The timing of this article comes at the perfect point. The topic of interest is how to rapidly prep for a meet, discuss what the body goes through, and what it truly means to peak. Less than 3 weeks ago (at time of writing), I competed at the USAPL Equipped National Championships in San Antonio, and in less than 1 week, I leave for Finland for the IPF Raw World Championships. It takes careful planning to turn around from one meet to the next in less than one month, and magnitudes more challenging going from equipped to raw. Before I get into the meat of the article, I’m going to point out a few examples of quick turnaround meets that I have done to give my experience more credibility.
In March of 2012, I competed equipped at the Arnold Sports Festival and set the IPF World Record in the squat. Less than a month later, I travelled to Melbourne, Australia, and broke the Raw Squat World Record with 881 lbs.
In June of 2012, I won the IPF Raw World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, and 6 days later, I won the 2012 USAPL Equipped National Championships in Orlando, Florida, and became the first person to squat 1,000 lbs. at a USAPL Nationally sanctioned meet.
In June of 2013, I bombed out of the USAPL Equipped National Championships in Killeen, Texas, after squatting 1,009 lbs. three times but getting turned down on depth but went on to bench and deadlift. Less than a month later, I travelled to Orlando, Florida, and competed at the USAPL Raw National Championships where I came in second place to Ray Williams.
In March of 2014, I competed in 3 meets in 3 days at the Arnold Sports Festival. On Friday, I competed in the raw 3-lift meet where I set a World Record in the total. Saturday, I competed in the equipped 3-lift meet where I broke the American Record squat and bench press. And Sunday, I competed in the equipped bench press meet where I pressed 827 lbs. but was turned down on a technicality (lifting my head).
In June of 2014, I competed at the USAPL Equipped National Championships in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I bombed on the squat with 1,025 lbs. on depth and bench pressed 805 and deadlifted 761. Three weeks later, I competed at the USAPL Raw Nationals in Denver, Colorado, where I won via 881/529/733 and a 2,150 lb. total.
As you can see, I have competed in several meets with only 1-3 weeks in between. And these are big, national- and world-level meets requiring extensive plane travel. It is through these experiences that I have truly learned what it takes to peak for a meet, and how to do so quickly.
IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Seriously. It is all in your head. I’ve seen all over the place people claiming they need 12-16 weeks to prepare for a meet. And the slightest mistake in training will completely ruin a cycle. There are excuses everywhere: peaked too early, peaked too late, the travel killed me. They are exactly that: excuses. There is a lot of science that has gone into studying super-compensation, tapers, etc., but the bottom line is, your mind will control 90% of your success on meet day. If you plant the seed of doubt in your head that you aren’t going to be ready, or you haven’t had enough time to prep, to rest, to eat, to sleep, then you’ve already lost. You have to absolutely believe with 100% unwavering confidence that you will be ready to compete and ready to win.
[quote]Confidence is the key to this game, but it isn’t a delusional swagger.[/quote]
You have to know what you are capable of and have the utmost confidence you can and will perform to 100% of your capabilities on meet day. I love reading stories about climbers who have fell in an ice crevasse, sawed their own foot off because it became lodged in ice, then crawled 20 miles to civilization to save their life. That shouldn’t be physically possible, but someone like that has the ability to put mind over matter. If someone can crawl 20 miles after chopping their leg off, you should be able to put any myth of “not peaking right” out of your head. You just gotta want it.
THE GOAL ISN’T TO GET STRONGER
If you have a short turnaround time for a meet, you are not going to get any stronger. It is as simple as that. If you have 4 weeks, maybe even 6, you will not get stronger before the meet if you have been training for any significant time in your life. The goal of these few weeks leading up to a meet are to:
- Find reasonable openers
- Get comfortable with opener-ish weight
- Rest, recover, and mentally prepare
Touching on the first point, it is important to find a reasonable opener, and there is no point in going over that weight prior to the meet on a short turn around. An opener should be conservative, something you can triple on a bad day. The second point is getting comfortable with opener weight. This goes hand in hand with the first point. It’s crucial to get comfortable handling an opener to the point you can do it every day no matter the conditions or how you are feeling, because things WILL be different on meet day. The last point is to rest, recover, and prepare mentally. To repeat myself, in the final few weeks of a last minute meet, you do not need to focus on getting stronger. The strength you have built is already there, now it becomes a game of harnessing it on meet day. In order to do this, rest must be adequate and the mind must be prepared. Having confidence going into a meet is unbelievably important. It takes the confidence to know you can work up to 90% in training, but knowing you can crush 100% at the meet. Don’t ever let the seed of doubt get planted in your mind that you are unprepared.
PICK STRATEGIC ATTEMPTS
If you are going into a meet on short notice or quickly after another meet, it is important to understand that your body is not going to respond on meet day like you might expect it to. I firmly believe you can still hit 100% of what you are capable of, but the approach may need to be different. This all starts with the opening attempt. People too often have warm-up room battles and opening attempt battles. But no meet has ever been won based on the warm-up room or solely due to an opening attempt being higher. It is better to open lighter and make larger jumps to the biggest lift. For example, if you feel you are capable of a 500 lb. squat, I would normally recommend attempts 455/480/500. But under a quick turnaround circumstance, I would pick something more like 440/470/500 with the 100% confidence that I can hit the 500.
With a quick turnaround on a meet, or choosing to do a meet on short notice, it really just comes down to having the utmost confidence in knowing you are capable of hitting 100% and never planting that seed of doubt. You must also listen to your body and understand what it means to pick conservative, smart attempts. The biggest potential bust to a quick peaking phase is letting the ego get in the way and either going too heavy in training, or opening too heavy and blowing your load early. By going too heavy in training close to the meet, if your body executes a near maximal lift, its ability to do that again under a stressful meet situation diminishes. By leaving some pounds in the tank during training, you allow yourself to hit that big number in a meet.