My First (and maybe last) Olympic Lifting Meet

My First (and maybe last) Olympic Lifting Meet
One thing all strength athletes will agree is there is nothing like competition. Choosing, committing to, and preparing for a meet is what separates competitive lifters versus people who just lift weights. It seems nowadays there is a conindrum abmounf competitions. On one side, some people fee content with posting theri gym attempts on social media. The notion that ever session is a compeititon and as long as there is a camera recording it, it's about the same. On the other hand, there is a renewed energy and interest for competitions. Specifically for small strongman competitions, Raw Powerlifting meets, and Olympic weightlifting meets. Some of this can be attributed to social media promoting meets that would have normally been overlooked. There is no doubt that CrossFit has generated a push for these competitions. Regardless of what the reasoning is for either, social media would be my first inclination to effect both theories.

On a personal level, the last time I competed was at the NAS Strongest man in Pittsburgh. It has been a long, arduous road but I am glad I did it. I didn't realize how different competing in front of judges, other lifters, and the audience. Having your name called to "exercise" is really a great feeling.

My first competition was the Pennsylvania Open Powerlifting Meet in Indiana, PA. This is a meet I would later take over as meet director a few years later. I was so nervous about this meet, that when I was driving from Clarion to Indiana I had to pull over on the side of the road to poop. I had bubble guts and had to use an old tie (probably my only one at that point) to wipe my ass. Not cool.

I competed in a few meets a year up to the 2005 IPA Nationals in York, PA. At that point, I had to make a decision about my life. I was 5'4", 274 and I wasn't very strong. I had a 715 squat and a 535 bench with an embarrassing deadlift. What's more is that when I looked at my overall strength, I had some serious issues that would still effect me today. I had a 440 raw bench with a 185 military press. If that isn't a shoulder girdle discrepancy than not sure what is. I couldn't do 1 pull-up and execute any single leg exercise whatsoever. I ended up trying my hands at strongman. My first and last contests were both the Pittsburgh Strongest Man put on by Gary Udit. Oh the mistakes I made and the things I learned.

So last February I found out that my C6 & C7 are pressing against my spinal cord. In addition, my C5 vertebrae was so compresses that the root nerve had no room. This all caused for left arm weakness and shooting pain from my neck down my tricep to my fingers. My strength has been seriously effected as is my quality of life.

I have been trying to figure out what exercises I can do and what I can't. As I am going through this process, I decided to try an Olympic Lifting meet. I have wanted to do one for a long time. One of the reasons is that I have been coaching hundreds of athletes since 1998 on the Olympic lifts. I wanted to competed to say I did and to actually gain some more perspective on the competitive side of it.

So, I decided to register for the 2nd Annual MidWest Strongest Unicorn at Endeavor Krav Maga & CrossFit. The owner, Aaron Jannetti is a stand-up guy and a friend. It was a great meet, but I had some obstacles and here are some things I learned this training cycle and this competition.

The Training Cycle
Catching a Clean and performing a split jerk aggregates my nerve issues. So 3 training days into the cycle. I was back to square one when it came to pain. I couldn't go through this again. The only new variable was cleans since I had been performing snatches the entire time. I should have bailed on the meet, but I mad a commitment. About 18 months before, I broke my hand 8 weeks out from the Pittsburgh's Strongest Man. Again, I am not bailing. 12 months before that, I tore my meniscus 8 days before the Joe Torrens Memorial Team Strongman Event. Again, not bailing.

So Jordan and I came up with a plan. I snatched as usually and did pulls instead of cleans. Pulls ended up bothering my knees so I had to limit those as well. For overhead work I stuck with the log. Even Joe Kenn made fun of my Olympic Lifting program with not very much Olympic lifting.

The closer you get to the meet, the less variation you should use. Olympic lifting a a very complex and specific skill set. Variations of the classical lifts can address weakpoints and add variety, but full snatches and cleans from the floor need to be repeated.

The Meet
You must have a coach. Olympic meets are really difficult to get a handle on. The order of my flight changes o less than 30 times. If Jordan wouldn't have been there, I would have been lost. There is no way to keep up. Powerlifting meets are different. If you could have someone wrap your knees and help with your suit if equipped, then you could figured out just about everything yourself. I knew based on when I was in the hole and on deck how much time I had. In a weightlifting meet, I went from being on deck to 6 out and visa versa in the same meet. I also didn't start warm-ups until the attempts started. Much different than powerlifting. There are time early and later int he flight that lifters followed themselves.

My Experience
So I made weight due to my extensive cutting strategy which consisted entirely of my not eating pretzels the night before. I tipped the scales at 103kg.

Jordan was there for my warm-ups and I have to say that I never felt rushed and I never felt like I was waiting for too long. Dude had me straight all day.

I finally felt like I was moving weight fairly fast. I had to tell the judges that my arm doesn't straighten.

I ended up with 83 which was an all-time PR. I felt like I was pretty close to a press out on both.




Cleans went ok. The bar was moving pretty fast. I made 90 as an opener. I had my sights on 110 at the beginning of the cycle and 100 after only performing about 10 attempts the entire cycle. Jordan bumped me to 97 and I just didn't have enough quality attempts at heavy enough weight and I missed the clean. I ended up coming back to get it, but of course, had a lot left in the tank.




Lessons learned. I have an unbelievably shitty total for a 105 and my form is still very ugly. But, I am all about the experience. And, I enjoyed the day. It was great seeing Mark Cannella, Drew Dillon, Bob Davis, Chelsea Kyle, Shelley Veits, and so many others. I have a respect for anyone who walks out onto a platform and puts months of preparation to a test that lasts seconds. We learn about ourselves when we are out of our comfort zone and when we face adversity. Doing this all with people you know and trust is a bonus.

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