YNEPF – Summer Open – Program Review

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I wrote a review of how my programming went for the YNEPF Winter Open, and thought I might as well make this a thing!

My previous best total was 625kg, and my training leading up to the YNEPF Winter Open, was probably the best my training has gone. So no surprise I hit PB’s and a new total PB in that competition.

I was however surprised I managed to improve on that total at the YNEPF Summer Open. Training hadn’t been going great. I’d had a few holidays, and trips away, so it was very inconsistent. I was struggling with lower back pain, to the point were it was a game of roulette if I’d wear socks that day.

I entered the competition for one sole reason, and that was to just get me back in the gym, and enjoying training again. I absolutely love training, and pushing myself, so when I hate every second of it, and leaving sessions early, I know there’s a huge problem!

I gave myself 6 weeks to get ready for this competition. I knew I couldn’t just hit the gym with lots of volume, as it would have killed me, I just wasn’t conditioned for it at the time. I also couldn’t go in and start hitting heavy singles, or, doubles. As I needed to build up the work capacity, and bring back my skill level for each lift.

I knew I had to get some volume in, but as mentioned, my conditioning was terrible. A set of 8 and I’d be keeled over needing oxygen. So I decided for week 1, I’d hit sub maximal weights, for no more than 6 reps. I just upped the sets, e.g. on week 1, session 1, I should be able to hit 140kg for 3 sets of 8, but I knew it would kill me and feel horrible, and probably put me off. So I decided to just think about the overall volume, and hit 8 sets of 3 reps, all reps felt great, smooth, comfortable, and I still felt worked at the end of the session.

Once I’d finished with my main lifts for the day, I’d do some assistance work, whether it was Abs/Core, Back, Arms, Chest, Cardio, it didn’t really matter. To me, at this point in my training I wasn’t doing any assistant work to get better at my main lifts, I was just throwing anything in that I could class as physical exercise to help improve my overall conditioning, and build up some work capacity.

You’ll probably look at week 1 and say, that looks super easy, and to be fair, it was. I never had any issue’s getting through any of the training sessions, but by god did I ache. Remember, I did say I’d hardly trained, I was managing a niggling pain in my lower back, so just to the finish the week, with every set, and rep completed was a bonus for me.

If I ached so bad from week 1, I felt I couldn’t just go nuts, and up the volume, as I knew I’d feel worse, and I was worried my lower back pain would flare up. So for week 2, I decided to test where my skill level was with all three lifts, this was fun for me, because it meant I could lower the volume, and hit singles. I still added in some other exercises, again this was for fun, and to help improve my overall work capacity. At this point, Bench Press was the only lift that didn’t cause me too much stress, so I kept up a bit more volume on that compared to the other lifts.

By the end of week 2 I felt like I was getting my Mojo back!

I was managing my back pain, socks were going on just nicely, and I was actually enjoying training again. I decided to follow this pattern of training, so I was hitting a week with higher volume, and following that up with a week were I was focusing on developing my skill of powerlifting, this doesn’t mean I was going nuts, and smashing super heavy singles.

The one thing I was focusing on more than anything else in this program was recovery. This doesn’t mean I was getting massages, having ice baths, or foam rolling more. It means I wasn’t training past a point I’d find it difficult to train the next day. I was still pushing myself, but only to a point I knew I could recover well. After all aren’t we meant to have a life outside of training as well? So when every aspect of your life suffers because of training, it makes training not fun anymore. When my back was bad, it affected so much more than training, and I decided it wasn’t worth it, I wasn’t trading one for the other.

Sometimes my client’s tell me that they got through some of their training sessions nice, and easy, and they worry that this is a problem. Remember when training, you’re trying to accumulate the volume, the work capacity, the stress, so that your body makes suitable adaptations. Your aim shouldn’t be to go in and smash the shit out of your body in a training session, not be able to walk for 6 days, and then repeat. The person training 4 – 5 days per week, hitting every set, and rep prescribed to them will eventually win the race. Training is about building strength, not testing it week in, week out.

So back to the program, I completed the 6 weeks, with no major issues. If I had any back pain, or other pain, instead of stressing and pushing through, I did what I could to manage it the best way possible. I completed every set/rep I had planned to do, and felt I had developed my skill level enough to go and test it under competition standards. My aim for the competition was to go 9/9 and come away not too beat up, ready to start training again.

On competition day, I felt absolutely great; I can’t remember the last competition I’ve felt like that. Which sounds ridiculous, but believe it or not, many lifters don’t feel optimal going in to a competition. This is something I’ll be addressing in mine, and my lifters approaches in the future.

My openers were already planned:
Squat – 200kg
Bench – 140kg
Deadlift – 240kg

I hit my opening squat, and it felt like nothing. This weight is around 90% of my old max (220kg), but it felt great. Straight after this lift, my plan went out the window, I knew a squat PB was on the cards if I got my numbers right. My second attempt I went 212.5kg, my plan was 210kg, but I thought if I push this slightly, I’ll be able judge where my third attempt would be. I again smoked this, and got greedy, instead of focusing on 9/9 I was focused on hitting a marginal PB, but nevertheless a PB. I went 222.5kg for my last squat, and nailed it. 1kg more, and I probably wouldn’t have stood up with it. So I came away with a 2.5kg squat PB, and 3/3 on Squats.

Up next was Bench Press, surprisingly as it’s my worst lift, it was feeling the best in the build up to this competition. My planned opener was 140kg, which went up with no problems. Second lift I made bigger jump than usual, I went to 147.5kg, which is only 2.5kg off my all time bench PB. Again I got this lift, it was a little on the slow side, but never looked like I wasn’t going to get it. Third lift, I just misjudged it that day, I tried 152.5kg for a 2.5kg PB, and just missed, as I couldn’t lock it out. I think 150kg would have been there that day. So there we have it, my plan for 9/9 was out the window, but the best I’ve hit in the past is 7/9, so I wasn’t too disappointed.

Deadlifts. Once my favorite lift, and a lift I could claw some KG’s back on, now my nemesis. In previous meets, I’d missed 262.5kg due to not locking my knees out, and failed 270kg even as it pretty much on my upper tight, I just couldn’t get my hips though. That coupled with my previous lower back pain, it’s safe to say I wasn’t expecting a great deal on deadlifts. During my training cycle, most of my deadlifts were done as sumo deadlifts, just so I could actually deadlift without pain. The heaviest I’d gone in training was 242.5kg, which was the week before competition, and it moved very well. I decided to open with 240kg, my lowest opening deadlift for a couple of years. I was successful with my first lift, and it felt like a breeze, no lower back pain, no fatigue from the lift, and I was going in to my second attempt feeling pretty fresh, I pulled 255kg for that lift. Again very similar to how the squats felt, I knew I could push for a PB at this point, so asked for 265kg to be put on the bar. I pulled it pretty comfortable and with decent speed, giving me confidence that my deadlift is finally on the move… in the right direction.

So I ended up with a 10kg total PB to nudge my total from 625kg - 635kg, and finished 3rd! 

Enough waffling on, here’s the program I followed for the six weeks leading up to:

*Remember when any lifter shares their programming, don’t copy it, take what you can from it, and adapt it for you and your training needs*