By: Nick Hickey
Hope all is well and your training is going great! I was finally able to overcome some recent injuries and get myself on the powerlifting platform for the second time. On August 28, 2016 I competed in The 2016 Newport Open held at Force Newport Crossfit in Newport, RI.
As you may know, if you have read my blog entries from this past winter and spring, I have been dealing with knee and shoulder injuries. These injuries made it impossible for me to squat for about 2-3 months and forced me to stop bench press training for about 6-8 weeks. I had signed up to do a meet in February but had to back out. Then again I backed out of a meet in May because I was unable to train properly. I rehabbed myself back to almost pain-free squats but could not get my shoulder to cooperate on bench. Thankfully, these meets were all hosted by the same director and he graciously allowed me to switch my entry to the Newport Open in August. This was very convenient because this meet was only about 30 minutes from my house. Doesn't get any better than that! I decided that I was going to compete in this meet no matter if I could bench or not, because I needed to light a fire under myself to commit to training either through or around these injuries.
As for training, I like to train in 12-week cycles, taking strategic light or deload weeks every 4th week. My original plan was to squat twice per week, try to bench or train upper body as best as I could twice per week, and deadlift once per week. It turned out that as the cycle went along I had to drop out the second squat session because my injured knee couldn't handle it. As I mentioned, I still could not bench. But, I could floor press. I used floor press as my main pressing movement for the first 9 weeks of the meet prep. I was also able to use dumbbells for some light accessory pressing to work around the shoulder. My deadlifts felt good enough and I pushed onwards.
I worked very hard this training cycle and eventually was able to set some volume PRs on squats while feeling strong on deadlifts. I got my shoulder pain free enough to bench a couple singles in the final 3 weeks before the meet and I went into the meet feeling close to my highest strength level, despite being injured.
As meet day came around I was feeling excited and nervous as I usually do before competition. My main concern was squat depth. For some reason, on some of the videos of my squat training this cycle, my squats appeared high to me. My concern was magnified because this meet was hosted by USAPL (United States of America Powerlifting), which has the strictest standards for lifting technique and quality. They only allow 2-hour weigh ins and are a drug tested organization. The USAPL, in my opinion, is the highest level of lifting quality in our country when you consider the tough standards. I didn't have to lift until about 3 pm, which meant weigh ins were at 1 pm. I was in the 120 kg+ (264 lbs+) weight class and I weighed in at 130 kg or 286 lbs.
The atmosphere at the meet was intense, but also friendly among the competitors, which is always welcoming to a fairly new lifter like myself. In my weight class was a 370 lbs behemoth named Joe Cappellino, a very high national level lifter who has represented the USA at international competitions. I knew I wasn't going to beat him, but it would be fun to watch his lifts. Interestingly enough, he was one of the first competitors to talk to me at the meet and was very nice and encouraging. We talked lifting for a minute or two and wished each other good luck. It is great to be involved in strength sports when you realize most, if not all, other athletes are friendly, down to earth guys. Even the strongest lifters still encourage and show respect to newer guys.
The first lift was the squat. It was time to warm up. The warm up room at this meet was tiny. I mean, really really small. There was also no AC or windows in the entire gym, and only one fan in the warm up area. Needless to say, getting my body temperature up for squats took little to no effort! I just wanted to feel some weight to approach my opening attempt of 220 kg (485 lbs). I ended up mistiming my warmups and went too slow, so I had to quickly take 315 lbs, then with little to no rest squat 405 lbs before walking out and waiting for my name to be called. Adrenaline of course took over and the first lift was easy. It was not heavy at all and I got 3 white lights. That made me confident that I had no depth issues. I jumped to 235 kg (518 lbs) on my second. This attempt came up pretty well overall but I wasn't super comfortable with the rack height. It was causing me to put the bar slightly higher than I was used to in training. I decided to choose 245 kg (540 lbs) for my third attempt. I got fired up and focused and prepared to squat. I took my time with the setup and got it! This was exciting for me, because my goal was to hit over 535 lbs. My lifetime best squat is 550 lbs with knee wraps at my last meet at a bodyweight of 310 lbs. This 540 lbs squat was in neoprene knee sleeves and 25 lbs lighter bodyweight so it definitely is right up there with my all time best! 3/3 on squats with 9 white lights and on to bench press.
As I mentioned, bench was a total question mark. I took a very easy opener of 140 kg (308 lbs) and got it easily. I jumped to 150 kg (330 lbs) on my second and got it. Now, my goal was to hit around 350 lbs which would be an all time best at this bodyweight. I jumped to 160 kg (352 lbs) for my third and I missed it halfway up. Looking at the video, it was closer than it felt. I really wasn't happy with missing this lift and only finishing with 330 lbs. I feel that 330 lbs is something I should be able to hit any day with or without an injured shoulder. My bench needs to come up big time and I am working on that! I ended up going 2/3 on bench press and switched my focus to the deadlift.
My best all time deadlift is 620 lbs from my meet in 2013. Since then, my pull has actually been going down or hovering right around the high 580s-600 lbs. My initial goal at this meet was anything over 600 lbs, but as I got closer and my training pulls were easy, I wanted a lifetime PR. I opened with 260 kg (573 lbs) and got it without issue. Next, I jumped to 275 kg (606 lbs) to officially get an over 600 lbs pull back on the board. This also moved well. I went to the table to decide my next attempt. I was trying to choose between 617, 622 or 628 lbs. I decided to pick 282.5 kg (622 lbs) for my third and I believe I picked right. As you can see from the video, I had some technique breakdown and it wasn't a fast lift, but it was clean. I went 3/3 on deadlifts with white lights on all attempts. I hit 622 for a small but official 2 lbs lifetime PR. That was a good cap to the day.
I finished the meet going 8/9 and totaling 677.5 kg or 1,493 lbs. This is actually 47 lbs less than my previous meet. But, it was at 25 lbs lighter bodyweight, with knee sleeves instead of wraps and injuries to work through. I finished second out of 3 lifters in my weight class (Big Joe Cappellino came in first and totaled 1,879 lbs FYI). Overall, I am relatively happy with my results, but I am not satisfied. I am very confident that I will surpass my all time best in the next year or so and I am planning on working hard to do just that. It felt great to get back on the platform and I am going to be looking for a meet in early/mid 2017. For now I have actually signed up for another strongman contest on 12/10/16 in Lancaster, PA called Winter Wreckage 2.0. I will keep everyone in the loop about that contest going forward.
Thanks for reading and for supporting House Of Muscle.
2016 USAPL Newport Open - Nick Hickey
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