Yesterday, Sunday 6 September, I did my first GPC (Global Powerlifting Committee) powerlifting competition: Spring Cup at PTC Brisbane. I have competed in the past through IPF (International Powerlifting Federation), so I’m not a complete rookie, but due to some variations in the rules, I may as well be.
The squat is where most of the variation takes place. In IPF, as a raw lifter you are not allowed to use knee wraps and the squat takes place in an Eleiko squat stand.
Knee wraps provide some elastic assistance and compression of the quadriceps, which triggers increased muscular contraction. Doctors achieve a similar effect when they hit your knee with a hammer, which causes the quadriceps to fire, resulting in an involuntary kick. The addition of knee wraps in GPC’s definition of raw lifting has meant a couple months of me squatting in wraps to get used to it.
The squat stand used in IPF means that set-up involves unracking the bar and stepping back out of the rack. This is how most people will set up a squat in most gyms. However, in GPC, competition squats use a monolift. The monolift means that you unrack and then the supports holding the bar are pulled away from you. No stepping back, and if you do step back you’ve broken a rule.
A slight variation in the bench press is the GPC allows you to bench with your heels off the floor (but some part of your foot must be on the floor at all times). In IPF, the entire foot must be planted at all times. I prefer heels up, personally, because I have a much easier time obeying another rule which is agreed upon in both federations: your bum must stay planted on the bench throughout the lift. I’m never tempted to lift my butt off the bench when my heels are up, but with my heels down it’s a lot harder to keep my hips where I want them.
The day was a whole lot more fun than I’ve had competing in the past. This had a lot to do with the community present. That’s not to say that there isn’t good community in IPF. I made several friends in my IPF competitions. But the people running IPF competitions I’ve been to weren’t so fun, and if you knew what was going on, it was just as often in spite of them as it was because of them. In contrast, Scott and the team who ran Spring Cup were very friendly and approachable, went out of their way to make sure everything was clear, and there was zero chance of condescension if you made a mistake (I recall one of the judges in a previous competition belittling one of the girls over a minor rule because she “should know better”). Bonus points for punk/rock/metal music playing the entire time.
Okay, onto how things went for me personally. I’ll break this into two categories: lifting experience and coaching experience. While I wasn’t formally doing any coaching yesterday, I was helping out another lifter from Masterpiece Strength Academy, Josh “Smith Machine” Smith.
In my previous competitions, I’ve missed my final attempt on squat and bench press, and on my very first competition I missed my first bench press due to technical problems (jumped the start call). I was expecting to make some kind of blunder getting used to the new rules, but I got at least 2/3 white lights on every attempt, meaning all 9 attempts (3 squat attempts, 3 bench press attempts and 3 deadlift attempts) were successful. In fact, I rewatched my lifts this morning, and I think I only got 1 red light throughout the entire day, on my second bench press.
I went in hoping to squat 172.5kg, bench press 102.5kg and deadlift 195kg in the 67.5kg weight, and I achieved all three personal bests after weighing in at 67.3kg. Let’s have a look at my 3rd attempt on each lift. I’ll share a single video of the entire meet here, with times for my final attempts below. The reason I’m not linking directly to the individual attempts is that at the time of writing this, something’s going wrong with YouTube and it keeps ignoring the times that are plugged into it.
Third attempt can be found at 1:35:00. I’m pleased with how well I maintained technique here. The descent was slow enough to be controlled and fast enough to get a little bit of spring out of the bottom. My knees move in a tiny bit at the bottom, but nothing drastic. For the most part I was able to keep them out strong. On the concentric, things were fairly fast, but there was still a grind about halfway up, which suggests that I couldn’t have lifted much more than that. Had I gone for 175kg, it’s possible I could have gotten it, but it’s also likely that it would have drained me a lot and hampered my results on bench and deadlift. 172.5kg was an all-time PB and just under 2.6x bodyweight.
Third attempt can be found at 4:56:30. Again, straight A’s for technique, so there’s no surprise that there were white lights everywhere on this one. Evidently I’ve done something right in training over the last few months, because prior that that I had never benched more than 95kg. When I did my first attempt at 90kg, I thought they might have misloaded it, because it only felt like 80kg. Next attempt at 97.5kg (competition PB), it still felt light and easy. I was tempted to push my luck on my third attempt, but I’m glad I didn’t and instead stayed true to my plan to lift 102.5kg. This was slow on the way up, and the muscles that felt it the most afterwards were my glutes, which is normally a sign that the next increment up would have been a failed lift. 102.5kg was an all-time PB and just over 1.5x bodyweight.
Third attempt can be found at 7:40:45. I chose 195kg because, in training, I could barely get 190kg off the floor for singles. I had trained for 200kg, but when I couldn’t do any doubles at 190kg (and even had one shot at 190kg where the bar never left the ground), I decided to aim for 195kg in competition. It seems I underestimated how excited I’d be on the day (not to mention the effect of baby powder on my thighs), because 195kg came up fast and easy. Scotty said in the video: “Should’ve taken 200, I reckon,” so 5 minutes later I went back stage and that’s exactly what I did!
195kg was an all-time PB of +5kg and just under 2.9x bodyweight. 200kg was another PB and more like a true 1RM. It’s 2.97…x bodyweight. Can I claim a triple-bodyweight deadlift now? Or nah?
As I wasn’t really coaching anyone, the coaching experience I gleamed from this competition was a bit like Intern Boy on his first day. Tim (Josh’s actual coach, who was off doing Father’s Day stuff) left me to wrap Josh’s knees. I’ve never wrapped anyone before, so we went through it a couple times in the warm up area. Good thing, too, because my first attempt at wrapping him was off. It felt too tight behind his knees and when he squatted with it wrapped like that, the wrap on his left leg came apart enough to reveal skin.
Second time around was much better. I was able to cover greater area, wrap him so that it didn’t come apart at all, and made it feel much more comfortable — despite having actually wrapped him much tighter. Working on Josh’s wraps and watching other coaches wrapping their lifter’s knees was valuable practical experience, and allowed for some good observations.
Josh and I did each other’s lift-offs on bench press. This was nothing new to me at all, but it meant that I had access to the warm up area while the strongest men were preparing. Seeing how some of the best do it is always beneficial. By working with Josh on his squat and bench press, I had a very privileged position in seeing what other powerlifters and their coaches are doing. This, in turn, is a tiny little inch forward in becoming a better coach myself, so that I can help you become a better lifter.