It’s been nearly two weeks since I competed in the RPS Jersey Rumble, and I regret having taken so long to write about it because I definitely have a lot to talk about here! It was a day of success, it was a day of reunions, it was a day of brotherhood. But to balance it out of course, it was the day I suffered my first defeats up on the platform. It was also a day in which I chose to take a major subjective look at myself to see how I could make sure this didn’t happen again…at least for a while, anyway.
So arrived at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Newark, NJ maybe half an hour before the weigh-ins began at 11am. I woke up that morning weighing approximately 175.2lbs, which was fine because I competed in the 181lb weight class for the first time, but after eating a big breakfast of four scrambled eggs, flank steak seasoned with garlic salt and an English muffin, I now weighed 179.8lbs, a good 2.2lbs before breaking the threshold into the next weigh class!
Since I was literally the first person to be weighed in I had a good hour to kill before my group, Session B, was to be given the rules. So I watched Session A, which was the women and juniors (under 18) and some of the women alone impressed me very much. I don’t know that women alone get enough credit for even attempting to lift in this style, let alone compete.
Since I can’t upload raw videos on here at the moment, here’s a still frame of one woman pulling 245lbs for her final attempt. That’s incredible. For those of you who might not know, women generally carry less muscle and more fat than men. Not only that, but I spoke to this woman for a few seconds after she was done and she told me that this was her first ever meet. It had me thinking of her potential, as 245 is a lot for most women, thinking that as long as she keeps working she’ll be hitting 300 in no time.
During this hour I ran into two absolutely incredible lifters that I met at last year’s Jersey Rumble, Eric Chase and PJ Santa Teresa. PJ, who trains at Garden State Barbell in South Jersey and won 1st place in the 198lb weight class for the Open Division last year, was now gunning for a 600lb Deadlift and a total that would get him out of the Amateur ranks and into the Pro ranks. He made me laugh when he said that after he hits Pro he’s going to give up Powerlifting. Yeah PJ, whatever you say bro. Eric, on the other hand, suffered an unfortunate mishap doing Leg Presses and injured his knees, prompting him to back out of Squatting and treat this as a “Push-Pull” meet. In a “Push-Pull” style meet you’re only Benching and Deadlifting.
Ah, my buddy the monolift. This thing looks so hardcore and I wish I could lift under it more often, especially as the weights get heavier. I also am absolutely in love with the 65lb bars they provide. The thickness is incredible. Once you put on of these on your scapula they’re not slipping off any time soon, believe me! After I drank my first bottle of C4 I began my squat warmups, working in with a few guys, which is always great when you’re using a monolift because you can lift while another guy unlocks and unlocks the hooks. If you’re in New Jersey and looking for a gym that provides such an awesome machine, you can try Skiba’s Gym in Carteret, Apollon Gym in Edison, and Strong And Shapely in Rutherford to name a few.
Having used the Powerlifting template for Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 for over a year I brought my squat up to 305lbs for a single a good week before the meet, making me feel confident about going a little a above my calculated 1RM of 315lbs for my final attempt. My opening and second attempts, 280lbs and 305lbs respectively, felt fast enough that I decided to go for 330lbs as my third attempt. Could I do it? As I’m waiting for the spotters to finish loading up the bar, I’m starring at it with a very Doug Young – like intensity. Compared to last year I was considerably more serious here; where I was intentionally aiming as low as I could last year, this was the meet were I was beginning to challenge myself. Much like Doug was notorious for doing I began psyching myself up by growling…although his growl was way more terrifying. I hear the command to squat and I felt just a little bit of struggle once I went down, “UUUPPPP!!!!” I yelled as loud as I could and I finished pushing that bar back up! Did I get it? All three green lights – and a new PR!!
330lb Squat – new meet PR!!!
It was a great confidence booster, making me feel like I would experience the same amount of luck during the Bench and Deadlift portions. I’d sadly be wrong, for it was during the Bench Press that it all started going downhill. Due to circumstances beyond my control the strap for my shoulder bag broke recently, forcing me to carry it my the handle, which doesn’t seem like a big deal on paper. But the constant stress of weight on one side of your body does take it’s toll on your shoulder joints after a while, and sadly my shoulders were just wrecked going into this. I now know that I had what is called Bicep Tendinopathy. Medscape describes Bicep Tendinopathy as “pain and tenderness in the region of the biceps tendon. The biceps musculotendinous junction is particularly susceptible to overuse injuries, especially in individuals performing repetitive lifting activities.”
To make this part as painless for myself as possible, I was hoping to at least bench 180lbs as a final attempt, a twenty pound jump from last year. But after my first and second attempts of 150lbs and 160lbs, the pain had become too much and I decided that I’d rather take a small, incremental hop, as it were, than risk injuring myself before I could Deadlift. But sadly, I couldn’t even move a measly 170lbs off my chest, making this the first red lighted attempt of the night and my short career.
I was down, but I now had plenty of time to eat and rest before it was time for me to prepare for Deadlifts, where I was to face my biggest challenge yet, a 420lb Deadlift with a calculated 1RM of 405lbs. I made sure I took in Gatorade and a lot of sodium via Kirkland (The Costco brand) Beef Jerky and Kettle Potato Chips. I actually want to write an article on the benefits of sodium soon but in short, sodium is dependent upon but many important amino acids to even function, regulates muscle contraction functions and even replenishes electrolytes – just like Gatorade does.
The Deadlift portion of the meet started around 7:45pm, significantly earlier than last year, until I looked at the flight sheet and realized that there were at lot less people there just for benching. During last year’s rumble there were literally more people there for Benching both Raw and Geared than for any of the other lifts, meaning I sure as hell wasn’t leaving that night until around 11pm! My first two attempts were 355lbs and 385lbs, respectively. In fact the main picture for this post is of my 385lb pull. It seemed a tad more difficult but I still felt confident enough to pull 420lbs, so I asked for it as my final attempt. I made sure I had an ammonia cap ready for when I was called up. So many emotions swimming through me while I was waiting to be called; nervousness, excitement, fear – of injury!, anxiousness to just get it over with already.
So as my name was called I stood at the bar, my hair no longer pulled back, almost as if I was trying to channel Dan Green for all I knew, sniffing an ammonia cap, desperately hoping for the same effect it gave me last year. A few screams and deep breaths later I positioned myself and off I went!
See this moment right here? Right here is where I unexpectedly got stuck. I tried everything I could think of to will myself up, but in the end I found myself dropping the bar, a major no-no. Regardless of that however, it was my second red lighted attempt of the evening, and the end to my night. That fear and anxiety I felt earlier had now turned into depression…and then into a very intense anger. As I slammed my Inzer Forever belt on the floor all I wanted to do was walk out and go home. I was feeling violent. I trained so hard for this moment. How could have this happened? There is no way I alone could’ve messed this up!!
Until I took several deep breaths and asked my girlfriend to show me the video she made of the failed attempt and there it was, right in front of me. My hips shot up too early, before I even lifted the bar off the ground. That mistake right there is bound to undo anyone’s form and is a clear sign that I wasn’t tight enough. That was enough to humble me for the night and make me rethink my training for the future because there now was no question that I let my nervousness take away from my concentration.
But if there was one moment I won’t forget it was my reunion with Henri Skiba, who’s gym I mentioned earlier. A few posts ago I mentioned that it was Henri to told me over the phone that if I keep waiting to compete I never would. I caught him as he and I were both watching PJ hit a Deadlift meet PR of 550lbs. I reminded him of who I was and he seemed genuinely flattered after I told him that he’s one of the reasons I finally found the courage to sign up for a meet. Let this be a lesson to all of you, that sometimes all takes is someone nudging you to get the ball rolling, regardless of what you do in your life. The rest, however, is up to you. I hope to train with him again this summer when I have off from work.
So, where do I go from here? As of today, not including the day of the meet, I haven’t trained in three weeks and I will finally be going back tomorrow. I think the time off has been very beneficial to my physical well being; I bought a new Under Armour strap bag to carry to work, giving my shoulders much needed relief and a chance to heal up, my knees aren’t hurting any more, and I’ve had a chance to enjoy life a bit more. I’ve also had the chance to reevaluate my approach to training and I’ve decided that I must focus on my Deadlift technique if I want to lift heavier. One thing to remember is that strength is a skill, and therefore technique is everything. I clearly am able to rip more than 400lbs off the ground, but if my setup isn’t worked on then I shouldn’t expect to finish the movement any time soon. Also, for the sake of my chest and shoulders especially, I’m going to make my training more size focused. I still am going to train using 5/3/1, but the template I’ll be using is his much praised Boring But Big template, in which you follow your standard 5/3/1 sets with the same exercise at 40, 50, or 60% of your 1RM for 5×10, followed by assistance work for the opposing/antagonist muscle group, also for 5×10. It clearly gets more technical and I hope to discuss this more in another post when I can.
So to finish this of I want to reiterate something I mentioned in another post. So why did I choose Powerlifting? This particular night reminded me of exactly why. More that just training in a gym, more than bros just raining their chests and arms, Powerlifting, to me embodies the most important things in life, self-improvement, companionship and the brotherhood I had looking for virtually my whole life. When I feel let down by the rest of the world, all it takes is a barbell and friends cheering me on to bring me right back up.
My Stats for RPS Jersey Rumble 2017
Squat: 280, 305, 330
Bench Press: 150, 160, 170 (failed attempt)
Deadlift: 355, 385, 420 (failed attempt)
You can now click here if you’d rather watch instead on read!
The link to Medscape’s definition of Bicep Tendinopathy: