This is the third time I’ve sat down to write a meet report. Every time before this I threw out what I wrote down because I wanted to write something that people could learn from but at the same time wouldn't make me sound like I am full of whiny excuses.

The IPA Iron Battle at Showtime Strength and Performance was my first meet back since October 2015. Almost a year before that meet I tore my right supraspinatus off the bone reverse band benching, then a week later tore half of my right biceps off deadlifting (it was a really good week of training). My shoulder didn’t hurt that bad so I just rehabbed and continued training. My upper body strength started coming back and I got up to around 90% of my best, so I figured I could go do a meet and maybe take a little hit on my bench but still come out with a decent total. Going into the 2015 meet my shoulder started falling apart because I had to get under the straight bar more. I went to the meet and was only able to muster a 600 bench, which was my opening attempt. Prior to my shoulder injury, I would typically open around 700. On my final deadlift attempt, I felt my shoulder slowly pulling out as I stood up, so I dropped the bar. I totaled 2250, which was 200 pounds under my best total. This was finally enough for me to go get an MRI on the shoulder.

This was my first meet in a year and a half. I was really excited to compete again. Training going up to the meet went well for the most part, with only a couple hiccups. I knew my bench wasn’t going to be great but I needed to get to another meet.


First Attempt: 875. I beat my up call and got called for depth, I think. Weight felt good, I just didn’t hang in there for the call. This to me is a rookie mistake. My rustiness was starting to show.

Second Attempt: Planned on going to 950 on second but went conservative with 910. This one was good. In the meet.

Third Attempt: I called for 950 on my third. When I stood up with the weight I got a cramp and a pop in my rib so I racked it. If this weight would have been a PR I would have tried to squat it but I wasn’t going to risk injury for a weight I’ve done before.

A post shared by Conjugate U (@nateharvey2600) on


First Attempt: 600. This wasn’t real hard but it did feel heavy. I’ve been having some issues with my non-surgical shoulder/pec so I’ve been babying my bench training a little going into the meet. If I’m honest with myself I’m probably around a 405 raw bench right now, which is not where it needs to be. Second Attempt: Went to 625 for my second. This is the bench on the video. Even though this was a "light" bench for me, it was a good one. I was able to grind a bench out a little and prove to myself my arm wasn’t going to fall apart. I don’t care how hardcore anyone claims to be, there is shit you’ll try at a meet that you won’t do in the gym. This was an important lift for my mind and future training more so than for a good total at this point. Third Attempt: I took 650 and missed. The strength just wasn’t there when it got heavy. My shoulder got a little out of position and wouldn’t push.

A post shared by Conjugate U (@nateharvey2600) on


First, Second, and Third Attempts: 675. Deadlift training had gone well going into the meet. I was hitting indicators that were putting me on target for a PR. Since it was my first meet back, I figured I’d open a little lighter than normal. Good thing I did. On my first two attempts I couldn’t hold onto the bar. The weight was moving fine but my right hand just kept opening up. This was due to a couple things. First, my hands were too close. They weren’t allowing my hips to come through at the top. I was getting handcuffed before I could lock out. Second, my setup wasn’t good. If you watch the first two pulls, my head and chest aren’t up, the bar isn’t pulled into my legs as much as it should be, and my knees aren’t out enough. Third, I just need to get my grip stronger. On my third I got my head out of my ass thanks to Nick Showman. He saw my hands were too close and we corrected it. This allowed my hips and chest to come through and made the lift much easier.

A post shared by Conjugate U (@nateharvey2600) on

What I Need to Work On

1. I got too smart for my own good my last couple meets. I thought I had it all figured out because I knew what I was hitting on my lifts going into my meet when I last hit PRs. When I was training I’d hit certain numbers and figure I didn’t need to go any heavier. If you watch my lifts, you’ll notice I didn’t really have to strain on anything. While this can be a good thing, in my case it wasn’t. I hadn’t strained much in training because I didn’t think I had to. The problem is that when you get to the meet and haven't trained it, that ability probably won’t be there. That was the case for me, at least. Another way I’m going to attack this is to increase my time under tension during my accessory movements. There will be lots of slow eccentrics, cluster sets, timed sets, sets of five on my dynamic work, and some slower eccentrics on my dynamic work too. These have all worked well for me in the past. I also became too rigid in my movement selection. What got me to a 1000-pound squat may not get me to a 1050 squat. I kept repeating things because, in my head, I was thinking, "This got me to my best meet so I’d better keep that in the program." I took away one of the best parts of the conjugate model.

2. For the first time ever I think I really figured out my weak points. I was able to feel where I was missing weights at the meet, which is new for me. In the past, I’ve just been able to train hard and get stronger. My circa max day was terrible but I was able to find a couple weaknesses and work on them before the meet.

A post shared by Conjugate U (@nateharvey2600) on

When I stood up with the bar, my upper back just got smashed and I had no tightness. My shoulder blades got pushed down my back and spread apart bad. To remedy this I did the following movement every day I lifted.

A post shared by Conjugate U (@nateharvey2600) on

If you do these right you’ll feel it right on the lower angle of your scapula. When you arch up in the top you should feel your scapula "lock" down on your rib cage. While it probably didn’t make my upper back a lot stronger, it did kind of wake things up. I could tell a big difference at the meet. I also pushed my hands out on the bar, which in turn seemed to jam my shoulder blades down and in, helping my upper back lock in. I found this by messing around with my technique on my lighter circa max workouts going into the meet. These will be a staple in my training from now on until I find a new weakness. I also felt like my head was getting shoved forward like a Pez Dispenser when I stood up with the bar, so I added a 10-pound plate on a neck harness with all my reverse hypers. This really seemed to help me get my head locked in, not to mention the sweet back pump.

A post shared by Conjugate U (@nateharvey2600) on

3. “SFW. Because at some point, throw the programming out and just let it all hang out. You have to do the work. The best program isn’t going to work unless you pour your blood, sweat, and tears into it. And when I say blood, literally I need blood.”

—Vincent Dizenzo

Being my first meet back I was a little rusty and it showed. If I’m honest with myself, though, I’ve gotten too conservative in my training, especially on max effort work. I need to push my limits more often. Maybe not every week, but definitely on more of a regular basis. I think my past injuries were still in my head. I wasn’t scared of more injury but the thought of not being able to train for whatever amount of time was definitely in the back of my mind. Getting to the meet and having a couple of chances to lift with more of a do or die mindset was huge for me. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked forward to training each day as much as I am now. I’m looking forward to getting back to what got me strong in the first place. So, when all else fails, just train like a MF.