Quest for Victory

I am a doctoral student at the University of Texas studying and teaching about the history of strength and fitness. I'm also a competitive raw powerlifter, ranked #3 all-time in the 198-pound class, and #4 in the 181-pound class. I'm training to move up in weight and in the rankings!

The Quest for Victory is the name of an online exhibit at the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center showcasing the history of weight training for sports.  It’s sponsored by the NSCA, and you should definitely check it out!

But this log is about my own quest for victory.  In 2017 I will set an all-time world record in powerlifting, and compete in my first bodybuilding show -- and maybe more.  Here’s why:

  • Based on my performances from this past year, I know I’m physically capable of breaking world records.  I set the #2 all-time mark at my first meet in the 198-pound class in April, I came out ahead of many of the best lifters in the world at Boss of Bosses 3, and I was just 10 kilos and some grip strength off two all-time records at my meet at 181 in October.
  • Even though I’m proud of my most recent performance at a lighter bodyweight, 181 is not the right class for me.  The extreme weight cut wasn’t fun, and, more importantly, I had to sacrifice some muscle to stay in the class.  Given my height and muscularity, I’m just going to be better off at 198, or even maybe 220, in terms of leverages and ultimate potential.
  • If I’m going to be in the 198 class, I need to gain some serious muscle.  I’m waking up most mornings around 205, and that needs to be more like 225.  But with 20 pounds of extra muscle, if I can add it in the right places, I’d be foolish not to try my hand at bodybuilding!  I’m naturally lean and I keep a strict diet year-round anyway, so it’s not a huge leap to bridge the gap between disciplines. Learning from new disciplines is an important part of an athlete's education, too.

So, for the next year, I’ll be training with Rob Pasta of Big Tex Gym to bring up my weak points, improve my ability to recruit all of my muscle groups, and generally learn the ins and outs of bodybuilding.  I’ll be posting regular workout videos so you can see exactly what we’re doing and why.  I’ll still be training the powerlifts intensely during this time, but the majority of my programming will be in the hypertrophy phase.

Full disclosure: Rob and Big Tex Gym have graciously agreed to help me for free.  That said, I trust Rob and would never accept training services from anyone whose ability I did not believe in completely.

Training and Recovery

Here’s the split I’ll be following for the next block of training:

Monday: Arms
Powerlifting emphasis: Bench lockout, deadlift grip
Bench Press with the SlingShot or to boards using 90-105% of 1RM
Deadlift with 55-65% 1RM, plus very high rack pulls with 90%+ 1RM
High volume for biceps and triceps

Tuesday: Quads & Calves
Powerlifting emphasis: Competition squat
Squat using sleeves or wraps (alternating week to week) with 55-85% wrapped 1RM
High volume for quads and calves

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Chest & Triceps
Powerlifting emphasis: Competition bench, squat/deadlift bottom end
Bench press with 55-85% 1RM
Front squat with 60-80% 1RM
High volume for chest and triceps

Friday: Shoulders & Biceps
High volume for shoulders and biceps (no powerlifts)

Saturday: Back & Hamstrings
Powerlifting emphasis: Competition deadlift
Squat with 50-60% 1RM (warmup, technique practice)
Sumo or conventional deadlift with 75-90% 1RM
High volume for back and hamstrings

Sunday: Off

Obviously, with all that volume, I’ll need to really focus on recovery.  Besides good, quality sleep, I’ve found that a big caloric surplus makes a big difference in how I respond to training.  I’ll be aiming for an average of 4,000 calories and 400 grams of protein every day, but since I’m using a carb-cycling approach, I’ll get more calories on my training days and fewer on my off days.  I find this really helps my energy levels and overall comfort, since I’m typically hungrier after I train anyway.

I’m a big proponent of active recovery, too.  I try to do each of these at least twice per week:

It seems like a lot, but none of those activities needs to take more than 30 minutes, tops, so I’m really requiring about four hours of active recovery per week -- although I often do more.  Make no mistake: recovery is just as important as training, because preventing injury is key in strength sports.

Keep in mind, this is a pretty demanding routine, and I wouldn’t recommend it for very many people.  If you’re thinking of trying something similar, you should be very well-versed in how your body responds to training, and be able to articulate how it will help you reach your goals.  But I’m excited to try something new and challenging, and, at the end of the day, isn’t enjoying training what really matters?

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