Category Archives: Training

Lessons Learned Preparing for First Powerlifting Meet: Part 2

Back on October 11th, I competed in my first ever power lifting meet. I previously wrote an article describing some lessons I learned while preparing for my first meet, HERE.  The meet was held in Everett, Massachusetts, right around the corner from Total Performance Sports.

On meet day, I arrived to the rec center around noon to listen to the rules because getting called on squat depth or jumping a bench command was the last thing I wanted to do in my first meet. I was pretty nervous when I got there, and even more so as the actual meet time approached. The morning session was set to finish a little bit early, so I slowly began preparing and lightly warming up for the 2:30 start time.

Luckily my good friend and competitive power lifter himself, Adam Pine, was there to coach me throughout the day. I really can’t thank him enough as I would have been lost on what to do aside from actually lifting. There’s a lot that goes into having a successful meet, and having someone there to guide you through sure took a lot of pressure off me. Keeping this in mind, here are some key lessons I learned from my first meet.

1) Have a handler

Basically a handler is someone who guides you during meet day. They help with the logistics of the meet and also provide bench press hand-offs.  Adam took care of getting my squat rack height set properly, sending in my attempts, telling me when to warm up and giving me cues to focus on. I was very fortunate to have his guidance because without him I would have been a nervous wreck. Instead, he took care of the details which allowed me to focus on lifting and enjoying my first meet.

2) Bring plenty of food/water/gatorade

This one is pretty self explanatory however it’s very important. Power lifting meets are very long and tiring. I showed up for rules at noon and didn’t leave the rec center until 9pm. 9 hours is a long time, but picking foods you know settle well in your stomach is key. It’s not a good idea to crush some random exotic food if you don’t usually tolerate itwell. Things like trail mix, beef jerky, protein bars and shakes, peanut butter sandwiches, water and gatorade are some good examples to keep you fueled and ready to lift. The worst thing is to be starving while you’re trying to get amped up for a pr deadlift attempt.

3) Know the layout of the meet and the flights you are in

Flights are basically what order you are lifting in. The meet is organized based on weight lifted so  someone with a bigger squat than me goes after me and possibly in a different flight. Check the order as soon as its posted so you can begin to plan when to warm up so that you don’t finish warming up 30 minutes before your first attempt. Again, I had Adam there to help me time my warmups so I was ready when my name was called. Once I was finished benching, I still had about 2 hours until deadlifts even started. Since I was in the 2nd flight for deadlifts, I knew I could add another 15-20 minutes to the start time. Adam recommended that I just relax and get a little food in me as I had plenty of time to warmup once the first flight of deadlifts began. Along the same lines as knowing the layout, it’s also important not to go nuts in warmups. Adam suggested I take jumps like I normally would in training when working up closer to my attempts. Try to do your last warmup about 4-5 minutes before you set to lift on the platform.

4) Take PR attempts even if they are small PR’s

I opened my first meet with a 315 squat. This was easy, as it should have been. Because it was my first meet, it was recommended to me to open light and show the judges that I could handle the weight. My next attempt was 350 which also felt really great. My best squat coming into the meet was 365. During my training as the meet approached, I wanted to hit a 385 squat. But things change a little on meet day, and while the 350 felt light, I jumped too much and ended up missing 385 in the hole. Adam suggested I go 375, which would have been a 10lb pr. I decided I wanted to go for 385 but it didn’t pay off. The lesson I learned from failing on my 3rd squat attempt is this. Take a PR when you have the chance. For my first meet, I should have listened to Adam. It really didn’t matter whether I squatted 375 or 385 because either weight was a PR since it was my first meet. Instead of listening to his advice, I told him 385 and ended up being frustrated after missing it. The point is to take a PR even if it’ s a small PR. Honestly 370 probably would have been more realistic but I got greedy and paid the price.

5) Build weaknesses

The only lift I failed on was my 385lb 3rd attempt on squats. As you’ll see in the video, I didn’t stay controlled enough on the descent, which caused me to lose tightness in the hole. Once I started up out of the hole, I leaned forward just slightly and was out of position to stand up with the weight. I will specifically need to work on building quad, erector and upper back strength to help me stay more upright during the squat. Here is the video of 385:

I will continue to work on taking it down with more confidence, and staying tighter throughout the entire lift.

At the end of the day I ended up going 8/9, posting a 1020 total with a 350 squat, 210 bench, and 460 deadlift. I tested my strengths and was able to see my weaknesses as well. I want to thank everyone that helped me along the way as well as my buddies who were there on meet day to cheer me on! Big thanks to Adam Pine for helping me have a successful first meet!

Here are videos of my successful lifts:

350 Squat

210 Bench-apologies for the grainy video

460 Deadlift-5lb PR

Two Common Mistakes With The Barbell RDL

The Barbell Romanian Deadlift is a killer exercise.

Not only does it build your glutes and hamstrings, but it also turns you into a superhero.

Ok, so maybe that last part was a stretch. However, if performed properly, the Barbell RDL can produce tremendous results for you!

Check out this brief video tutorial on the Barbell Romanian Deadlift

In this article I will elaborate on two common mistakes that occur when performing the Barbell RDL.

I am also going to discuss how and when to implement this exercise to maximize its effectiveness in your own training.

What Is The Barbell Romanian Deadlift?

This exercise is basically a shortened conventional deadlift. The biggest difference in this movement compared to a regular deadlift is range of motion. The Barbell RDL has the lifter performing the lift from about mid shin all the way up to full lockout.

This means you won’t set the weight down completely at the bottom portion of the lift.

This exercise primarily targets the posterior chain, or muscles of the back of the body. These muscles include the glutes, hamstrings, lats and erectors.

There are variations of the lift which emphasize certain muscle groups and target varying ranges of motion. Examples include stiff leg deadlifts, sumo stance RDL’s, single leg RDLs etc.

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

Who Can Benefit From This Exercise?


Anyone can benefit from this exercise. Your goals, needs, and experience will dictate what type of variation you choose.

An athlete could use the Barbell RDL for strength, and may perform sets of 6-8 reps.

A bodybuilder may choose a stiff leg RDL for hypertrophy and do sets of 10-15 reps for more time under tension.

An elderly client might stick with bodyweight RDL’s to engrain good movement patterns which will assist them during daily functions.

Two Common Mistakes During The Barbell Romanian Deadlift

This exercise gets butchered all the time. Below are two of the biggest mistakes I see.

1) Using Too Much Weight

This has probably been one of my biggest challenges with this exercise as well.

Many people use too much weight, especially early on.

It’s best to start out fairly light on these to really engrain proper technique and movement patterning.

When you go too heavy, you risk letting your back fold over which places excess stress on the lumbar spine.

You should be able to maintain a nice natural arch through your low back during the entire movement.

If you lower the bar down to your shins and your entire back starts to round, then you’re using too much weight. Decrease the weight and correct your technique before adding pounds to the bar.

A good progression to work up to doing Barbell RDLs would be: Bodyweight/wall hinge>KB RDL>RDL from a rack>Barbell RDL

2) Losing Tightness Through The Upper Back And Lats

You’ve probably seen someone performing this exercise with the bar a foot away from their body. Don’t let this be you.

To ensure the bar stays close to the body throughout the entire lift, try flexing the back of your armpits, like you’re trying to squeeze an orange in your armpit.

By doing so, you will tighten your lats which will keep the bar in tight to your body throughout the entire movement. The bar should be grazing your thighs and shins on the way down as well as back up to lockout.

Here is an example of poor form where the bar is not kept close to the body:

bad rdl

Photo Credit Mike Gorski

If you aren’t already including Barbell Romanian’s into your current routine I highly suggest you do so. Sets of 6-8 reps to focus on strength, and 10-15 reps for hypertrophy are best.

If you don’t currently have a routine and need some help getting started you can sign up for one of my premier online coaching opportunities by emailing me at Be sure to put “Premier Coaching” in the subject line and you’ll get a response within 48 hours.

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Maximizing Results in Minimal Time

Nowadays people want results faster than ever. Gym-goers are strapped for time and can’t imagine spending more than a few hours a week exercising. And this is perfectly fine. You can still get great results training 2-3 days a week for an hour at a time. How is this possible you ask? Well I can’t guarantee you’ll make great progress following an infomercial workout plan that promises to build muscle, sculpt your glutes and firm your abs in  just 4 minutes a day. If it were that easy, everyone would be in remarkable shape!

However, you can still achieve great results in just 2-3 days in the gym. The key is to spend your time wisely.

Choose exercises that provide the most bang-for-your-buck. It means hopping off of the elliptical and picking up some weights. If getting stronger and feeling better is your goal, strength training should be your priority. Strength training has many benefits including increased muscle mass and increasing bone density.

Here is what you should focus on:

1) Compound exercises

Compound movements should be the staple of your gym routine. Squats, bench presses, deadlifts, chinups, pushups, rows, lunges, glute bridges, romanian deadlifts and core variations should make up the bulk of your training. Spending more time on these movements will help you get stronger, build muscle and feel better. Make sure to include these in your training. Compound movements involve more muscle groups which leads to greater muscle gains and faster rates of fat loss.

2) Better Nutrition

Nutrition is an often overlooked component to getting the results you really want. Your nutrition becomes even more important when you have limited gym time. Take a look at your current nutrition and ask yourself these questions. Are you getting 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight a day? Are you eating whole foods? Are you matching your carb intake to your training? More intense training requires more carbohydrates. Are you incorporating good sources of fat into your diet? Foods like coconut oil, egg yolks, avocados, grass fed butter, nuts, and olive oil are nutrient dense and help fight inflammation. Are you eating a good amount of vegetables everyday? If you want better results, tightening up your dietary habits will really pay off.

3) Quality Sleep

We all know that sleep is important, but just how important is it? Rather than focus on duration of sleep, I think quality of sleep has a bigger impact with regards to recharging you every day. Aim to get to bed every night at the same time and wake up at the same time. This will help your body establish a sound sleep cycle as opposed to one that is constantly changing. Also limit electronic use right before bed. Our brains need to wind down before we sleep, and shutting off these devices will allow us to do just that. Finally, make sure your room is pitch dark. Block out window light and glowing LED lights. Doing these things will definitely have a big impact on the quality of your sleep.

I’d like to provide a sample workout designed to get you stronger, build muscle, and lose body fat in the least amount of time. This type of workout will provide the most bang for your buck exercises.

A1) Deadlift variation (sumo kb, trap bar, sumo or conventional) 4×5

A2) Pushup or Bench Press variation 4×8 or 4×5

B1) Walking DB Lunge 3×10/side

B2) Chin Up 4×5

C1) Stability Ball Rollout 3×10

C2) Band Pushdown 3×12

D1) Sled Push 5×15 yard pushes

Exercise selection, nutrition, and good quality sleep are the foundation for making progress even if you’re time is limited. Take a look at my client who trains 2x a week. Here she is crushing 305lb Barbell Glute Bridges!


If you’d like to work with me in my 1-on-1 coaching program, email me at





Train to Get Strong for Maximal Results

Amanda joins the local commercial gym looking to get in shape. Her typical routine consists of endless amounts of cardio on the elliptical, treadmill, and stairmaster. She does spin three times a week and her strength training routine is virtually nonexistent. She does high rep, low weight exercises so she doesn’t become “bulky.” She continues month in and month out seeing very little results from all of her hard work.

Amanda is a prime example of someone that wants to be healthy, fit, tone, and in shape. So what’s the missing link?

Training for strength.

Continue reading…

On the go training made simple

I train many clients who are often out of town for work or business. While this can be a challenge in terms of getting quality training sessions, I want to provide some tips for making the most of your time while away from home.

In an ideal situation there will be gyms to choose from, no matter what city you’re traveling to. Some may offer trial memberships which are great because you can use the gym at no expense while you are in town. When you don’t have the option of going to an actual gym what are you supposed to do? Some may say not to worry about training while you are traveling. It’s too much. You’re only gone a week. You’re busy with meetings blah blah blah. While these all may be true, they are only excuses. Continue reading…

Make the Most out of Machines

bandlegpressFor one reason or another, machines get a bad rap with those in the fitness industry. They are scorned for not being “functional”, and are often viewed as a waste of time and energy. They can most certainly become “functional” if your goals are bigger muscles, bringing up weak body parts, rehabbing an injury, or even improving performance in sports. Continue reading…