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From Scratch to IPA World Records
Part Two

by Gary F. Zeolla

This article is continued from From Scratch to World Records - Part One.

New Cycle and Routine

After my practice contest, I took a few days off. I then started a new training cycle. For it, I followed the same format as for the first cycle, but with a couple of changes.

First, I started with 6-8 reps for the first phase rather than 8-10. Since my focus was now powerlifting, eight reps were the highest I wanted to go on the powerlifts and major assistance exercises. So this cycle only had four rep phases: 6-8/ 4-6/ 2-4/ 1-2. For major assistance exercises, I did 6-8 reps in the first two phases and 4-6 in the second two.

Second, I initially planned on using a twelve week cycle this time. However, almost halfway through I decided on the contest I wanted to enter: the IPA Iron House Classic, April 12, 2003, in Newark, Ohio. I had to shorten up the last three phases of the cycle to coincide with the contest, so the cycle ended up running for nine weeks.

In designing my new routine, I changed most of my assistance exercises. But I utilized the same type of four-day per week, split routine I had begun using the beginning of the year. The routine went as follows:

Workout Format:
Day One: Squat, Upper Back.
Day Two: Bench, Abs.
Day Three: Deadlift, Biceps, Forearms.
Day Four: Bench Assistance, Abs.

Day One:
1. Squat
2. Low Squat
3. Calf Raises
4. Rows
5. Lat. Pulldowns

Day Two:
1. Bench
2. Dips
3. Incline Bench
4. Reverse Crunches
5. Machine Abs.

Day Three:
1. Deadlift
2. Deadlift off of Blocks
3. Cable Pulls
4. Curls
5. Reverse Wrist Curls
6. Wrist Curls

Day Four:
1. Wide Grip Bench
2. Two Board Bench
3. DB Press
4. Tricep Pushdowns
5. Twisting Crunches
6. Nautilus Abs.

So I was now working each body part twice a week and each powerlift once a week. To avoid overtraining, I reduced the number of exercises per day to five or six. But with only doing each exercise once a week, this increased the number of different exercises to 22. This enabled a greater variety of lifts to be done.

The “low squats” require a bit of explanation. I had done these in college with good results. They are designed to help the bottom part of the lift, my obvious problem area on squats.

Low squats are done in a power rack. Two sets of safety bars are inserted in the rack, one set of bars about four inches below parallel and the other set about nine inches below lockout. The bar is placed on the bottom set of bars. The lifter squeezes under it and then squats rapidly up and down just tapping each set of safety bars without stopping between reps. This exercise really pumps up the legs and glutes. As an added benefit for my situation, it also helped to increase my flexibility. After a few weeks, I was able to really sink my squats without getting buried.

First Contest Prep and Performance

I prepared for the Iron House Classic basically the same way I had prepared for my practice contest. The only difference was I purchased a squat suit, bench shirt, and deadlift suit. I wore these, along with a belt and wraps, for my final workouts for each lift and, of course, at the contest.

Also I had been maintaining my bodyweight at between 116-117 pounds. So had a couple of pounds to lose to make the 114 pound class for the contest. The limit is actually 114.5 pounds due to being converted from 52 kilograms. I ended up weighing in at 113.5 pounds, one pound under the limit, having lost about three pounds.

My attempts at the Iron House Classic were:
Squat: 275 - 290 - 305
Bench: 175 - 190 - 195
Deadlift: 325 - 340 - 350

I totaled 850 and went 9 for 9 with 27 white lights! The reason for this perfect day in my first contest in 21 years could be traced back to when I began lifting the previous July. Remember that I said my main concern then was to use proper form, and this remained the case throughout my training. And the payback was this perfect day.

I also broke all four IPA men’s amateur masters world records and the open deadlift and total world records. So in nine months I went from starting from scratch, lifting just the bar, to breaking a total of six IPA world records.

Second Contest Prep and Performance

After Iron House contest, I took a week off. I then figured out that I would have about 13 weeks of training until my next contest, the IPA World Championships on August 8, 2003. Rather than utilizing one long cycle for this entire time-period, I decided to do three "mini-cycles."

For these mini-cycles, I utilized the same four-phase rep progression as above for the powerlifts (i.e. 6-8/ 4-6/ 2-4/ 1-2). But this time, for the first two mini-cycles, each phase lasted only one week. I added an extra week of 2-4 reps to the last mini-cycle so as to peak for the contest. So the first two mini-cycles lasted four weeks and the third one five weeks. For major assistance exercises, I did 6-8 reps the first two weeks of each mini-cycle and 4-6 reps the second two or three weeks. So with this routine, I did lower reps more often on the powerlifts and major assistance exercises than I had been doing previously.

I also changed all of my assistance exercises, with again the choice of exercises being based on what seemed to be the hardest part of each lift at the Iron House Classic. But I used the same four day per week format.

I initially, my training did not go very well. Part of the reason for this was a normal post-contest letdown. But in addition to this, I had a setback in my health situation and even a rather severe three-day flare-up the beginning of May. But after that, I began feeling much better, and my training began going very well. Squats, especially, began to really take off. My problem with lack of flexibility causing me to have difficulty sinking squats cleared up completely.

During this time period, I also tried to gain a little more weight. After dropping to 113.5 for my first contest, I wanted to get up to 4-5 pounds over the limit; train at that higher weight for a couple of moths, then cut the weight starting a week before the contest.

The flare-up I had in May slowed my weight gain somewhat, but I reached a high of 118.8 pounds on June 26. So I had gained 13 pounds in the preceding 14 months. This was even more than the 117 I had weighted before my more recent health problems had begun. It was also the most I had weighed since I had initially stopped lifting weights way back in the mid-1980’s. So I was rather excited about this weight gain.

However, I then had over four pounds to lose to make weight for the contest. But I lost it easily, weighing in at 113.7 pounds. See Cutting Weight/ Post-Weigh-in Eating and Drinking for details on how I lost the weight and ate and re-hydrated after weigh-ins.

My attempts at IPA Worlds were:
Squat: 310 - 325 - 340
Bench: 185 - 200 - 205
Deadlift: 340 - 355 - 365

I totaled 900--a 50 pound increase over my previous contest. I broke all six of my own records, along with the open squat record. So I now hold seven IPA world records. I also went 8 for 9, missing only my third bench attempt. The only red lights I got were the three reds on the missed bench attempt. So in my first two contests in 21 years, I never got a red light for a rules infraction. And only one missed attempt out of 18 isn’t bad either. So again, the emphasis on correct form really paid off.

New Training Routine

After IPA Worlds, I took a few days off. I then started a new training routine. Once again, I changed all of my assistance exercises, with the choice of exercises being based on where the hardest part of each lift was at the contest. But I stayed with the same four day per week format.

However, rather than utilizing a cycle method, this time I decided to try something new. For want of a better term, I am calling it a “two-week rotation.” For the powerlifts, I began alternating doing higher reps (5-8) without supportive gear the first week and lower reps (1-4) with gear the second week.

On major assistance exercises I began alternating doing 6-8 reps the first week and 3-5 reps the second week. So I’m going a little lower on reps than previously, but I’m still not using any gear for the assistance work.

So there has been a natural progression to my lifting. I started out doing only higher reps. I then gradually cycled the reps down over a period of several weeks to prepare for my “practice contest” in January of 2003. So it was several months after I started lifting before I did lower reps. However, immediately after the practice contest I went back to higher reps, and then cycled down again over a shorter period of time for my contest in April. So it was several weeks before doing lower reps again.

I then used three shorter cycles to prepare for my contest in August. And these mini-cycles had me doing lower reps about once a month. And now I am doing lower reps every other week.

The point of this is that lower reps are rather taxing to the joints. So beginner lifters should avoid them altogether until the joints have time to strengthen via higher reps. But as a lifter progresses, lower reps can be incorporated more often.

So basically, I utilized just enough lower reps for my first year of training to enable me to get back into powerlifting. But now I am confident I am to the point where I can safely focus more on lower reps.

I’m not exactly sure when my next competition will be. I might enter the IPA Nationals Championships November 14, 2003. If I do, I will utilize my current routine until then and then change it once again afterwards. If I don’t enter that contest, I will use this routine until sometime in December and then change it. Whether entering a contest or not, I believe it is good to change one’s routine every 3-4 months.

As far as my bodyweight goes, as of this writing I weigh about 118 pounds. And I want to keep my training weight between this and 119.5 pounds. Being a few pounds over the class limit aids my training, but I want keep my weight within five pounds of the limit. As long as am able to do so I should have no problems staying at 114s. For those who are curious, I am 5’1” tall and, as of this writing, 42 years old.

A final point worth mentioning is that despite still struggling with some health problems I have not sustained a lifting-related injury. This is probably because I have avoided the main reasons for injuries: working out while being in an overtrained state, using improper form, increasing weights too quickly, trying to handle more weight than one is capable of, and doing low reps too early or too frequently for a beginner lifter.

More Details and Updates

Each of the above mentioned training routines are discussed in greater detail in the articles listed at My Training Routines. More detailed reports on the above mentioned contests are listed at Contest Reports. And rather than updating this article, I will post additional articles on future training routines I utilize and contest I enter and list them on these pages. For further details on my background in general, see My Powerlifting Background.

To close, I thank God for how my health has improved over the past 13 months and for how well my training and competitions have gone. And I hope to see further improvements in the future.

From Scratch to IPA World Records. Copyright 2003 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this site August 24, 2003.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: My Powerlifting Background

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