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IPA Iron House Powerlifting Classic
Contest Report

By Gary F. Zeolla

On Saturday April 16, 2005 I competed in the "Iron House Powerlifting and Bench Press Classic" in Newark, Ohio, hosted by Iron House Gym and sanctioned by the International Powerlifting Association (IPA). I competed in the 114 pound weight class in the men's pro, open and masters (40-44) divisions. My training leading up to this contest is detailed at Training Log (1/25/05 - 4/16/05). But before getting to the contest itself, a few details on events leading up to it.


First, this was my fifth contest since I started powerlifting again in April 2003. In fact, my first contest had been this same contest two years previously. I had done great at that contest, going 9/9, and thought it was an very well run contest (see Iron House Powerlifting Classic - 2003 for details). The best thing about the contest is that it is held in the ballroom of the hotel you stay at. Just go down the elevator in the morning and you're at the contest site! It's as convenient as you can get. So I was anxious to enter it again.

But the first time I entered it I had no problems making weight. My weight was only running about three pounds above the class limit of 114.5 pounds. But this time, my weight had been over 122 pounds. I got it down to 120 pounds the Monday before the contest. I then used the same cutting method I did for my last contest; I ate nothing but low-fat protein foods and vegetables. And it worked! I ended up weighing in at 113.5 pounds. So I lost 6.5 pounds in 4 days.

I drove to Newark on Thursday, so I could take full advantage of the IPA's "24 hour weigh-in rule" and weigh-in Friday morning. I then ate as much as I possibly could throughout the day. In fact, I was feeling very stuffed and a little sick by evening, so I was afraid I ate too much. I weighed 118.8 pounds the morning of the contest. So I had gained back over five pounds. But I was still so full I couldn't eat much for breakfast, but I felt fine come contest time.

Second, the weather in the Pittsburgh area the week before the contest was beautiful, wall-to-wall sunshine, highs in the 60s, with a mild breeze. But the problem with such beautiful weather is that it is "ideal" weather for pollen. And my allergies were acting up so much that I barely slept the four nights before leaving for the contest. But fortunately for me, the windows at the hotel don't open. You simply use the A/C as need be. So my allergies calmed down once I got there, and I actually slept very well at the hotel. In fact, I slept better than I ever had previously at a hotel including the night before the contest. So come the morning of the contest, I felt rather good.

Third, for my four previous IPA contests I had competed in the "amateur" division. But at my last contest I had totaled more than the IPA "pro" (elite) total. So that meant for this contest I had to enter as a pro. And the IPA had never had someone enter the 114 pound class as a pro in the open or masters divisions. So all I had to do was to make weight and not bomb out, and I would end up with eight more IPA records. So all of my attempts at this contest would be for IPA records.

This also meant that I had the option of taking a fourth attempt on any lift, as long as I made my third attempt. I doubted I would want to do so on squats or benches as I wouldn't want to risk tiring myself out too much for the rest of the contest. But I was considering a fourth attempt on DLs as an option for reasons I'll get to later.

And finally, originally it was scheduled for there to be two sessions on Saturday and then one on Sunday. But only forty lifters registered for the Saturday weight classes (114s-220s). So Mike Maxwell (the meet director) decided to only have one session on Saturday. He also decided to move back the start time from 9:00 to 10:00 am. With the sleep I had lost during the week, the extra hour sleep in the morning was really helpful, but I knew that with one session, I was in for a long day.


First, let me mention that this was the first contest at which I was using my new Crain squat shoes. I had gotten them about a month earlier and had used them for a few workouts. And I really like them. The best part about them is there are two Velcro straps on the front. You can tighten them really tight for a set or attempt, then loosen them in-between. So they really provide support for the lift, but your feet don't start feeling "choked" after having them on for a while. Of course, this does give you one more thing to do to get ready for squatting, but it's worth it. I just needed to remember to tighten the Velcro straps before putting on my knee wraps. I also found that if I pointed my toes out as much as possible before tightening the straps I could get them really tight.

That said, the contest ended up starting a little late, about 10:20 am. But it worked out good as it took my longer than I had planned to get my CMW double-ply squat suit on. It was fitting really tight! So I needed the extra time to get ready.

My first attempts was with 370. And I got it very easily, but I only got two white lights and one red light. This worried me as it's how IPA National Powerlifting Championships in 2003 had begun. At that contest, I then got two reds on my next two attempts. I didn't want a repeat, so I decided to really sink my second attempt with 390. I got it, but it was really difficult. I barely came up with it. But I knew there was no doubt about depth, and I got three whites.

I was a little unsure what to do now for my third attempt. At my last contest I had squatted 405, so I had planned on trying 410 for a PR (personal record). But with as hard as 390 had been, I wasn't sure if I could get it. So I thought of dropping the weight some. But I didn't see any point in doing 405 again, so I decided to go ahead with the 410. But I knew I would need to cut it a little higher to get it. But I got really psyched up and sunk it as best I figured I could. I ended up getting it and with strength to spare, and I got three whites as well! So squats went very well, and cutting all of that weight apparently didn't affect my strength on squats.

There were three flights of lifters, with me being in the first flight. My flight had taken an hour and 15 minutes for squats. So I figured it would be about 2-1/2 hours until I had to bench, or at least 1-1/2 hours until I had to start warming up for benches. So I figured I might as well go back to my hotel room, grab something to eat, and lie down for a while. This is where holding the contest in the hotel really proved convenient! Of course, it was a bit scary leaving the meet site, but I figured I had plenty of time. I ended up lying down for almost an hour, and I still got back in plenty of time to warm-up up for benches.

My bench training had been going very well. So I had been hoping for a double-bodyweight bench at this contest. But about a month before the contest I began having problems on benches. And I knew from experience that I lost more strength on benches than on squats and DLs from cutting weight. Since I had weighed-in at 113.5 pounds, 225 would be two pounds less than 2x bodyweight, and 230 three pounds over. Even with the problems, I was hoping to at least try one of these weights on my third attempt.

I opened with with 200. And I got it very easily. So I was thinking that 2x bodyweight bench might be within reach. But then my second attempt with 215 was very difficult. I barely got it. So I figured it was best to only try 225 on my third attempt. I got it about halfway up, and then it stalled. But this did tell me that my CMW Double Xtreme Bench Shirt was doing what it was supposed to do. I just need to do even more top-end work. In fact, I had just gotten some new bands before the contest just for this purpose.

In any case, I was a little disappointed on benches. But still, at my last contest I had only gotten 210, so that 215 was a PR. So with two lifts down I had gotten two PRs.

It had taken about an hour for my flight for benches. So I figured I had about two hours before I had to deadlift, or about an hour before I had to warm-up. So once again, I went back to my hotel room to eat and lie down. And once again, I made it back in plenty of time.

About two months before the contest I had a very strange problem on DLs. I had gone to the gym planning on doing 365 for a set of 4 reps, but I couldn't even budge it! I tried a couple of times, and nothing. I have no idea what happened. It was like I lost all of my DL strength at once. So I figured my only course of action was to drop the weights way down and work my way back up. And I did end up getting that 365/4 a couple of weeks before the contest, but still, I basically lost two months of training. So I knew going into this contest my DL was down from my previous contest.

But I was hoping that a gear change I had made might make up for it. For my previous contests I had worn a CMW single-ply DL suit. But for this contest I decided to wear my double-ply squat suit. Since the IPA allows double ply gear but CMW does not make a double-ply DL suit, and since I use a sumo stance on DLs, this made sense. And I had tried it once in training, and it went very well.

I had deadlifted 410 at my last contest, so I needed 415 for a PR. But with the problems I had in training, I knew 415 would be "iffy." But this was where I was thinking I might make use of a fourth attempt. I figured I'd be a little more conservative on my first three attempts to be sure I got a good total, and then go for the PR on my fourth.

I opened with 370, and it came up very easily. I then went to 390, and it was somewhat difficult, but not too hard. I then went to 405 for my third attempt. This would give a 1030 total. I had totaled 1025 at my last contest, so this would give a PR on my total. It was very difficult, and I almost stalled at the top, but I got it! But now it was time to try a fourth attempt for a PR on DLs.

I got as psyched up as I could for this lift. I doubt I had ever been more psyched for a lift before. The bar came off of the floor nicely, and I thought I would get it. But around my knees it stalled. I kept pulling and pulling and pulling, but it just wouldn't move any further. I finally had to give up and set the weight down.

Usually, if I can get the weight off of the floor I can get it the rest of the way if I just don't give up. But I think what happened was the double-ply suit was working in helping more than my single-ply suit, but only the bottom half of the lift. So this tells me I need to do more top end work on DLs as well. Along with "mini-bands" for benches, I had also just gotten some "light bands" for squats, but now I'll probably try doing some "reverse band DLs" with them as well.

After my final DL attempt, I again went back to my hotel room to shower and to lie down some. But this time I misestimated things. By the time I got back the awards ceremony was half over, and I had missed them calling my name! I had failed to account for the extra time I had waited until I took my fourth attempt. But Mike was nice enough to re-call my name. But still I was bummed as I missed the lifters from my flight and who I had been talking with during the contest get their trophies.

It was 7:30 pm by the awards ceremony was over. I had arrived at the ballroom at 9:00 am to start warming-up. So it has been a 10-1/2 hour day. But with being able to rest back in my hotel room between lifts and after the contest, I wasn't as fatigued afterwards as had been after my last contest. But still, after the contest I was too tired to go out to eat anywhere. So I just went back to my room, turned on the TV and ordered some pizza.

Final Thoughts and The Future

I ended up going 8/10. So overall my performance at this contest was very good. And I got PRs on squats, benches, and total. So in that respect this was a successful contest. However, those PRs were only by five pounds, and I had lost ten pounds on DLs. And five pounds was by far the smallest increase in squats and my total I had gotten from one contest to the next. But I have been having some setbacks health-wise over the last few months, so I did about as good as I could have expected.

But given this small increase, I figure it is best to wait a while until competing again. IPA Worlds is July 16-17, 2005 in York, PA. And Mark Chaillet (president of the IPA) was at the Iron House contest and was very excited about Worlds being held at York Barbell Company. But July would be too soon to compete again. However, IPA Nationals are November 11-13, 2005 and are also being held at York Barbell. That will be seven months after this contest and should be enough time to get my lifts up. So my plans right now are to skip Worlds but enter Nationals.

For pictures from this contest, see Iron House Powerlifting Classic - 2005 - Pictures.

For the routine I started using after the Iron House contest, see Training Log and 5 Phase Cycle (4/29/05 - 11/11/05).

Iron House Powerlifting Classic - 2005 - Contest Report. Copyright 2005 By Gary F. Zeolla.

Powerlifting and Back Pain

    The first book is geared towards the beginner to intermediate powerlifter. It presents sound training, competition, dietary, and supplement advice to aid the reader in starting and progressing in the sport of powerlifting. The second book details how I overcame years of crippling low back and was able to return to the sport of powerlifting.

Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting: A Comprehensive Guide to the World's Strongest Sport

Overcoming Back Pain: A Mind-body Solution (Second Edition)

See also this series on Amazon (#ad).

The above contest report was posted on this site April 27, 2005.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: Contest Reports

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