Chest Thumping

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Conrad Mann at the USPA Larry Garro Memorial Powerlifting Meet

Whether it’s a third grade spelling bee or the Superbowl, putting yourself into competition takes a ton of courage.  At 64 years young, Conrad of SAPT fame decided that it was time to enter into his first powerlifting meet (why not?).  Even a double knee replacement wouldn’t keep Conrad from competing, and he decided to enter into the bench-only meet.

Here’s how it went down.

The Weigh-In

Conrad was competing in the 164.9 weight class.  He was concerned prior to the meet that he might not make weight, but ended up stepping on the scale at a whopping 159 pounds.  He came prepared, however, with plenty of fluids and snacks to get properly hydrated before he stepped on the platform.

The Wait

The typical sequence of a powerlifting meet is 1)Squat, 2)Bench Press, and 3)Deadlift.  The lifters will have 3 attempts at each lift, and with two flights of competitors in the squat, we had plenty of time to relax and watch the squat attempts.  We saw lifters of all shapes and sizes squat one after another.  It was awesome to see all the different leverages people possess and the different styles of squatting they chose to utilize.  High bar, low bar, Olympic shoes, Chuck Taylors, wider stance, narrow stance, long femurs, long torsos- basically every variation of a barbell back squat that you could imagine.  Anyone interested in biomechanics should definitely check out a powerlifting meet just to see the infinite variations in the same basic movement pattern.

Towards the end of the second flight of squat attempts we decided it was time to start prepping both body and mind to push some heavy weight.

The Warm-Up

Taking the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” attitude Conrad went through the same general warm-up as he does prior to a session at SAPT.  Mobility work, scap pushups, face pulls and external rotations were all part of the ritual.

Just as important as getting physically warmed up for the bench attempts is getting mentally focused.  At this point, Conrad’s level of raw strength was out of our control.  The strength-building portion came from weeks of hard work on a brilliant bench specialization program designed in the top secret laboratory that is Steve Reed’s mind.  However, this was the time where it was critical to take charge over the factors that we can control, of them being 1)Techniqu0e, and 2)Obeying the commands.  The head judge gives three commands after unracking the bar (start, press, rack) during each attempt, and failure to obey any of these commands results in a “no good” lift.

Following the general warm-up we got on the bench.  We started with light triples and progressed into heavier singles, ensuring that each rep was crisp and clean.  The bar touched the same spot on his chest with every press, the elbows were nicely tucked at the bottom, and each command was obeyed as I yelled them out during the warm-up.

Go Time!

Having successfully primed his central nervous system to its fullest capacity, Conrad was warmed up, suited up, and ready to go.  He was in the first flight of benchers and stepped on deck for his first attempt in a powerlifting competition.

Conrad opened at 85kg (187lbs).  It was a solid opener, and flew up at lightning speed.  Undisputed three whites from the judges for a good lift.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nw78bHsOqI&feature=youtu.be

His second attempt was 92.5kg (203.5lbs).  Another easy bench for Conrad and three whites.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0dQ6bO8x48

Third attempt here was 97.5kg(214.5lbs) for a PR.  Again another solid, clean lift that received a well deserved three whites from the judges.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z-L2EkKSXU

Wrap Up

IMG_0769
IMG_0769

To sum it up, Conrad walked away from the meet three for three on his attempts, a PR, no torn pecs, and shoulders still in-tact!  Can’t ask for much better than that.  Congrats Conrad, way to represent SAPT!  Big thanks to Ron, Jen, and Sondra being part of the SAPT support staff, and a double thanks to Ron for taking videos of the attempts!

How to Build a Monster Grip

Athletes involved in grappling sports are a special breed. I'm talking about the wrestlers, judo players, jiu jitsu players, MMA fighters, etc. To compete at a high level these athletes need a special blend of strength, endurance, mobility, balance, and a just touch of insanity. Additionally, an impressive trait that almost all good grapplers tend to have is ridiculous grip strength. I competed in the Copa Nova Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Fall Championships over the weekend, and after my matches my forearms were on FIRE! A big part of the game is getting a good grip on your opponent while keeping their grips off of you, so it's important to have some hands that you can rely on.

However the benefits of a stronger grip isn't limited to the grapplers. Working on grip strength can improve shoulder health, increase performance in other sports, and make activities of daily living easier. And we all know big forearms are cool.

So how do you build the vice-like grip of a grappling champion?  The solution is simple, go wrestle somebody everyday.

I'm just kidding (for most of us). But here are some tips to really challenge your grip within your lifting program.

Towels

Using towels for many of your pulling exercises will make you grip harder than normal. If you relax your grip even for a moment it could slip out of your fingers. Towels can be used for pull-ups, chin-ups, cable/band rows, inverted rows, face pulls, and shrugs.

Bottoms Up KBs

I haven't tried any bottoms up kettlebell work until recently, and it was definitely more challenging than I thought. Even with what I thought was moderate weight it was difficult to control. The bottoms up position can be used for pressing variations but also for weighted carries. Try some weighted carries with a KB in a bottoms-up rack or overhead position. If you've never tried it before your forearms might be in for a surprise.

Heavy Farmer's Walks

Load up the implements and talk a stroll. With these don't worry about using a towel or finding another way to make it specifically harder for your grip. The weight alone should do the trick. Chalk up your hands if you need to, but don't use straps (duh).

Deadlifts

Picking up heavy things is one of the best ways to build up your grip. When using a barbell, try to go double overhand as long as you can when working up in weight.

Use these tips to feel better, open the tightest of pickle jars, and build a crushing handshake you can be proud of!