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Mr. T Meet Prep Series: The Final Block

Updated: Mar 4, 2023


All of Mr. T's hard work has lead up to this final 8 weeks! If you didn't read the first two posts in the Mr. T series, please be sure to check them out here:


This post is Part 3 of an ongoing series documenting the progress and training decisions made for one of my athletes preparing for their first Powerlifting Meet now on April 29, 2023. More specifically, this post will be focused on the results of his second block of training along with how I plan to progress him towards meet day. As noted in previous posts, the original meet date was April 22, but due to issues with the venue, had to be rescheduled to April 29.


Disclaimers:

  • Any views and opinions expressed are my own and are not affiliated with the USAPL.

Intensification Block Review

As we established in previous posts, we were going to run with a Time to Peak (TTP) of 8 weeks. The assumed TTP appeared to be valid and did not shorten based on the continued steady progress observed in the competition movements. The following are the results of his last 8 weeks of training.


Competition Squat

Mr. T's competition movement is a low bar squat, but I also supplemented with 2-count pause squats and single leg work in the intensification block which appeared to have beneficial carryover to the competition movement.


Squat performance progressed nicely over the last 8 weeks using top sets of 3 repetitions and average intensity of about 76% of E1RM including back off sets. His average E1RM for the previous 8 weeks of training was 410.9 lbs, while his average E1RM for the intensification block was 439.2 lbs, equating to an average Squat E1RM increase of about +28 lbs.


During the final block of training, I will leverage pin squats and banded squats to build bottom end and top end strength. Regressed Reverse Nordic curls and Nordic curls will be prescribed as prehab to build some lower body resiliency. See previous post here for everything you need to know about the Reverse Nordic Curl:

Competition Bench


Mr. T's competition grip was widened in the previous block of training as we discovered he is better with a wider grip compared to his previous grip. The use of 2-board and 3-board bench work enabled him to work through his injury without overly taxing his elbow. The use of Spoto presses also contributed to the overall development of his competition bench press.


Bench press performance progressed better than expected. His average E1RM for the previous 8 weeks of training was 340.9 lbs, while his average E1RM for the intensification block was 354.5 lbs, equating to an average Bench E1RM increase of about +13 lbs. Here, top sets of 3 repetitions were also used with an average intensity of about 76% of E1RM including back off sets.


During the final block of training, I will continue to leverage board and Spoto pressing while adding JM pressing to build up his triceps further. Wrist extensions, wrist supinations, and dumbbell external rotations will be prescribed as prehab to build resiliency in the upper kinetic chain. For more information on this topic, check out my previous post here:

Competition Deadlift


Mr. T's competition movement is a conventional deadlift, but I also supplemented with sumo since he expressed a desire to see if he was better at conventional or sumo. Based on E1RM data for the two movements it was clear conventional pulling is the way to go moving forward. Had he been given more time to develop his sumo technique, it is possible he could be better at that movement, but given the time constraints for his upcoming meet, it would be more productive to explore that opportunity after the competition.


Deadlift performance progressed nicely over the last 8 weeks using top sets of 2 repetitions and average intensity of about 78% of E1RM including back off sets. His average E1RM for the previous 8 weeks of training was 463.6 lbs, while his average E1RM for the intensification block was 493.3 lbs, equating to an average Deadlift E1RM increase of about +30 lbs.


In hindsight, Mr. T would have benefited from additional conventional deadlift variants during the previous block of training, but the tradeoff was made to rule out sumo deadlifting in order to go "all-in" on one style for this final block. I will supplement his competition deadlift with pause deadlifts, with the pauses right below the knee. Mr. T tends to lock out his knees early in the deadlift, creating a very difficult lockout. The early knee lockout likely causes him to shift his knees back under the bar to help with final lockout and creates the appearance of ramping the deadlift, which unfortunately is a yellow card in the USAPL. The intention of the pause work will be to force him to maintain knee flexion as long as possible before fully extending his knee, as pausing below the knee with the knees fully locked out will make the movement much more difficult.


Additionally, Mr. T tends to touch and go on multi-repetition sets. To provide additional exposure to competition style deadlifting, back off sets will be prescribed in a cluster set format to get him additional exposure to the first pull off the floor. Deadlifts, like the name suggests, are supposed to be executed from a dead stop. Using the bounce off the floor does not provide reliable E1RM data and can hinder technical development in the long run.


Specialization Block

The final block of training will be focused on developing Mr. T's strength and skill in the single repetition range with back off working sets at higher average intensities than the previous blocks. This final training block will be comprised of 3 squat slots, 5 upper body pressing slots, 2 deadlift slots, and 2 upper body rowing slot for a total of 12 main movements color coded for reference. Specifically, the main movements will be:

  1. Competition Squat w/Belt

  2. Competition Bench - All Reps Paused Motionless

  3. Competition Deadlift w/Belt with Cluster Back offs

  4. Pin Squat w/Belt

  5. 3-Board Close Grip Bench

  6. Bench Grip Cable Rows

  7. 1-Count Pause Deadlift w/Belt with Cluster Back offs

  8. 2-Board Competition Grip Bench - All Reps Paused Motionless

  9. High Bar Squat with Bands

  10. Competition Grip Spoto Press

  11. JM Press

  12. Pendlay Rows


Areas of Focus

Aside from developing Mr. T's strength and skill at heavy singles for the competition movements, there will be continued emphasis on training to competition standards. I CANNOT reiterate enough that the most common mistake for lifters new to competition is to beat the commands. I will continue to harp on exaggerating un-rack and re-rack times in training as outlined below.

  • Squat: Get used to standing motionless with knees locked out and a loaded bar on your back for 3 to 5 seconds before descending to simulate waiting for a “squat” command. Upon completing the last repetition after locking out your knees, stand motionless for another 3 to 5 seconds to simulate waiting for a “rack” command.

  • Bench: Get used to holding the loaded bar motionless for 3 to 5 seconds to simulate waiting for a “start” command. Pause the bench press for a full second like you’re waiting for the “press” command. Upon completing the last repetition after locking out your elbows, hold the bar motionless for another 3 to 5 seconds to simulate waiting for the “rack” command.

  • Deadlift: Unlike the other lifts, the deadlift only has one command, so upon completing the last repetition, get used to holding a loaded bar in your hands motionless for 3 to 5 seconds after fully locking out to practice waiting for the “down” command. DO NOT LET GO OF THE BARBELL AT ANY TIME until the loaded bar is back on the ground.

Now, while 3 to 5 seconds sounds like a lot of time, you're right... it is! However, time always seems to move slower with a heavy weight in your hands or on your back. Since time appears to move so slow, people tend to count time faster than it is really passing by, so in reality it will likely end up being 2-3 seconds anyway. It's the same reason why people tend to count tempos and pause work faster than they should. You could say it's a real life example of time dilation or Einstein's special theory of relativity, except instead of you traveling at the speed of light, you're holding heavy @$$ weight.

I CANNOT reiterate enough that the most common mistake for lifters new to competition is to beat the commands.

Next Steps

Starting in March, I will have Mr. T begin the the Specialization Block with a 1-week washout to desensitize him to barbell training and allow for some active recovery. This will be followed by a 2-week pivot to transition him into the new set of barbell movements, rep ranges, and intensities. In the final weeks leading up to the meet, I will develop his meet card summarizing everything he should do from his warm ups all the way to his opening attempts. Based on how his opener goes, I will create a flow chart of sorts to determine which weight he should go for next for all subsequent attempts.


If you enjoy geeking out about strength and programming, then be sure to stay tuned to see how Mr. T performs on competition day!




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