Meet Report: 2017 CETC US Open Powerlifting Championships with Ben Pollack

TAGS: pec injury, CETC US Open Powerlifting Championships, ben pollack, weight cut, meet report, bench, deadlift, squat

COACH

First of all, this was an amazing experience, and I’m still running through everything that happened yesterday over and over again in my head. I’ll probably need to make a follow-up post later in the week to share some of the things I’ve forgotten to write here, but I wanted to get as much as possible while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Second, to me, by far the most important part of this meet report is thanking everyone who helped me in every aspect of my training. I’ve written about the importance of having a team before, but yesterday drove it home for me in a new way. That said, most of you probably are more interested in the other stuff, so I’ve left that for the end!

Finally, I want to congratulate Joe Sullivan on placing second in the super-competitive heavyweight division, walking away with $10,000 in prize money, and putting up a monstrous squat while still a junior. The guy’s incredible, and if you don’t follow his training log, you need to fix that now.

Lead Up

I’ve already written about my training strategy going into the meet, and what I’ve learned from my meet prep, but I didn’t share a few things for competitive reasons. First, six weeks out from the meet, I tore my pec — a minor injury, but I had some nice bruising, and it was a full two weeks from then until I could bench again. Fortunately, Tammy from Kinetix Body Science helped me rehab it and within four weeks of the injury, I was able to handle ~90% loads again. I then promptly re-aggravated it. So for four of the last six weeks of my meet prep, I was benching less than 315. I knew I’d just have to take whatever was there on bench, that it would be an awful number, and I’d have to make up the difference on deadlift.


RECENT: How I'm Training for the 2017 US Open Powerlifting Championships


I also struggled with my knee wraps leading into the meet. Gracie made it very clear that the judges wouldn’t be giving any slack on depth calls, and I had been training with some extremely aggressive wraps that gave me great support and rebound but made it almost impossible for me to sink even 95% loads. So I switched to the elitefts Kraits, which give just as much rebound with less casting, making depth much easier but changing the feel of the descent just enough so that I needed another two weeks or so of practice before actually getting comfortable with them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury, so we just had to plan to win the squat and not worry about putting up records that very well might have been there on meet day.

Weight Cut

I’ll write up a very detailed article about my approach to cutting weight later, but for now, I’ll just mention that until the day of weigh-ins, I felt great. I trained around 210 pounds for most of my meet prep and dropped down to 205 about two weeks out my reducing my carb intake by half. Then, with a typical sodium and water load, I managed to get down to 190 by the morning of weigh-ins. I left any sweating for that morning because I wanted to be at weight for as little time as possible to have the least impact on my performance.

Unfortunately, I ran out of hot water after about 30 minutes. My girlfriend Staci had to find a sauna open at 4:30 in the morning so that I could sweat out the last eight pounds — much more difficult conditions than the typical hot bath that I prefer. She did, but it took so long for me to sweat the weight out that we only just made it to the venue before the 10 AM cutoff for morning weigh-ins. Physically, I still felt fine at this point, but mentally, between the hot water fiasco and the tight timing, I was so wrecked that I just started laughing when I finally weighed in at 82.2 kilos. Because the 90-kilo and up guys lifted the day before, I wouldn’t even have been able to compete had I missed weight.

I chose to rehydrate with an IV this time, and by noon (two hours after weigh-ins), I felt 100%. Fortunately, I had the rest of the day to eat and rest. I went to bed at 207. Ultimately, I think the cut had only a minuscule impact on my performance and put me in a great position to win the meet.

Strategy

Meet Day

I woke up on meet day feeling pretty great. I didn’t sleep all that well, but I never do the night before a meet, and I felt I had enough energy to perform near my best. I got to the venue pretty early to give myself plenty of time to warm up and chat with John Haack, who’s a super cool guy and a ton of fun to share the same platform. I didn’t get to talk as much with most of the other competitors, but there were some fantastic energy and consummate professionalism across the board, and I was proud to compete with everyone there.

Squat

Squat warm-ups felt perfect. Chris Duffin was generous enough to offer to wrap my knees, and, having self-wrapped throughout my entire meet prep, it made a huge difference. We had originally projected a 751 squat to take the American record, but there was some confusion on the platform before my second attempt at 716 that started when Chris had already half-finished wrapping my knees. I think that threw me off just a bit. My second attempt was slower than I’d have liked, so we called a much more conservative 733 squat on my third — five pounds below my meet PR but something that I could hit ten times out of ten. Since John and Anthony Hobaica both narrowly missed their second squats, 733 would still be enough for the win on that lift. Chris cranked the Kraits hard on that attempt, and I knew I had the lift as soon as I started the descent. I got so much bounce out of the hole that I didn’t even feel the weight on the way up. John finished with a 722 squat, giving me a 5-kilo lead going into the bench.

Bench

I have almost nothing to say about bench. I hadn’t trained with over 315 in three weeks, so we took 10-kilo jumps warming up from 264 to 352. I opened with a slow 374, followed that with an even slower 391, and, knowing that I needed at least a little more to stay competitive, dug deep mentally and finished with a 396 final attempt. Terrible numbers but given my training, they were all the right calls. I was 17.5 kilos behind John and 12.5 kilos behind Anthony going into deadlifts.

Deadlift

Fortunately, the deadlift is my lift, and my deadlift training had been on point all prep. I think this video with 772 from my final session tells the story better than I could:

So, we opened at 715, to tie John’s total and take the lead in Wilks on bodyweight (I weighed in at 0.1 kilos less than him). That was the heaviest pull of the final flight, so it put me in the best possible position. Jacob got to make all my attempt selections after the rest of the lifters, so he could pick the exact number I needed to win, and that’s what happened on my second attempt of 755. When John and Anthony both missed their third attempts, I was able to go YOLO on my third to try to beat Ed Coan’s all-time world record of 791 and become the first person under 181 to deadlift 800. I thought I had the lift all the way until halfway up my thigh when my grip suddenly gave out. Still, $40,000 and best lifter wasn’t a bad consolation prize, and even the chance to take that big of a record on that big of a stage was something special to me.

Wrap Up

All in all, I had a great experience at the Open, even though, from an objective standpoint, my 1884 total was less than I thought I would have put up on my worst day. To be fair, I think I could have pulled something in the 780-790 range, which would have put me over 1900, and it was a long day with a lot of challenges. More than anything, I’m proud of my mental performance. At Boss of Bosses last year I backed into a win after crumbling mentally before even my opening squat attempt, and this year, despite a more difficult weight cut, training injuries, and higher stakes, I kept my cool almost the entire time. To me, that shows real growth as both a lifter and a person.

Thank You

I could not have done any of this without all of the incredible help and support I received from all of my friends and family. My girlfriend Staci saved the entire meet at 4:30 on Saturday morning. Jacob called nine perfect attempts and was coaching on another level entirely. Tammy kept me healthy through the whole grueling meet prep, and single-handedly (no pun intended) fixed the grip problems I’d been having by improving my thumb mobility dramatically (again, a topic for another article). Chris Duffin wrapped my knees so tightly that I have more bruises than I can count, and I think he did more work than I did on my final squat. Joe Sullivan came back to the fucking meet venue the day after his winning performance to help load! My former training partner Dominic was texting me deep inspirational thoughts during the entire deadlift warmup. All of my gym families at Big Tex and Hyde Park were unbelievably supportive and positive throughout the entire process. And having the entire elitefts team to back me up means more than I can describe.

Honestly, I don’t know what’s next, other than a trip to Disneyland today and then a long and much-needed break from heavy lifting. I’m excited and grateful for whatever it is.

think-strong-thin-650

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