I competed in the Natural Athlete Strength Association (NASA) Oklahoma State Powerlifting Championship meet last weekend (April 23rd) in Oklahoma City. There were around 70 lifters from four states competing. There were probably 120 spectators in attendance. It was a very successful event with some truly great lifts and an overall atmosphere that was fantastic. It was a great experience and I’m very pleased with my performance. In terms of my strategy and preparation, a few things are worth mentioning here.
I was very well prepared for the meet and executed all of my nine attempts successfully, save one premature rack on a bench press. If I had it to do over again, I would change a few things. First, lifting at times that reflect competition times is important. I’ve done nearly all of my preparation in the afternoon and late evening, but the meet was at 10 a.m. As soon as I started warming-up I realized how unusual it was for me to go heavy and get fired-up before lunch. If feasible, training your body to peak at competition times would be a good approach. Secondly, “mock meets” are a valuable tool that I did not use enough leading up to the event. I did a mock meet one week out, but should have done mock meets every Saturday for a month leading up to the event, conditioning myself to press, rack, and lift on command, to deal with adrenaline dumps and recovery, and to cope with the demands of repeated max effort attempts. Finally, the conjugate programming that I began to implement in my squat routine seems to have paid off nicely and I can’t help but wonder what another few weeks of band squats, box squats, dangler squats, etc. would have done to my numbers. Introducing more variety and adaptation into my program at an earlier date is something I will definitely do in the future.
The game plan Saturday was perfect. Coming in on five days of complete rest I was fresh and focused. My opening weight selection was conservative, but the nerves and tension of squatting in front of 200 people make openers squirrely. On all of my openers I chose weights that I could absolutely man-handle and do reps with. The idea here is to get a clean lift under your belt, break the ice, get past the nerves of stage lifting, and build some confidence. With follow-up lifts, it’s time to get cautiously aggressive. Here, I want a lift that I’m proud of if my final attempt fails. I want a nice, 80% or 90% max-effort lift; something that I have to be sharp for but, I’m not flirting with failure, either. On the final attempt, I want to walk a fine line between harnessing the emotion of the situation and treading into the un-doable. It’s PR time, but that doesn’t mean humiliate yourself with a spine-crushing failure 30 lbs above your max. On my final squat, I attempted 5 lbs more than I’d maxed in my peak training two weeks before. I got it . . . barely. It was probably a true max or very, very close. Confidence and a hyped-up room of spectators is always good for 5 or 10 lbs, but it’s not going to turn you into a juggernaut.
Looking back, the biggest obstacles to peak performance are nutrition and durability. The meet was an ungodly seven hours. Spacing nine lifts out over seven hours is an exercise in endurance and mental toughness with no equal. Getting warmed-up too soon, getting cold during the down time, getting adrenaline rushes and then coming down, going hours without eating: it takes a toll. Emotion is a great ally, but there is something to be said for staying calm, relaxing when you can, and keeping a cool, focused head droning the chaos of meet lifting.
The Goods:
So, how’d it go? Here’s how –
Bench Press:
Dead Lift:

At a totally raw (no belt, knee wraps, squat suit, or lifting shoes) 196.2 lbs, that’s not a bad total. A 1,300 lb meet is easily within my grasp, probably on bench increase alone.

It honestly could not have done any better.

It’s a good time to leave things as they are and transition to Olympic lifting. SCBC is competing in the Lock and Load invitation at Spoon Athletic Club in Van Alstyne, TX on May 14th. Olympic weightlifting programming, meet preparation, and full recap to follow.

See NASA Prep



In preparation for the Natural Athlete Strength Association (NASA) powerlifting meet on April 23rd I’ve employed a modified Texas Method training program. This program is something I’ve been tinkering with for the past year or so, but only recently have I really perfected it. Borrowing in part from Louie Simmons, Mark Rippetoe, Mike Burgener, and my own experience, I’ve developed a simple, effective program that’s delivered great results. It’s the Jeet Kune Do of iron. In short, I think I’ve finally got it all figured out in terms of training for peak power over a short period of time. Let me explain:

The program is called The Quickening. It’s based on a simple Texas Method, 3-day split. Each day has a different theme: volume; speed; and power. I’ve modified the exercise selection and rep schemes, and included some important assister and mobility work to the program. In its current form, the program is a 4-day split with one optional Play Day. I’ve been on this program for three months now and I’ve seen 30-40 lb gains on all lifts while reducing body fat and maintaining a constant body weight of 206. My diet is roughly 80% unmeasured Paleo + dairy. I work on flexibility and recovery daily, including stretching, foam rolling, and occasional massage therapy. The results speak for themselves. The outline follows:
The Quickening
 Peak Power Program for the Functional Athlete
Monday: Work Day – High Volume Novelty Lifts + Assisters
Warm-up (Agility Drills)
High Skip
Backward Skip
Grapevine Side Shuffle x 2
High Knees
Butt Kicks
Box Jump Progressions
Jump Rope Work
Novelty Squat (Squat with Bands, Chains, or Danglers)
Front Squat 3 x 5 @ 135, 225, 275
Back Squat 3 x 5 @ 315, 365, 405
*Remove Bands and Attempt 2-rep Max – 455
Novelty Push (Bench or Dbell Press with Bands, Chains, or Danglers)
Bench Press
2 x 10 @ 135, 185
2 x 2 @ 225, 245
7, 5, 3 @ 260, 270, 280
*Remove Bands and Attempt 1-rep Max – 315
Novelty Pull (Pull-up with Weighted Vest, Towel Grip, or Belt with Plates)
Pull-up 3 x 10
Secondary Squat (Assister Leg Movement)
Heavy Lunge 3 x 12 @ 185
Bulgarian Split Squat 3 x 12 w/ 50lb Dbells
Secondary Push (Assister Press)
Overhead Press 3 x 8 @ 135
Dbell Push Press 3 x 8 w/ 75lb Dbells
Secondary Pull (Assister Pull)
Bent Row 3 x 12 @ 155
Dbell Bent Row 3 x 8, 8 w/ 75lb Dbells
Tertiary Squat (Finisher Leg Movement)
Sled Drag x 4 @ 5 Plates
Romanian Dead Lift 3 x 8 @ 135
Tertiary Push (Finisher Push)
Peg Dips 3 x 15
Skull Crusher 3 x 8 @ 100
Tertiary Pull (Finisher Pull)
Shrug 3 x 8 @ 225
Rope Climb x 2
Core Work
Back Extension 3 x 8 @ 25
Decline Sit-up 3 x 8 w/ 20lb DynaMax Ball
Tuesday: Mobility Work
Hamstring, Hip, Groin, and Shoulder Stretches with Bands
Static Core Work w/ Planks
Wednesday: Speed Day – Dynamic Effort Full-Body Training
Row 500m
Clean Progression
Front Squat 3 x 8 @ 95
Push Press 3 x 5 @ 95
Hang Power Clean 3 x 5 @ 95
Clean and Jerk 3 x 2 @ 135
Clean 3 x 2 @ 185, 205, 225
Reverse Hyperextension 3 x 8
Reverse Hamstring Curl 3 x 8
Core Work
Ab Wheel 3 x 8
Toes-to-Bar 3 x 8
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: Power Day – Low Volume/Max Load Powerlifting
Interval Sprints
Plate Push x 3
Back Squat (Meet Standards – Below Parallel)
5 x 2 @ 135, 225, 315, 365, 405
2 x 1 @ 455, 475
Heavy Dead Lift w/ Similar Rep Scheme and Loads (Infrequent Substitution)
Bench Press (Meet Standards – Pause and Press)
3 x 5 @ 135, 185, 225
3 x 1 @ 255, 275, 305
Dumbbell Snatch
3 x 2, 2 @ 70, 80, 90
3, x 1, 1 @ 100, 110, 120
Kettle Bell Swing
3 x 15 @ 90
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Optional Play Day
Tire Flip
Sledge Hammer
Keg Lift and Carry
Atlas Stones
Kaber Toss
Battling Ropes
Sled Push
At this point I’m done lifting. The meet is in 6 days. I’ll get some light technique work in mid-week and be fresh for Saturday morning. My strategy is to open with lifts that are relatively easy to get the nerves and tightness out of the way. I want to get pretty aggressive with the second lift, maybe 80% or 90% of my PR. On my final lift I’d like to attempt to match or break PRs. It should go as follows:
Squat – 410, 460, 480
Bench – 280, 295, 310
Dead – 420, 480, 500
Recap, results, and pics will be uploaded here ASAP. Stay tuned.

See NASA Recap


Highland Games Recap

So I’ve been meaning to put this out so here it is.  I wrote it this morning and I really didn’t have the time to spend on it so I just threw it together. 
I competed in my first Highland Games on March 27th in Yukon, Oklahoma at the 5th Annual Iron Thistle Scottish Festival.  It was pretty awesome.  I had to wear a kilt but it was kinda cool.  This is how it went.
As an inexperienced novice, I was placed in the Amateur Class C.  My class was to compete on Sunday the last day of the Games.  The festival opened that day at 10 o’clock so naturally I assumed this is also when the Games started.  Wrong.  In fact, I was supposed to be there at 9 o’clock.  Luckily, by 10 o’clock the first event was just getting started.
The first event was weight for height (WHF).  Basically, you stand below a bar and try to throw a weight up and over it.  The weight is 56lbs and it has a handle on it.  The most common technique is to swing the weight between your legs a couple times and then violently explode upwards, throwing the weight up and over the bar.  Bar height starts at 8’.  By the time I showed up they had progressed to 9’.  My first attempt was unsuccessful but each contestant gets three attempts at each height.  If you miss all three you are out of the event.  My second throw was good and I waited for the others to make height or foul out.  My first attempt at 10’ was no good.  The second throw had sufficient height but did not go over the bar.  I was pretty confident I could make it on my last attempt.  However, on my last swing l let my torso come too low and the weight hit the ground as I was coming up.  I was committed and I released despite this.  The weight didn’t come close to making it.  The judge, a real cool guy and great thrower by the name of Duncan McCallum, later pulled me aside and informed me it was acceptable to stop and reset after such an occurrence.  Lessons learned. 
The next event was the sheaf toss.  The sheaf toss involves a pitchfork and a burlap sack filled with rope or straw weighing 16lbs to 20lbs, ours weighing 16lbs.  Like WHF, the point is to launch the sack up and over a bar using the pitchfork.  I did much better in this event.  Here the bar started at 12’ and progressed upwards at 2’ intervals.  I was able to successfully throw the bag over the bar at 20’, thanks to some pointers from Duncan along the way.  I couldn’t get it over 22’, though.  I tied for second in this event.
After these two events we broke for lunch.  The Games organizers had prepared lamb stew and mashed potatoes for the competitors and it was pretty tasty.  It was also very cold that day and the food helped me warm up.  It was especially cold since I was wearing a kilt.  I will also note that I probably drank two pots of coffee over the course of the day.
Next we moved to weight for distance (WFD).  This differs from WFH in that you have three tries to throw the weight as far away from you as possible.  During the throw you must keep at least one foot in a box measuring 4’6” x 9’ drawn on the ground and not go over the trig at the front.  Any violation of these rules constitutes a foul.  Two weights are contested.  The Heavy WFD at 56lbs and the Light WFD at 28lbs.  We began with the HWFD and this did not go well for me either.  The common technique is to swing the weight a couple times and then begin swinging around to gain momentum.  One would usually take two spins, each bringing the contestant closer to the trig, releasing on the third.  This is much harder than it looks as I was to find out.  My first attempt left me flat on my face.  A little embarrassing but everyone competing and those in attendance were really cool and it was more funny than embarrassing to me.  And I wasn’t the only one to fall.  Like I said, for most of us this was our first competition.  I never got a good throw in this event.  I actually only got one throw as I fouled on my second attempt by stepping over the trig.  My best ended up being 9’5”.  This put me at dead last in this event and my distance was half of the next lowest distance (15’10”).  The light weight was much easier for me and I placed third here with a 39’10” throw.
From here we moved to the Braemar Stone Put.  The Braemar stone is similar to the shot put except you throw a big rock.  Our Braemar stone weighed 22lbs.  Again, the contestant must stand in a box behind the trig.  No movement of the feet is allowed during the throw.  You hold the stone between your shoulder and your ear, squat down and explode up and out.  I did ok here.  But I did get some help from the crowd and the other guys.  Duncan had come to feel that I was too quiet as the other guys would let out a loud grunt or yell on their throws.  My throw cadence was 1, 2, throw.  He instructed everyone to yell as loud as they could on my throw.  This seemed to work and did help me come out of my shell a bit and do some yelling through the rest of the competition.  A good grunt really can add to your distance.  I finished middle of the pack with 23’ even.
Then there was the Open Stone Put.  Some Games use a shot but we used a 16lbs stone.  This differs from the previous in that the weight is lighter and foot movement is allowed.  The two common styles are the glide and the spin.  I saw no spinners.  With the glide you take a semi-squat position in the back of the box.  Then you take a couple quick shuffling steps up to the trig and throw the weight.  My first throw I tried a spin/glide hybrid move.  I began with my back to the field and ended up stepping over the trig.  After this I got the epiphany that less is more.  I stopped trying to get fancy and just took a quick and easy glide on subsequent attempts.  This worked for me and I ended in third with a 30’1” throw.
And then the flagship event of the Highland Games, the Caber Toss.  Most people know what this is even if they don’t know it is called the caber toss.  The caber is simply a long pole of varying heights and weights.  You pick the caber up vertically and toss it.  Simple.  No, not simple.  The caber is not particularly heavy.  It’s just really, really awkward.  Also, the point is not to throw the caber for height or distance.  It’s a throw for accuracy.  You are just supposed to flip the caber over.  Judging is based on a clock face.  Imagine you are standing at 6 o’clock.  For a perfect score, you want the end of the caber that is in your hands to land at 12 o’clock.  The top end must hit the ground and the caber has to turn over.  We started with a lighter “qualifying” caber.  I was able to turn this on my second attempt and I think everyone else turned it as well.  It is not judges you just have to turn it to move to the next caber.  The next caber was longer and heavier.  According to NASGA, officials are supposed to pick a caber they think half of the contestants won’t be able to turn.  My first attempt with this caber was pretty epic.  It was a hard fought battle.  It was exhilarating.  You come to the caber at one end.  Custom dictates that the contestant before you will stand at the other end and walk it up so you will be standing with the caber vertical to you.  Next you bend down and pinch the caber between your shoulder and ear.  You need to have your hands under the caber with fingers interlocked.  To get your hands in this position you grab as low as you possibly can.  Then you pop up and shift your hands under the caber while it is in the air.  Not easy.  I fought with this thing for maybe a minute or two trying to get in this position.  When I first popped up I couldn’t get my hands under.  So I had to try a couple of times.  Each time I would get closer and closer.  I also hand to steady the caber each time I did this.  Man, that was tough.  But it was great because the crowd, the judges and the other competitors were going nuts.  Screaming and yelling encouragement.  It was awesome.  I finally got under.  I took off running and let it fly.  It turned over perfectly.  Unfortunately, I was so excited having won that battle I forgot to stand still.  If you don’t stand still after the throw the judges have a hard time figuring where the caber landed on the imaginary clock face.  They gave me a 1 o’clock which is still really good.  You get three attempts but I was unable to turn it again.  There were only three of us that turned it and I took third.
The last events were the heavy and light hammers.  A hammer is simply a round weight with a PVC pipe handle less than 50” in length.  The heavy hammer is 22lbs and the light is 16lbs.  The contestant is supposed to stand with their back to the field and swing the hammer around the head a couple of times and release.  The point is to throw it as far as you can and no movement of the feet is allowed.  The heavy hammer was troublesome for me.  I fouled a couple of times and ended up near the bottom with a throw of 44’2”.  The problem was I got to crazy with the swings.  I’d whip the hammer around my head and it would throw me off balance.  I remembered from my epiphany in the open stone earlier how taking it easy could be beneficial so I modified my technique for the light hammer and did much better.  Here I just took one easy swing around my head and then exploded violently on the second.  The hammer went very far.  The second was even better.  My third throw would mark the end of the day for me and I wanted to go out with a bang.  I was intensely focused when I took the hammer.  I took a deep breath and began to swing.  As I released on my second swing I let out a very primal yell that surprised even myself.  The hammer landed 75’5” away.  Good for second.
It was all over and I was very pleased.  We started breaking everything down and preparing to leave.  There was a quick award ceremony and trophies were handed out.  I thought I did ok but I was very surprised when they called my name for third place.  Second place went to Frank Lamb out of Tulsa.  He runs the Highland Games at the Tulsa festival.  He competed in the Amateur C because he was coming back from injury.  First place went to Douglas “The Stupid Farmboy” Culpepper.  Doug took first in every event.  He left us in the dust.  He actually came close to breaking a few Amateur C records.  And the thing is, he never competed before.  He was just some naturally strong farm kid, who didn’t look very physically imposing.  One of his buddies called him a stupid farmboy and we all got a kick out of it.  He was a cool guy and I hope to see him in Tulsa this September.
So that’s it. 

SCBC Training Sessions

The SCBC is now hosting weekend training sessions.  These sessions will be held with regularity on Saturday or Sunday of every week.  Times may vary according to participants schedules.  As of this time, the default location is my home.

Our first session was productive one.  Myself, Rut Diesel and Macy Mitchell were the first attendees.  Mr. Mitchell is a young SCBC protege and the session was focused on getting him familiar with the lifts.  The youngster has no previous experience in the classic lifts but did very well in his first outing.  We expect good things from him in the future.

The Diesel and I were fairly banged up from training sessions earlier in the week but we managed a decent showing.  The Rut lost a 495lbs back squat earlier in the week so he worked up to an easy 225lbs clean.  I was able to snatch 185lbs with ease and clean and jerk 225lbs.  I barely missed a 275lbs C&J so that’s what I’ll be chasing this weekend.

The next Session is scheduled for this Sunday, my place at 3:00pm.


Developing Power for the General Athlete

Yeshamesh, how are you?

As noted previously, I recently competed in the 5th Annual Iron Thistle Scottish Highland Games.  It was a great experience and I had a phenomenal time.  I actually ended up taking third in Amateur Class C.  I plan to do a detailed write-up on this very soon.

For now, just a short filler post on power development.

Many would probably disagree, but I’d like to argue that the first and third pulls are largely useless to the general athlete.  Even in weightlifting these are really only positional movements.  What is the point of the first pull?  To position oneself for the second pull.  What is the purpose of the third pull?  To position oneself under the bar to jerk for the clean or stand up for the snatch.  The second pull is where it’s at.  This is where all power and force are generated.  This is why the general athlete should focus on the second pull.  Power cleans and power snatches.  Why not just power cleans?  Well I’ll tell you why.  Power cleans develop a powerful second pull.  No doubt.  But the most important part of the second pull is quickness.  I don’t feel the power clean develops quickness as well as the power snatch.  In the power snatch you must drive the bar with quick acceleration much higher than is required in the power clean.  Hence, the power snatch requires much more quickness.  However, both should be used to develop power and quickness.  For instance, the conjugate method.  Use power cleans for maximum effort days and power snatch for dynamic effort days.  Put power cleans before a dead lift day and power snatch on a squat day.
I realize with the power clean and snatch the first pull will necessarily be included but, as stated before, the first position will only serve to prepare you for the second pull.  Indeed, the first pull should not require great effort as you should be able to dead lift much more than you clean or snatch.  
In sum, you don’t have to do the full lifts for power development.  Focus on the second pull and reap the rewards.  Whatever your program, alternate a few power cleans and power snatches at the beginning of each session starting light to serve as a warm-up and finishing strong for a few sets (2-3) of a few reps (2-4).