After 7 weeks of hard, focused powerlifting training, 9 sessions of coaching with Derek and Jim at Deadweight Strength, and hundreds of carbs, yesterday was the day: the South Bay Open, my second powerlifting meet, exactly three months after my first.
My first meet, I was a bundle of nervous energy all day, running around and twitching all day… it’s possible I hit the pre workout a bit early. I showed up yesterday calm, confident, and not in the least nervous. My coach was there, my team was there, and I was just there to lift. Coach and I had worked out ahead that he would do my bench lift off, and he would set my attempts. I literally just walked onto the platform 9 times and lifted the bar, with absolutely no knowledge of what was loaded up. I was not going to let my head get in the way of the strength and technique I had worked so hard to build.
I weighed in the morning before the meet, at 54.5kg/120 pounds, putting me squarely in the 56kg/123lb weight class with just one other girl. I celebrated weigh-ins with an obscene amount of chips and salsa and frozen yogurt, and still only weighed 122 in the morning. Thanks body, you rock.
I had put most of my focus leading up to the meet into improving my squat, after having watched the videos of my previous meet. Technically speaking, my squat was lacking, and I knew I could improve it drastically. My first attempt was a modest 105kg/232lbs, which went smooth and easy. My second attempt was a more aggressive 112.5kg/246- a PR of 4 pounds from my last meet. It went perfectly… until it didn’t. My descent was smooth, everything came up easily… and then my spine decided NO THANKS and did this worm wiggle thing, making my lift invalid. I cried a little as I left the platform, and came to my coach for advice: what happened?
(Sorry for vertical iPhone quality)
Coach’s response? “Sometimes, shit just happens.” Nothing to work on for my their attempt, just, wiggles happen. He showed me a video from his last meet where a similar thing happened to him. No reason, no getting out of position, no mistakes, sometimes just a crazy thing happens. I wasn’t sure whether to feel ok about this or even more pissed.
To make sure I got a PR on the board, he left my attempt selection the same for my third attempt, and I nailed it, but we both agreed had I gotten my second attempt, I’d have had another 2.5-5kg in me for a third attempt. Next meet.
I came in super excited about bench. My bench opener was set at my previous meet’s PR- 55kg/121lbs. First attempt over body weight?! My brain can’t even.
Bench is the hardest to get all white lights on- there are three commands- start, press, and rack, as opposed to two for squat (squat, and rack) and one for deadlift (down), so you really need to be patient and listen to the head judge, making sure you don’t jump the commands and invalidate your lift. This was my mistake in December- I pressed before getting the command and my first lift was no-lift (didn’t count.) This time, though, I managed all three lifts, with my third attempt at 60kg/132lbs. Almost the big wheels! Coach said he was tempted, and I probably could have done it, but he wanted me to have that PR for sure in my total, so he went a little bit more conservative on attempt selection, knowing I had a big deadlifting in me to make up the difference.
That giant mountain man handing me the bar? That’s my coach, Derek. Having him give me lift off was so comforting. Objectively, it doesn’t matter who hands you the bar, but looking up at him, as I had so many times in training, and seeing on his face that he knew I could do this… I just did it. “Big wrists, Stephanie.” He’s the only person who tells me that cue, and it’s super effective, so to hear it on meet day when it all mattered was precisely what I needed.
Let’s not play; we all know the reason I even show up to a powerlifting meet is to deadlift. The other two lifts are just a warm-up for this moment. You know it. I know it. Coach knows it.
As the last flight of lifters worked through their bench attempts, he came to find me. “STEPHANIE. IT’S FRIDAY!”
That’s how we say “it’s deadlifting time.” Because deadlift day is best day, and best day is Friday, ergo, deadlifting time is Friday, regardless of what day it really is.
I started to warm up, but quickly outgrew the rotation of girls warming up, and sought a more heavily loaded barbell to work in with a friend, Deadweight teammate, and fellow figure competitor two weight classes up from me. In case anyone needs some social media inspiration, Edna is a muthatruckin’ badass, and I aspire to be like her. She takes home overalls in NPC figure division, coaches, and she squatted my deadlift PR at this meet.
Warm-ups at 245…260…275… showtime.
My first attempt at a modest 290 flew off the floor like it had wings, and coach set my second attempt at 314. But I didn’t know that, and didn’t check the board, either. “I’m just here to lift, not think,” was my motto, and I stuck to it. Second attempt flew up with the same speed and intensity, and as the girls of flight A hugged me in congratulations I kept saying “I don’t know what that was, someone tell me how much it was!” Once it was discovered that I pulled 314, I was immediately scooped up into a violent hug and shaken severely, followed by several more less jarring hugs and high fives. ARE YOU KIDDING ME 314?!?!
No tears, though, I was surprised. I just immediately got focused on my third attempt, which again, I did not know the weight of.
Sadly, my third attempt did not leave the floor. Coach was shocked by the speed of my second attempt and went for a big jump to 330 pounds. I pulled and pulled and pulled, but that bar was just as soon cemented to the floor. I only stopped pulling when my left pec cramped up and started causing me pain. Damn. (No video, as my videographer was busy doing some quick math to figure out what Edna needed to pull in order to win her weight class!)
Overall, I’m really pleased with my performance. I received the gold medal in my weight class, though there were only two of us in the class. A 27 pound increase in three months , only seven weeks of which were really focused on powerlifting (I had a vacation and music festival in the middle, there, and some other life stuff) feels pretty impressive. I had wanted to get a 700 pound meet total, but it’s my own fault for not letting Derek know I had set this as a goal. Had I done so, he said he would have chosen my third deadlift attempt a bit more modestly to give me a better shot at hitting it. But that just leaves me room to grow! A 694 pound total…six pounds to my goal, that’s nothing.
And it’s hard to be mad about a Wilks score of 378.6…
I had such an amazing time with the other girls, too. I can’t overstate the incredible relationships formed with the other lifters. You spend the day together on such a rollercoaster of emotions- you celebrate, you psych each other up, cheer each other on, hug, cry, laugh, and share cookies. There’s something so special about girls who powerlift, and to have been one of the experienced girls was just as fun as being the new girl- to help guide the first time girls through the day and see them all a bundle of nerves, like I had been just three months before, was such a fun turn. Also it’s pretty crazy to be met at a meet with excited girls who already follow you on social media or read your blog- seriously humbling every time. If you ever meet me and start with that, you can rest assured I will blush every single time.
I have to attribute this growth to my coaches- Derek and Jim have poured hours of work into helping me with cues and technique that I’d have never learned on my own, for all my reading and video watching and form checks. As much as I’ve always been, and continue to be, a proponent of learning as much as you can on your own, of not being reliant on a coach to do things for you, but there is something to be said for experts, too. My coaching experience has been so positive, with these guys, and the whole Deadweight crew of teammates, really wanting you to be successful and teach you how to continue being successful on your own. Instead of feeling reliant on my coaches, I feel like I’ve just learned so much that I can take away and use to continue getting stronger and better, even as I begin my figure contest season.