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RPS Dog Days Powerlifting Contest - 2018

Contest Report

By Gary F. Zeolla

9/9, 27 white lights

Eight RPS Records

One Personal Record (50s PR)

One All-time American Record

One All-time World Record




      I competed in the Lexen Dog Days powerlifting contest for the Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate (RPS) in Grove City, OH, on Saturday, August 18, 2018, held at Lexen Xtreme Gym. The meet director was the gym owner Dan Dauge. I competed in the Pro division, 114-pound weight class, men’s masters (55-59 age) category, Modern Raw (raw with wraps) division. For my final workout logs leading up to this contest, see Summer 2018 Tetra/ Trinity Final Five Weeks Training Pre-Contest Powerlifting Training Plan.




      I weighed 124.4 pounds on Wednesday (8/8). I needed to weigh 114.5 at 9 am Friday (8/17) to make weight for the 114-pound (52 kg) weight class. That meant I had 9.9 pounds to lose in 9 days, which was 8% of my bodyweight. By the morning of weigh-ins, I was down to 116.0 pounds. But I was able to move my bowels, and that brought me down to 115.4 at 7:30 am. Weigh-ins were not until 10:00 am, so I figured I would be fine.

      When I got to Lexen gym, there were already about half a dozen guys there waiting to weigh-in. Like me, then had all lost ten or more pounds. One guy, who was really built, looking more like a bodybuilder than a powerlifter, said he was lifting at 181s. I said to him that he looked like he was far more than that and asked what he started at. He said at 215. That sounded more like it.

      I waited until right before I was ready to be weighed in to try to urinate, and I was able to do a little. I weighed in at 114.0 pounds. That means, I lost 10.4 pound in 9 days, which is 8.3% of my bodyweight.

      I had a harder time with cutting weight this time that previously in that normally hunger is not that much of a problem, but this time, I got really hungry the last two days. I also barely sleep the last three days. But I am not sure if that was due to cutting weight or due to the many other reasons I have problems with insomnia, as I also barely slept the night before the contest. That could have also been due to problems with the hotel. But so much happened there, I will post a review of it separately (see Hotel Review and MCS Problems).

      But here, what the sleeplessness was not due to was being nervous about the contest. In fact, I barely even thought about the contest throughout the week. That was because my Peaking Workouts went exactly as planned, and my attempts at the contest are based on those workouts and flow naturally from them. In other words, a contest is almost just like another workout, a natural outcome of my training plan, with little guesswork as to what to attempt at the contest. Under no circumstances do I increased a planned lift, but I might drop an attempt if I am not feeling good, which was the case this time, which I will get to a moment.

      But first, after weigh-ins, I ate a double-portion of my normal pre-workout snack at the gym, then drove back to my hotel, showered, then tried to space out eating and drinking fluids throughout the day. But I was not able to eat and drink as much as I had hoped, as I was just feeling too stuffed.

      When I did the calculations later, I only consumed about 3,300 calories rather than the closer to 4,000 calories that I normally eat after weigh-ins. As result, my weight was only up to 118.8 the next morning, the morning of the contest, whereas normally I am closer to 120. But it was interesting that I weighed 118.8 on 8-18-18.




Gear: Crain: power belt, Genesis wrist wraps, APT heavy knees sleeves. 

Warm-ups: --/15, 50/10, 140/9, 165/7, add belt: 195/5, add sleeves: 230/2, 250/1 

Planned: 275, 290, 305
Actual: 275, 290, 300* 


      As mentioned, I barely slept the night before the contest and was feeling a bit discouraged. But I took a short but very hot shower right before leaving my hotel room. That was to help loosen me up so as to more easily hit death on squats. And it worked. In training, I always start my warmups with a set of 15 bodyweight squats. Normally, it takes about a dozen reps before I can hit depth, but I was able to go all the way down on the first rep.

      Warmups felt good. My final set with 250 was hard, but I was not at all psyched for it, so I figured I’d be okay. I opened with 270 and came up with it cleanly and got 3 white lights, but it was harder than I had hoped. The same goes for my second attempt with 290.

      I planned on going 305 for my third attempt. But with being so tired, I thought it best to drop it down to 300. The lift was very difficult but not quite a full max, and I got it for three whites. I might have gotten the 305, but it would have required a 100% effort, so it was probably best I didn’t try it so as to save my legs for deadlifts, as it was on deadlifts that I had my most important goal for the day. But that still meant things worked out just as my Peaking Workout indicated they would, as 305 probably would have been possible with a full effort and a good night’s sleep.




Gear: Crain: power belt, Genesis wrist wraps. 

Warm-ups: 45/13, 65/9, 85/7, 100/5, 120/3, add gear: 135/1 

Planned: 150, 160, 170
Actual: 150, 160, 170


       Warmups went very well. The final single with 135 felt easy, so easy, that if it were not for my previously method “rule” of never increasing attempts, I might have increased my opener. But I stayed with 150, it went felt good and for three whites, although the “Press” command was very slow in coming. It almost felt like I was doing the “Three-Count Pause Benches” I do as an assistance exercise in training. But it was good that I do those, so as to be prepared to hold the bar that long.

      I then went up to my planned 160 for my second attempt. It was very hard, with again, that slow “Press” command. But I got it without too much ado and again for three whites. I thought of only going to 165 for my third attempt, but a five pounds increase did not seem worth it. And I figured even if it took a full effort to get the 170, that would not adversely affect deadlifts, so I went for it.

      There was again the slow “Press” command. I got it moving but slowly. Then the bar hit the rack on the right side, throwing the bar out of balance, but I somehow got control of it and keep pushing it very slowly to lockout. With that rack hit, it was a full effort, and I wasn’t sure if it would be good or not. But I once again got three white lights. I later checked the RPS Rulebook, and it says, “The bar may make incidental contact with the bench uprights and still be considered a good lift.”

      I thought that was the case. But what I didn’t expect is that my upper back really cramped up on me as I stepped off of the platform. I thought, “Oh no, maybe going all out on benches was not such a good idea, as it will affect deadlifts.” But thank God, the cramping let up after a few minutes, and I forgot all about it. It was also good that I did not change my planned attempts, as things worked out just as my Peaking Workouts indicated they would.




Gear: Gear: Crain power belt, singlet; CVS knee sleeves; APT wrist bands. 

Warm-ups: --/15, 45/10, 135/9, 180/7, add belt: 235/5, add sleeves: 280/3, 325/1

Planned: 360, 380, 400
Actual: 360, 380, 400


      This was the lift I was looking forward to. But warmups did not go well at all. The 325 felt slow and heavy. But I still felt confident in that my Peaking plan, as it had been right on so far, so I stuck with my planned attempts.

      The 360 felt heavy and slow but not so much as to cause me to change my plans. The 380 then was very difficult. But I never considered lowering my planned third attempt, as there was no reason to do so. I had pulled 395 at my last contest, so dropping it to that would have just been a repeat past of last time.

      But most of all, going in, my main goal for this contest was to pull 400. That was not just for the round number but for the All-time, raw, master (50-59), world record. The record was 396, held by a lifter from Israel since 2013.

      When I started competing again after a six-year break in 2015, with now being in my 50s, I had been eying that record. I thought I would try it at my last contest last September, and I was on track to do so, until a health setback a month before the contest messed up my training. As a result, my Peaking Workout was such that I did not think 400 was doable, so I only tried 395. And it was a good thing, as I barely got it.

      But this time, I was on track for 400, and thank God the record had not changed, so I had to go for it. I got more psyched up than I ever had for a lift. The bar came off of the floor easily, so easily, it almost surprised me. Then the bar progressed slowly but surely to completion, far easier than I had thought.

      Don’t get me wrong. It was a very hard lift. It is just that I just assumed it would be a 100% effort grinder, but it was not. It actually felt easier than the 380, and I probably could have done 5-10 pounds more. But that will be for another day. For now, I raised my arms and yelled in triumph. A three-year goal finally realized!


Total and Attempts Ratio


      I totaled 870. That was 15 pounds less than at my last contest. I benched five pounds less but deadlifted five pounds more, so those two lifts canceled each other out. The drop was due to using sleeves rather than wraps on squats. Last time, I squatted 325 versus the 300 here. But the 300 gives me a new “50s PR” to try to better next time.

      As I mentioned in my training log, benches had not gone well all year, until a month or so ago, so I am thankful they were as good as were as they could have been a lot worse if not for that late surge. It was only deadlifts that have been going well, leading to me hitting my goal on them. But now I will need to set a new goal for them.

      Meanwhile, for the fifth contest out of six this decade, I went 9/9, and the one time I did not, I went 8/9. That means, I have missed one attempt in the past six contests, over a three-and-a-half-year span. That is not due to dogging it at contests. As indicted, maybe I could have gotten five pounds more on squats, benches were full max, while I thought deadlifts would be. And all three final attempts were more than I had done in training prior to this contest. The reason I am not missing attempts is simply because I know what I am doing and how to properly peak for a contest.

      I am not saying that to brag, as it took me decades to figure it all out. I only went 9/9 twice out of the nine contests I entered in the ‘00s, and I don’t think I ever went 9/9 back in college. If I only knew back then what I know now.


Unsolicited Advice?


      Along those lines, I struggled with giving “unsolicited advice” in the warmup room. A woman, who was probably in her 20s, was warming up with me on squats, with both of us using the same Monolift.

      I could see that she was not even coming close to going down low enough, and her form was terrible, with her leaning way too far forward. I thought about saying something, but I figured it was not my place to do so. And besides, I was so tired, it was hard enough to focus on my own warmups without trying to “coach” someone else.

      I say that as, despite what you might see in my Workout Videos and me acting up on the platform, I am actually normally a very reserved person. The acting up is just my “powerlifting persona,” kind of like the normally mild-mannered Terry Gene Bollea becoming the flamboyant Hulk Hogan on the wrestling mat.

      In any case, for me to socialize requires effort, and with being so tired, I just didn’t have the energy to do so on top of lifting. I only spoke to others when they spoke to me, and this woman really did not, other than what was necessary for working in with each other on our warmups.

      Come contest time, she missed all three of her squat attempts badly. On her third attempt, she really scared me when she almost dumped the bar over her head. Thank God the spotters were on the ball and caught the bar before it took her head off, and she looked to be okay. If she had gotten injured, I would have really felt awful about not saying something to her in the warmup room. I later learned it was her first contest. I kind of figured that, but if I had known for sure, I might have spoken up.




      As indicated, the venue was Lexen Xtreme Gym, owned by Dan Dauge. I was a bit leery about it given the problems I had at my last contest, which was also held at the gym of the meet director. The problems were due to the gym not being large enough for the number of participants at the contest.

      That led to me feeling claustrophobic. But more importantly, it caused me problems with my allergies/ multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), as the smells really built up in the overheated gym. It also didn’t help that there was only one toilet for everyone, lifters and audience. But Dan assured me his gym was large enough, had good ventilation, and better bathroom facilities.

      As it turned out, Lexen consists of two large rooms, with each room being almost the size of the entire gym at my last contest. There were two bathrooms, on at each far corner of each room. The first room as you enter was used for the audience and contest platform, and the other was the warmup room. As such, there was plenty of room. There were also industrial-sized fans blowing, and a garage door was opened as it began to heat up, so the conditions did not get near as bad as last time. 

      When I weighed in, I took several pictures of the gym as it was set up for a gym. It is obviously a hardcore gym, with multiple Monolifts, benches, deadlift platforms, specialty squat, bench, and deadlift bars, and everything else a powerlifter or hardcore lifter would want. What it did not have was treadmills and other cardio equipment, or Nautilus type of machines, which powerlifters don’t much bother with.

      I did not take pictures on contest day of the setup for the contest, since, as I said, I was having a hard enough me just focusing on my lifting to think about much of anything else. But I will say, the set up was very good.


The Contest Itself


      The contest itself was very well run. One thing that really struck me was the technology being used. For background, back in 2003, I entered my first full powerlifting contest in 21 years. At that contest, an Excel spreadsheet was projected on a monitor setup by the platform. It had each lifters name on the far-left column, then their attempts for each lift in subsequent columns. As the meet progressed, the attempt of the lifter who was “up” was highlighted. In that way, at just a glance, lifters could see how the meet was progressing. That made it easy to know how to pace warmups and when you would be lifting. Another lifter at that contest complained that there was not a second monitor in the warmup room. I thought he was just being picky, as to me, just that much was great.

      At that time, I just assumed such tech would be standard at all contests. But I came to be rather frustrated when never again was such tech used at any contest I entered after that. That has always truly baffled me. With such tech being so readily available, and with programs now available made specifically for powerlifting meets, you would think such would be standard fare, but it is not.

      But at this meet, after all of these years, I finally entered a contest that used that tech. And like that lifter wanted years ago, there were two monitors—one by the platform and one in the warmup room. That made it so easy to be able to time warmups and eliminated the need to run back and forth between the two rooms to see how the meet was progressing.

      It also helped that it was a fast-paced meet. That was in part due to there being only 28 lifters. But even at that, it still took it to be a well-run contest for the meet to start right on time at 10:00 am and to be over by 3:30 pm. That made it by far the shortest contest and the earliest I got out of a contest this decade.

      What that meant was, after squats, I had just enough time to change my gear around for benches, go outside to get some fresh air and to eat a snack, come back in and lay down on a bench to rest for ten minutes, then to get up and use that bench to warmup. I then followed that pattern for deadlifts, and it was perfect.

      I say that as, with all of my previous contests lasting much longer, there was much too much “down time” between lifts. It is so hard to wait around to start warming up for the next lift and to keep from pacing around, tiring myself out. I would inevitably start to warmup too early, then have to wait too long after my final warm-up for my opener. But this time, between the tech and the fast-pace, I was easily able to time my final warmup as I like, about ten minutes before my first attempt.

      Otherwise, everyone was very friendly, with lifters helping each other out in the warm-up room, as should be the case. I just had one minor problem with a rude person who was helping a lifter, but I guess there always has to be one in each crowd.

      That said; I would like to thank Dan and the rest of the contest staff for the well-run contest. Your efforts are much appreciated.




      After the contest, I drove back to my hotel. As I did, I passed several restaurants. I thought of going into one, but I was still wearing my singlet and felt scummy, so I just wanted to get back and take a shower and change into normal clothes.

      After my last contest, I stopped at a Wendy’s and got some take out to take back to my hotel room, as I didn’t feel like eating the same healthy food I had brought with me and had eaten all day long after weigh-ins. But this time, I planned ahead and took some “cheat foods” with me. But when I passed a McDonald’s on the way back, I thought of stopping just to get a milkshake, as I was so hot and thirsty, that sounded good. But again, I just felt too scummy to stop. But then after I took my shower and laid down on the bed, still hot and thirsty, I was thinking how good a milkshake would taste right then. Maybe next time.

      One of the cheat foods I took with me was microwave popcorn. But I ended up burning it. Not too much, so it was still edible. But when I opened up the microwave, it let out a lot of smoke that filled the room. With not being able to open the windows, maybe microwave popcorn in a hotel room is not such a good idea!

      The next morning, I packed up and made the four-hour trip home. As I was unpacking, I was sorting things that I needed to wash. If I couldn’t wash it, I placed it outside to air out. As I was doing so, I was arranging things as much as possible for next time. This has been my practice for a while, as I’d rather get burned out after a contest doing such stuff than before one.

      Normally, I then spend the next two days doing wash. With my MCS, I need to double-wash everything I had with me at the hotel and at the contest to get any smells out of them. By the time I am done, I am always exhausted, with it taking several days for me to recover and with me getting sick on a couple of occasions.

      But this time, I thought it might be less tiring to do just a couple of loads each day throughout the week rather than trying to do it all in two days. And that seems to be working out better. Hopefully, this way, I will be good to go to start training again on Sunday, 8/26/18, eight days post-contest.


Future Plans and Conclusion


      I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me the strength to make it through this contest and for it going so well, despite some adversity along the way. I say that, as I have been wanting to enter a contest since March, but health setbacks forced me to keep delaying it. That is also why it is hard for me to be exact about when my next contest will be. Ideally, I would like to enter two contests a year, but something always seems to happen, and it ends up being only one.

      But I already have my new Training Strategy laid out and new workout charts and logs prepared. I will provide details on the new Strategy later. But I probably won’t compete again until next year, maybe in March or April 2019.

      I am also not sure if I will stay at 114s or move up to 123s. I made weight this time for 114s without too much ado, but it was noticeably harder than previously. I will wait a while to decide. But I don’t want to wait too long, as if I am going to move up to 123s, then I want to bulk up to 128 for training. Then five pounds will be a cinch to cut to make weight, as that will be half of what I did this time.

      But I do know, I look forward to entering another Lexen contest. I am just not sure when that will be and if it will be for my next contest. But with as well as this contest went, and with as well as it was run, then enter another Lexen contest is definitely on the horizon sometime.

      Finally, I wrote a detailed hotel review that I will be emailing to the hotel: Hotel Review and MCS Problems.

      Below is a picture of me with my first-place trophies from the contest, one for the open division and one for the masters division. Click for a larger image.

For my first workouts with my new Training Strategy, see 2018-19 Tetra #1 Powerlifting Training Plan: Rotations I & II of VI.

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 August 21, 2018.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
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