competition series

The Competition Series

Prepare & perform for competition & sport.

We examine sports-specific training, mindset, programming, & your first meet. Whether you’re a new lifter or an experienced lifter, you’ll find practical tips to help you maximize your performance.

Ep 1: Prepping for Your First Meet

You signed up for your first meet: what do you do now? Scott & Matt discuss what to do now.

A huge part of preparing for a meet is realizing the purpose of the meet. The purpose of the meet is to set PRs, give your training a purpose, have some fun, meet some people, and leave feeling encouraged about lifting. Nobody cares who wins.

You should change as little as possible leading up to the meet if it’s your first meet. If you’re a novice, just keep doing LP. Maybe you can practice some singles and do a super short 2 week “peak,” but that’s not necessary.

This applies to powerlifting meets and strengthlifting meets. Go set PRs. It doesn’t really matter if the league doesn’t enforce squat depth: squat to full depth. 

So, sign up for a meet, have some fun, set some PRs, and continue your lifting path. 

Ep 2: Meet Day

Despite the fact that meets are fun and help give more purpose to our training, they can be a long, stressful day, and we recommend having a coach or handler who can worry about the administrative and logistical things (when are you up, get you food and drinks, etc.).

There are many common pitfalls that people tend to do their first meet.

Don’t stay amped the whole day. Relax when it’s time to relax. Don’t get amped up until you’re going for the final attempts, and, really, you shouldn’t get really amped until that final deadlift attempt. 

Don’t stress about form. You might have that 1 cue in your mind you need to think of, but don’t second guess or overthink it. Have a cue in mind and lift the darn weight.

Don’t warm up too much or too early. 

Eat and drink. If you’re nervous, you’re likely to undereat, which can harm your performance. Have salt, carbs, and water. Don’t eat things you’re not used to eating.

Speaking of not eating things you’re not used to eating, don’t do anything new or for the first time. If you’d like to try something (deadlift slippers, singlet, a food or drink), test it out during at least one normal workout. 

Ensure you prepare correctly: have enough of everything. Have extra socks, extra food, extra shoes, etc. 

And, remember, it’s about setting PRs. Go out there and have some fun.

Ep 3: Sport Specific Training

We understand that some people don’t train strength just for general health or quality of life, but to improve their performance in a sport or physical activity. How do you both train strength and improve sports performance?

Right now, hyper-specific training is in fashion. For example, throwing an extra heavy shot or doing half squats with a narrow stance because it mimicks the football player’s stance. 

This type of training neither offers productive training nor productive practice. 

Training prepares the athletes physically for the sport. This can be structural or metabolic (basically, strength or conditioning). 

Practice improves the performance of skills (eg throwing or kicking a ball). While physical stress comes from both of them, strength acquisition comes from strength training. Strength training improves the athletes’ ability to produce force, which they can then apply on the field of play. 

A common confounding factor with sports is that while we know that strength and conditioning is important for sports performance, world-class athletes are genetic freaks and will remain world-class despite sub-par programming. Despite this, people too often look to the best athletes for their routines, when we really should look at average and below average athletes and see what works for them. How do you take, for example, the typical high school football player who might start squatting 135 on day 1 and get them to squat 405?

People have a limited time and limited ability to recover from stress. The bulk of an athletes strength training should focus on multi-joint exercises that train the most muscle mass over the longest effective range of motion with the most weight. This of course means that athletes should squat, deadlift, bench press, and press. 

Ep 4: USSF with Jordan Stanton

Jordan Stanton, the President of the United States Strengthlifting Federation (USSF) joins Matt & Scott to discuss the differences between USSF & other federations.

3 things stand out with USSF: weigh-outs vs weigh-ins, press not bench press, and no judging commands. 

Immediately following your third deadlift attempt, you are escorted by someone of the same-sex to a private room where they take your weight. You are not allowed to use the bathroom until after the weight is recorded. This prevents huge weight drops (Jordan discuss dropping nearly 50 pounds for one of his meets), both making the meets safer and shorter.

USSF primarily involves the press, not the bench press. The USSF now has instituted bench press competitions with rules that do not require commands, but the press is the USSF’s bread and butter.

Lastly, and also a huge deal, is that the USSF does not have the judges give commands. Clear rules are posted and the lifters are expected to understand the rules, but the judges judge the lifts. This prevents the judges from affecting the performance of a lift with bad commands. 

Some of the other details are that the attempts are in kilograms and go up in 1 kilogram increments and you get 3 attempts per lift. You can take a second attempt at the same weight, but you cannot decrease the weight once you’ve set the weight.

The USSF, also, has many online competitions. This allows greater competition, cheaper entry, and also prevents some travel and gathering concerns with COVID.

So, if you’re looking for a meet to organize your training, sign up for a USSF meet, whether it be in person or online.

Ep 5: How to Build a Power Athlete with NFL Veteran John Welbourn

John Welbourn joins Scott & Matt to discuss his journey from skinny kid to NFL athlete to fitness figure trying to share the benefits of strength & fitness.

John Welbourn enjoyed a long career in the NFL, in part because of his dedication in the gym and in the kitchen. He ate healthy foods, being an early adopter of the paleo diet, and saw the benefits on the field from getting strong in the gym. He also got a degree in rhetoric, of all things, certainly flying in the face of the typical big, strong guy stereotype.

As he transitioned out of the NFL, he found CrossFit and initially bought into the idea of metabolic fitness serving as the base to build a well-rounded general fitness, but quickly realized that strength offers a better base upon which to add metabolic conditioning (think of someone with a 405 clean & jerk doing Grace–30 135lb clean & jerks–versus someone with a 185 clean & jerk, regardless of if the weaker person is better conditioned).

Despite John’s elite performance, he has a lot of practical wisdom and ultimately decided to use his knowledge and skills to help everyday people, not just act like the elite strength plans should be followed by novices.




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