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

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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!

Lessons the Shirt Taught Me

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Things got real weird on Friday night training with Ryan. What was scheduled to be a regular heavy bench session turned into my first time putting on a bench shirt. I have helped Ryan with his powerlifting gear many times before, but I've never really experienced first-hand how it feels to be in a squat suit or a bench shirt. Lesson #1: It's Not Comfortable

I learned very quickly that it doesn't feel too awesome being in the shirt. Getting it on was a pain, but I knew that was coming. I was used to being the guy on the other side of the shirt trying to force the shirt onto another human being, so I expected some discomfort. Luckily however, it was Ryan's old single-ply shirt and his enormous gunzzz stretched out the sleeves pretty nicely, making it a relatively smooth process to put it on. By the time we got the shirt on and got the sleeves and seams exactly where we wanted them I already wanted to take it off. It's super tight and forces you into a weird mummy-like position with your arms dangling out in front of you. You can't really do much about this situation until the shirt comes off.

I found myself rushing the rest periods between sets because I was more focused on getting the final set over with so I could take the evil thing off.

Lesson #2 I Couldn't Keep My Arch

The arched back seen in bench pressing is often demonized as being a flaw in technique or disadvantageous when trying to target the pecs. Whatever. I use an arch when benching because it helps to keep me tight on the bench, allows for better leg drive and provides better leverage overall to perform the lift. When benching "raw", I feel pretty confident about my arch, and I can keep it tight during the entirety of the lift. When benching in the shirt, however, I found myself losing my arch midway through the descending portion of the lift. This leads me to lesson #3...

Lesson #3 My Upper Back Is WEAK!

The shirt exposed my deep dark secret that my upper back is not up to par. When bench pressing in gear, the bar will not come down to your chest without a fight. You literally have to PULL the bar down while forcing yourself to maintain a proper arch. This takes some serious upper and mid back strength that I just didn't have. I could feel my arch collapsing and my once tightly packed shoulders becoming... not so tightly packed. Even when benching raw I always remember the cues to "row the bar down with the lats" and "keep the upper back tight," and I felt that I understood. The shirt let me know that what I originally thought was "tight enough" was an epic fail waiting to happen.

Although the shirt made me feel like a total n00b I walked away from the session with a lot to think about and a lot learned about my bench technique. I probably got some pretty good "overload" stimulation from the heavier weights that the shirt enabled me to use as well. Until next time, I'll just keep hammering away at heavy rows and pull-ups.

For your entertainment, here are a couple videos from the Friday night bench party.

How Will You Succeed?

I stumbled across this on Facebook the other day.  Normally I just scroll through things like this; it doesn't usually make a huge impact on my day.  For some reason though this one stuck when I saw it.  I'm not entirely sure why but it just struck a chord with me, and I really liked it.  I believe it was the first line that might have done it for me, "I succeed because I am willing to do the things that you are not."  I have a lot of changes going on in my life and this line made me think about all the athletes and clients I've worked with over the past couple of years at SAPT.  The large majority of which have succeeded or will succeed in the near future.  Is this because of me or the other coaches at SAPT?  I say no.  The coaching staff at SAPT is merely a vehicle our athletes and clients have used to travel on the road to success.  It's something they posses within themselves that has gotten them to where they are.  As I said SAPT was just the vehicle, it was up to them to turn on the car and drive down the path.  The people I look back on and also the ones I currently watch train now have something their peers do not. They succeed because they are willing to do the things their peers are not.  They are willing to wake up in the early morning during their summer break to come train hard.  They are willing to come in after a long, hard day at work and get after it.  They are willing to train through and around injuries.  They are willing to hold onto hope that they will get past those injuries, even when it seems like all hope is lost they still do not ever give up.  And they are willing and able to understand that success does not happen over night but only through hard, grueling work.

When I think about the kids, teenagers and adults I've worked with I am in awe of their drive, their tenacity and most importantly their heart.  I am forever grateful to them for the inspiration and motivation they have given me and the other SAPT coaches.  They will never stop getting better, they will never give up... Ever. That is why they succeed.

How will you succeed?

Videos to Make Your Day Better

This week has been crazy busy both business and personally so I thought I would post some videos and showcase some of our clients and our student-athletes latest triumphs.  We've got a 9 year old pushing a prowler, adults smoking a 300lbs deadlift, a female walking around with 150lbs in her hands like its her job, and finally an 810lbs prowler push!  Enjoy my friends, I know I did. First here is our youngest athlete at SAPT, Sydney.  This little girl is on a mission to be anything but little.  She loves moving weight! Check our her Prowler Push.

Second is the infamous Lisa S. You may know her from her previous million pound PR's.  Well this was her last max out attempt for a while so she went all out and got 300lbs! Another 25lbs PR!

Third is our resident female badass, Nancy.  Nancy is going to be a freshman in college going in with a ROTC scholarship.  It's safe to say she will be one of the strongest people there! Here is her 150lbs farmer walk!

And last but not least is Red, perhaps one of most tenured athletes at SAPT.  Red is getting ready to head off to his freshman year at VMI to play baseball.  But before he left I allowed him to put on as much weight on the Prowler as he wanted.  He put 9 plates on EACH side, that's 810lbs!! It only took him 6 minutes to do.

 

As a side note I just want to say thank you to all of our athletes that are heading off to school.  You all worked so hard and showed tremendous drive and heart every time you came in.  I am truly blown away by your dedication and drive to be better than average.  You guys are the reason I love my job and I am thankful to know you all.  SAPT has become a second family to me and the appreciation you all have shown to all the coaches has been humbling.  To steal a line from Robert Griffin III... SAPT we are, and SAPT we'll always be...