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Memoirs From The Platform

July 14, 2011 08:00 AM

Powerlifting is a thankless sport. I’ve learned a lot from my experience, especially in the last few years. I’ve had a little success, set some meet records, had amazing training sessions, set some huge gym PR’s, AND had some great disappointment too. I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to lift on the Power To The People Deadlift Team, which lifts once a year at a pre-designated powerlifting meet. Last year it was set for the Raw Unity Meet in Tampa Bay, FL in January of 2010.
Let me rewind a bit to the year leading up to this meet so you can see how things progressed.
I had been in an indefinite layoff from powerlifting since May of 2007 due to some nagging injuries (from powerlifting ironically) and decided after CK-FMS in August 2008 that I would get myself "fixed" and shoot for a meet in 2009 with the ultimate goal of competing in a national unequipped meet. There was a regional meet in June 2009 I had my sights on and I started training around 12 weeks out.
My training cycle consisted mostly of Westside principles, mixed with Hardstyle and LOTS of FMS correctives. I lost weight and got surprisingly stronger. So I competed in a lighter weight class (181) and did fairly well. I set a few records in my age group and weight class, which was nice, but far from my goals of totaling Raw Elite. I think I hit 446 in the squat, 297 in the bench and 551 in the deadlift for a total of 1294 at 178 pounds bodyweight…nothing spectacular, but a decent showing.
I had some time to recover and build before the national meet in October…Unequipped Nationals in Oklahoma City. I started using a program written by Jim Wendler of Elite Fitness Systems called 5/3/1, mixed with Hardstyle and again, more correctives. I was feeling great and hitting some huge volume PR’s in my training sessions. I think my best deadlift day during training I pulled 505 from a 2 inch deficit (that means my feet were elevated 2" on some plates) for 11 reps. I just knew 600 was going down in October!
Well, Unequipped Nationals finally rolls around in October of 2009. I’ll just say that it may be impossible or an extreme rarity to go into a meet feeling 100% on all sides: physically and mentally. I had been battling a sinus cold leading up to the meet, plus the five and a half hour drive to Oklahoma City while trying to cut weight didn’t help. I weighed in early on Friday night and made weight (179, I think), but my cold was getting to me, I was feeling weak from the cut and I had trouble re-hydrating and calorie loading…not good signs the night before a meet.
I got up early, got to the meet and started warm-ups for the squat. They had one warm-up platform, so the heavyweights were mixing in with the lights and middles for warm-up time which meant you had to be ready once the weight got close to your desired warm-up or you’d miss your chance. I didn’t have anyone there "handling" me for this meet, which was a major mistake on my part, so I had to be extra-attentive to the load on the bar for warm-ups and the lifting order on the platform so I could be sure to be ready once I was in the hole (3rd in line) to lift.
My first squat attempt of 440 went smooth, was deep and had no issues. During my 2nd squat attempt of 457, I tweaked something in my back on the ascent. (I later found out it was my lower trap) I couldn’t roll the trap out before my last attempt and missed at 474. The trap issue really messed up my bench groove, but it didn’t really hit me until I got close to my opener in warm-ups. Since I was by myself, I was too slow to change my opener before my 1st attempt at bench so I ended up missing all 3 bench attempts at a ‘whopping’ 292 (a weight I had tripled in the gym just 3 weeks earlier). Note: In powerlifting you have a chance to change your 1st attempt of each lift at the scoring table within a certain amount of time before the lifting begins. Otherwise you’re stuck with what you gave them during your weigh-ins.
3 misses on the bench at a national meet. 9 red lights. Stick a fork in me…I was done! Then it hit me…I just bombed out of a powerlifting meet for the first time! I couldn’t have been more bummed!
I was embarrassed, disappointed and couldn’t believe I’d spent nearly a year of my time, effort, money and training to end up with this result! On top of it, I had to explain to the multitude of people supporting me that I bombed out and didn’t even get to deadlift… which I had expected to be my best lift and hit a huge PR.
After I sulked for about a week and had a few pity-parties, I decided to keep on training for the Raw Unity Meet and try to do The Party proud by representing for the PTTP Deadlift team. Since I was under the qualifying total for lifting in the full power meet, I would only qualify to lift in the ‘deadlift only’ division. This wasn’t optimal, but it was the best alternative since this is my strongest lift.
I built a deadlift program around several different training paradigms: Programming tips from Power To The People Professional (specifically the section on Konstantin Konstantinovs’ training), an edited version of Rite of Passage (ROP) from Enter The Kettlebell (ETK) [courtesy advice of Master RKC, Jeff O’Connor], CK-FMS methods, and Wendler’s 5/3/1.
Here’s what a sample week looked like as I trained for this meet:
Monday – 5/3/1 Deadlift Day
FMS correctives, TGU’s, Pistol Squat Patterning
3 sets of 3 in the deadlift at a 2" deficit, competition stance (Sumo stance for me):
- Set 1 – 70% of 1RM
- Set 2 – 80% of 1RM
- Set 3 – 90% of 1RM - (Get 3 or more reps. Go for a Rep PR, but leave 1 or 2 reps in the tank)
3 rounds of the following:
- Glute Hamstring Raise holding 12kg – 15 reps
- Double Swings 2-48kg – 10 reps
- Double Front Squat – 2-40kg – 5 reps
LOTS of stretching and some Kalos Sthenos Get Ups (KSTGU) for cool-down.
Tuesday – ROP day
FMS correctives, TGU’s
Medium Ladders of Bottoms Up Press and Pull Ups
- 2-24kg, for 5x1,2,3,4,5
- Superset with Bodyweight or Weighted Pull Ups using various grips (wide, narrow, double under, alternating, etc.)
LOTS of stretching and some KSTGU for cool-down.
Wendesday – GPP day
FMS correctives, TGU’s
5 Rounds of the following:
- Plate Push – 100 lb Plate (up and down my gym floor) down and back = about 30 yards
- Farmer Carry – 2-40kg ~ 150 yards
- Viking Push Press or Snatch – 24kg – 20 reps
LOTS of stretching and some KSTGU for cool-down.
Thursday – Deadlift Accessory Day from PTTP-Pro
FMS correctives, TGU’s, Single Leg Deadlift Patterning
Light Deadlift w/ Monster Bands (blue)
- Start at 50% of 1RM and add 10-20 lbs each set
- 8 singles at the top of the minute
- Focusing on speed and acceleration during concentric phase
Wide Stance, Low Box Squat
- 5x5
- 75% of 1RM
3 rounds of the following:
- GHR holding 12kg – 15 reps
- Double Swings 2-48kg – 10 reps
- Double Front Squat – 2-40kg – 5 reps
LOTS of stretching and some KSTGU for cool-down.
Friday – ROP Day
FMS correctives, TGU’s
Heavy Ladders of Bottoms Up Press and Pull Ups
- 2-28kg, for 3x1,2,3
- Superset with Bodyweight or Weighted Pull Ups using various grips (wide, narrow, double under, alternating, etc.)
LOTS of stretching and some KSTGU for cool-down.
Saturday – GPP day
FMS correctives, TGU’s
5 Rounds of the following:
- Plate Push – 100 lb Plate (up and down my gym floor)
- Farmer Carry – 2-40kg ~ 150 yards
- Viking Push Press or Snatch – 24kg – 20 reps
LOTS of stretching and some KSTGU for cool-down.
Sunday – Rest Day
Watched John Wayne movies all day…of course!
I used this template for 13 weeks leading up to Raw Unity. I took the 13th week off and just did some light singles to grease the groove and light stretching.
I ended up coming into the meet lighter than I ever have at 177 and opened with 534 (242.5kg). I had a little trouble with it, but knew this was a go-for-broke meet, so I set up for a bigger-than-usual jump in weight to 573 (260kg). This attempt was an all-time PR for me in the gym, or at a meet. I pulled it pretty quick and decided to go for my "unicorn" number on the 3rd and attempted 600 (272.5kg). After reviewing the video, I actually got the weight off the ground, the bar was bending, but I just couldn’t get my hips wedged under me to get the weight moving and missed the attempt. So my best pull was 573 at 177 lbs body weight, a 3.24x bodyweight pull…my best ever in weight and ratio.
JasonMarshall powerlifting
The meet used the Wilkes Formula to score each division. There were only two divisions for deadlift-only and since I was in the lightweight division (181 and under), I managed to squeak out 2nd place in the lightweights and 5th overall, lights and heavies. I was shocked to say the least!
All in all I’m glad I came back after my bomb-performance at the national meet to train for this. It was hard sucking up all that frustration, but such is life in the sport of powerlifting. Again, it’s a thankless sport. There’s a lot to be said for those that are out there, grinding it out in garage gyms or courage corners, logging reps, tweaking technique by self-video, scouring training logs on the web to learn from the best and strongest, spending major amounts of their hard-earned money on books, equipment, food, travel and meet fees, just to see what they can do…because that’s really what it’s all about. What can I do? What’s my potential? What’s my limit? How far can I push myself? These are the questions that plague my mind every time I walk into my gym…my little piece of heaven.
In reality, I’m just a nobody without any special talent or ability. I don’t have any genetic gifts, major athletic accomplishments, or even any athletic ability on either side of my family tree. The only trait I was lucky enough to pick up along the way was from the sweat I shed on the cotton farm I grew up on. My step-dad was hard on me growing up, but in a good way. He made me do the most insane things to help around the farm…things that might be in violation of most child-labor laws. But I wouldn’t trade a second of it for ALL the world’s gold, because it carved out a character trait he knew I couldn’t purchase. Hard work is the essence of the gym…at least the true gyms that are still out there. They are a dying breed, but I believe the RKC can be a birthplace for these relics nearing extinction.
Powerlifting and the Hardstyle system has taught me that with some effort and planning, everyone out there can see their potential, or at least get close to it. I guess I harbor the mindset that says let’s see it instead of wonder or talk about it. The gems of information found within Pavel’s works, specifically Power to the People (as well as the Pro version) and Enter the Kettlebell can be the stepstool to realizing that potential. Just add a little elbow grease, a dash of sweat, and a healthy helping of time and you’ll be good to go!

Jason Marshall is the owner of a performance training studio in Lubbock, Texas called Lone Star Kettlebell. He is an RKC Team Leader and a Certified Kettlebell-Functional Movement Specialist (CK-FMS). He has a B.S. in Exercise and Sport Science from Texas Tech University. Jason can be reached for training and consultation via email ( or his website