Tuesday, January 10, 2017

3 years of training volume and frequency...

tl;dr I don't really lift weights that often but I keep track of some things and I've been consistently active for the past 7 years. I guess if I was more serious about this powerlifting thing, I'd make use of more detailed metrics and analysis (like what's offered by www.mystrengthbook.com) but for what time I can put into it, my little spreadsheet log still helps me plan things.



I've been logging my training on a spreadsheet for the past 7 years but for the last three (2014, 2015, 2016), I've also been keeping a separate tally of main lift workouts.  As a rule, I only count sets and reps with weight that is at least 50% of a 1 RM.  What I've used as a 1 RM has typically been my all-time competition 1 RM--the only exception is the deadlift where I've used my "masters career" 1 RM since my all-time 1 RM is higher (292.5 kg vs 285 kg).

Going into 2014, my competition bests from 2013 were 490/341/628  (lbs, squat/bench/deadlift).

Squat workouts:         91
Total Work Reps:      2144
Total Volume:          739,091 lbs

Avg work reps per workout:  23.6  Avg work weight:  345 lbs

% of previous year competition best:  70.4%

Bench workouts:       107
Total Work Reps:      2903
Total Volume:          731,276 lbs

Avg work reps per workout:  27.1  Avg work weight:  252 lbs

% of previous year competition best:  73.9%

Deadlift workouts:       67
Total Work Reps:       1353
Total Volume:          511,574 lbs

Avg work reps per workout:  20.2  Avg work weight:  378 lbs

% of previous year competition best:  60.2%


Going into 2015, my competition bests from 2014 were 496/341/617  (lbs, squat/bench/deadlift).
Squat was up slightly from prior year, bench was the same and deadlift down slightly.

Squat workouts:         66
Total Work Reps:      1794
Total Volume:          605,190 lbs

Avg work reps per workout:  27.2  Avg work weight:  337 lbs

% of previous year competition best:  68.0%

Bench workouts:       82
Total Work Reps:      2442
Total Volume:          615,105 lbs

Avg work reps per workout:  29.8  Avg work weight:  252 lbs

% of previous year competition best:  73.9%

Deadlift workouts:       48
Total Work Reps:       1025
Total Volume:          415,120 lbs

Avg work reps per workout:  21.4  Avg work weight:  405 lbs

% of previous year competition best:  65.6%


Going into 2016, my competition bests from 2015 were 485/341/562  (lbs, squat/bench/deadlift).
Squat was down from prior year, bench was the same and deadlift was down significantly.

Squat workouts:         52
Total Work Reps:      1166
Total Volume:          396,521 lbs

Avg work reps per workout:  22.4  Avg work weight: 340 lbs
% of previous year competition best: 70.1%

Bench workouts:       67
Total Work Reps:      1731
Total Volume:          435,646 lbs

Avg work reps per workout:  25.8  Avg work weight:  252 lbs

% of previous year competition best:  73.8%

Deadlift workouts:       43
Total Work Reps:        999
Total Volume:          401,265 lbs

Avg work reps per workout:  23.2  Avg work weight:  402 lbs

% of previous year competition best:  71.5%


Going into 2017, my competition best from 2016 (technically 2017 since the meet was on Jan 8 but it is reflective of 2016's training were 501/330/606 (lbs, squat/bench/deadlift).
Squat was up, bench was down (330 moved very well though so not a RPE 10 lift), deadlift was up significantly.


There are some confounders in those three years but I think it tells me that regardless of training frequency, I need to make sure my average intensity (as a % of previous competition bests) needs to be 70% or higher.  This isn't a huge revelation since it's pretty commonly believed that expression of maximal strength is best achieved with training intensities in the 70-95% zone with the bulk of training volume in the 70-85% zone.

Although my 2016 training frequency and overall volume in the main lifts was the lowest of the past three years, I also managed to hit a lifetime PR in the squat and total.  Maybe not coincidentally, average training intensities for all three lifts were over 70% of previous year competition bests.

One of the confounders in the past three years include a period where I had a "dead back", not a specific injury but a fatigue that took a long time to shake and really limited my 1 RM strength.  Another issue that affected development of my competition 1 RM was my ongoing process of trying to drop bodyweight.  While it would have been more time efficient to drop all the way down to a lean bodyweight and then slowly build muscle and strength to a maintainable bodyweight, that's not what I've been doing.  Over the past three years, my bodyweight has slowly stepped down from about 250 lbs to my current walking around weight of 228 (with a brief period in the past year where I got down to 215).  While I have managed to get a little stronger while losing weight, results aren't great since it is not ideal to try to ride two horses with one ass.

There is also probably a small effect from the use of variations of the main lifts in place of competition style squats, bench presses, or deadlifts.  For exercises like deficit deadlifts, close grip bench presses, or SSB squats, if the weights used exceed 50% of my competition 1 RM, I include the work in my running totals even though the actual intensity in terms of my 1 RM in that particular variation is much higher.

In any case, virtually no one's training over a 3 year period is going to be smooth sailing so it would be unrealistic to expect the next three years will offer no systemic obstacles to my routine.  I'm going to keep on the 2x/week schedule until the gains stop and will re-evaluate at that point.  Now that I've maintained the current bodyweight settling point of 228 lbs for 3 months, I'm going to embark on another slow cut down to a settling point of 210-215 lbs.  At that point, I'll either decide to lose a few more pounds so I can compete as a 93 kg (205 lb) lifter or allow myself to add a bit of weight to compete closer to the 105 kg (231 lb) limit.





Sunday, January 8, 2017

Meet Report: 2017 CPU Central Canadian Championships, PR's and age group records!

tl;dr  I had a really good meet, hit some PR's and set a National age group record in the deadlift

Training between my last meet, Provincials in November 2016 and now had gone really well.  I reduced my training days down to two days a week, squat/bench press and deadlift/bench press.  I felt like this allowed my back (my layman's term that refers to the achy deep parts of my back) to recover even if my squat and deadlift muscles could handle a bit more frequency.  I had hit some deadlift numbers in training that I hadn't hit for a couple years and my squat was showing real progress since November's surprisingly fast 215 kg third attempt.

Going into the meet, I had stretch goals of hitting a 227.5 kg squat, a 155 kg bench press, and a 282.5 kg deadlift.  While not out of the realm of possibility, hitting all three would mean I would total 665 kgs, a 15 kg PR and an improvement of 45 kgs from November.  So, clearly not entirely realistic, no matter how well training had gone?

I weighed in at 103.95 kgs.  I didn't have to do any water cutting other than stopping all food and drink 12 hours before weigh in.  Normally I wouldn't have had to even do that but I had a short business trip to Fredericton, NB earlier in the week and I indulged in a few too many hamburgers and beers.  When I got back from that trip on Friday, the extra food and salt had bloated me up to 237 lbs (108 kgs).  I was down to 234 Saturday morning but it still meant I needed to lose at least 3 lbs of water by Sunday morning.

Squat warmups went very well and my opener with 205 kgs and second attempt with 220 kgs both moved faster than ever.  If ever there was a chance for me to finally get 227.5 kgs done in a meet, this was it.  I was actually surprised it didn't slow down more out of the hole than it did.  I might've even had 230 kgs in me today.  50 yrs old and a lifetime competition squat PR.  I'll take it.  It feels like I have more in the tank, the move to flat shoes and a wider stance is really starting to work.


last warmup with 195 kgs



3rd attempt, 227.5 kgs, competition PR

While warming up for bench press, I saw Dr. Aras Kvedaras for a quick tune up on my elbow and my right shoulder.  I had seen him earlier this week to begin treatment for my ulnar nerve related atrophy in my left hand and while I was there, I went through my laundry list of other aches.  He gave me some exercises to strengthen my hand and to stabilize my shoulder--which I did all week in the hopes that any improvement would help.

In true Ontario Powerlifting Association fashion, pauses in the bench press were long.  Some, maybe many, would say they were too long (the "Ontario pause" is a thing) but they were the same for the entire session so it was what it was.  Because of the 3ct pause required, I did not move my bench attempts as aggressively as I had originally planned.  Instead of 140/150/155, I went 140/145/150.  I got all three attempts, maybe could've gotten 155 kgs even with the long pause but my 227.5 + 150, 377.5 kg sub total was the highest sub total I had ever gotten in the 105 kg weight class.

For deadlifts, I decided to open with 260 kgs.  This was really more like a true second attempt but I wanted two cracks at the M2 National Record in the deadlift.  I needed to hit 275 kgs for the M2 record but if I got that, I wanted to attempt 282.5 kgs for my third to also take the M1 record.  My grip issues due to the atrophied hand made 260 a little risky but I figured if I couldn't even hold on to 260 then I deserved to bomb out.

I usually only take one warm up rep for deadlifts but I thought I might take two today, just to make sure my grip was in good shape.  However, after my first single with 170 kgs, I decided everything was good.  Something I hadn't done since I first started competing in the late 80's was to use a wrist wrap as a grip aid. I figured I'd try it again today since I, all of a sudden, have grip issues.  I used it for my first two attempts before deciding it was hurting, not helping.  Because my left hand is so weak, the wrist wraps kept me from fully wrapping my fingers and thumb around the bar and really setting the hook grip deep into my palm and finger flesh.

My opener with 260 kgs was heavy but I expected that.  My grip held pretty well but I still had some doubts.


1st att, 260 kgs

My second attempt was 275 kgs for the record.  Just like in November, it went up (slowly) and right before lockout, it popped out of my grip.  Sheesh!!  





2nd attempt, 275 kgs, no lift

For my third attempt with the same weight, 275 kgs, I ditched the wrist wraps and really tried to grind the bar into my thumb and palms.  I wanted to make sure that if that bar was going to slip out, it had to take my thumbs with it.  Although my back was feeling the previous attempt, I slowly got the bar off the ground and once it passed my knees, it started building a little speed.  This time I got it to lockout and while the bar tried to do the hookgrip "roll of death", my grip held secure.  I got the down command and waited for the lights.


3rd attempt, 275 kgs, new National M2 record


It's just an age group National record but it's the first one I've ever gotten (that actually survived the end of the meet) so it was a big moment for me.  In all likelihood, I'll only hold it for a few months because Andy Childs will probably break it at Nationals in March but it'll be better than holding it for a minute when I held it for one attempt in 2014 until Andy broke it right after me.

In the end I totalled 652.5 kgs, a lifetime PR in the 105 kg weight class.  After a couple years of stalled progress due to a back that didn't want to feel good, it's really nice to hit a PR.   The 652.5 kgs at 103.9 kgs is also a Wilks coefficient PR, moving up from 389.73 to 391.304.  At my current rate of about 1.5 Wilks points per 33 months, I'll be 68 when I finally hit a 400 Wilks.

highlights from the meet, 227.5 kg squat, 275 kg deadlift

all the 105 kg lifters in the morning session


There was a lot of complaining about the new requirement to attend at least one Regional Championship event before being qualified for Nationals but the quality of the lifting was incredible and the atmosphere was truly National event level.  The kind of experience one gets from lifting under these conditions pays dividends in the future.  While there is certainly a financial burden placed on a lifter new to the sport that wants to attend a Nationals right away, I can also see a future where some lifters may choose to lift at a Regional Championship rather than a Nationals if a National event is held in a location where travel expenses are prohibitive.  Obviously this wouldn't apply to a lifter with Canadian Team aspirations but that isn't me, nor it is most of the lifter population in the CPU.




Saturday, November 19, 2016

SBD Lever belt review -- TL DR; it's good, very good.



I turned 50 this past summer and a couple months ago, my beloved Vivian threw me a surprise birthday party.  Among many of the unexpected but very much appreciated guests were Mark and Kinnon from my powerlifting team, Toronto Rex Powerlifting Club.  Even though Mark and Kinnon had already brought beer, they also brought a card and a gift on behalf of the team.  The gift was a e-gift card for Inner Strength Strength Products, a powerlifting supplies company run by Ryan and Rhaea Stinn.

Among the many excellent products they offer on their website, one of most popular lines is the array of products from SBD.  A few months ago SBD introduced their lever belt.  While lever buckle belts have been around for probably 30 years now, it wasn't until SBD that a lever buckle belt combined the same easy-to-adjust fit as a single or double prong buckle with the easy-to-apply tightness of a lever.  Since I already have a singlet and knee sleeves, I decided to apply the gift card to one of those new SBD lever belts.  I also already owned a powerlifting belt but the SBD lever belt offered increased utility versus only being a spare.

I compete in an IPF affiliated powerlifting federation so I have the option of 4 types of powerlifting belts, single or double prong belt buckles, a lever buckle, the double prong buckle on belts as produced by Wahlanders and Titan Support Systems, and now the SBD lever.  All buckle types have pros and cons.  Below is a description of some of the pros and cons for each type.

Inzer 13mm single prong belt


Single prong buckle:  It's very durable although cheap buckles have been known to bend.  Relatively easy to adjust tightness once the belt has broken in some.  Hard to get as tight as a lever and if you do, it can be harder to release the buckle.  Many times a lifter will need someone else to assist in tightening or untightening the belt.  Sometimes the belt keeper will fail.  The belt keeper is the loop on a belt that holds the end of the belt that's gone through the buckle.  It doesn't seem that important but I have seen situations where a lifter was not allowed to use a belt without one because the floppy end of his belt was hitting his thigh in a squat.  That can be a tough fix at a meet unless you can find a spare rubber band or hair scrunchy.

double prong belt


Double prong buckle:  All the same pros and cons as the single prong buckle except that in situations where you're trying to get the belt as tight as possible, it can be more difficult to try to get two buckle prongs into or out of  the belt holes.  My first powerlifting belt was a double prong.

Inzer 13mm lever belt
where a lever belt buckle usually breaks
How to adjust tightness on a traditional lever belt



Traditional lever buckle:  Very easy to get exceptionally tight due to the leverage afforded by the lever action.  The cons are, durability and versatility.  Almost all levers that I've seen (including the SBD lever) are castings.  That by itself doesn't mean much but many levers are cast out of relatively low quality metals.  The levers can be brittle and can break if the belt is dropped or thrown on the ground or if a lifter has a habit of snapping the lever open after a lift and letting the lever slam into its stops.  Almost all experienced lifters make a habit of bringing a spare buckle to major competitions in case the one on their belt breaks.  The traditional lever belt is also more difficult to adjust because there are only one set of holes for the buckle on the free end of the belt.  Changing tightness is accomplished by unscrewing the lever buckle and re-setting it in another set of holes.  It's not a difficult operation but a tough process to do in between attempts, especially under the stress of a competition or if one's flights were especially small (8-10 lifters).  It's also important that every time you do move the buckle that the buckle is aligned as evenly as possible so the buckle isn't pulling at an angle.  Because the levers aren't that robustly built, any uneven tension will accelerate the wear and tear on the relatively fragile hinges.  The most common lever breakages are the teeth on the buckle, the thin parts of the lever itself, or the hinge pins.

Wahlanders double prong quick release belt


Double prong Wahlanders style (Titan Support Systems also makes a belt with this type of buckle):  I have no experience with this type of buckle.  By all accounts the Wahlanders belts are very well made.  I've heard that it's hard to get them as tight as a lever or a buddy assisted prong buckle belt but that's only a negative if you prefer a tight belt fit.  I've read articles where very experienced lifters recommend belts be loose enough that you can slip fingers in between the belt and your body when tightened but I don't have sufficient core expansion ability to make that work as well as when I start with a tighter belt fit.

SBD adjustable lever belt


SBD lever:  Truly an evolutionary design.  Able to get a belt every bit as tight as with a traditional lever but as adjustable for different belt positions (higher or lower) or for different sizes (post-weigh in bloat vs normal training bloat, wearing a squat suit or a singlet, etc.) as a single or double prong buckle.  The buckle does have an extra moving part or two compared to the traditional lever so I feel like there is still the same risk of fragility.  The extremely high quality of the fit and finish of the buckle (along with the entire) belt doesn't lend the belt to being thrown around, I mean, you could but there's nothing "milspec" about the belt that screams tolerant of abuse.  Another potential downside is the significantly larger size of the buckle mechanism.  The lever on my Inzer is 18 cm in tightened position.  The SBD lever is 22 cm.   I've heard some lifters mention that the lever on their SBD scrapes their thighs at the bottom position of a squat.  Because a lever belt overlaps itself, that internal edge on the buckle end of the belt can influence where you can put the belt and its lever.

SBD lever size vs Inzer lever size
SBD lever buckle, one extra part, one extra hinge


My experience with my SBD lever belt

I've had my SBD lever belt for almost 3 weeks and one competition so far.  Everything about its versatility has rang true. I wear my belt higher on my torso for squats and deadlifts (covering my lower 2 or 3 ribs) but in the traditional position just above the hip bones for bench press.  Being able to wear the belt in either position with the preferred amount of tightness is definitely more convenient than using two different belts or compromising the tightness when using it for bench presses.

The belt has also been extremely comfortable right out of the box.  I attribute this to a subtle radius built into the belt.  My Inzer belt, also a 13mm belt has virtually no radius so the top and bottom inner edges of the belt are much more noticeable.  The edges of the SBD belt and the Inzer are equally squared off so it's not so much the edge treatment as the very slight curvature of the SBD that gives it a much more comfortable quality.  I don't know if the "comfort fit" of the SBD was intentional but it is a nice touch.  The suppleness of the SBD belt is similar to my rarely used 13mm Inzer lever belt so it's not just a case of softer leather.

Inzer belt radius, very slight

SBD belt radius, noticeable and very comfortable


If I had one suggestion, it would be to incorporate a radius or a taper to the inner edge of the end of the belt that ends up on the inside of the buckle.  That edge on that end of the belt ends up being a pressure point and depending on where you either place it or the buckle (to avoid scraping thighs), it can be an issue.  I wear my belt high on my torso so I tend to place that edge right in the middle of my abdomen, otherwise it rubs on part of my rib cage.  If I wore my belt in the traditional position just above the hip bones, if the lever scraped my thighs, I'd need to position that inside edge much closer to the side to give the lever more clearance.  I don't think it would create any distracting pressure points but I could see smaller or shorter lifters possibly being affected.  Since the belt overlaps that portion, there's no need for it to remain a full 13mm thick.  It's not a deal-breaker by any means.  I have two other lever belts, a 10mm from Crain's Muscle World that was rendered IPF non-compliant and a 13mm Inzer and neither of them have any taper to that end of the belt either.

That edge on a lever belt can sometimes influence where you set your belt


My final assessment of the SBD lever belt is that it is good, very good.  I'm very grateful to have one but I'm still not convinced I would have gone out of my way to purchase one without the gift card from my team.  It's expensive and in the end, once it's on, it does exactly what every other quality 13mm belt does.  We're at the point now where if a lifter's gym bag were stolen, one might need to spend a thousand dollars (CDN) to replace the gear inside if they lost their weightlifting shoes, knee sleeves, elbow sleeves, belt, wrist wraps, and assorted resistance bands.    And that's for a lifter that trains and competes raw.  Raw was supposed to be the cheaper, easier to implement version of powerlifting but like anything, scope creep has greatly increased the opportunities for raw (classic) competitors to spend money.  Consider the SBD lever belt to be a very, very nice "nice to have" piece of gear but definitely not a "need to have."




Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016 Ontario Open and Masters Powerlifting Championships, Classic division report

Almost 1 year ago, I sat down and wrote up my performance at the 2015 Ontario Powerlifting Association Masters and Open Classic Provincials.  While I had performed well in the squat and bench press, my lower back was not cooperative and I had a poor deadlift performance.  Immediately after that competition, I made the decision to lose weight on the premise that walking around at 240-245 lbs was doing my back no favors. As I moved into the M2 age group (50-59), I needed to consider making life easier on all of my joints and internal organs that have to deal with carrying around so much weight.

Coming in 2nd place last year, M1 (40-49) 105 kg wt class


A "walking around weight" of 240-245 lbs meant that I always needed to cut 10-15 lbs in order to make the 231 lb (105kg) weight class limit.  In the past I had accomplished this by dieting for a month or so and then cutting the last 4-7 lbs by drying out over the last 24-36 hrs before weigh-ins.  While this is very much standard operating procedure in the powerlifting world (2 hr weigh ins), I decided that as I aged into divisions even farther away from the Open competitors, I would eliminate this unnecessary stress from my meet preparations.

Originally, my intention was to drop enough weight that I would be able to compete in the 205 lb (93kg) weight class.  I thought that if I dropped down to a walking around weight of 205-210 lbs, that I'd only need to do a simple water cut, if anything, to make weight.  After a year, that ended up not happening. While I did lift in one competition in early May as a 93 kg weight class lifter, I needed a drastic water cut to make weight.  Right after that meet, my weight bounced up to 220 lbs.  After a vacation in early October, my weight settled in at 228 lbs. While I didn't reach my original goal weight, a "walking around weight" of 225-228 lbs was still better than the 240-245 lbs from a year prior.   I made the decision to compete as a 231 lb (105kg) weight class lifter.

We took a cruise, I exercised but I also exercised my right to eat all I could eat.


Although I've only lost 15-20 lbs, I ended up needing to replace or drastically alter all of my pants, jeans, jackets, and dress shirts.  I've also noticed that my back feels much better than it did last year.  I feel like carrying around less weight has had a positive impact on my overall recovery ability.  In May, after my last meet, I also changed my squat stance.  Based on a recommendation by a couple other lifters, I decided to move to a wider stance and use flat shoes.  It took a while to adjust but it allows me to keep a slightly more upright posture.  Taking additional stress off of my back by changing my squat motion has also contributed to feeling better, generally.

old  shoulder-width squat stance, heeled shoes

new wider stance, flat shoes


One last thing I implemented just in the last 60 days was the inclusion of lowish intensity cardio.  While high intensity intervals are all the rage, I decided that what I needed, what I had neglected for years, was to rebuild my aerobic capacity.  To do that, I had to start doing sustained aerobic exercise.  Running was out of the question (too much pounding on the back) and riding a stationary bike seemed too boring and butt numbing.  I decided to use the Concept2 Rowing machine.  It involved both the upper and lower body, was low impact, and done correctly, doesn't tire out the lower back.  Although I had only been using the rowing machine for 60 days prior to last weekend's competition, I had already noticed significant improvements to my aerobic capacity as well as strengthening of certain neglected muscle groups (hip flexors, abdominals).

My cardio equipment of choice, the Concept 2 Rowing Machine

Just about the only thing that was not improved going into this meet was my left hand.  I finally took the time to see a doctor about it and was referred to a specialist.  The specialist ran tests and determined that I had an ulnar nerve blockage that was causing the muscle atrophy in my left hand.  Even though my left hand has gotten progressively weaker over the past two years, until now, the hook grip has been sufficient to hold onto whatever my back and legs could get off the ground.  I would learn a couple things at this meet, one good, one not good about my "gimp hand".

my atrophied left hand vs my right hand
My training going into this meet was going pretty well.  My new squat groove was starting to click an and I had made a training squat of 465x1 that gave me confidence that at least 210 kgs (463 lbs) was doable.  My bench press was holding steady at 320 lbs, lower than the 341 lbs (155 kgs) that I had lifted a year prior but given my lower bodyweight, I was okay with this.  Even my deadlift was feeling better than it had in over a year.  While my heaviest training pull was only 565 lbs for one strapped up rep, my back felt good and strong.  I thought going into the meet that if I hit 210 kgs (463 lbs) in the squat, 145 kgs (319 lbs) in the bench, and 260 kgs (573 lbs) in the deadlift, that I'd be pretty happy, especially given how I lifted in May after almost a 20 lb weight cut.

I weighed in for the competition at 102.6 kgs, well under the 105 kg weight class limit.  This was the first competition where I've ever been able to compete in the 105 kg weight class without having to do a weight cut.  In previous competitions where I've lifted without a weight cut, my weight was always between 109 and 113 kgs a good 14-23 lbs more than I weigh now.   I had the pleasure and the privilege of lifting in the same session as some good friends and some absolute legends of Canadian powerlifting.

One of those legends (who is still winning both nationally and internationally), Jeff Becker, was gracious enough to share some of his over 30 years of experience with me while we waited for our session to start.  He overheard me talking about my hand with another lifter and immediately insisted that I speak to another Canadian powerlifting legend, Aras Kvedaras about it. Aras is a chiropractor and an expert in how the body moves.  He has been helping Canadian powerlifters for over 12 years.  He's at virtually all of the big meets and travels to many of the international meets as well.  While there are literally hundreds of lifters that have been helped by him, I had never asked him for help, mainly because I felt like my little aches and pains weren't worth taking his attention from better lifters that might've benefited more.

Since I currently have a surgery consult for my elbow scheduled for early January 2017, I figured I had nothing to lose so, at Jeff's insistence, I walked over to Aras and explained my problem.  He did a few tests and agreed that there was an ulnar nerve blockage.  He disagreed that surgery was needed to fix the problem.  He did two things on the spot, he gave me a simple exercise to help open up space in the joint for the ulnar nerve and he did some active release on the scar tissue in my elbow joint.  He said if I did the exercise (a specific type of tricep extension) for three weeks, that I'd see improvement.  This was pretty exciting stuff since any progress made between now and January might be able to put off or completely cancel my need for surgery.  He also said he'd never seen someone not recover from this type of issue so that really gave me hope that I could avoid the scalpel.

As for my lifting, squats and bench presses went amazingly well.  I think it was a combination of meet day adrenaline and not having to deal with the stresses of recovering from a weight cut.  Either way, I ended up squatting more than I had originally planned, 473 lbs (215 kgs) and bench pressed my goal weight of 319 lbs (145 kgs).  The only difference was, I expected the 319 to be a grind and instead it was smooth enough that I may have had 2.5 kgs or even more in the tank.  Either way, it was a very nice surprise to out-do what I had done in the gym just a week prior.

I had a lot of optimism going into deadlifts.  I wasn't tired at all.  I attribute some of that to the two months of work on the rowing machine.  My flight was only 8 lifters and with a couple lifters taking token attempts, the rest of us only had 5-6 minutes between attempts.  5 to 6 minutes between sets in the gym seems like a long time but in a competition, it feels like you barely have time to get off the platform, get your next attempt in, sit for a moment and then it's your turn to lift again.

My opening attempt at 529 lbs (240 kgs) went up very easily.  I moved to my planned second attempt of 573 lbs (260 kgs).  Before the meet, I had looked up the National Record in my age and weight class and it was only 272.5 kgs (601 lbs).  I didn't think it was in play due to my poor deadlifting in recent months but I thought if everything went perfectly, that I'd give it a go.  Well, after the 573 lbs went up about twice as fast as I'd done 565 lbs in the gym the week prior, I decided to try to break the record with a 275 kg (606 lb) attempt.  In National meets, you can attempt to break a National record by only 0.5 kgs but at a Provincial meet, apparently you need to make minimum 2.5 kg jumps.  Either way, I don't think the extra 2 kgs (4.4 lbs) made a difference.

Now, keeping in mind that I had failed to break 270 kgs off the floor the previous November and failed with 267.5 kgs in May (albeit after a huge weight cut), prior to the moment of putting in my attempt of 275 kgs, I was not completely confident in my abilities.  However, once the announcer called my name and said the bar was loaded, I was 100% committed to this pull.  I set up my hook grip and started to pull.  It was heavy but broke the ground pretty quickly.  As the bar passed my knees, I knew I could finish it.  I was going to have my first National Record (it's just an age group record but beggars can't be choosers).  Just when I was about to lock it out and hold it for the judge's "down" command, my gimp hand popped open and I dropped the bar and lost my National Record.   In an instant I looked to the ceiling and let out a primal scream (no profanity, just a scream).  A year and half of deadlift frustration combined with a massive adrenalin dump.   Totally out of character but for a split second, I was out of control.

It was frustrating because I have pulled more than 275 kgs in the past.  And now that my back was strong again, my hand let me down.  I don't know if it was weakness from the atrophy or if I made a tactical error.  Usually when a deadlift rips from your hands, you tear skin, often from multiple places.  However, on my left hand, the hand that let go, there were no torn calluses or even scuffed skin.  I think it's possible that I put too much chalk on my hand and also failed to set the bar's knurling deep into my thumb and fingers.  The whole point of the hook grip is to use your thumb as a lifting strap.  Since your thumb is not going to tear off, usually it's good for whatever you can get off the ground.   I suspect using too much chalk actually reduced friction rather than increased it because my fingers and thumb did not show any abrasions from having the bar ripped from them.

In any case, as I write down my thoughts 3 days later, my body feels good, I've been doing the exercise recommended by Aras and I'm really looking forward to redemption in January at the Canadian Powerlifting Union Central Championships.  I don't know if I'll have a chance to try to break the deadlift record again but I do feel like I'll get back into the 600 lb deadlift club.

Meet results:

bwt 102.6

Best Squat:  215 kgs  (473 lbs)
Best Bench Press:  145 kgs (319 lbs)
Best Deadlift:  260 kgs  (573 lbs)
Total:  620 kgs

I actually totaled 10 kgs less this year than last year but my outlook for the future is completely different.  Last year I felt like my body was on the verge of breaking down and I was mildly discouraged that perhaps age related strength decline was starting to set in.  This year, it feels like completely the opposite.  While I haven't gotten back to previous strength levels yet, my body feels better in many ways than it has in a couple of years.  It feels like I can get back to a 640 or 650 kg total in the 105 kg weight class again.   Once I do that, I'll be able to set my sights on some lifetime PR's.

2nd  Leonid Khankine, 1st Me, 3rd Jim Norton  105 kg wt class (50-59)







Thursday, November 3, 2016

8 days out from next meet and training thoughts

Since my last training blog entry almost 2 months ago, a couple things have changed.  One, I won't be lifting in the 93 kg weight class on November 11th.  Two, I've added in morning sessions of cardio training (plus assorted accessory movements time permitting).

Number two in that list actually came before number one and was actually intentioned originally as part of my strategy to lift in the 93 kg weight class.  However, I have not lost weight due to the extra energy expenditure, in fact, I've gained weight, so I'll be in the 105 kg weight class.  This morning I woke up weighing 228 lbs.  About 8 lbs more than where I was when I wrote my last blog post in early September.  Reasons for the weight gain?  I've eaten more probably.  Vivian and I went on a cruise in early October.  While there was a lot of walking both on the ship and on shore adventures and I managed to hit the ship's gym 4 times, I still ended up with a +15 lb bloat when I got back home.  Some of that dissipated with the inevitable shedding of retained water but I still ended up 5 lbs heavier. than before we left.

Still, it will be my first meet where I've been able to lift as a 105 kg lifter without any weight cut whatsoever.  Previously, whenever I did compete at my walking around weight, I competed at between 111-114 kg.   While still far from my goal of walking around at 210 lbs, it does feel much better walking around at 225-230 than 245-250.  The process will continue and we'll see where my weight settles at next.

Oct 2016 left, Sept 2015 right
The pictures above are approximately a year apart.  The weight change doesn't show up in my face too much but I can't wear any of the pants I owned a year ago.

Even though the addition of morning cardio sessions hasn't led to lower bodyweight (it might have even increased it slightly), they have already shown noticeable benefit.  I chose the concept2 rowing machine as my cardio method because I've always liked it and it involved both the upper and lower body.  At first I did 2000m in about 8 minutes and then did another 10 minutes on a stairmaster.  Once I could row for 20 minutes at a time, I switched to the concept2 exclusively.  I can now row for over 40 minutes at a time and have already noticed an improvement in my aerobic capacity.  As for being responsible for a slight weight gain, one thing I noticed the first month or so was how much harder rowing was on the muscles on the front of my body--abs and hip flexors--and my arms.  Based on the muscle soreness after each of those early rowing workouts, I'm thinking my abs and hip flexors along with my elbow flexors all had to adapt slightly to deal with the new workload.  It may be my imagination but I also feel like this improved conditioning to what were apparently neglected muscle groups has benefited my squat stability.

best time for 5000m so far
I've been logging my rowing workouts at the concept2 site and my best 5000m piece ranks at slightly better than half of the 50-59 yr old males (375 of 979 last time I checked) that keep a log there.   So I'm mediocre at another 'sport', lol.

I've also spent the last 6 months getting used to a wider squat stance using flat shoes.  So far it's working out great.  My back feels great and my strength levels are starting to approach where I was with a narrower, heeled shoe stance.

465x1
So far the strangest thing about getting older--and by getting older I'm referring to the continuum of my experiences from 41 to the current 50--is that while I don't necessarily feel like my body can't get stronger, sometimes I notice that it just isn't getting stronger.  And not in a plateau sort of way.  More of a, "training is going great, no aches or pains, but I'm lifting less weight at the end and it doesn't feel wrong, it just is" sort of way.  It's hard to explain and I'm not doing a good job of it but it feels like I'm making progress and improving but the results are no different than if I were spinning my wheels in the sand.  Normally I think I'd be disappointed at a lack of progress in terms of Wilks or Total building but the process has been so enjoyable that the results or lack thereof haven't detracted from the experience.  Like I said, strange, very strange.







Thursday, September 8, 2016

The cut down to 93 kgs continues...meanwhile, turned 50, feels the same as 49 so far.

I haven't bothered blogging about my training lately because, frankly, it hasn't even been interesting enough to me for me to think about writing anything about it.  I'm still in the process of dropping my bodyweight down enough that I can compete in the 93 kg weight class and while that's happening, I haven't put much of a priority in strength development.  At best, I'm trying to maintain what strength I have in the hopes that when I finally get my body to stabilize somewhere around 200 lbs, that I'll be able to build strength from that point.

At the moment I'm still 215 lbs so I have quite a bit of work to do to make 93 kgs (205 lbs) comfortably by Provincials on November 11, 2016.  I was able to make 93 kgs for the Niagara meet in May but it required a weight cut from 218 lbs a week out and 213 lbs the night before.  The cut sapped my strength approximately 10% so, while I was able to make a total and complete the meet, the quality of my lifts was definitely secondary to just being able to do it.  I think I will be able to make weight in November without a big weight cut but I'm not expecting to be able to hit a Wilks comparable to my results as a 105 kgs lifter (somewhere in the 380-389 range).  I think it'll take another year of training at a bodyweight of 200-207 lbs before I'll really be able to see what I can do as a 93 kg lifter.

A couple of weeks ago I turned 50.  It's just another number but it's a milestone marker so I guess it's important.  I'm now officially and irrevocably a M2 age group lifter but so far, I feel the same as I did at 49.  Aches and pains actually feel considerably better than when I was either 48 or 49.  I attribute that to losing 30 lbs.  Even without doing any cardio, my resting heart rate has dropped from mid 60's to mid 50's.

One of the birthday presents I received was a Skulpt bodyfat measuring device.

https://www.skulpt.me/


It uses a type of electrical impedance process to determine bodyfat percentages.  I thought it would be interesting to see how it tracks changes as my bodyweight continues to drop.  Previously, I had estimated my bodyfat using the US Navy calculator, a method referred to me by Strengtheory.com's Greg Nuckols, that uses two measurements along with gender, height, and weight. The results so far are interesting:

US Navy Calculator:   215 lbs, 5'9", waist at navel:  36"  neck at largest point: 17"

18%

Skulpt quick scan:  215 lbs, 5'9", based on measurement at right tricep, right quad, right side of abs

13.2%

I asked Greg what he thought about the two measurement methods and he commented that the US Navy Calculator may attribute more visceral bodyfat while the surface measurement of the Skulpt may not capture enough visceral bodyfat (visceral bodyfat tends to be more abundant as males proceed through middle age).  Either way, both his and my opinion was that I'm probably somewhere in the middle, for whatever that is worth.  I think this progress pic supports our opinion.

dirty mirror hides some details


In any case, I'm interested to see how consistent the measurements are over time and whether or not the Skulpt will prove to be a useful monitoring tool for me.  Also, once I have time to scan all the measurement points, maybe the bodyfat reading will be closer to the US Navy calculation.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

4 days as a part-time dog walker and first two weeks with an Isolator 6 meal cooler bag.

The two items in the title are related only in that they both began in the same week.  The week that the powerlifting team that I'm a member of, Toronto Rex Powerlifting Club, was holding the Ontario Powerlifting Association's Toronto Supershow Powerlifting Open at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, my wife Vivian came to me with an emergency request.  One of her dog walkers had a family emergency and would be unavailable to service her client's dogs for the entire week.  Vivian asked me if I could take vacation days to cover the client's dogs that needed to be walked.  It wasn't an ideal situation to burn 4 vacation days but Vivian has been busting her butt growing her business (it has been an amazing success) and I wasn't about to not support her now.  I had already committed Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to the powerlifting competition but now I was also a part-time dog walker Monday through Thursday.



Since Vivian's business doesn't do pack walks, I would be walking one household's dog (or dogs) at a time.  Fortunately the weather forecast was excellent and I was looking forward to the chance to spend some time outdoors.  I was assigned 3 appointments on Monday, and 4 each on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Each appointment was 30 minutes from arrival to departure and occupied a total of about 3 hours in the middle of the day.

With the exception of one day where a puppy client had a diarrhea issue and required extensive clean up of both the puppy and its crate, the rest of the walks were extremely enjoyable.  One dog was very small and would barely walk a kilometer in the 25 minutes or so we spent on leash.  Another dog was very undisciplined and would pull at the leash for almost the entire two kilometres.  On average I walked about 6 kilometres over the 4 walks spanning about 100 minutes of walking.  As my time as a dog walker passed, I thought about all the low intensity cardio I was getting along with the stress release from working with animals.  This was amplified due to the perfect summer weather I enjoyed while "working".  For all the full time dog walkers out there, I hope the great summer days make up for the walks in the rain or the bitter cold of winter.

I thought about my time spent as a personal trainer and had the idea that merging dog walking with personal training might be a good fit.  Often times as a personal trainer, one is busy in the mornings and the evenings but slower in the middle of the day.  While paying less on a per hour basis than personal training, having 3 or 4 or 5 dog walking clients in the middle of the day is a great way to get some low stress exercise while also increasing the revenue density of one's waking hours.

Once my four-day stint as a dog walker was over, it was time to shift gears and help the team set up and run the Toronto Supershow Powerlifting competition.  This competition is always very interesting because it is held as part of the Toronto Supershow Expo.  Sort of like a mini-Arnold Sports Festival.  While I don't buy much in the way of supplements or tight fitting workout attire, I still like to check out the other exhibitors just in case there's something interesting.








While at the show, I stopped by the SyndicateFit booth.  They were running a special on Isolator meal bags.  I had never seriously considered buying one of those fitness meal bags because they were usually pretty expensive and I already had an old cooler bag that I used as my lunch box.  However, the price included a bunch of meal containers and seemed like a great deal so I bought one and happily retired my torn and worn Costco special.

out with the old (left) in with the new (right)


I've been using my 6 meal bag for about two weeks now and I have to admit it has made my meal planning and current calorie restricted diet easier to manage.  Not so much because the bag is special but because those meal containers that came with it are much smaller than the containers I used to use.  I've always had a big appetite so I could never bring myself to buy small food storage containers. However, the included containers with the Iso Bag are smaller and although I could use other containers inside of it, I wanted to give it a fair trial.

It's all mental but I find that I have to fill a container with food.  Big or small, the container needs to be full.  When I eat it, I have to finish all of what's in the container.  Turns out, I'm just about satisfied the same finishing all the food in a smaller container as finishing all the food in a larger container.  With the Iso Bag, two of the smaller containers is still a smaller quantity of food than a single larger container that I used to use.   In hindsight, could I have just bought smaller food storage containers and used any old cooler bag?  Yup.  But I gotta admit, the Iso Bag is a pretty tidy package.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Prep for Provincials, November 11-13, 2016, begins...

http://www.ontariopowerlifting.org/event/ontario-open-master-classic-equipped-championship-2016/
http://www.ontariopowerlifting.org/event/ontario-open-master-classic-equipped-championship-2016/
Now that I've officially competed as a 93 kg weight class lifter, the preparations for the next two competitions begins.  As of this morning, my weight was 219 lbs, up a few pounds from just before I started the water cutting process for last weekend's competition.  Next week, I'll be 24 weeks out from the Ontario Powerlifting Association's Ontario Open & Master Classic and Equipped Championships (Provincials, for short).  My goal is to be at or below 205 lbs by August 24th, the date I'm flying back to visit my family and to celebrate my 50th birthday.  I'll be out of town for about a week and while I will likely be exercising, I will also be drinking many local Boulder, Longmont, and Fort Collins area brewery product as well as other interesting beers found at the local liquor warehouse.  I will also be getting my fill of mexican food and Mom's home cooking.

A portion of the Micro-brewery section at a store in Boulder

Just the whiskey section!
After returning from Colorado, it will take a few days for my weight to normalize back around 205 and I'll have 9 weeks to prep/peak for Provincials.  Vivian and I have a vacation planned for October that will put a short delay into the peaking process but I'll have a good 2-3 weeks to sharpen up my lifting form by meet time.

After Provincials, I will likely enter the Canadian Powerlifting Union's CentralCanadian Championships in lieu of travelling to Saguenay, Quebec for the CPU Nationals in March.  There are 6 weeks between Provincials and the Central Canadian Championships, with one of those weeks being the Christmas/New Year's period.  It'll be a short turn around and not enough time to rebuild anything in the event something breaks, but the competition is only a short drive away.

So, the basic outline of my training priorities is:

From now until August 24th, 14 weeks to lose 15-19 lbs.

From September to the meet, 9 weeks to prep with no weight loss/weight cut to interfere.

From November 20 to January 6, 2017, 6 weeks to run a short mini re-peak for the Central Canadian Championships, again with no weight loss/weight cut priorities.


Training set from earlier this week, set 1 of 3, 495x3, bodyweight 219 lbs.  Felt better than it did a week before the meet at a similar bodyweight.  Right were I want to be, in a good position to build the deadlift back up to previous levels for November.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Meet Report: 2016 Niagara Open, first meet as a M2 lifter, first meet as a 93 kg lifter

Back in November, I made the decision that my next competition (and all those thereafter) would be as a 93 kg lifter.  At that time, my "walking around weight" was between 240 and 250 lbs.  To make the 105 kg weight class, I would usually have to diet for about a month and then do a 4-6 lb water cut.  After a lackluster performance coupled with some nagging back pain, I decided that carrying around extra weight wasn't doing my health or my lifting any good.  The only challenge was, I hadn't been anywhere near 205 lbs since the mid-90's.  Losing upwards of 35 lbs was going to be a long process.

For some reason, I have been exceptionally motivated by this goal and I have been able to maintain a calorie restricted diet since mid-November 2015 with the only notable exceptions being the Christmas/New Year period and two trips to Las Vegas.  My weight loss has been a pretty consistent 1 lb per week, slower than I would've liked but I chalk that up to a combination of a more sedentary lifestyle than when I was in my late 20's and not being in my 20's or 30's anymore.

Back when I signed up for the 2016 Niagara Open, I thought the qualification process for the Ontario Powerlifting Association Provincial Championships still required one to post a qualifying total in the weight class one intends to compete.  Since I had never lifted as a 93 kg weight class lifter, this meant I'd need to lift as a 93 kg lifter to avoid doing another meet before Provincials in November 2016.  With local meets filling up so fast in Ontario, I didn't want to leave it to chance.  I later found out, about a month out from the meet, that Ontario had indeed decided to follow the qualifying procedure used for Nationals, that is, once one posts a qualifying total in one weight class, that total qualifies one to enter Nationals at any weight class, higher or lower.   By this time, I was already committed to the idea of lifting as a 93 kg lifter so I decided to stick to the plan.

The only challenge was my weight.  A month out from the meet, my bodyweight was still hovering between 215 and 217 and I had one more trip to Las Vegas.  The morning of my flight to Las Vegas on April 14th, I was 215.5 lbs.  I flew back on the 20th and when I woke up on the 21st, my weight was a water-logged 231.5.  I was back down to 219 lbs six days later but that still put me 14 lbs over the 205 lb/93 kg wt class limit only 17 days out.  At this point, I knew I could still make weight but the water cut needed was going to be drastic enough that it would most definitely affect my performance. This combined with the basic structure of my training from December to the present which was designed more to preserving muscle mass while dieting than building and peaking strength meant that I really had zero expectations in terms of actually lifting anything that would result in a Wilks score close to what I had achieved in the past.

The day before my weigh-in, I was 213 lbs.  I still had 8 lbs to go but felt pretty confident that a water cut would accomplish the task.  I was following a fairly standard protocol of eating "low residue" foods the last week, a water loading period, and then no water or food for the last 36 hrs.  I also spent about an hour in the steam room at a local YMCA to lose the last 3 lbs of water the morning of weigh-in day.  When I weighed in at approximately 1 pm on May 14th, I was 92.4 kgs or 203.7 lbs.  I immediately starting downing pedialyte and other fluids and eating easily digestible carbs.  The first phase of my plan was completed.

Surprisingly, after getting in some food and water, I was feeling about a thousand percent better than I did just before the weigh-in.  I was worried that I would suffer some cramping but I hoped that by lowering my openers to very low numbers, that I'd be able to gut out even a worst case scenario situation.  Although I don't ever intend to have to cut that much weight and lift on the same day ever again, I saw this situation as a unique opportunity to see what effect it would have on my lifting.

I set my openers at 180 kgs in the squat, 130 kgs in the bench press, and 220 kgs in the deadlift.  Just my openers would easily surpass the M2 qualifying total required for the 93 kg weight class, so if the OPA hadn't changed their Provincial qualifying procedure, I still had quite a bit of wriggle room in case disaster struck and I needed to change openers during warm ups.  Fortunately, aside from some manageable quad cramps and my calves wanting to cramp, squat warm ups went well.  One benefit of opening 30 kgs lighter than I had in the past is an even fewer number of warm up sets.  Just the ticket since I felt like I had limited energy in reserve due to the short period I had to try to re-hydrate and re-fuel.

All three squats went very well and I even probably left 5 or even 10 kgs on the platform.


First attempt, 180 kgs, good lift


Second attempt, 190 kgs, good lift



Third attempt, 200 kgs, good lift


Bench presses went about according to expectations, my opener with 130 kgs was easy, my second with 140 kgs was slow and had a weird bobble at lockout when my left elbow collapsed momentarily at full extension.  I got three whites even though the bar oscillated at lockout so I considered that fortunate.  My third at 145 kgs wasn't close.  This was the first lift where I really noticed the effects of the water cut.


First attempt, 130 kgs, good lift



Second attempt, 140 kgs, good lift



Third attempt, 145 kgs, no lift

At this point, I suffered cramping in both of my sartorius muscles.  Each time it occurred when I was pulling off my knee sleeves.  Due to the sartorius' attachment both below the knee and above the hip, it was in a unique position to help power the contortion needed to pull a knee sleeve off the end of the foot.  However it was used, it hurts like heck when it cramps up.  Sitting down, the attachment around the knee cramped hard.  When I tried to stand up, it cramped up towards the origin--even more painful.  For about a minute I was worried I wouldn't be able to deadlift or if I could, I'd need to reduce my opener to the bare minimum I needed for the 477.5 kg total that I didn't really need to qualify for provincials.  Luckily, the cramps subsided and I kept my opener at the already much lighter than usual 220 kgs.

My first two deadlifts went well.  I hadn't been training the deadlift heavy since Provincials in order to let some back pain resolve itself.  It had been well over a year since I last deadlifted over 600 lbs in competition due to pain and a general lack of power.  As a result, I hadn't used anything over 495 lbs in the deadlift in order to give my back a chance to heal.  I really had no expectations here.  I had planned to take 260 kgs as my third attempt, which would've been a stretch, but I realized that if I could pull 267.5 kgs, I could move into third place.  Just a couple years ago, that would've been less than my normal second attempt at a meet but now, after a brutal weight cut and after 5 months of remedial work for my deadlift, it was a bit of a unicorn.  Still, having your last deadlift mean something is some of the best fun you can have at a meet so I changed my third attempt and decided to giv'r.  I got it off the ground a few inches, maintained my posture, and nothing hurt so even though I missed the lift, it still felt like a small victory.  It felt really good to miss a deadlift because I wasn't strong enough rather than because my back shut it down.  


First attempt 220 kgs, good lift

Second attempt, 245 kgs, good lift


Third attempt, 267.5 kgs, no lift

So, all in all, I ended up with a 585 kg total, all lifts and total are technically PR's since this is a new weight class for me.  And I ended up with some good experience with lifting under less than ideal physical conditions.  I'm really looking forward to continuing to lose weight and train in my new weight class.  I feel like I'm good for at least another 30 kgs on my total come Provincials in November.  

As always the Niagara Powerlifting Club puts on a world class event.  Our session of two full flights was over in under 3 hours.  It was great seeing old friends, making new ones, and seeing all the new lifters.  



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Weight cut, first 20 lbs down. 15 more to go.

This week I hit 220 or 20 lbs down from my starting point.  Since I started this process about a week before Provincials on November 22 it's been 17 weeks or so.  The pace of weight loss has been about what I planned since I'm doing no extra exercise other than my 3-5 times a week weight training sessions.

I've been taking progress pictures but they're not particularly noteworthy since I'm still a mostly ab-less squishy person.  Maybe I'll have something presentable when I'm down to 205 but I'm not holding my breath.  I didn't start this process for aesthetic reasons so it doesn't make sense to shift goals mid-way.  I did start this process to eventually feel better and I can definitely say I feel as though I have more energy and my back hurts less, especially in the morning.

I've had to take some clothes in for alterations and more will eventually go to the donation pile but I had planned for these expenses to occur.  Along with smaller clothes, I have noticed some loss of strength in the squat and bench press but I've also seen increases in strength in other lifts/movements that I didn't train very much in the past so I think it's more due to a lack of practice.  Either way, things are still on track to make the 93 kg wt class (with an aggressive water cut) for my next meet in May.  Once I get a 93 kg qualifying total, I'll be able to plan a proper lead up to Provincials in November.

So far, along with the 20 lbs, I've measured the following changes:

Neck:  from 18" to 17.5"
Chest:  from 48" to 46.5"
Waist at hip bones:  from 38.5" to 36"
Hips:  from 43.5" to 42"
Arms:  from 18" to 17.5" (right arm)
Legs:  from 27" to 26"