So You Want To Compete?: Competing in the Strength Sports

So if you have registered and prepped for a competition now it is time to compete. The day of the competition once you get there, there are some general notes any strength sport will have. After that each sport has their own specific organization. Do your best to keep these points in mind and your first competition should go much smoother for you and hopefully be a great time.

General notes:

Meets nearly always take longer than you would expect. Plan your day accordingly and give your friends and family members a heads up on this if they decided to come out and help support you. Dress in layers so you can keep from getting too cold in between events or even attempts in much longer and larger competitions. Having a “handler” aka a friend that helps you out at the meet through getting things ready for you, getting you water, checking on timing, etc. is worth its weight in gold. Make sure this is someone you trust and knows how competitions are meant to go. When you have a long period of time between each event in the competition try to just relax. Save your energy and getting fired up for your maximal attempts, not just sitting around waiting. The toilets the day of a meet tend to get destroyed by a number of people using them, so if you have to have a bowel movement try to do that before you leave for the competition. Also pack water, since drinking fountains and otherwise can get busted up over the course of the competition day. Concession stands can be very expensive and friends will often have to pay a spectator fee to watch you compete so factor all of these in. When in doubt pick openers that are lighter than you would think you need for your competition so you can for sure get in a weight for the competition.

Strongman – These competitions will typically follow the order of the events on the entry sheet so be sure to practice them in order so you are aware of how fatigue from previous events effect your later events. Each event can take a while and you can learn how early or late in each event you will get your run (you might go first, last, or somewhere in between). This is important for your warm ups. Also, some events involve maxing out and it will be a rising bar, so you don’t lift until they get to your openers. This can mean having to wait half an hour or more until you do your first lift when the other competitors are already done. Try to relax after each event when you can, stay warm (through layers of clothes), and keep relaxed right up until you need to throw down. Be aware of when you are meant to go in order for each event since the order of competitors can change with each event.

Powerlifting – This competition goes in order of squat, bench, and then deadlifts. Each person does their first attempt, then second, and so on. How many people you have in each flight will give you an idea of how much time you have before each of your lifts. Figure each person will take one minute between doing the lift and changing weights. This can help you with doing your warm ups and being ready for when you will do your second and third attempts. Don’t be surprised if you have hours between your squat and bench. Don’t be afraid to take a nap or just relax.

Weight lifting – This competition goes snatch then clean and jerk. The bar is a rising one, which means you don’t start until they get to the weight that you have to perform. Also, if you miss and need to repeat a weight then if no one else is up to do that weight, you have to two minutes to try this again. This can be hard for planning both your warm ups and for doing the actual lifts. Be aware that you might sit around waiting for your first attempt and then have to follow yourself three times in a row after that.

Highland games – this is super laid back with people getting to warm up on each implement before competing and then getting to do your three throws in order for the distance events. For the events for height you get three misses at that height then you move on to a higher height you need to throw. Jump in where you need to and don’t be afraid to start in earlier than you think you need to on a height events so that you can get one on the board and be able to dial in your performance for when you are getting close to your personal bests.


There are my basic tips for a variety of competitions that I have competed in throughout the years. Each has its own differences with rules and how quickly they occur. Make sure you plan and pack accordingly. Just go out there with the idea that you are going to put forth your best effort and that you are going to have fun. For your first competition it is about getting experience, not winning. If you have never competed you have no personal records to break, so just performing sets a meet record for you and gives you goal of something to try and beat in the future.


So You Want To Compete?: Going to a competition (part two of competing)

After you have registered for your competition it is time to start preparing for it. Here is the basics of how I like to do things set up chronologically. Some parts of this will not pertain to you if you are doing a local competition, but hopefully this gives you an idea.

One week out

Double check to make sure you registered correctly. Start deloading your lifts and take it easy in general. Check your body weight and get an idea of what you need to do to make weight for competition. Weigh yourself in the morning and before bed each night so you have an idea of how much your weight shifts if you are close to being over. Stop taking any supplements that are stimulants to keep yourself calm and make them a bit more effective on the day of your competition.

Three days out

Pack up your equipment and all gear that you will need to compete. Having everything together and ready at this point will allow you to check this again so you can be sure that you don’t leave anything behind when it is time to compete. Packing some simple first aid, snacks, extra socks and clothes are mistakes I have forgotten in the past. Cut your finger nails and do any other self-care that you want to do before you compete.

Two days out

Make sure you get the best sleep you can that night. When traveling to a meet make sure you know exactly where you are going for the competition and for the weigh ins since they aren’t always in the same location (also check the time that each part occurs at). Take some time to visualize your meet performance and check your plans. Be aware of your weight on your own scale and then start taking measures if you need to (sauna, hot tub, etc. (might post later on this if you want me to)). Pack up your car or travel to the meet location.

One Day out

Make sure you get to the weigh ins as soon as you can. Relax and go for a few easy walks to just move and keep your head clear. Be sure to take care of yourself and not get fired up for the meet. Go enjoy some food, but don’t eat anything that you would not typically eat so your stomach doesn’t get you the next day. Also be aware that most folks don’t sleep well the night before the competition. This is normal, just try to be as calm as you can.

Day of

Travel to the competition location to be there in time for the rules meeting and preferably give yourself an extra half hour to get there in case something happens with traffic. Stay calm and don’t worry about getting psyched up on the drive in or otherwise. When you get there it is time to get ready, but the competition doesn’t start yet so don’t waste your energy in the warm up room or otherwise.


This is the basics of how I prep for a competition the week of. If you have any questions about any of this just let me know. Some competitions don’t have weigh-ins so you can just go in as you are. Others have a weigh in the day of so that obviously changes how you approach making weight when it is a few hours before you compete and that is a bit more involved that this post is meant to dive in to. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions please just comment below.

So You Want To Compete?: Finding a Competition

A student of mine the other day asked me about how they can find a competition to compete at and what they need to do to register. The student wanted to get in to Olympic lifting and was unclear how to find a competition and what all went in to registration. Here is a quick post on how to find a competition and then get registered.

First: Go Online

For Olympic lifting look at competitions at:

For powerlifting look for competitions at:

For strongman competitions:

For highland games competitions:

Overall you can also just google search your state and/or hometown and the type of competition you are interested in doing and see what comes up. Also you can find posts about competitions on Facebook and other social media platforms.

Second: Get registered

Some competitions you register for online, others you do so through the mail, and still more you might even register the day of at the event. Figure out what is their method. Every meet should have a contact point of who is running the event so contact that person and ask questions if you are unclear. Make sure you register for the right weight class, age group, etc. so you are competing where you want. With weight classes you will have to weigh the number listed or lighter so don’t bite off more than you can chew and for your first competition don’t worry about cutting weight. Some competitions might ask if you are on a team and you can typically compete unattached. When in doubt contact the meet organizer.

Third: Payment

Competitions aren’t free, and not only will you have to pay to compete, but you will have to typically pay membership dues for the federation you are competing in. Also, you might need to buy a singlet or some other type of garment to compete in so be aware of those extra costs. Sometimes you will be able to find an unsanctioned local meet and be able to compete there for cheap. Be prepared to spend over $100 to compete especially when you factor in traveling to the meet and otherwise.


So that is the basics of finding a competition, registering, and paying for them. If you have any other questions please let me know and as always thanks for taking the time to read this.

The Dalton Escape Plan – Introduction to Westside Programming

My introduction to Westside barbell style training came from working for Rick Perry who was then the strength and conditioning coach for Missouri state university. I learned about Westside training after watching him do speed bench press with 315lbs with chains attached to the bar. At this point I was very interested to learn the ways. He then gave me the elite FTS Westside training manual and told me to start with the “I need some mass” program (that was very fair at this time). I ran that program as written for nearly a year and added over a hundred pounds on my squat and deadlift along with increasing my bench press about 20-30 pounds. The program worked and I enjoyed it for quite a while.

Now why and am I bringing this up? A student of mine asked about doing a Westside program and how do they set up their program so they can try it out. This got me thinking about why to do this style of programming and how to write out a basic program for someone to follow. Westside programming is based around a conjugate/concurrent model of training. This means you are trying to build all of your performance abilities at the same time (strength, power, speed, hypertrophy) and not just focusing on one or another. There are a number of programs out there that might be a better fit for most, but the key things I like about Westside programming is this:

1) It gives you a large amount of variety and encourages you to experiment and figure out what works best for you.

2) It teaches you how to be aggressive and attack heavy weights. It helps you develop prodigious amounts of intestinal fortitude.

3) It encourages being explosive and treating your main lifts like an art to master.

There are a number of potential draw backs with this style of training in that you don’t specialize enough in the main movements. The loads you encounter are very harsh on the body if you aren’t careful. You also can have issues building muscle mass on this program if you don’t do lots of buildup sets and then possibly some back down volume. Having ran this for a while here is the basic program I would recommend to Dalton based upon his weak points to see what happens from using Westside programming.


Max Effort Lower

ME movement – pick a movement and week one build up to a 5RM with taking small jumps between each set (no bigger than 50lbs. added each set and only 10lbs. added when the weight gets heavy). Week 2 try to beat your 5RM or if you don’t think you can build up to a 3RM. Week 3 build up to a 3RM or a new 3RM. One week 4 transition to a new exercise and repeat this process. The goal is to pick exercises that are going to help build your squat and deadlift. I suggest using a soft box at or below parallel depending on your goals. Options to rotate at first are: pause squats, high bar squat, front squat, low bar squat, safety bar back squat, trap bar deadlift, sumo deadlift, conventional deadlift. On the squats play around with trying a narrow, moderate, or wide stance for your squat variant with maintaining it for the cycle.

Supplemental movement – 3-5 sets of 10 reps in the safety squat bar, high bar squat, snatch grip deadlift, or deficit trap bar deadlift pyramiding the weight up each week and doing that exercise for one month.

Posterior chain – 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps staying with the same exercise for one month at a time. Options are: good mornings, RDLs, GHRs, or back extension deadlifts.

Abs front – pick something that you can progress with weight for 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions. Choices are leg raises, weighted sit ups, ab wheel, ab fall outs, weighted planks.

Abs side – pick something that you can progress with weight for 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions. Choices are side planks, side bends, Pallof press, and more that simply works the oblique’s.

Quad movement (optional) – this can be a lunge, step up, Bulgarian split squat, terminal knee extensions, hack squat or even leg press to be done for 2-5 sets of 20 working on keeping your knees healthy and quads strong.


Max Effort Upper

Me movement – pick a movement and week one build up to a 5RM with taking small jumps between each set (no bigger than 50lbs. added each set and only 10lbs. added when the weight gets heavy). Week 2 try to beat your 5RM or if you don’t think you can build up to a 3RM. Week 3 build up to a 3RM or a new 3RM. One week 4 transition to a new exercise and repeat this process. The goal is to pick exercises that are going to help build your bench press, so in this case the first picks I would have are full pause bench, pause half an inch off of the chest, wide grip bench press, close grip bench, incline bench press, fat bar bench press, or floor press as options to start with.

Supplemental press – close grip inclines or military press is what I would prefer for you and do 3-5 sets of 10 reps and try to add weight each set and run this exercise for 4 weeks before you rotate them. Feel free to do things like dips and close grip bench press as options here.

Pull ups – in between each set of bench press do a set of pull ups, pick one grip and do 3-5 sets of 10 reps add weight if too easy. If you can’t do ten then do as many as you can and MAYBE do lat pull downs instead.

Rows – pick a row exercise and do 3-5 sets of 10 reps

Db laterals – superset with the rows and do 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps controlling the weight the entire time

Arms – just pump up. Hammer curls should always happen and overhead skull crushers and regular skull crushers should be the base of this training. Each set should be for at least 10 reps. Focus on technique and control of the movement.


Dynamic Effort Lower

Speed squats – 8-12 sets of 2-3 reps with being powerful the entire time you are doing the movement. Start with 60% of your max and increase your loads over the first month. For the second month hold a one second pause in the bottom with the same loads and month three feel free to start using some bands and chains. You can use a box, but I would recommend not using on and if so use a parallel or slightly below parallel soft box. Do not just plop down on the box. Control your body and explode up.

Speed deadlift – 10-20 singles with 60-70% of your max, changing your grip on the bar each time and focusing on perfect technique. Feel free to drop the bar after each rep (just don’t do that in gyms that don’t like noise).

Single leg hypertrophy – pick a single leg movement like lunges, Bulgarian split squats, or step ups and do 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps. Progress the weight up as high as you can.

Abs – pick something that you can progress with weight for 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions. Choices are leg raises, weighted sit ups, ab wheel, ab fall outs, or weighted planks.

Posterior chain – pick an exercise and perform 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions to build your hips and low back. Choices here are: glute ham raises, back extensions, banded good mornings, hip thrusts, back extension machine work, or reverse hypers.


Dynamic Effort Upper

Speed bench – perform 8-12 sets of 3 reps with 60-70% of your max. Full pause in the bottom and change your grip each set. Do the first cycle of 4 weeks with slightly pyramiding up weights each week as written, then for the next month switch to bands or chains and drop the loads down to 50-60% of your max. explode on the concentric of each rep, but focus fully on perfect technique the entire time.

Board press/lockouts – work up to a 3-5RM over a number of sets and rotate the board height every 2 weeks. You should be using at least a 3 board of height for this.

Db pressing – pick a dumbbell press and perform 5 sets of 10 reps and pyramid up the weight each set if you can. Stick with one type of dumbbell press for 4 works then move on. Choices are: flat, slight incline, incline, steep incline, military, and each of those done with a neutral grip.

Pull ups – 5 sets of 10, add weight if you can, use a different grip than the first pressing day. Change your grip choice once a month.

Rows – pick a row exercise and do 5 sets of 8-15 reps. Change this exercise once a month


Optional extra work – if you want to do any extra work on a 5th training day feel free to do some light bodybuilding style work on your weak points and maybe some conditioning. Rules for this day will be no sets for less than 10 repetitions and no barbells are used. This workout should pump you up, but not drain you are make you feel rundown.


Other Notes – take your time with a general warm up before each training day and in-between each warm up set on bench press perform either face pulls, scarecrows, and/or band pull aparts for sets of 10-20 reps for a total of 100 reps for each workout.


Summary – So here is a Westside template to work from. Really this is just Westside barbell inspired, what they do at Westside you need to go there and train to really find out. This is based upon what I did when I was younger and got a lot out of it. If you have questions on how to implement or otherwise please let me know and as always thanks for reading.

I work with good people

In my time working here at Eastern Kentucky University I have had the chance to work with a large number of good people. I think it is easy to find points where you forget about your tailwinds (things that help you along) and instead focus only on your headwinds (things that impede your progress). This is a simple exercise in gratitude that you can feel free to not read this post, but I did want to put these thoughts out there.


I’m lucky to work with faculty that constantly find new ways to use technology and course delivery methods that then share with all of us. Thanks to them I’ve been able to enhance my own teaching and find new approaches in and outside the classroom. These faculty go to conferences and in services provided at the university to enhance their skills. They take notes while there and then share this information with the rest of us. I’ve also had faculty members even pull me aside and ask me about my teaching and give me ideas to help improve not only my class content and organization, but delivery and overall student enjoyment. I’m lucky to work with folks who care about this.


I work with faculty here that volunteer not only to help out at the university but in the surrounding areas. Some folks run programs at local schools and YMCAs. We have one faculty member that coaches an entire sports team (and even brings in a profit for that team through ticket sales and other fundraising). Other faculty serve as leaders in professional organizations and one of them was the president of our state chapter for more than three years when a situation arose where he had to step up and go beyond the typical one year of leadership. Any time I’ve needed help outside of work my coworkers have given me rides, helped with moving furniture, even being subjects in studies on the weekends, and more. Heck my shoulder rehab was all done by one of my coworkers. These folks really do care, and do their best to help others.


Faculty here have presented on the state, regional, national, and even international level at conferences and otherwise. They write grants to bring in funding for things like additional graduate students, so some person can get a graduate degree while getting experience for free. They also reach out and get the students involved in research which in turn helps them develop the next generation and help them find placement in other graduate programs that the student is interested in.


I work with good people. Folks that care and do what they can to help. I know they have my back and go to bat for me anytime things come up. I didn’t name names here, since the people know who they are and didn’t ask to be posted about on the internet. This is also just a brief list of all of things that my coworkers do, since to capture all of it would take far too long. Thanks for taking the time to read this, think about the people that help make your life better and how you might be taking this for granted. Feel free to comment below about what someone does for you to make your life better.

Dose Response of Training

Some of my students and I talked about some old pro bodybuilders and Dorian Yates came up. His style of training in his training video “Blood and Guts” was all about one set to failure for an exercise. This was popularized by folks like Mike Mentzer and originally by Arthur Jones who was the inventor of the nautilus machines. Research has shown that one set to failure doesn’t give you all the progress that multiple heavy sets will give you, but you can still make progress.

What I explained to students in the general relationship that you get between the work you do in training and the progress you will attain. This follows a curvilinear relationship, which means that the line is not straight, but increases rapidly initially then crests and then starts to fall back down.  How this effects training, is that when you do more and more work initially you will get more out of your training, but then as you increase your total work done to a certain level you in fact will get less out of it since it takes your body too long to fully recover from the work you do. This comes down to two main applicable points:

1) Doing some work will get you progress in the beginning compared to no work, but for the best results you need to do more.

2) At a certain point you can do so much work that in fact you will start to cut in to your own progress.

So as a trainee you need to increase your training volume (work sets) to find the point of optimal progress and once you start to see less progress when you add in more work it is time to back off, since the additional stress is not in fact helping your progress. If you are strapped for time, just doing something will net you some progress, but nowhere near as much progress as what you could be getting. If you want to read a good primer on how much volume each muscle in the body can handle check out this work by Mike Israetel at Renaissance Periodization and keep in mind the dose response of when you have had enough. Thanks for reading and if you have any further questions please let me know.

Majoring in the Minor

Now that I’m training in the student rec here on campus due to my work schedule and the athlete’s weight room schedule sometimes being on different wavelengths, I get to see what is currently popular in training. The mistake I often see students making with their training (specifically ones that are looking to build muscle) is that they are “majoring in the minor” also known as they are working each muscle group in isolation and rarely hit the large compound movements, or even the isolation movements that build more muscle. So let’s break down how we should order things if we really want to build more muscle (and in turn more strength and power).

Compound before isolation

Start your training with large range of motion heavy compound movements. This means do your squats and deadlifts before you do things like leg extensions or leg curls. In reality don’t do isolation movements in general when you are first starting out unless you can’t feel that muscle working. Most of the isolation machines aren’t going to help you make the progress you are looking for and help you increase your general athleticism and performance.

Full range before partials

Start off with moving through a full range of motion. Doing heavy partials afterwards can be useful, but first stress the muscle and the joint through the greatest range you can. This will not only net you better performance improvements, but allow for better mobility and movement in general. Some bros like to stroke their egos by doing partial squats or pulls and what could liberally described as quarter squats or rack deadlifts. Overloading the movement can be useful, but look to start with a full range first.

Higher load before low load

Start off with your heavy exercises. These give you the greatest return on your time investment for performance and have the highest amount of risk associated. You still need to warm up then do the heavy work and finish with the light “pump” work. Heavy loads are productive with training, but have inherent risk. This risk increases when you are training in an already fatigued state. If you try to handle the heavy loads at the end of training you have a higher risk of getting injured.


It is always a great thing to see lots of people training in the gym, but when you see the guys go straight for the dumbbell curls and the ladies go straight to cable glute work, I want them to know there is a better way. You can still do your isolation work, but overload the total body (or at least the part of the body you are working that day) first. Make yourself move through a full range and get the heavy hard work done before moving on to the light work. Thanks for reading and if you have a question please leave a comment below.

PSA: When to wear a lifting belt

Recently a few students of mine have asked me about my thoughts on wearing a lifting belt, so I thought I would outline them below. To start, I’m training for general health and strength performance. I’m not training directly for a sport so my use of a belt is negligible right now, but if I’m peaking for a meet this is the basic thoughts and principles I have on wearing a belt:

-Belts are never worn during isolation movements. Don’t wear a belt to do curls, triceps, or any other type of single joint exercises.

-Do not wear a belt for lat pull downs ever. This is straight forward, but you see folks doing this on occasion. The belt is there to increase your core stability and strength, you don’t need any appreciable amount of core strength to do a pull up or lat pull down so take the belt off.

-Do not wear the belt in between sets. Take off the belt after you get done with your heavy work. Only put it on right before you go. Don’t be “that guy” that walks around the weight room wearing a lifting belt. No real lifter is impressed, just focus on real training.

-Do put the belt on when the weight gets heavy. In my mind this is when you have 80% or more of your max on the bar. Don’t put the weight on for sets lighter than 70%, if you are doing high reps in the 70-80% range you can make your own decisions here.

-Do wear the belt a bit loose for the first set and then put it at its tightest for your heaviest or rep-out set. Also play around with your belt placement both being higher and lower on your torso to see where you feel the most support.

I hope these basic points make sense and if you have any questions about when and how to wear a belt please let me know. Thanks as always for reading and have a great day.

Why you should train in gyms and public places

The other day I was training in the student rec center which is currently in the beginning of the spring semester which means it is very busy. This is a good thing since this means folks are in the gym working out. It is understandable at this point to just train in the cold garage at home or the athletes weight room so I don’t have to deal with waiting on equipment, but I think it is important to reflect here on a few reasons why it is important that I go out and train not just at the student rec center, but also normal chain gyms while I am on the road.

See what folks are doing

When you go train at gyms different than your own, specifically with lots of people, you see different movements and programming than you would otherwise. This sometimes can be beneficial in that it gives you some ideas on how to do movements than you might not already have thought of. Don’t get me wrong, most of what you will see is downright bad, but at points you might find a bright light in an otherwise dimly lit night sky.

Give folks some ideas

If you are doing hard productive training, sometimes people will ask you why you do what you do. This is a great chance to explain how you work on different parts of training. Also, if you show up in that gym on occasion if people see you making progress when they haven’t made much you can give them good ideas on how to get through their plateaus. Maybe they never say a word to you, but if people see you doing things right, they might try some of those things in the future which might help them on their way.

Maybe even help a person or two

You might see someone training who looks lost or can’t figure out how to do an exercise and lend a helping hand. It is obvious by the first of February that lots of people lose their drive to train. Maybe this is because their technique was flawed and kept hurting them. Maybe it was because they didn’t see any progress because they program they found from dubious online source didn’t make them any progress. Take some time and give help to those that look like they need it. That being said, don’t be a dick about it and if someone doesn’t want your help so be it. You never know the battles that others are fighting and you don’t want to walk in to the middle of one.


Go train in public gyms on occasion to give yourself a different stimulus along with helping other folks along on their journey. Get yourself some variety by heading out there to different gyms. Have fun with your training and as always thanks for taking the time to read this and have a great day.

When to wear wrist wraps, and how to wear them

Wrist wraps are very popular these days in the gym, regardless of their necessity to help athletes when lifting. This is due to a number of reasons, specifically the need to “look cool” or “do what’s popular”. Overall, there are three ways to wear them (in my mind) and if you aren’t using them for one of those three I would suggest not wearing them and actually letting your wrists adapt to the loads and getting stronger themselves.

Casing your wrist

This is where you wrap tight and wrap up your wrist (towards your hand) so that trying to bend your wrist barely happens. This will give you extra stability when doing very heavy pressing, specifically if you are doing heavy partials or work in a bench shirt where you can handle weights far heavier than you would in your normal training. This should be tight enough that you take it off after each attempt due to discomfort and lack of blood flow. Long wraps can help more here than short wraps.

Moderate wrap on the wrist

This is for holding heavy weights overhead, especially when it is in acute angles like when you are doing heavy clean and jerks or snatches. This allows you to still bend your wrist, but limits how much and gives them support in those different positions. You should wear this tight enough that it is snug, but you shouldn’t feel like you need to take them off between each set. Shorter wraps are all you need here.

Strangle wrap for pulling

This is where you wrap super tight right at or slightly below your wrist. This allows for tension on the tendons of your hand and wrist which naturally will help you close your hand and in turn can help for events like farmers walks, farmers holds, or other grip challenging events where you are not able to wear wrist straps. This should be so tight you want to take them off as soon as possible. Longer wraps can help here a bit more than short wraps.


So there are some times when you should apply a wrap on your wrists to enhance your performance. That being said, it isn’t for when you are doing curls or rows. If your wrists ache after your training you need to look at your program and the amount of weight you are trying to handle. Your body should adapt with time and your “need” for wrist wraps should go away with time, that being said this adaptation will take a few weeks if not months. Thanks as always and if you have a question or comment please leave it below.

Bonus: When to wear lifting gloves:


That is all.