This weekend I competed in my first raw meet in three years (having been competing in multi-ply gear during that time). My last competition was XPC Finals at the Arnold Classic in March, and I left that meet beat up physically and mentally. I took the following months since then to focus on taking complete control of my own training and make sure my mental health and injuries were better addressed before competing again. Training-wise, focusing on more submaximal training and simplifying things made a huge difference in making sustainable progress. I also have been able to manage my stress and mental health in relation to my training (with some ways I discuss in an upcoming article).

In terms of transitioning to competing raw again, I had been considering it for a little while now, and when I went to a hip surgeon to evaluate my hip MRIs, it confirmed my decision. Squatting wide was accelerating all my joint damage and I found that squatting narrower in Olympic shoes didn’t stress my hips nearly as much. Since that style of squatting suits raw lifting better, I decided to focus on rebuilding my raw lifts and pick a meet.

RELATED: Post-Meet Training — What to Do the First 9 Weeks After Competition

Four months later and my training was going really well and I felt better physically and mentally than I had in a long time. I was consistently hitting rep PRs in training and was recovering much better than in the past. I heard my good friend and elitefts teammate Mario D’Amico was competing at the UPA Summer Showdown at Old School Iron Gym in Cleveland, and decided to see where my lifts were. I’d been purposely focusing more on building versus testing in training, so aside from rep PRs I hadn’t re-tested any of my 1-rep maxes for several months. I knew I was stronger, but fought the urge to test things leading into the meet. I hit my openers a couple times, took the week off before the meet, and that was it. No crazy peaking, no reducing my volume or conditioning dramatically, just rested up and went to the meet.

I set my goals conservatively for this competition, knowing that some PRs were doable, but it would likely still be a little while longer before I could be in a position to qualify for any big raw meets. I set all my openers light, and my goal was to go 6/6 on squat and bench without injuring my hip, and then be more aggressive on deadlifts.

The meet was moving extremely fast, so my warm-ups were pretty quick. I can’t stress enough how beneficial the Activation Sport trigger point warm-ups I’ve been doing have been. They’ve made a huge difference in reducing any pain, preventing muscle tweaks, and improving my performance (all without doing any mobility or other warm-up work).


I opened with 475 on squat, and it was fast as I anticipated. My best raw competition squat was 500 pounds, so I jumped to a 507-pound PR on my second, and that was easy as well. I debated going to 550 pounds or more on my third, but since I shifted away from my left hip a little bit on my second attempt, I went more conservatively with 523. I ended up squatting that easily as well, and there was definitely a lot more in the tank.


I opened light again with 314 on bench, and got that easily. I went to 335 and got that easily as well. My best competition raw bench was 370 and I debated jumping to a PR, but it would be a really big jump and I wanted to stick to my original goal so I went with 358 and got that as well. I was happy that I disciplined myself to stick to the game plan and went into deadlifts right on pace.


I opened with 560 and pulled it quickly, then jumped to a PR 607 on my second. I pulled that easily as well, and decided to go with 622, that would put me over 1500 for my total (a 54-pound raw total PR), and match my geared pull from XPC Finals. I pulled the 622 with no issues and finished 9/9 with squat and deadlift PRs, a total PR, and no injuries or issues. I couldn’t be happier with how everything went, and it puts me in a good place to keep moving forward as my goal is to qualify for a high-level raw meet at some point this next year. I’ve had it as a goal to have my elite totals both equipped and raw and that should be doable in the coming year as I work to qualify for either raw XPC finals or another big meet.

I’m extremely thankful for the continued support from Dave Tate and all my elitefts teammates, and was happy to compete alongside Mario and see him smash his first 2000-pound total. Thank you to my good friend Ben Miller for handling me. It was great to see a bunch of my old friends and training partners like Bruce Mason and Sev Holsworth at the meet. I’m excited for what the upcoming year holds and I look forward to continuing to work hard as I seek to reach places I didn’t think were possible until now.