Michael’s note: this will be part competition review and part practical information for your own application.
One full year off the platform felt like it would last forever. So, what the hell have I done athletically since IPF Worlds in June 2014?!
Let’s delve into it chronologically, but first we need to go way back:
• April 2014 – Let’s start with the injury – diagnosed as hip bursitis/glute medius tendonopathy/torn labrum…who knows. Certainly, I don’t yet.
• June 2014 – IPF Worlds, South Africa. 8th Place 74kg Junior – my worst performance in years. If I’d been ‘on’ and not injured, Bronze medals in both the squat and deadlift were in reach.
• July 2014 – Ruminated over Worlds performance.
• July 2014 – What the hell do I do with this useless injured body? Let’s cut some weight and find out if there were any aesthetics under the cushioning. Committed to a Bodybuilding show in November 2014 – the IBFA ‘Silver City Classic’.
• August to October 2014 – very peculiar nutrition and training protocols continued.
• November 2014 – 2nd Place First Timers Category – ‘Silver City Classic’ Bodybuilding Show. Reached an uproarious 63.2kg (down from 74kg).
• December 2014 to March 2015 – Still injured. Tried to gain some muscle mass – got back up to 72kg. Longed to get back to the beloved strength training.
• April 2015 – Hip started to feel better after copious rehab work (but surfaced again 4 weeks out from the competition). Burned new goals deep into my motivation – Get back on the platform in June in the 66kg class and achieve Scottish Records (to hold senior records in both the 66kg and 74kg classes)…
And that is where I find myself now, and the stage at which you read this at also – after competing in my first competition in a full year a couple of weeks ago on the 27th June.
My goals for the first half of 2015 were as follows:
• Compete at GBPF ‘Alba Open’, Inverness, Scotland on 27th June 2015
• Cut from 72kg to <=66.0kg in 13 weeks while still gaining strength • Keep hip pain at a minimum to not hinder my training and interfere with goals I had set • Achieve all Scottish Senior Records in the 66kg class • Get close to a bodyweight pull-up (lol) METHODS – DIET
In retrospect, the Bodybuilding show I competed at in November 2014 taught me more than I could ever have predicted. I knew how to cut weight easily, I had a much clearer indication of how my body worked and I wasn’t scared of dieting within a time frame.
Many athletes choose to water cut and dehydrate for 2-hour weigh-ins – with my friend JP Cauchi being a model example.
JP cut 6kg in a week for IPF Worlds last month. This is teetering on the scale of affecting performance. However, personally, I wanted to employ a steady caloric deficit over the 13 preparation weeks instead. Not because I was worried about a water cut affecting performance but more so because I also wanted to reach a slightly more aesthetic weight by losing fat and not just water. That said, I would water cut the last of the grams if it came to it.
It was probably the easiest cut I have ever done. During the preparation for the bodybuilding show, while at 66kg I was on 1, 500 calories. Madness. But I was inexperienced and rushed the calorie reductions.
This time I dieted on 2,200 calories for 4 weeks and 2,000 calories for the last 9 weeks and ate whatever I wanted. I got my weight down to 66.3kg the week of and 66.8kg the day before. I knew I might need to cut a tiny bit of water weight so I used a protocol that aligned with the weight I had to lose – nothing too drastic.
• Cut carbs 2 days out
• Cut sodium 1 day out
• Water Load 8am-4pm day before – 6L total
• Cut out food at 4pm day before
• Hot shower night before
• Hot shower morning of
I weighed myself every 2 hours before going to bed the day before to make sure my weight was falling as it should. I then weighed myself twice in the morning before the comp – 65.9kg at last weigh-in when I left the hotel.
It was a breeze. The only unpleasant thing was waking up at 2am on comp morning with my resting heart rate super high, without me able to bring it down. This is obviously a symptom of dehydration and is not ideal. I listened to some Ben Howard and hoped his lush, airy tunes would lull me to sleep. I got back to sleep at 6am for an hour which felt like it made a difference.
Got to the venue early so I could step on the scale as soon as the clock struck 9am (the beauty of being so light that you are always in the first flight…). I felt dire. I didn’t feel like I could be strong in under 2 hours.
Figure 1: Post-competition fun
This is where I will say that an essential thing that any competitor can do – no matter if they easily make weight or not – is to have a precise and intense refeed (and rehydration) protocol. It may only be 2 hour weigh-ins for IPF-affiliated comps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t gain (or gain back) a good amount of kilos. You should aim to compete 2-3kg over your weight class once that 2 hour weigh in has passed and you should aim for even more by the time deadlift comes around. It is within the rules.
Traditionally, once I had weighed in I would sit around, chat and have a laugh with everyone, relaxed about my eating. But this time I knew I had to give myself every chance of a good performance after such a long hiatus. I would save the fun for later. I had all of my protocol written down in my phone notes and it went something like this (to consume most of it within the first hour of weigh in):
• 4L of water mixed with 1L Powerade (to replenish electrolytes and water)
• Coconut chocolate biscuits (for the high calorie and fat content)
• Snowballs (some carbs)
• 3 Uncle Ben’s Microwaveable rice with 5 big dollops of mayo and nearly a whole salt shaker (good carb sources, mayo for fat/calories and tonnes of salt to allow me to gain back and hold weight and water)
• 2 scoops of Deluxe Nutrition Rhubarb and Custard Protein (link)
METHODS – TRAINING
My training was heavily modified to safeguard my hip injury. Is it an optimal routine to build strength and better movement patterns? Probably not. But it was optimal for me dragging along a guffed hip. It was minimalism to a tee and I loved it, it gave me room to do as much rehab work as possible and got me in and out the gym. Simplicity. Every exercise followed a linear periodization modality – progressively overloading week to week.
Monday – Squat
• Competition Squat
• Beltless Squat
Tuesday – Bench & Upper Back
• Competition Bench
• Secondary Bench exercise
• Pull Ups
Wednesday – OFF
Thursday – Deadlift
• Competition Deadlift
• Beltless Romanian Deadlifts
Friday – Bench & Upper Back
• Competition Bench
• Secondary Bench Exercise
• Pull Ups
Saturday – OFF
Sunday – Bench & Upper Back
• Competition Bench
• Secondary Bench Exercise
• Pull Ups
A hip recovery circuit was done before and after every session and I also did an early morning fasted dog walk each day. That was it.
There were no huge training highlights – I had squatted a sub maximal 170kgx1 and 162.5×2, benched a 117.5kgx1 and deadlifted a sub maximal 210kgx2 within the last two weeks of preparation. I also never made the bodyweight pull up, but I did achieve 50kgx2 @ 67kg bodyweight (117kgx2) towards the end of my cycle. The goal was to get close, and I was closer than I have ever been. It was fun for a bit of variation (pretty much my only variation deviating from the competitive lifts).
Something I have used in the past sporadically was visualisation techniques (mental training). I had my goals written on a sheet pinned to my wall opposite my bed – see Figure 2 below.
Figure 2: Goals!
I would visualise for 5 minutes each morning and sometimes at night before bed if it was a work night. I think this is so undervalued and underutilised. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying for World Records or just Personal Best’s, don’t doubt these techniques in enhancing your performance. Read all about the how’s and why’s here: http://www.ambition-athletics.com/#!visualisation-practical-guide/c1h1k.
As we touched on above, my refeed and rehydration protocol was precise. I believe it really enhanced my performance after the 13 week cut and played a significant part in allowing me to achieve the goals I had set. After the refeed I felt alive again.
Competition Attempts went as follows:
Squat – 150kg/165kg/180.5kg (Scottish Open Record)
Bench Press – 102.5kg/110kg/112.5kg
Deadlift – 205kg/220.5kg (Scottish Open Record)/227.5kg (Scottish Open Record)
Total – 520.5kg (Scottish Open Record) @ 65.9kg
Results – 1st Place 66kg Category, 3 Scottish Records, Best Lifter of the competition and my best ever Wilks score – 409.2 points!
This was my most successful competition ever. Far off some of the heaviest weights I’ve touched when in the 74’s, but my Wilks score (which compares lifters of all bodyweights) was my best yet. I was so locked in and focused at this comp, probably because it had been a year and I needed the focus to generate confidence and adrenaline to overcome the aches and pains of an injury-carrying performance. It felt so good to be back.
From a personal standpoint, this result was a great marker that I can surpass in the future. I will be staying in the 66’s, doing countless rehab sessions, many reps on Bench Press and will be longing for the day I can be 100% and achieve what I desire. No complacency.
Figure 3: My friend Dav Kalsi and I
The main applicable message to take from all of this is not the standard of my performance (it wasn’t great) but more so how you might be able to cut weight and dominate.
If you want assistance in being able to cut weight, gain strength and take names – just fire me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check my services page at Ambition Athletics for all the details – http://www.ambition-athletics.com/#!fit-for-what-services/c15c
Extending a big thanks, as usual, to the support of Deluxe Nutrition in my pursuits – whether that be Bodybuilding or my first love of Powerlifting!