I am standing alone, staring into the ocean off this amazing cliff, in the back yard of the house we rented while out here for the U.S. Open. There is a corner, where two walls of cliff come together and waves crash directly into one of them. Every second or third wave sends a wake back from the cliff to the next wave, and it kind of feeds into that one and makes it doubly powerful. Those charged up waves send water twenty feet into the air when they hit the cliff, and the constant wind blows a salty mist of it onto my face and all over the rest of the yard each time it does.

Serene is the word. This is an excellent environment to reflect on the events leading up to and following what turned out to be an exceptional powerlifting meet. Even if things had not gone as well as they did, this bit of paradise might have softened the blow. Nevertheless, they did go well; exceedingly so, all things considered.

When we set out to fly across country last week, I had still not made the final decision as to whether we should have Tarra cut to 165 for this meet, or just let her get one under her belt at her new, lower bodyweight of 175. You see, the whole point of this meet was to show her and instill some confidence in what I already knew: that she would still be able to perform well, a full twenty pounds lighter than her typical meet day weight of 195-197. I don't think I am giving too much of a spoiler when I say that we did accomplish that.


Now, weight class transition is a process, and I may do an entire chapter in the new 5thSet book on that topic, but for our purposes here it suffices to say that a lifter does not typically just drop a weight class over the course of a few months and hit the same number they did in the heavier class. That's typically speaking, though they will probably hit numbers which are very close. There are always exceptions, like maybe the lifter had never done a water cut and the first time they tried, they were able to get back up to their normal meet day weight by the time they hit the platform. That person might be able to even PR in the new class.

For someone who is already maxing out the class they are in, however, that's just not going to happen. A lifter maxing out their weight class who wants to drop down a full class must first train in calorie deficit for however long it takes to reach a bodyweight within the realm of a water cut to the new weight class and then, hopefully, train at the new meet-day body weight for a long enough time to regain the strength they lost while dieting.

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In Tarra's case, we got the first part of that done before this meet. She dieted down to a weight where she was able to make the cut to 165, which for her is around 175. This was accomplished relatively quickly, over the course of about nine weeks. That's right, twenty pounds in nine weeks. You would think she probably lost a lot of strength in that period of time, right? Not really. Loss of strength during a fat loss diet is usually overstated. It is a consideration, like I said before, just not as much as most people think. As long as things are done within reason, it does not take long to get the lost strength back for lifters who are not already very near to their potential. She certainly fits into that category.

As I was saying, we flew the 2200 miles to San Diego just playing it by ear. If she could make weight without any issue, we'd do that, but Tarra was starting to come down with something. So if it looked like it might be something more than just allergies, I was more than ready to call it and let her do the meet without the water cut. This was just a transitional meet, after all.

Swede and Gracie

Once we got into town we stopped by Gracie's gym, California Elite Training Center so that I could train, and also to borrow a scale to monitor Tarra's weight as it dropped. And drop it did, until she was five pounds out at around midnight when I told her to start drinking water, because she was really starting to get sick.

"You know that you could make it from here if you had to. Right?"

"For sure."

Okay, that was kind of the point of all this. She could have made it and she knew it. We had IV bags to rehydrate her and we could've easily gotten her back to a bodyweight heavier than when she started if she finished the cut. She has double digit experience with successful water cuts. No point in adding insult to injury when she was already sick and this was just to let her get a meet in at the lower platform weight. As many of you know, I am fully aware of the dangers of pushing yourself and making things worse when you are sick before a competition. Last time I pulled that move I broke my back and almost died. But, I digress. Tarra was not happy about stopping, but drank a few bottles of water, sipped some V8, and called it a night.

In the morning at weigh-ins she was 174, presumably around the weight she was before the cut. A day of overfeeding and soy sauce drinking would only add to that.

I can't say for sure what her weight was on the day of the meet, but I can tell you that it will be easy to replicate, as we followed the same post weigh in ritual I use for all of my lifters: plenty of rice, plenty of soy sauce, constant sipping and constant snacking. We got to the meet early and started warming up with bracing/activation stuff right away. I gave Tarra a decongestant and an antihistamine and started warming her up on squats, along with Alyssa Smith, another elite lifter who uses 5thSet.

I had to wrap Tarra's knees and Alyssa was immediately before her in the same flight, which made it impossible for me to see Alyssa squats and judge to call next attempts. Luckily Alyssa is used to being alone at meets and went into this with a good game plan. So even though she was nervous, she was able to pull it together and do very well, squatting 375 without wraps.

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Tarra smoked all three of her squat attempts with no problem, of course, finishing with the communist equivalent of 420 pounds in kilograms. I would say we left about 20 pounds in the tank, which means her strength actually went up on squats while losing weight, if it didn't at least stay the same.

During the break between squat and bench, both Tarra and Alyssa went outside and relaxed in my car while I stayed in the warm-up room, stuffing my face (as usual). When the time came their bench warm-ups went off without a hitch. Tarra smoked her opener, but was red lighted on a technicality for her second attempt. The press was easy, but she came down a little too aggressively and and there was a kind of up and down when the bar stopped at the chest.

I made the executive decision to move the weight up to her planned third attempt anyway, because I knew she was easily capable of making corrections under pressure. She was very nervous, but pulled it together like a professional and performed. Three whites on her very easy third bench of 260 pounds.

After a long break and lunch with Brandon Lilly (more of me stuffing my face), the girls started warming up. There were some lifters in that flight who were late to start warming up, like there is at every meet, which meant a bunch of me stripping hundreds of pounds off of the deadlift bar and then reloading it, but we made it through that. Everyone managed to stay hydrated throughout the day. Tarra was able to execute all three attempts, almost effortlessly. I would say her third attempt of 460 left twenty pounds on the platform, which is about what I was expecting. So she totaled 1140 and if I had to guess I'd say 1180 was probably there on that day.

The short term goal is 1200 or more in a second weight class (165) at Tarra's next meet, which is tentatively scheduled to be my boy Dan Green's Boss of Bosses, toward the end of the summer. I was considering benching in that meet, but it looks like I'll be working with at least Tarra and Sin Leung, if not also helping Dani Overcash. So I will probably just focus on coaching at that one, too.

I would have no objection to every powerlifting meet being held in California, I have to say. This state is like heaven for me and I've missed it. I'd like to spend as much time here as possible.

2016 RPS US Open - Meet Recap