Between the expo, the XPC finals, and promotional events at the S4 Compound, the Arnold Sports Festival was a busy weekend for elitefts. We had six lifters compete in the XPCs and a seventh drop out due to an untimely illness. You probably know this from following our Facebook. What you probably don't know is that we also had six elitefts team members coaching at the Arnold. These coaches, operating in different capacities at multiple competitions over the weekend, embody the spirit of team elitefts. They aren't only competing; they're also coaching and helping the next generation of lifters. They are living, learning, and passing on.

This demonstrates the mission of elitefts and how it was carried out during the week of the Arnold Sports Festival.

Live — Our active competitors lifting on the platform and constantly aiming to better themselves.

Learn — Our athletes, coaches, and advisors working with one another in the free exchange of knowledge and experience.

Pass On — Our coaches, working behind-the-scenes to help others become strong. Our team members, welcoming over 100 guests to the S4 Compound over the weekend.


Jo Jordan

I’ll start my recap where most everyone else does...the weigh-in. I stepped on the scale at 259 after stripping down to my boxers just in case it somehow came into play. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. I had spent weeks trying to gain some weight so I could fill out my gear a little more, but it didn’t work out for me. It’s okay because I enjoyed every Chik-Fil-A chicken, egg, and cheese bagel I scarfed down.

The morning of the meet we showed up a little late since we found out there’d be five flights and getting there at eight only to start lifting at noon would have been a little absurd. We grabbed a seat next to Shane Church and Shannon Larsen and also Ken and Sheri Whetham and just chilled out for a while.

As I started to warm-up I was excited because everything I put on my back felt light and was moving relatively fast all the way up to my final warm-up. That’s when the poop hit the fan. I’ve been powerlifting for nearly 20 years now and never once have I missed a warm-up until this day. My final weight was 865. I unracked it, descended, and stayed descended. The spotter had to stand me back up (thank you!). I looked over at Paul Key and said, “That wasn’t good.” He responded with a simple, “nope.” (I still don’t know how much he benches). I asked Neal if we should change my opener really quick, but it was too late…the flight had already started so I was stuck with my opener of 965.

We headed to the stage and set up shop for the opener. Neal started wrapping my knees when I was three out and the next thing we know we are hearing that I’ve got something like 40 seconds to get to the bar. We try to hustle there, but there were a lot of people in the back. I slid under the bar to unrack it only to here Gene call out, “TIME!” I’d timed out. I waddled to the back a bit distraught since things were falling apart quickly, but then one of the judges came and informed me I’d get another shot at the opener since the clock was started too soon. (Thank you, judges). So Neal begins wrapping my knees again since I’m at the end of the flight and this time I make it to the platform with plenty of time. I take 965 out of the rack, descend, get the up call, and shoot my hips all sorts of wrong ways and end up muscling it up for a good lift. We move on to 1015 for my second even though I was a little apprehensive seeing as how things were going, but it was what I’d made the trip for. Neal wraps me up and off to the bar I go. I get under it, take it out of the rack, and get the squat command with two seconds left. I had to make it dramatic apparently. This time I hit the groove like I was supposed to and sat back into it so that when I heard "UP" I was able to turn it around and stand up smoothly for a five-pound squat PR and my second squat PR in the last two meets. Since this weight went smooth Neal went ahead and followed the plan and took me to 1030. When I took 1030 out of the rack, it didn’t feel much different from 1015. I mean, it’s only 15 pounds, right? Well, when I got to the bottom of the squat it got real heavy, real fast, so I tried to turn it around sooner than I was supposed to, but it didn’t matter. 1030 had beaten me again for the second time in two meets. I was happy with the 1015, but 1030 would have been much sweeter.

On to the bench press!

Nothing dramatic happened during warm-ups for the bench. The elbow and shoulder were holding up and the elbow had minimal pain issues throughout. I worked up to 575 in the shirt off a two-board and then took it off to do my opener raw at 405 like I had planned. It may have been the quickest I’ve ever benched 405, too. Neal and I put my shirt back on and sat me down to relax since we’d gone to 645 on my second. In training I’d had nothing but problems touching 645, which is why I opened raw. We both figured I’d be amped up enough here to make it touch and I did. The only thing is I lost it at the top and it started back down on me just before Gene gave me the rack command. Neal had me repeat 645 since we both knew it would touch and that I could press it relatively easy. So on my third attempt, I grooved it as best I could, got the press command after touching, and grooved it right back up to lockout and the rack command. I got two whites and a red, but that’s good enough for me. My left elbow doesn’t extend all the way and never looks locked, but I assure you that’s as far as it will go. I’m pretty sure that’s why I received the red light. So no PR on the bench, but I’m still in the fight.

jo jordan XPC

On to the deadlift!

I had to have Yvonna Covington-Dearen help with the left side of my lower back at this point since it was locked up, knotted up, and in a lot of pain. She did an amazing job and helped out more than she knows. Thank you, Yvonna!

RECENT: Switching to Single-Ply and Walking Out the Squat

Sheri Whetham also got out her “Pulsinnator” which is a massage tool that emits sound waves too and went at in on my lower back. This helped release things even more so I headed off to warm-up for deadlifting. Thank you, Sheri! She spent a great deal of time working on a lot of people Saturday.

While warming up for deadlifting, I had no issues with the back right up to 405, when it started to go sideways. Locking the weight out was pretty painful and outing the bar down was even worse so I just started dropping it. I worked up to 585ish and just gritted my teeth. The plan was to open with 665 and I had no desire to change it so we just headed to the platform area to wait my turn. My name was called so I meandered up to the platform and knew things were going to be interesting. I pulled the 665 as smooth as I could and locked it out easily, but putting it down sent shock waves of pain through my lower back. We went ahead and took the bar to 710 to shoot for a total PR, but the bar drifted out in front of me and I couldn’t correct it to even give it a go. I stayed at 710 for my third, tightened the straps down a little tighter and went ahead and gave it a shot. I tried to keep the bar close to me, but it drifted away again and the pain was too much. I tried. I’m not sure who was behind me or what his name was, but I want to say thank you. If you hadn’t been there to hold me up, I’d have gone to the floor after both attempts at 710.

I finished with a 2325 total at 275 which I think put me fourth, but I’m not sure. I wasn’t even close to the top two, Chris Dela Fave and Jonathan Byrd who both totaled 2500+. Congratulations, guys. I never will be able to get close If I can’t improve my bench and get my back right.

I got to see and meet a great deal of people this weekend and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to chat with a lot of you. Steve Brock is a great guy and I was awesome getting to meet him finally. TJ Watkins is a mountain of a man and every bit of cool as he is tall. Jack Cambra and Stacia-Al Mahoe came all the way from Hawaii to be at the Arnold and are super people. Jeff Frank is amazingly strong and humble. I really wish I could have spent more time talking to him. Bruce Mason: you won, big guy, and did a hell of a job. I’m proud of you. Scott Paltos, thanks for getting the cramps to go away in my calf by dragging metal across it quite hard. Although it helped, I wanted to kick you in the shin.

A sincere debt of gratitude goes out to Neal Cotton for handling me once again, keeping my head straight and taking care of everything. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Julia Ladewski went above and beyond to help me and Neal. She was by my side when my calves were cramping and also helped keep my head straight after things went awry in the beginning.

Walt Hill, thank you for all of your support and help over the weekend. It means more to me than you know.

From here I will be taking some time off and getting an MRI done on my left elbow and lower back to see what’s going on and what needs to be done to fix it. I’m hoping it’s something simple and that surgery can be avoided, but if not then my punch card will be full and I’ll get the next surgery for free.

Ken Whetham

Last weekend I had the privilege of competing on pro day at the XPC Finals at the 2016 Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus Ohio. Coming into this competition I really had no expectations; I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself to hit any specific numbers. I was lifting for the experience of sharing the platform with some of the best multi-ply lifters in the sport, which included fellow team elitefts athletes Jo Jordan, Shane Church, Brandon Smitley, Joe Schillero, Mario D’Amico and Christian Anto.

If you’ve never been to the Arnold before, it’s like being at the pinnacle of the fitness industry with vendors from every major player in the supplement and fitness industry. There’s no experience like it anywhere else I’ve been to and I always tell everyone “you have to attend the Arnold once in your life for the experience.”

We arrived in Columbus on Thursday afternoon after an eight-hour drive to get settled into our motel and head out to see everyone at elitefts. We ran into Dan Green and Jimmie Pacifico at the S4 Compound who were bench training and trying out some of the elitefts equipment. There’s always something going on at the S4!

Friday morning was weigh-ins and I weighed in at a svelte 295.4. This is the second meet I competed in the 308-pound class. I’ve previously lifted only in the 275-pound class and I made the decision after a meet in October that I wasn’t cutting weight anymore for a meet. No matter how I tried to re-hydrate and refuel, I felt that the weight cut always took away some strength.

We knew pro day was going to be a long session; the organizers had scheduled 80 lifters into five flights in one full day session. We arrived at the venue at 8:30 and the first flight had already started. I was lifting in the last flight.

Squat warm-ups went really well. I planned on opening with 840 pounds so my last warm-up was 750 and it felt fine. If everything went as planned I was planning on 840/905/930.

Onto the platform: I got setup with 840 and un-racked the bar. It seemed to take forever to get to parallel and I finally got the “up” call from my coach. Good lift!

I took 905 on my second attempt. I got close to parallel and I didn’t keep my knees pushed out hard enough. I got the call up and I got two red lights for not getting deep enough.

I took 905 again on my third attempt and took a little wider stance to try and get a little deeper. Three white lights and a good lift for a five-pound squat PR.

Onto the bench press. My best lift in competition was 535 so I planned on opening with 520 pounds on the bench and everything went as planned. The bar path was good and the weight moved easy. Three white lights. I took 540 pounds on my second attempt and it felt good and moved easy. Good lift. I was probably a little conservative on my third attempt but I didn’t want to get too greedy and miss so I went 550. The bar path was good and it moved a little slower but it was a good lift. This was the first time I’ve hit all three bench attempts in a meet so I was pretty happy! I was going into the deadlifts hitting 5/6.

I’ve written a few articles regarding some of the chronic back issues I’ve been dealing with through training over the past eighteen months so why should today be any different?

Warming up for deadlifts I pulled 225 pounds and my back went into spasm. I honestly didn’t think I would be able to pull at all. My Coach, Todd Brock, suggested we wrap a knee wrap around my ribs to see if it displaced any of the pain so we gave it a shot. I told Todd I wasn’t going to do anymore warm-up pulls, I was just going to pull my 620 opener and see how it felt.

I was called up to pull. I could hardly breathe because the wrap around my ribs was so tight; it was hard to get any air. I pulled 620: good lift. My back was fried but I wanted to try 670 for my second attempt. I got set and pulled 670 for my second and came up pretty easy but my back was completely toasted. I waived my third attempt.

Even though I didn’t pull my third deadlift, I still went 7/9 lifts with a five-pound squat PR, a 15-pound bench PR and a 59-poundt otal PR. I was really happy with the meet and it was a great experience.

I’m turning 51 years old this month so this was a great early birthday present and I couldn’t have been more satisfied with my lifting at the meet. Moving forward, I’m planning on taking some time off to let my back heal up. One of the things that I haven’t been doing enough of is resting and re-habbing. It seems over the last three years I’ve always been doing a meet every three or four months so this time I’m not planning on lifting again until the WPC Worlds in November in Baton Rouge LA. I spoke with Dave Tate and Dr. Kinakin and they both suggested that I take off at least eight weeks of lifting altogether to allow my back issues to heal up and repair. Even taking an eight-week break, I’ll still have seven months to get ready for the worlds in November. If I can get healed up, I’ll be chasing my 1000-pound squat and 600-pound bench for worlds.

Huge congratulations to all my elitefts teammates who competed at the XPC Finals.

Joe Schillero

This was my first time competing on the elite day at XPC Finals, and it was a great opportunity to lift against some tough competition in a strictly judged meet. Training-wise, it was a tough several months leading into this meet for various reasons, some of which I’ll talk more about in a separate article. For right now I’ll sum it up by saying I’ve never wanted to drop out of a meet so bad in my life. I knew that competing in spite of things not being ideal would be a good decision in the big picture, and would be a good test in perseverance that will help in future competitions.

Going into the meet I set my openers on the light side, with 675 pounds on squat, 475 on bench, and 555 on deadlift. After being really burnt out and missing several lifts in the 90% range leading up to the meet, I didn’t want to take any chances, especially after bombing out on bench in my last competition. I chose not to cut to 198 for this meet, and just competed at my normal bodyweight of 215 in the 220 class.

For squat I took my opener of 675, descended and came back up quickly, but was given two red lights for depth. I normally never get called for depth, and saw there that the judging would be strict. I put in 700 for my second attempt, and got it no problem with three white lights. I wasn’t getting very much power out of the hole, so we went with 735 for a conservative third attempt. I sank it probably a little lower than I needed to, and didn’t come back up. 700 isn’t close to a number I was happy finishing with, but I shook it off and moved on to bench.

For bench I opened with 475, and got it easily. Getting my opener was a load off my mind after having bombed on bench in my last meet. I went to 500 (the weight I bombed with previously) and got that even easier. I decided to jump to 530 for a five-pound meet PR, and was able to get it smoothly for three white lights. After the rough go on squats, and the challenges coming into this meet, I was really happy with a PR bench. There was more in the tank, and I look forward to seeing where my bench goes from here.

The meet was moving pretty quickly (began at 2 pm and was done around 8 pm), so I kept my deadlift warm-ups short and simple. My opener flew up easily, and I jumped to 620, which would put me at an 1850 total. Not near my best, but at least a decent total all things considered. I got 620 no problem, and decided to go for 655, which would be a five-pound PR. I got it past my knees and was able to slowly grind it to lockout, but hitched a little bit at the end and was red lighted. I was pissed that I didn’t get the PR, but happy I went for it and left it all out on the platform.

I finished in fourth place, and once I get my squat straightened back out, it’ll put me right there with the rest of the group. I’m going to get an MRI on my hip (which has been a problem a lot recently), and look at adjusting my stance narrower as well as get a tighter squat suit. I’m confident that this, along with some changes in programming, improvement in sleep, and other issues, will make a big difference moving forward. I wasn’t content with my total, but I was satisfied with my effort in a tough meet, and ready for the challenges moving forward. Big thank you to Dave Tate and all of team elitefts, Vincent Dizenzo for his help with bench, Matt Smith and Ben Miller for their help on meet day, and all my friends that came to help and support.

Mario D'Amico

Going into XPC Finals, the goal for the day was a 2000-pound total in the 220 weight class. For my first squat attempt of 750, I was unfortunately timed out. With my original plan of taking 810 on my second attempt, we decided it would be smarter to take 750 again to ensure that I stayed in the meet. I actually wanted to just take the risk and jump to 810 but my handler and coach made the better judgment call to take a repeat. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, good decisions can become clouded. After getting three whites on my second, Matt Smith (my coach) put down 820 for my third, which would be a 16-pound PR. I was successful in making the 70-pound ump and got three white lights. With this, I was still on track for a 2000-pound total.

Bench started off with a bang as I received three whites for my opener at 520. To stay on pace for my total, I took 555 for my second attempt. With this attempt, I tucked my elbows way too early and ended up dumping the weight on my face. The handlers saved me from splitting my wig so I took 555 again on my third. I made a much cleaner descent but I had some down and up motion on my lockout, which inevitably gave me all red lights. This was when I knew the 2000 total would be much harder to achieve based on the fact my deadlift has not been my strong suit. My best competition deadlift to date was 622 and my last deadlift in my training cycle was a 625 grinder. You could say I’m a very optimistic person, especially in meets. However, I am also realistic. Matt was saying a prayer for me as I was warming up because he and I knew I would need a miracle.

I opened with an easy 570 pull, and this felt better than any of my deadlifts in my training cycle. I suddenly had a glimmer of hope in the back of my mind that I would actually be able to sack up and pull it off. We decided to stick to the original plan and take 625 on my second attempt for a three-pound PR. It came off the floor with good speed but I resorted back to old habits and rushed the lockout, causing a small hitch. Red lights. At this point, I just wanted to get the 625 so I could at least get a total PR. My highest total was a 1940 so this would earn me a 25-pound PR on my total. On my third attempt of 625, the bar got away from me making my lockout much harder than it had to be. I was pushing my hips through with every fucking ounce of energy I had left, but no cigar. I ended the day with a 1910 total.

As easy as it is to get pissed as hell at a sub-par performance, it’s more important to take away things that you have to work on. Shit happens. I’ll be damned if I don’t get that 2000 the next time I step onto the platform. It’s meets like these that keep me in check and make me train my balls off that much more. Find your weaknesses, formulate a plan, and execute it.

Brandon Smitley

On March 5, 2016 I competed at the XPC Finals in Columbus, OH at the Arnold Sports Festival. I did the XPC Finals last year, and was able to have the best meet performance of my life, where I managed to obtain the all-time world record raw squat and the overall lightweight men’s title. As such, I was allowed to return to the XPC Finals this year without having to requalify, and get another shot to defend my title.

On Thursday evening I began my travels into Columbus, OH to stay with teammate Alycia Israel. She’s always been kind enough to let me crash at her place since she is not too far away from downtown. Before heading to her place though, I met up with new elitefts teammate Christian Anto to check weight on the calibrated scale he had. When I got to where he was staying, I was two pounds over, but after a good restroom break I was within a pound. I was right on pace for weigh-in Friday morning. It was good to catch up with him and spend some time together before I made my way to Alycia’s. Once I got to her place, I was able to hit the restroom once more, and was within half a pound of weight. This was perfect and knew that I could float off the rest of the weight overnight.


Friday morning I woke up, only managing a few hours of sleep (I never sleep well when cutting weight), but was right on weight and did not have to use a sauna, which was awesome. I made my way to weigh-ins, put in my openers, and weighed in at 131.2. Afterwards I headed to see Molly Edwards where I began to rehydrate. While I was there, I got also meet Carlos Reyes and meet up with Zach Gallamann. Carlos is a great dude, and we got to know each other over the course of the weekend. It was also good to see Zach for the first time as a new teammate.

After Molly’s and having some light food, I made my way to get some breakfast and meet up with an attendee that won a chance to train at the elitefts compound. After some good laughs, and exchanging meathead knowledge and stories, we made our way to elitefts where I caught up with Dave and all the staff. I had some time to kill until I got to my room to check in at 3 pm.

Before going to my room I grabbed some lunch, and then checked in, where I met up with Jo Jordan and his handler, Neal. We killed some time together before we went to dinner at Texas Roadhouse with a huge group of us that were competing on Saturday (Ken and Sheri Whetham, Bruce Mason, and all their friends and family). After dinner, Jo and I headed out to elitefts again to swing by the training session for the attendees that got a chance to train there and meet up with more teammates. This was a really cool experience, and I’m glad I got to meet so many people that really enjoy everything Elitefts does. While being in a carb coma was fun, I needed to get back to my room and crash. I was knocked out shortly after 9 pm.


I woke up plenty early and rested and went downstairs to get a good solid breakfast in, then made my way to the meet site and showed up at 7:30 am sharp. I knew that I was in the second flight, but I wanted to get settled in and make sure I had ample time to warm-up and let my food settle good before squats. I finally started getting warmed up at about 9am.


65x2x5, 155x5, 245x3, 335x2, 385x1, 425x1

475x1 – add Maverick Knee Wraps

Opener: 500 – Good lift

I made sure to open a bit light of what I thought I was capable of for meet day, and this was a great call. Judging was tight and on point, and I knew I didn’t have to have any issue getting a squat in. This felt a bit slower than I would have liked, but it went up good and I felt good to certainly make my planned jump.

brandon smitley XPC

Second: 525 – Good lift

This was a good call for a second attempt. I slowed down about 3-4 inches up out of the hole, but was able to finish the lift. I knew I was going to need to make a smaller jump on my thid.

Third: 545 – Miss

This was probably the right call for the day; I just got a bit loose in the hole and began to shift and felt the left side of the bar begin to drip. I drove my head up into the bar and began to feel myself shift back, but didn’t think I had what it took to fix the lift at this point, so I just called for the spotters to take it. I figured I’d save myself the energy and get the pounds back on bench and deadlift.

Bench Press

45x10, 95x5, 135x3, 185x2, 225x1, 255x1, 275x1

Opener: 300 – Good lift

I opened up somewhat conservative based upon how my bench press training went for this meet. But I wanted to build some good positive momentum. I had the rack set too low, and it was probably good I opened with this, as the lift off was just a mess due to the rack height (thanks Joe for rack pulling 300 pounds). Very easy lift though.

Second: 320 – Good lift

After adjusting the rack height, this felt better. I screwed up and touched a bit higher than I normally do, and this caused the bar to come off my chest slow, but I was still able to finish the lift. I was in a tough spot here on where to go, so I let my handles Joe and Tanner make the call for my third without me knowing.

Third: 330 – Good lift

While setting up, I heard the announcer say what the weight was, and I knew I was going for a PR. I had to stay tight and make sure I touched just a hair lower than I did on my second. I did an awesome job of making this a damn near perfect bench for me, and I had ample speed. I’m happy with the PR, but I definitely left 5-10 pounds on the platform. Oh well, I was in a good spot going into deads.


135x2x5, 245x3, 295x2, 335x1, 385x1, 415x1, 445x1

Opener: 480 – Miss

I dropped my opener a bit from what I had planned due to my low back issues two weeks out. I was feeling great all meet day, so I was sure this was going to be good. Well, I screwed around and didn’t treat my opener seriously enough, and it got the best of me. There was no issue with the weight; I just didn’t squeeze the bar hard enough and it slipped out of my left hand. Definitely was retaking it to get in the meet.

Second: 480 – Good lift

I finally got my head out of my ass and pissed off, went out there and ripped the bar off the ground. This was super fast and easy — the way it should have been on my first attempt. This put me in a bit of a tough place. Due to the rest of the field, it looked like getting into the top three was going to need me to pull about 545 or so, and I didn’t think I had that in me. Plus with a huge jump, I just figured it wasn’t worth it. Time to just go get my total PR.

Third: 510 – Good lift

This lift was probably my best deadlift to date. This tied my meet PR, and gave me a five-pound PR total for 1365 at 132 pounds. I was definitely good for more that day, but missing my opener put me in a bad spot. I just wanted to ensure a PR total, as that’s nothing I can’t be ashamed of.

I managed to take fourth place overall in the lightweight men’s and won my weight class, with a bench press PR and a total PR. Certainly a good day, but not the day I was capable of. I put myself in a bad position on deadlift, and it came back to bite me. But, that’s powerlifting! It was a long day, and I was still happy with my performance. I totaled more than last year, and last year I won, so it was a stacked classes and the guys that placed higher than me certainly deserved it with the lifts they were putting up.

Saturday night we all met up at the compound and smashed some adult beverages, pizza, and donuts, and shared some good laughs. I wouldn’t have it any other way after a long meet.

I would like to thank Dave and Traci for all their support and belief in me as a person and athlete. I’m very fortunate to represent the best company in the industry and one of the biggest stages. Also a huge thank you to Joseph Tanner, Mario D’Amico, and Joe Schillero for handling me and keeping me locked in all day long. You guys are great and know my lifting capabilities probably better than I do. Thanks to Purdue Barbell for rolling in a dozen deep to watch me compete and do what I love. That support meant everything and I could certainly hear the cheers and support on the platform. More thank to my training partners, Trey, Kyle, and Taylor. You guys let me be able to train hard and smart, and I couldn’t do it without you guys. Thanks to Mark Glazier and NutraBio for all the amazing support and supplements that let’s me train hard year round and recover from some crazy training sessions and long meets. And finally, thanks to my family for always supporting me in my athletic endeavors and modeling me into a great person.

I wish I could say I have some much needed rest coming, but I’ve got to start to begin to qualify for the WPC World’s in November, so I’ve got two more meets left before summer hits. All that can be followed in my training log.

Christian Anto

The XPC Finals at the Arnold — the Royal Rumble of powerlifting, where some of the best athletes in the sport have previously posted a total qualifying them to lift on one of two days during the 2016 Arnold Classic. 2015 was a decent year for me in powerlifting where I was fortunate enough to acquire a total high enough (1735  at 181) to be granted access to compete on the pro day of the XPC Finals. This opportunity was a huge accomplishment for me. During training I had my sights set on one goal: to total 1800 at the XPC finals. This total has evaded me for about a year now, and the XPC Finals gave me no favors. I allowed my goal total to slip away from me yet again.

I started my training cycle for the XPC Finals back in November and incorporated nutrition for this meet in January. Elitefts team member David Allen took the reigns on both of those areas for me this meet prep. The majority of my training cycle went well. Hell, I'll even say as roughly 90% of it went awesome, and if you ask anyone, these are the training cycles you better be ready for a rough ride when it comes to meet day. Sure enough, this held true for myself this past weekend. Warming up for squats everything felt fine. I was not having pain, the weight was moving, my nerves were not out of whack, and when I went up for my first attempt of 650 pounds I did not have any doubts. I buried the squat and got three white lights, but in the back of my head all I could think was, “that was slow and felt heavy.”

The lightweight categories were moving quite fast so it was seemingly no time before I was prepping to take my second attempt of 680. Again no confidence issues here and I was ready. The second I came out of the hole I had no drive, which I was not expecting. This 690 turned into a HUGE grinder and after I got more than half way up my erectors gave out and I pitched forward. Disappointed and confused I walked off and called for 680 again. When my third attempt came around all I could feel were how my erectors were irritated with me, but I ignored them. I stood up strong with 680, took it down, and exploded up with everything I had. After standing up and racking the weight, my confidence grew until I heard the DJ announce, “no good.” For about five seconds I lost my cool but quickly regained it. This unfortunately was the pattern the whole day was going to follow.

WATCH: Team elitefts Trains for The 2016 Arnold/XPC Finals

The breaks between the squat, bench, and deadlift were ridiculously long, well over an hour and a half. It only took a good 30 minutes for my erectors to become pissed and lock up on my from my second attempt squat. I had our massage therapist work on me two times prior to even warming up for bench. During my warm-ups, my triceps started to become aggravated, which has not happened in over a month. I pressed through. My last warm-up was 355 pounds, which moved well with no issues. My opener was 375 pounds and it got three white lights but, again the weight felt super heavy and I knew I was in for a rough bench session. We dropped my second attempt down ten pounds from the plan, to 385 pounds. Sure enough when I went to take it I got maybe halfway through my press and had no gas behind my press. By now I was telling myself, “Okay, man. You are not getting the total you want, so just attempt to get your lifts regardless of the number.” My third attempt came around and I got about an inch or two from lockout and just had nothing left in my triceps to finish. I walked away from bench with only my opener, just like in the squat.

As we moved on to one of my favorite lifts I surprisingly was in decent spirits. I was not being hard on myself but I was still missing a huge aspect of what NEEDS to be present at meets, and that is to HAVE FUN. I was not having fun. I was taking everything way too seriously. All of my deadlift warm-ups felt good, my opener was set at 650 pounds, and I walked out and took it with no issues, expect for the fact that, yet again, it felt heavier than I ever remember 650 pounds feeling. I called for 680 as my second attempt and felt confident but I knew it was going to be hard. Calling my second “attempt” an attempt at all was comical, because the bar didn't even move off the floor. The only thing that moved was a drop of blood that I watched in slow motion hit the carpet in front of me. I walked off the stage with a sense of anger building. As I walked on stage for my third attempt, my coach gave me a trap slap, I inhaled some nose tork and walked to the bar with authority. As I grabbed the bar I threw patience out the window. I wanted to rip this iron off the floor and embarrass it! Well, I ripped the weight off the floor really fast, fast enough to surprise myself and my under grip which was not ready for it. I got to my knees and the bar slipped out of my hand before I knew what happened.

All in all, the day was an experience. This is the first time I competed as part of team elitefts and although my performance was way below par, this allows me to learn from it, consult with team members, coaches, and provide others with troubleshooting to not make the same mistakes I have leading up to this meet. I will be sitting down with my coach and numerous teammates on ways to better prepare myself. I invite you to follow my journey through my training logs as I chase an 1800 at 181!


In addition to the members of team elitefts who competed at the Arnold, there were even more coaches helping clients over the weekend. Among them:

Eric Maroscher, from Monster Garage Gym:

Kristin Johnson placed 5th in the Amateur Strongman World Championships.

Crystal Tate placed second at the XPC Powerlifting Championships (she broke the all time squat, and total records for 198-pound women with a 610-pound raw squat, and 1,435LB raw total).*

Steve Brock got his opening squat of 950 pounds but fell victim to the bench with his 770-pound opener.*

*Credit to Shaun Kopplin for prepping Crystal for this meet.

*Credit to Mike Gill for Kristin's strongman program.

CJ Murphy, from TPS:

Zach DiCostanzo took first place in his class. 

Jane Stabile bombed on squat at the XPCs. She had a tough day.

Strongmen Nick Cambi, Brittany Diamond, and others also competed. 

Steve Goggins

In the USAPL Lodrina Cherne, who also trains at TPS but is coached by Goggins, took third place with a 275-pound squat, 176-pound bench, and a 380-pound deadlift in the 57-kilogram weight class.

Scott Stevenson

David Henry, who competed in the Arnold Classic 212 men's bodybuilding competition, took third place behind Jose Raymond and Hidetada Yamagishi.

Shelby Starnes

Lifetime natural Women's Physique competitor Tarah Mitchell placed eighth out of 54 in the IFBB Women's Physique Division.

Swede Burns

Ellen Stein totalled 970 pounds at the XPCs with a 375-pound squat, 180-pound bench, and 415-pound world record deadlift.

Justine Albert placed fourth in the tall class for Women's Physique, amateur division.


With all of these exciting things happening for team elitefts over the weekend, there was one more thing we wanted to accomplish during the Arnold Sports Festival: interacting with you, our readers. After running multiple promotions, Dave invited over 100 people to train at the elitefts S4 Compound over the course of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The turnout was huge and the staff, team and owners took advantage of the opportunity to meet those who support elitefts.

This video shows that side of elitefts.