd attempt was harder than I would have liked so I went for a conservative 2.5 kg jump on the 3rd attempt. That was the right call as I barely eked out my last squat at 192.5 kg.


There were no new lessons-learned for the squat from this competition. Since the previous meet in March 2023, I experimented with different stance widths and toe angle and currently find myself rather comfortable at a moderate stance with heels below the shoulders. For more information on squat anthropometry and what you can do about it, check out this post here:



Bench Press


I knew bench was going to be interesting... I had strained my left pec 3 weeks out from the meet. However, with some intelligent programming and continuous communication, my coach and I were able to continue training at lower intensities while maintaining most of my strength. I started warming up for bench around 20 minutes before my opener. Warmups felt okay, but I was extremely nervous about the pec as I had mostly been training in the 70-75% of estimated 1 rep max intensity range since the strain up until the meet. The original plan was to open at 100 kg, but I didn't want to risk bombing out if my pec acted up mid-lift, so I opened with an easy 95 kg to at least get me on the scoreboard and keep me in the game for deadlifts.


This seemed to be the right call as my first bench attempt was a success. I didn't notice any pain and gained a bit more confidence, so I added 10 kg for my 2nd attempt. The 2nd attempt still felt like a warm up, but I was still nervous about the pec so I only made a 5 kg jump. My 3rd attempt remained pain free and did not grind at all, so in hindsight I likely could have jumped another 10 kg, but c'est la vie.


Applying lessons from my previous meet, I opted for a lower rack height to help maintain scapular retraction during the unrack. This seemed to pay off, and the extra distance I needed to push the bar to unrack was more than compensated for with a tighter upper back. At my previous competition, it took me 5 seconds to get a start command on my 3rd attempt. This time, I got the start command quickly, and I do think the lower rack height helped by allowing me to better control the bar during the unrack. There were no new lessons-learned for the bench from this meet.


Deadlift


Similar to previous meets, at this point I'm running on caffeine and adrenaline.  Cue in the 2nd can of monster energy. I started warming up for deads around 30 minutes before my opener. My opener at 225 kg moved quick so I added 15 kg for my 2nd attempt. The 2nd attempt had mild velocity loss, but it wasn't that much of a grind in my opinion, so I went in with a 5 kg jump for my 3rd attempt. Unfortunately, my 3rd attempt got stuck around mid-shin and I couldn't complete the lift.


In analyzing my performance and comparing it with training, my coach pointed out that I need to have more patience off the floor with my current deadlift technique. I like to use a "dynamic" slack pull where I wedge lower than my starting position, apply 80-90% of the force required to pull slack out of the bar as my hips rise, and when my hip finally rises to the starting position I go 100%. On a commercial gym barbell, this dynamic slack pull allows me to get my hips and shoulders in a slightly higher position before the weights leave the floor. On a stiff powerlifting bar, my hips and shoulders will be ever so slightly lower and I won't have as much momentum from the dynamic start to get me off the ground. This is something I'll need to be mindful of as I prep for my next competition.



This leads to lesson number 2 from this meet... at heavier weights, the type of barbell you use matters. While I do still plan to continue using the barbells available at the commercial gym, I will just need to be mindful of the advantage gained from a dynamic start and perhaps reduce the dynamic nature of my deadlift setup.


Lesson 2:  ...at heavier weights, the type of barbell you use matters.

HIGHLIGHTS AND SHOUTOUTS

All in all I had a great meet and would like to thank USA Powerlifting for putting together another great event. At this meet I went 8 for 9 and unlocked some new achievements:


💯 Total PR

🏋‍♂️ All-Time Deadlift PR

🏋‍♂️ Meet High Bar Squat PR

🩺 Blood Pressure & Vein Popping PR

☕️ Caffeine Consumption PR


Of course all of this would not have been made possible without the love and support of my wife who puts up with my training, blogging, and lack of attention to things unrelated to it :) As always, many thanks to my coach Hassan Mansour of Barbell Medicine for his continued guidance and wisdom.


Each meet is a stepping stone for the next, and I'm all signed up for my next meet in March 2024, so stay tuned!

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