Written by Chad Wesley Smith
Big Dogs Recap
I’ve been putting off writing this but I suppose it needs to be done. Quite simply, I lifted badly. This is the first time in my career that my training total has surpassed my competition total and I know part of the reason why but part of it is still leaving me a bit confused and frustrated.
This was undoubtedly my best squat training cycle, making PRs of 365kg/804# x4, 380kg/838# x3, 400kg/882# x2 and 415kg/915# x1 in sleeves and 420kg/925# x1 and 430kg/948# x1 in wraps. Previous to my PR squat of 440kg/970#, my best training squat was 415kg/915#, so I knew that I should have been in shape for a big PR. Unfortunately, that plan got a bit derailed on the last rep of my last heavy training session on Oct 14 when I suffered a quad injury on a set with 420kg/925#. It wasn’t a severe injury, just felt several pops in the lateral quad while coming out of the hole and had the spotters take it. Through the time before the meet, I worked with my great support team (Dr. Quinn-PT, Dr. Joe-Chiro/Graston and Elyssa-Massage) along with doing a lot of slow eccentric squatting to help heal the tissue and I felt strong the day of the meet through warmups, with my last warmup at 395kg. On my 420kg opener I felt strong, though pain in the quad went from probably a 2 to a 5 and then the issue became my head. I went to my planned 2nd of 445kg/981# but throughout the descent (which was much slower than usual) couldn’t get the idea of ‘am I about to get injured?’ out of my head and I missed the lift out of the hole and increased the pain in my left quad. I retook the weight for a 3rd attempt and while I did a better job of descending with confidence, when I reversed the weight, I just couldn’t push the way I needed-which in many ways I think was just my brain protecting my body. A very frustrating start to the day.
On to the bench, my bench training cycle was very up and down, with lots of elbow/forearm pain hampering me during the early training but a great finish to things with a smooth 260kg/573# lifetime PR on Oct 12th. Warmups felt good, not great and after a solid opener at 245kg/540#, I jumped to the lower end of my planned 2nds at 255kg/562#. I missed this very near lockout and then was informed by the judges, that had I made it, would have been redlighted for a heave. This isn’t a call I necessarily agreed with or saw in the video, as I felt that it looked the same as my opener and other benches at Pro Raw and in the USPA but with this in my head on my 3rd attempt, a retry at 255kg, I was very conscience of avoiding the same issue, which basically eliminated my leg drive and any chance of making the lift. At this point, I was pretty dejected at the day, knowing that 2nd place and $10k AUD was now very likely out of reach and that my place in 3rd was basically cemented, barring disaster on my part or massive PRs by others.
The deadlift I took my planned opener and 2nd of 345kg/760# and 365kg/804# (made that 2-1 and probably got a bit of a gift). Was going to pass my 3rd attempt but figured to give 372.5kg/821# a shot for a small PR. My deadlift training cycle was good for awhile and then I hurt my back about halfway through and really just let myself become lazy in training that lift, with the excuse of protecting my back from more injury but the reality was I just didn’t train it as hard as I should have.
I’m still at a bit of a loss trying to figure out the bench issue, as I expected to be taking 265kg/584# on a my 3rd attempt. Could it be travel related? Yes, but considering my 2 best totals are both in Australia, I don’t like that as an excuse, though I had 1 less day to acclimate on this trip than I did at Pro Raw 7. Could it have been that I didn’t have enough volume in my Peaking Block and Taper to maintain my fitness, possibly and that’s the most likely thing I see at this point. Whatever the problems of this meet were, injury, poor planning, lack of effort, etc I’m going to continue to do my best to identify and rectify them moving forward towards the 1100kg total that I know I’m capable of.
Thank you again to Emad and Markos for organizing such a great meet. Congrats to Shawn Doyle, Andrey Malanichev and everyone on their strong performances. Thank you to all the fans here in Australia and on Social Media for the encouragement. Most of all thanks to Marisa, Max, Pomp, Colin, Cortney, Zack, Liz, Josie and everyone at JuggHQ for their support throughout all the training. I’m figuring out what is next and I’m bringing everything I’ve got for it. #JuggLife
With a bad performance comes a crossroads for a competitor, an opportunity to make excuses or find the reasons you didn’t perform better, take ownership of the performance and do what you can to fix the problem moving forward.
This is a key moment in achieving long term competitive success, as it is critical for a competitor and/or coach to be able to critically evaluate performances, understand what was done well and understand what needs to be improved. In regards to this meet for myself, there are 3 main things that I feel I could have done better in preparation and competition.
1-Set The Ego Aside, Listen To Yourself and Stay Healthy
As stated above, I suffered a quad injury during the last rep of my last heavy squat session, 2 weeks before the competition. While I didn’t feel any indications of an oncoming injury during the training, I do feel like I could have prevented things. My last heavy squat day was done while Marisa and I were in Atlanta for her to compete (and win) at USAPL Nationals. I don’t like to give travel as a reason for poor performance but the combination of travel and accumulated fatigue into the final day of overload training, I just didn’t feel sharp the whole session. As I readied to take my heaviest squat in sleeves (a backdown after a top set of 440kg in wraps), I thought to myself ‘skip this set, you don’t feel your best, the needed hard work is done, just call it a day’ but since I was in a gym with about 50 other people, I let my ego get the best of them and try to put on a show and because of that felt about 10 pops in my left quad as I came out of the hole with 420kg. That is a set I should have skipped, I should have listened to my own intuition but I tried to impress the gym and it cost me.
I didn’t train hard enough in the bench and deadlift to have the meet I needed to. While I had some very positive moments in my bench training, including a 260kg/573# lifetime PR, my volume throughout the training cycle wasn’t consistent enough to peak properly. My arms get very sore from squat training and I let that be an excuse for not pushing my bench training harder, so when there are days that my arms hurt, I need to be more diligent in finding workarounds to still get quality work done. About 10 weeks prior to competition, I hurt my back going for the 2nd rep of a double with 350kg/771#. The next day, I couldn’t get out of bed and when I tried to walk, I fell to my knees in pain after only a few steps. I was certain that I’d suffered another disc injury and was very dejected. Thankfully with the help of Dr. Quinn, Dr. Joe and Elyssa, I was able to make a quick return to training but from that point forward I just didn’t push my deadlift training as I needed to for maximum performance. I let my back injury be an excuse for not training the deadlift hard enough. That can’t happen again because my back was fine, if it wasn’t I wouldn’t have hit so many squat PRs.
3-Stay Engaged Mentally
Everyone comes into a competition with certain expectations of themselves and when you don’t meet those expectations, it is easy to lose focus. I came into Big Dogs with expectations of a huge squat and when that didn’t happen, I lost my focus and became complacent on the day. I let myself be filled with negativity about the day and my attitude and body language showed it. I gave negative energy from the squat issues power and while I could have/should have been able to go on to make bench and deadlift PRs, I didn’t. Some days aren’t going to go to your expectations but until the meet is over, there are still positives goals to strive for. Treat each lift as an individual effort, give it your entire focus and don’t let one bad lift turn into a bad day.