Meet Report: All-time World Record and Best Overall Lifter at 2017 Reebok Record Breakers

TAGS: best overall lifter, Jacob Cloud, Reebok Record Breakers, ben pollack, all time world record, bench, deadlift, squat

COACH

My last meet of 2017 is in the books, and I’m happy with how it went. At the beginning of the year, I set two goals: to set an all-time world record in powerlifting and compete in bodybuilding. Instead, I ended up setting an all-time world record in powerlifting and winning the US Open and $40,000, which seems like a pretty decent tradeoff. That said, I performed below my expectations all year, and, while I’m not pleased with that, I am very proud of how I’ve grown mentally strong(er), and especially how I dealt with the challenges leading up to Reebok Record Breakers.

TLDR: I finished 7/9 with a 799 squat, 424 bench, and 815 deadlift (raw with wraps). That was good enough for a 2039 total and an all-time world record in the 198-pound weight class, plus a 592 Wilks and best overall lifter. I’ve now won best lifter at all three major raw meets in the US (Boss of Bosses, the US Open, and Reebok Record Breakers).

The Leadup

Honestly, my heart was never in this meet. I’ve been dealing with some personal questions since the summer (well, actually, just one question — trying to decide what to do with my life after grad school) and it’s been weighing me down at everything, including my lifting. But I committed to this meet back in June, after speaking with Mark Bell at his seminar in Austin, and I wanted to follow through with that.

Then I pulled my hamstring, bruised my ribs, and tweaked an adductor — all in the span of about six weeks at the beginning of meet prep. Getting off to a rough start is never easy, but on top of that, I had just turned 30, which felt like kind of a big deal at the time; I’m clearly now older than most of my competitors, many of whom are in their early 20s, and injuries are never easy to begin with.

Finally, I’ve been in a bit of a funk ever since winning the Open. I know that I will never in my life be able to top the emotional experience of that meet and the circumstances surrounding it (at least not in a powerlifting context), and that’s heavy. I never wanted to be a guy who tried to stay at the top — I wanted to get to the top and be happy with that accomplishment, not cling to it or let it color who I am as a person. Still, I at least could look to an all-time world record as something new — if not strictly better — to experience.

So that was basically my single motivation for continuing to persist with meet prep despite the other things I had going on outside of the gym. Again, that’s new to me; I typically love to compete and to train heavy, but physically, I was and still do clearly need a break. I’ve been in virtually nonstop meet prep mode for the last two years, and have won best lifter at all six of the meets I’ve done during that time (including three international-level ones). That’s a pretty demanding pace for anyone who’s not Yury Belkin or Ed Coan.

The Disaster

Still, I managed to hit decent (if conservative) numbers for the two months leading up to Record Breakers, and stay injury-free — until my last fucking set of my last workout, when I was scheduled to pull 765 for a triple. My first rep moved perfectly, but I must’ve put the weight down too quickly, because the bar bounced quite a bit, and I wasn’t able to reset properly for the second rep. When I stood up to reassess, I realized that my left thumb hurt, pretty badly. I reevaluated and decided to hit a heavy single with straps instead of completing the triple as planned, and figured I bruised the thumb and it’d feel fine in a day or two.


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It didn’t. In fact, it hardly improved at all. Five days out of the meet, I couldn’t tie my shoes or pull up my shorts without sharp pain in both the first and second knuckle of my thumb. I knew this wouldn’t be a major problem for my squat (since I usually use a claw grip, with both my smallest finger and thumb under the bar) and figured I’d be able to stand the pain enough to bench. But I pull hook grip, and I couldn’t even hook grip a 5-pound dumbbell without excruciating pain. I seriously considered dropping out of the meet.

Instead, I went for X-rays, and was a little encouraged when they came back negative. The doctor told me I wouldn’t make anything worse by lifting through the pain, although I’d probably delay healing. My physical therapist, Nick Engel, helped talk me off the ledge and work out at least enough of the tightness to where I could move the thumb enough to take an unloaded hook grip position without any pain — although I still couldn’t tie my shoes.

I was pretty sure I’d be able to tough it out, but given how ambivalent I felt going in, this was a major mindfuck. Basically, I decided to follow through with the meet — I couldn’t let all that prep go to waste — and trust myself to find the right headspace on meet day.


Meet Day

Obviously, I was able to do that, and despite some major disappointments, I kept my mind right all day long, for the third meet in a row. That’s a huge accomplishment for someone who began as a major headcase and went into full-blown panic mode at the thought of a heavy lift on meet day.

The goals for the day were 811/446/815 for a 940.5 total, an all-time world record squat and total, and a 600 Wilks. Based on my training, every single one of those numbers should have been there, but obviously, they weren’t.

Squat

My opener was set at 325 kilos, which was as conservative as we could go while still keeping 368 (the world record squat) manageable. I won’t lie, warmups felt like shit: fast, but shaky as hell. Chris Bridgeford had offered to wrap my knees, though, and my god, the guy must have some magic secret or something because I have never had such a great wrap. They weren’t so tight as to be unbearable, but the pop out of the hole was unreal. I only ever take my last warmup in wraps, and it moved faster and better than any of the other warmups.

On my opener, I unracked and almost immediately lost my balance; the spotters at this meet were probably the best I’ve ever seen and caught me right away. I still had time to try again, so I did and made a better (but still shaky) unrack, and moved the weight really well. I’m not sure why it got red lit; the judges said for an up-and-down motion, but I don’t know if that was on the unrack or at the end of the lift.

Either way, my coach, Jacob Cloud, decided to go up. If you’ve ever read any of my meet reports, you already know that Jacob makes all the calls at meets. If he needs to, he’ll ask for my input, but he gets the final say. I can’t and don’t want to deal with that pressure myself, and he’s a more accurate and objective judge of what I’m capable of doing on a given day than I am myself. So I didn’t give it any more thought. 342.5/755 flew up for a meet PR, and this time, I told Jacob I didn’t want to take the all-time. After the confusion of the opener and the short time between attempts, I’d be happy with breaking 800 and not risking the mental pressure of a record attempt.

In Jacob’s only bad call of his entire life, he gave me 362.5 for 799 instead of 805. So the 800 mark is still unbroken for me, although I’m very confident that I would’ve managed it just as easily. 799 didn’t even feel difficult, although I do see quite a bit of that knee valgus that cropped up during my 782 lift earlier this cycle.

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In the end, squats were a mixed bag; I didn’t get the record squat, but the total was still on the board.

Bench

Bench has always been my worst lift, but since working with Dave over the summer, it’s improved tremendously, and I managed a 197.5 kilo/435 pound single earlier in my training cycle with great speed. I was completely confident in hitting 440 going into the meet and hoped for 450 or more. Unfortunately, after squats, my left serratus started to tighten up. I was lucky enough to have both my massage therapist, Tammy Marquez, and the incredible Dani Overcash there to help me out between lifts, but it was still bothering me by the time my flight was called. After my second attempt with 192.5/424 moved slowly, we bumped my third down to 197.5, which I was shocked and disappointed to miss.

Deadlift

After underperforming on both squat and bench, I didn’t just need to nail deadlifts for a record total — I needed to get 815 just to win the meet. Fortunately, after copious amounts of caffeine, my warmups started to move really well — better than they had all training cycle — and my thumb seemed to be holding up just fine. Like with squat, my opener was set at 325/716, but we decided to drop that to 320/705 to save energy for a big third pull. When I took that opener on the platform, I knew 815 would be there. I don’t think I’ve ever moved 700 that fast, and 345/760 was nearly as fast. Since I had the last pull of the day, there was a pretty big crowd watching for the 815, and that was awesome, both for the energy and because at the Open, I had a big crowd for the final pull and ended up missing. It looks fast on video, but I swear to god it felt like an eternity going up. I’ve honestly never been so happy to see white lights after a lift, so that was pretty awesome, too.


Wrap up

Real talk, while I appreciate all the congratulations from everyone, I think the people who supported me deserve far more credit than I do. I love to lift, so it’s not like I’m going to stop training, but I damn well would’ve given up on this meet without my girlfriend Staci keeping me at least partially sane for the last three months. She didn’t have to physically drag me to the sauna, like in April, but in a lot of ways, I think it was probably harder because at least I was excited about the Open. I’m pretty sure I was a Debbie Downer for most of this prep. Same for Dominic and Jacob, who are friends before coaches and a huge part of my emotional support system. And Mike and Caroline Lusby, who only recently moved to Austin but have helped Staci and I figure out at least a sort of plan for the future.

My new Iron Rebel family was so supportive the entire prep — I’ve already mentioned Chris wrapping my knees, but Ed Koo and Andy Huang have had my back for the past couple of months and it’s made a world of difference. Ed was texting me support after every attempt on Sunday, and I can’t say how much that helped to keep me pushing hard the entire day. And of course, everyone at both Big Tex Gym and Hyde Park Gym in Austin, y’all are the best. It was an honor to compete with and watch the competitors on both days. I finally got to meet Stefi Cohen, Cailer Woolam, and Tom Kallus; I knew most of the other guys and girls from other meets, but I swear, it never gets old watching them, and the deadlift battle between Kristy and Gina at the end of the day was epic. I also personally don’t think enough people talk about Gerald Dionio. The guy just keeps breaking his own world records over and over and over again.

I saved my EliteFTS fam for last, because how could I not? Y’all… I had never met Harry Selkow in person before this weekend, and the man offers to let me stay at his house. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not a teammate — it’s family. Same for Christian Anto and Dani and David LaMartina and John Gaglione: y’all are welcome to stay with me and Staci any time (although I’m pretty sure Dani is angling for us to just relocate…). We love you guys.

That’s it. If you read all eight pages — hell, if you read any of the eight pages — thank you, too. Dunno if there’s actually anything in here worth reading, but it meant a lot to me to write it.

Next for me: a long fucking offseason, and then…who knows? I honestly don’t, but I’m excited to find out.

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