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IPA Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships - 2019

Contest Report

By Gary F. Zeolla


      I competed in the Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships for the International Powerlifting Association (IPA) in York, PA on Saturday, March 16, 2019. I entered the men’s 114 pound weight class, master (55-59 years old) age division, raw with wraps/ sleeves (I used sleeves) gear division, Pro division.




      This was my fourth time entering this contest. As such, the most of the background details (including the hotel I stayed at, the contest venue, the records I was hoping to break, and my schedule), were all the same as the last three years, so for details on these issues, see my contest reports for IPA PA States: 2015 and IPA PA States: 2016. But one difference from the previous three times I entered this contest, I entered the Pro division rather than the Am division. The main difference between these two division, is the former is not drug tested while the latter is.

      My entering the non-tested division was NOT because I am now using PEDs (performance enchaining drugs). I am not. Never have. Never will. It was simply because I already hold all of the records in the Open and Masters (55-59) categories in the Am division, while I knew I could break all of the records in the Pro division in the same two categories, so I entered the Pro division just to add to my ever growing list of holding dozens of federation records.

      I was still thinking in terms of wanting to better what I did last time. By last time, I mean the 2018 RPS Dog Days Contest. For it, I also competed raw with sleeves, so it was those marks I hoped to better. For my final workouts leading up to this contest, see 2018-19 Trinity Powerlifting Training Plan: Rotations III and IV of IV.


Training and Peaking


      As discussed in my training logs, I had switched from wraps to sleeves for Squats in my peaking workout, due to problems with using wraps. Despite that last-minute change, I still felt confident on Squats, as after the switch, that workout went well. My Deadlifts peaking workout went even better, great in fact, so I was relay looking forward to them.

      Benches, however, had not gone well throughout my training plan and in my peaking workout, so I knew I would not be able to better what I did last time. In fact, I knew Benches would be down, and that could keep me from bettering my total. But I just put that out of my mind and focused on doing the best as I could on Benches and hope Squats and Deadlifts would still give me a decent total.




      I weighed 123.2 pounds on Wednesday (3/6), so I needed to lose almost nine pounds in nine days, to weigh 114.5 pounds on Friday morning (3/15) at 8:00 am to make weight for the 114-pound (52 kg) weight class. But I didn’t start to cut in earnest until Monday (3/11). By then, I weighed 122.0 pounds. From there, I cut weight in the same manner as I have been, eating only low-fat animal protein and low-calorie vegetables, plus sodium and water manipulation.

      Early Friday morning (about 4:00 am), I weighed 116.0 pounds. But after going to the bathroom and by 7:00 am, I was down to 115.6. I thought of taking a hot bath before heading to weigh-ins. But weigh-ins were to be from 8-10:00 am, so I knew if I didn’t make weight on the first try, I would have time to make it before the time was expired.

      My first try was at 8:15 am. I weighed 115.5 pounds, so my own scale is accurate. I waited 45 minutes, until I needed to pee, did some spitting, then took off my underwear and jewelry that I didn’t take off the first time, and I made it, right at the limit of 114.5 pounds.

      On a good note, the last time I cut weight, I was terribly hungry all week. But this time, I barely had any hunger, even though I cut the exact same amount of weight. In fact, my weight progression was almost identical to last time. I only felt hungry Friday morning, when I was up early and waiting for weigh-ins. The thirst though, after I began restricting fluids on Thursday, was quite pronounced, but that is always the case and why I take both a quart of water and a quart of veggie juice to weigh-ins to guzzle as soon as I get off of the scale. The veggies provide potassium, and I add salt to it, to replenish those electrolytes as quickly as possible.

      All of that was good, and it gave me the rest of the day to eat, rehydrate, and relax. But the last point did not work out so well. In fact, I had many problems before, during, and after the contest due to various health problems and other reasons. I detail these in my article Contest Problems/ Hotel Review (MCS, Barking Dogs, and Fibromyalgia). But here, I will talk about the contest itself. Just know, I was not feeling well due lack of sleep and other problems, so remember that as I explain how things went for me at the contest.


Number of Contestants and Warm-ups


      There were 30-some registered lifters, divided into two flight of about 15 lifters each for Squats. Benches and Deadlifts had a few lifters more due to the bench only, deadlift only, and push/ pull lifters. I was in the first flight, about seventh up for Squat and Benches and twelfth for Deadlifts. My flight consisted of mostly females and teenagers who were lifting raw.

      I got to the contest site about 8:00 am. I changed into my lifting clothes and ate my normal pre-workout snack. At home, I usually eat that snack about half an hour before I start to work out, so I try to time things at a contest so that I am eating my snack about half an hour before I will start warming up for the next lift. I timed it about right for all three.

      I also try to time my warmups so that I do my final warmup when my flight is ready to begin. I also got that about right for all three lifts, though things got messed up for deadlifts, as I will explain later.

      The contest started right on time at 9:30 am.




Gear: Crain: singlet, power belt, Genesis wrist wraps; APT heavy knee sleeves, Dexter boots.

Warm-ups: --/15, 65/10, 135/8, 165/6, 195/4, add gear: 225/2, 255/1


      Surprisingly, I was able to get down for Squats with little problems starting with first warmup set with just bodyweight. That is not normally the case, so at least that was going well. But the rest of my warm-ups felt heavy. I thought of dropping my opener, but I figured I’d leave it and see what happened.



Planned: 275, 290, 305

Actual: 275, 290, 300


      My opener with 275 felt heavy, but I came up with it without too much ado. However, as I was racking it, I had a sinking feeling I did not sink it enough, so I cautiously turned to look at the lights board, and I was a bit surprised but relieved when it came up as three white lights. But I still thought it best to sink my next attempt a bit more.

      I then went up to 290 as planned, but it was a lot harder than expected. I almost stalled about halfway up, which is a common sticking point for me. But I knew I had sunk it too much. That was confirmed when a friend at the contest (Doug Kline) who was helping and recording another lifter showed me a video he had taken of the lift. It looked more like what I call “Extra Low Squats” in my logs, so I knew I could cut it higher for my final attempt.

      I squatted 300 at my last contest, so I had hoped to try 305 this time to break that “50s Sleeves PR.” But at this point, the tiredness was really getting to me, so I thought it best to drop it to an even 300. I suck it just right this time, to just legal depth, and came up with it nicely, with no stalling. At the time, I was thinking it was good I dropped it to 300, as I might not have gotten the 305.

      But later, when I reviewed the video, it looked like I could have doubled the 300, so I was easily good for the 305, maybe even 5-10 more than that, that is, if I had not been so tired and had the energy to fight through a full max lift, which I did not. Thus, as it was, the 300 had to be good enough, tying what I did last time.




Gear: Crain: singlet, power belt, Genesis wrist wraps; AdiPower Lifting Shoes.

Warm-ups: 50/15, 70/8, 90/6, 105/4, 120/2, add gear: 140*/1



Planned: 145, 155, 165

Actual: 145, 160, 170


      There was to be an hour break between Squats and Benches. To me, that was too much. A 30 minutes break is good, but not an hour. But as it was, I laid on a bench in the warmup room and tried to rest as best as I could for about 30 minutes. Then I ate my next pre-workout snack, socialized for about 30 minutes, then began to warm up for Benches.

      My warmups felt surprisingly good. My last warmup set was to be a single with 135, but the bar weighed 50 pounds, not the normal 45, and there was already a pair of 45s on it at that point, so I didn’t think it was worth taking them off and putting all of the change for five pounds less, so I just did the 140. It felt so easy, I considered moving my opener up to 150, but I thought it best to not push it on the opener.

      As it turned out, the 145 was very easy. Doug even told me it looked like a warmup set. The video he took confirmed that. Consequently, I went up 15 rather than ten pounds to 160. It was a hard lift, though Doug was still saying it looked like a warmup. But the video showed I was slowing down some as the bar ascended, so I went up to 170 for my third attempt. That would again tie what I did last time.

      The bar felt very heavy as I took it off of the racks. I did not use a handoff, as I never do so at home. But at home, I have the racks set so that I only need to lift the bar a couple of inches. But here, I had to have them set the racks so that I had to lift the bar 4-5”, as the next position up would be too high. That meant I wasted energy getting the bar in place.

      In any case, the “Press” command was slow coming, and I really struggled as I pressed the bar. It stalled on my right side, but I got it going again. I knew there was an uneven extension, but I was able to straighten the bar up, then to keep pushing, and pushing, and pushing. It felt like it took forever, but I finally locked it out, to many cheers from the crowd.

      I should mention, normally I am so focused, I do not hear the crowd, either that, or the crowd is not cheering loud enough for me to hear them. But this time on Squats and now again on Benches, I heard the crowd cheering for me, and that helped to keep me from giving up and to keep pushing on this Bench attempt. If it had not been for that, with how tired I was, I might have given up.

      In any case, I was bit leery the lift might be turned down, but I got three whites. But when I reviewed the video, it looked like my right arm came back down at the mid-point, then up again. The bar is allowed to stop, but not to go back down, so in my mind, the lift should not have passed. But Doug said that since it was only one side that came down, that is why it was still good. I had planned on asking one of the officials after Benches were done about that, but I did not get the chance to do so given what happened near the end of Benches, that I will relate shortly.

      But first, I was completely out of breath after that final Bench, and my heart was racing. It took me a few minutes to fully recover. The same happened a of couple of years ago after an equally difficult Bench. But that was with 180, my 50s PR. The 170 here tied what I did last time, but it was ten pounds below that PR, hence my frustration over Benches.


Near Tragedy
(but still bad)


      There was to be a 30-minute break between Benches and Deadlifts, so I waited 30 minutes after I had finished my last Bench to eat my snack. I then figured I’d have 30 minutes until I had to warm up. But that turned into an hour and a half due to what happened next.

      Heidi Howar is an incredible 148-pound female lifter. She weighed in just ahead of me on my first weigh-in try. She was also a pound overweight on her first try, but she said she would come back later, and I did not see her again until the contest.

      Heidi and another female lifter with her both lifted in the second flight. That shows how much they were lifting, as usually, the women are all in the first flight. They both squatted over 600!

      I spoke to Heidi as she was getting ready for her first squat attempt, when I had just finished my third. I saw that she was wearing a canvas suit, and I commented to her about it, saying I had worn one a while back. That was the only time I spoke to her. But I did talk to her friend Melissa Stevens a good bit, who is also an incredible lifter, at 123s, though she was not competing on this day.

      In any case, Heidi’s third bench attempt was with 415 pounds. Stop and think about that for a moment. That is almost triple bodyweight. Of course, she was wearing a bench shirt. I would guess, double-ply, though I did not really see it.

      I was in the warmup room at the time. My plan was to wait until Benches were done, then I would start to warm up for Deadlifts. With the planned half an hour break, that would time things about right. Therefore, I was watching the monitor they had in the warmup room, but I could not see very well as it was quite a distance from where I was sitting.

      But from what I saw, Heidi got the bar off of her chest and near the finish, when something happened, and the next thing I saw, she slid off of the bench and onto the floor. I knew something was wrong, as she just laid there motionless.

      The officials and others quickly gathered around her. I asked someone coming out of the contest area what happened, and she told me the spotter on the right side missed the bar, and it came crashing down on her neck. It was feared she might have broken her neck.

      I found out later that thank God that was not true. What really happened is her right forearm broke as she was trying to lock out the weight, but the spotters caught the bar. But they were not sure if the bar had hit her near the neck or not. That is probably why, when I went into the contest area, I someone was holding her head still, and others were holding her body still. Heidi’s eyes were open, but she had a blank look on her face. It was almost like she had passed out, but with her eyes open. It was a scary site. That is why I sat down beside the platform and prayed for her for a few minutes.

      The reason I went into the contest area was the contest was being live-steamed on Facebook, and someone was checking her phone and said they were still broadcasting. That was not good, so I went in to tell an official, and they immediately turned it off.

      I then went back into the warmup room and just waited like everyone else. Melissa is the one who called 911. I know that, as she had to ask what the address was.

      It took a while for the ambulance to come and then quite a while for them to get Heidi onto a stretcher and on the way to the hospital.

      I later learned from Melissa that Heidi had fractured both of the bones in her forearm. That was bad, but thank God, there was no neck injury.

      I should mention that this is not the first time I heard of an equipped bencher breaking an arm. What is happening is, the shirt enables the lifter to bench a weight that is far beyond what could be done without the shirt. Muscle and bone strength will increase significantly as one trains, but the bones not near as much as the muscles. With that and the shirt, the weight exceeds the tensile strength of the bones, and they spontaneously fracture under the weight. That is one of the potential problems with using a shirt, and one reason I do not use one anymore.

      In any case, after the ambulance left, Ellen Chaillet (one of the meet directors) came into the warmup room and talked to the three benchers who needed to take their final attempts. They were told they could have as much time as they needed, if they needed to warm up again, but all seemed to be ready to go. One was wearing a bench shirt, and that whole time he had been walking around with the funny arms crossed in the front stance that you need to do with a shirt. I feared he had no chance of getting his lift after having a shirt on that long. And predictably, he missed his lift, as did the other two. Personally, I probably would have just passed the attempt.

      But for me, it was good I had not started to warm up for deadlifts yet. But the delay did mess up my eating plan, as it had been quite a while since I ate my normal pre-workout snack, so I ate a fruit and nut Labara Bar I also had with me. I learned a while back to take “extra” food with me, just in case the meet lasts longer than expected. But I was getting tired, as the time dragged on.

      After Ellen talked to the remaining benchers, she asked those of who would be deadlifting how long we need to get ready. I told her 30 minutes, so she said Deadlifts would start at that point.




Gear: Crain singlet, power belt; Ace knee sleeves; Redline wrist wraps; Nike wrestling shoes.

Warm-ups: --/13, 50/10, 140/8, 190/6, 240/4, Gear: 290/2, 335/1



Planned: 365, 385, 405

Actual: 365, 385, 400 (miss)


      Again, with the long delay, I was really getting tired, and my Deadlift warmups felt very heavy. As a result, I considered dropping my opener five pounds. In retrospective, that would have been a good idea. But as it was, the 365 felt very hard, much harder than I had hoped. But I went ahead and did my planned 385. That was really hard.

      I knew I would not get my planned 405 for a 50s PR, so I called for the 400. But as I waited for my turn, thinking about how hard the 385 was, I was thinking I should drop it to 395, but I had pulled 400 at my last contest, and I really hated to do less than that, so I stuck with the 400.

      I got really psyched up, and the crowd again was really behind me, cheering for me. I got the bar up off of the floor slowly, and I very slowly inched it up to my thighs. But then it slowed, as I tried to keep it moving, I lost my grip. And that was that.

      I was rather frustrated that the bar that was being used did not have near the knurling that the Deadlift bar had the previous three times I entered this contest. If it did, I might not have lost my grip. But then, I might not have lost it if I had not been so tired, making the lift so hard that I slowed at my thighs. But whatever the case, the 385 was a big disappointment, as it was 15 less than I pulled last time.


Total, Future Training and Contest Plans, Movin’ On Up


      That miss on my final lift of the day was my only miss of the day, so I went 8/9, totaling 855. That was 15 pounds less than last time, due to the missed Deadlift. If I had gotten that Deadlift, I would have repeated exactly what I did last time on all three lifts and the total.

      I am turning 58 next week. At my age, I fear that at best repeating the same weights contest to contest could be the case from here out. That is, unless I can get my training dialed in so that I can make some progress. To that end, I have spent quite a bit of time reviewing my training plans.

      I previously posted a two-part article on my Trinity Powerlifting Training Plan that I said I would stick with, but given that is what I used to prepare for this contest, I don’t think it would be my best option. Instead, unless I change my mind again, I am going to go with a cross between my Two by Two Plan and Tetra Plan, that I will post details on later.

      In addition, I think it is time for me to move up a weight class. With one exception, I have been competing in the 114-pound class since I started competing again back in 2003. The next class up is 123.5 pounds (56 kg). As indicted, I weighed 123.2 pounds nine days before weigh-ins, so my natural weight is almost at that limit.

      However, my plan is to bulk up to 128 pounds for training. That is what I weighed back in college when I competed at 123s. Then I will have just 4.5 pounds to lose for a contest, about half of what I did for this contest, so that should be a cinch.

      Hopefully, the extra weight will enable me to make some progress, especially since I plan on adding the bodyweight slowly and in a smart manner, which is to say, by sticking with my health eating plan and not bulking up by pigging out on junk food. I will of course follow the eating plan laid in my books Creationist Diet: Second Edition and God-given Foods Eating Plan.

      With movin’ on up to a new class, I might plan on a bit longer than usual until my next contest. I usually plan on entering a contest every six months, though something most often happens to derail that plan and push my next contest back some.  But this time, I will plan on 6-8 months, which will be October to December of this year (2019).

      I know of at least four contests in that time frame I could enter. But I will wait until the end of the summer to decide when I will compete again and in which contest.


Trophies and Afterwards


      After my final Deadlift, I went into the warmup room and ate my normal post-workout snack. Then I washed up best as I could in the locker room and changed into street clothes. I then checked out the York Barbell retail store. After weigh-ins, I had bought a gym bag that was on sale for 50% off. I now bought a pair of wrist wraps that were also on sale. After checking them out, I realized they would work great for Deadlifts, so I went back to get another pair, but they were closed! It was exactly 4:30, their closing time, but they must have closed a minute early.

      In any case, I then went and sat in the audience and watched the last of the flight two deadlifters, then waited for the awards ceremony. As I waited, I saw Melissa, and that is when I got the update about Heidi.

      As I was walking around, I got many congratulations from other lifters and those in the audience. Then during the awards ceremony, the cheers when my name was called to receive my trophies sounded far greater than for anyone else. At least, that was my perspective.

      As is usually the case, I got two trophies, one for “winning” the open division and one for “winning” the masters division. I put winning in quotes, as being the only lifter in my weight class, it wasn’t much of a win. But I did break all of the IPA records in the open division and set them in the master divisions, and the trophies are a reminder of that achievement.

      After the awards ceremony, I went back to my hotel room and took a shower. By that point, it was after 6:00 pm. At weigh-ins, Ellen had a large box of chocolate kisses, mini-peanut butter cups, and Kashi chocolate-almond granola bars on a table for the lifters to take. She then had the same box on the score table during the contest.

      I took a couple of each at weigh-ins and again during the contest, just so I could have them for “cheat foods” after the contest. I ate some of that and other cheat foods I had brought with me, then promptly fell asleep watching TV. When I woke up an hour later, I ate another snack then went to bed. The rest of the post-contest story is in my article Contest Problems/ Hotel Review (MCS, Barking Dogs, and Fibromyalgia).

      But here, I will say, I thank the LORD the contest went as well as it did despite all of the problems I had before, during, and after it. As I finish writing this article, I am almost done with all of the washing I had to do post-contest, so I hope to get some rest the next couple of days.

      I plan on starting my new training routine on Sunday, March 24, 2019. As always, I will post my logs for the week at the end of each training week.

      Below is a picture of me after I got home with my trophies. Click for a larger image. I also have pictures and videos of all of my lifts, but it will take me a while to organize, format, and post them, as I have other matters to attend to first. But hopefully, I will get them posted eventually.


 “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength” (17Timothy 4:17).


Best Lifter


    I just found out I won Best Lifer in the Men’s Pro Raw Master division at my recent powerlifting contest. It was a two-day event and the Best Lifter awards were for both days and not handed out until after Day Two. I left after Day One, so I did not know about it until I checked the Best Lifter list on the IPA’s website. Checking the full meet results, there were only three lifters total in that division. But still, at least I beat someone.


IPA Pennsylvania State Powerlifting Championships - 2019 - Pictures and Videos


For my initial workouts after this contest, see Powerlifting Training Strategy: 2019 Trinity #1, Stage One.

The above contest report was posted on this site March 20, 2019.
It was last updated April 7, 2019.

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