USPA Raw Drug Tested National Championships 2018 Review

Here’s my first USPA National Championships performance from June 23, 2018. I wanted to give you all a more in-depth experience to my meet for those of you who watched it live. I did my best to keep it relatively short.

This is also probably the longest video I’ve ever done at around 12 minutes.

Key Take-aways:

1.) Get a handler- someone to look/listen out for your name/heat you’re lifting in. It’s not worth the headache and stress. There was another kid name Donovan there competing and I freaked out thinking I wasn’t going until later. So I ended up warming up too early and therefore got even more tired…yeah. Wouldn’t recommend going at these meets alone.

2.) Weigh-in a full day in advance. You’ll have all day to eat, re hydrate and rest. It’s worth the extra night in the hotel.

You can check out my entire meet prep on YouTube here.

Hope you enjoy it!

Power Surge 2017 Write-Up

This past weekend, I competed at the USPA Power Surge 2017 Powerlifting competition in Carol Stream, IL. It was at a Holiday Inn. In a conference room.


The Weigh-In and Post Weigh-In Meal


I’ve been keeping track every day the week of the meet to see how much I need to dial back on the sodium and carbs. The last few days leading up to the weigh-in are the hardest, especially when you have to do a cut. I’ve been walking around fluctuating between 215-225lbs when I train. Since I know I will weigh-in between 9am-noon, I’ve checked once or twice each day between those times to get a realistic idea of what I might need to do if I’m over the 220 limit.

Though after years of competing I know that I lose water weight fairly fast when I stop lifting (when prepping for the competition). I chose to weigh-in in the morning so I can have the rest of the day to eat.

I drove 2 hours North to weigh-in and headed back to my apartment so I can sleep in my own bed. To me it was worth it and far less expensive (hotel + meals + gas). Plus, it was a nice day out and I enjoy driving. It’s calming for me…once you get off the Dan Ryan and out of Chicago!

After weighing-in at 219 I planned to have a protein shake with Magnum protein powder, fruits, peanut butter, OJ, oats and some ice cubes. I also had Pedialyte I picked up from CVS and had my awesome clients make me a batch of protein balls to snack on.

Lunch was a sammich with chips totalling easily over 2000 k/cals and 2 dinners: 2 rolls of sushi and a sirloin steak with 2 sweet potatoes.


Competition Day

My dog hates it when I pack to go places. It makes her nervous and so she defecates, urinate and vomits all over the place and won’t use the bathroom outside. She’s smart like that. Waking up not knowing how it was going to go, I was under some stress. I was also burying my grandmother 2 days after the meet.

Fortunately, I had 2 hours of driving early enough to watch the sunrise. It was just what I needed. Got to the hotel. Checked-in. Set up camp. Rules meeting and then the lifting begins.

One thing I’ve been focused on getting better at was competition-nutrition. Making sure I had enough of the right foods to keep me from cramping and have enough energy to push 100% every lift. Foods high in sodium would keep me from cramping and simple sugars/carbs that are fast acting would keep my energy up when I need it. However, I’m notorious for vomiting before I lift, but I made sure that I wasn’t too full of food coming into the meet. 

I made myself another shake for breakfast, loaded with calories, but easily digestible. Especially over a 2hr car ride. I got nervous as I always do, but I didn’t get sick. Diaphragmatic breathing and focusing on being in a parasympathetic system when I’m not about to lift really kept things calm and the food down.  My body felt amazing thanks to my Wellness Team: Erica Hartman Massage, Mitchell Family Chiropractic and my Life Coach, Rick Longstreth.

Here’s a video of the full meet:



Squat has become my least favorite lift. With a history of back issues and lack of confidence to go with it, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. But. I had goals. Sure enough, I fought like hell to get that third lift and I was super excited. It was a 17lb PR.


Bench had become one of my favorite lifts. Mainly because it was my weakest. I had a lot of fun training to get better at it because I knew I would improve dramatically. The best lift in the gym I’ve had was 350 (with a slight pause) a couple years ago shortly before I got injured. I knew I had more in me, but I had goals and I wanted to stick to the plan. I know I’ll achieve another personal best in next years competition whenever that may be. Until then, I’m going to be throwing up some big(ger) weights in the gym [finally].


By far my most favorite lift. Not because it’s the heaviest or the last. But because it’s what the audience (and judges) love to see. Brute strength. Picking up dead weight off the ground! It was a bit emotional for me because the image of my grandmother popped in my head. I failed my first attempt but got the second. The second attempt felt good, though it was 13lbs away from my final lift, which was still under my ultimate goal of 625. Nevertheless, I had made my second lift so it was worth taking the chance.



The meet was very well ran. With a lot of mass and broad shoulders. I wasn’t sure where the warm-up space was going to be. If it was in another room or in the hallway outside of the conference room. No. It was 8-10 feet away from the platform (you can see it in the photos). It was interesting. But. It had a “gym feel” to it; close quarters, 2 warm-up areas. Lots of heavy ass lifting and interesting smells. It wasn’t bad!

It helped that I knew all of the judges and saw them 4 weeks earlier when the gym hosted the Illinois State Championships. That and some Powerlifting Legends showed up. It’s pretty incredible all these people live locally and could watch what was one of the best performances I’ve had yet.

I’ve written down my goals on a post-it note several months earlier after my meet in March. I can proudly say I reached 2 out of the 4 goals I’ve set for myself. Check it out.

What’s great is that I still achieved all lifetime PRs:

Previous All-Time Personal Bests:
Squat 512lbs @196.2lbs (2015)

Bench 319.7lbs @196.2lbs (2015)

Deadlift 600.8lbs @177.8lbs (2013)

Total 1416.5lbs @196.2lbs (2015)

Power Surge 2017 Results:
Squat 529.1lbs

Bench 330.7lbs

Deadlift 611.8lbs

Total 1471.6lbs

What’s Next?

I qualified for USPA Nationals in Vegas next summer. I’d like to do a push-pull meet sometime before [for fun]. My Squat is something that I really want to continue to work on as I feel it’s my most uncomfortable lift. This way I’ll have time to get my legs bigger and stronger (sorry jeans…It’s about to get real) so my total can be more competitive and get back into the rankings again. This is another reason why I joined the USPA. For the challenge to push myself to be better than ever.

It had been a couple of years since I’ve been able to compete at a high level, but this meet assured me that I’m on the right track. 




Game. Time. . @uspaillinois @uspapower @trainhylete @hardmagnum #rawpowerlifting #USPApower #powerlifting #squat #bench #deadlift #fitfam

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USPA Training: Week 4

Squats (*Reps)

Bar x 10

135 x 8

225 x 3

315 x 1

350 x 8

*I believe I messed up on my programming for this week. At some point I was supposed to work on “explosion” but did reps instead. This was pretty brutal.*


Bench (Heavy)

Bar x 10

135 x 5

185 x 3

215 x 1

235 x 1

5 x 2 @ 250

Dropset x 20- 135


DB Bench

80 x 8

95 x 8


Deads (reps)

165 x 10

225 x 3

345 x 2

**1 x 8 @ 420

Rack Pulls

365 x 6 x 2

385 x 8


3 x 8


Red Band 2 x 10

Seated Lat Pulldown

2 x 15-20

**Today was a great day. Bar moved fast. Probably a combination of a long warm-up, stress-less work morning, and a good meal the night before. Whatever the case, I’m starting to feel like my old self again.


Squat (Heavy)

5 x 2 @ 80% (400#)


60k x 4

90k x 2

140k x 1

160k x 1


Front Squat

4 x 5


3 x 8


Bench (Reps)

1 x 8 @ 70% (220)


135 x 8

185 x 3

205 x 1


B. Incline 6 x 8

50 x 2 x 8

60 x 2 x 8

70 x 2 x 8

B2. F.E. Pushups 6 x 15

B3. T-Row 6 x 15 @ 135


C. Suspended Rev. Fly 2 x 12

C2. Hanging leg drops 2 x 10
*Death by Chest

Tempo Flys 2 x 15

Elevated Tempo Pushups w/ pulse 2 x failure

*After this finisher chest workout, I was like…





Deadlift (explosion)

8 x 3 @ 60% (360)

B.Rack Pulls

315 x 8

385 x 2 x 5

C. BB Hip Press 2 x 12-15

225 x 12

315 x 15

Accessory Day

Shoulder Press 5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5
Weighted Pullups 5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5

B.DB Preacher Curl 3×12-15

B2 Rear Delt Swings 3×35

B3.DB Bench 3×8

C. Hammer Curl 3×10-12

C2. lateral Raises 3 x 12

C3. Lat Pulldown 2 x 15

C4. Triceps 2 x 20




I’m always training for the next competition, no matter when it is. Nearly 3 months after my latest  performance at the UPA Midwest Championship in Iowa, hitting an all-time high 1399 total (SQ-501 (PR)/B-314(PR)/D-584), I’ve gotten back the momentum to carry into the next meet. I had such a positive experience doing the UPA meet (my first in that federation) that I was going to go back in August. Until I found out Matt Houser ( a good friend of mine and one of the world’s best benchers) is going to host another meet at our gym here in Bloomington, IL. So I started my new training cycle this week using THE CUBE. I’ve used THE CUBE to get ready for the UPA meet and had amazing results. So, why not do it again?!?

Week 1- THE CUBE

Squat (Rep Day)
1×8 @ 70% of 1rm (500lbs)

135 x 5

225 x 5

315 x 1

335 x 1


*Front Squat

135 x 5

165 x 5

170 x 5


3 x 15

*If you’ve seen me, which you will in my deadlift video, I”m very posterior dominant. So, my quads are going to be my weak point. So I’m using front squats as an accessory movement. Love these.

Bench (Explosion)

8 x 3 @ 60% of 1RM (314)

**B. Incline DB Bench

70 x 2 x 8

60 x 3 x 8

B2. Foot Elevated Pushups (decline)

5 x 10-20

B3.T-“Bar” Rows

5 x 10-12

**Okay, so I made an attempt to do this Diesel Crew chest workout that Smitty wrote up. It was originally for 8 sets, but time and conditioning wasn’t going to let that happened. Needless to say bench is my weakest lift. I was taking 3-5 minute rest periods in between each set. It was insane. But I liked it. I think I’ll use this every week and work up to 8 sets or keep it at 5 and increase the weight. Either way, gainz are coming.



Deads (Heavy)

***5 x 2 @80% of 1RM (600)


165 X 10

225 X 3

345 X 1

405 X 1

425 X 1

Work set: 480 X 5 X 2

***I chose to go off of my last (meet) PR @ 600, which I didn’t do the last time I did THE CUBE because the last meet I did before January was in October ’13. That was a long fucking time ago and I had no idea where I was numbers wise. Not to mention I decided to move up to the 198 class so I was training with a “bigger” body for 2  training cycles. However, my training is closer to my previous meet and my glutes and hams are feeling better and fuller. But fuck this was heavy.

B. Snatch grip RDL

225 x 2 x 12 (no straps)

C. Band Resisted Lat Pull Downs

2 x 20

C2. Abs

2 x 15


Accessory Day


A.Strict Press

4 x 6-8 @ 105#

A2. Underhand BB Row

4 x 10-12 @ 155#


B.Bench Supported Rear Fly (straight arm to hid the rear delts, traps, and all dat good shit)

4 x 15 @ 15-25#

B2. Preacher Curl

4 x 12 @ 30#

2 weeks out- World’s Training

Squat Day

135 x 10

225 x 8

315 x 4

385 x 1

405 x 1

425 x 1

430 x 2 x 1

First day of  lifting this week definitely set the tone for how the rest of the week was going to go for the most part. My nutrition has noticeably been off and I’ve been doing it the wrong way; not only cutting back calories, but meals as well. Thinking that I can maintain my weight being around the mid-180’s and upping my lifts in retrospect is laughable. Here is my 430 squat which will be my opener, using Oly plates to get used to the density of the plates. While I am happy that I put up 430 in the gym- albeit on shit nutrition and lower energy levels. I fucked up the 1st set at 430 by having the bar waayy to low on my back. Came back for the second one with it actually where it usually is and nailed it. I know for sure once I get more food in me after the weigh-in the day before the comp, I will absolutely smash my lifts.


Bench Day

132 x 10

176 x 8

200 x 2

242 x 1

286 x 1

299 x 1

301 x 1 (gym PR)

I’ll admit, today was my best lifting day of this cycle. Albeit with lower energy levels from shit nutrition, I was most happy with this lift. Anytime I can get 300+ up in the gym is always a win for me and a huge confidence boost. 299 felt heavier than it should, but I made sure to put on my Oly shoes, belt and wraps (as allowed in competition). It did make a huge difference. I will say too that I picked up some new BCAAs and Pre from Complete Nutrition and it certainly has made a difference. I think what helped was the meal the night before (which I can’t remember) and the amount of water I have been pushing; it really does help with the effect of the supplements you take.


Deadlift (2.2kg conversion)

70kg x 11 (overhand grip)

120kg x 8 (OHG)

160kg x 5 (OHG)

442 X 2 (regular grip)

492 x 1

522 x 1

565 x 1

586 x 1 (didn’t budge)


Ah, deadlift day….by far the worst lifting day of this cycle. And I know exactly why. For starters, my nutrition has been off. When I did eat, I had crispy chicken, 2 orders of fries for lunch and Chinese for dinner. As you can see, when I did eat, it wasn’t the best. Rice has been my staple in my diet all year and I’ve cut it out for several weeks now to get my weight down. While I’ve been trying to stay under 190 (so I can make my last days easier to lose), I’ve been doing about it all wrong. Especially for today.  Not to mention I didn’t set myself up for success by downing water like it’s the last thing on earth the day before.

I was able to get 565 up mainly before I’m a strong mother fucker. Energy wise I wasn’t there and mentally I wasn’t there. Fortunately, my back doesn’t feel like it’s about to spas on me like it has in my last training in the last meet, so I’m grateful for my training and recovery process; but what I’m doing diet-wise is not making the best of what I’ve built so far. So, next week is deload @ 60%. I will starting getting my water in better and start eating more leafy shit with protein to keep my energy levels up and recover. This day won’t defeat me. Instead, I will learn from it. Recover like I need to. And get into the habits that have made me a consistent-successful Champion.

3 Weeks Out: RAW Worlds


135x 10

225 x8

315 x3

385 x 1

405 x 1

420 x 1 x 3

420 x 2 x 1

This set of 1 was the last of the 3 singles. I did a set of 2 earlier because I felt like I could. Since I’m getting close to showtime, I knew practicing my singles would be best. Feels good to train at a weight that was once your opener a year ago.


Banded Kettlebell Press

16kgs x 5

95# + 16kgs x 5

135# + 16kgs x 3

225 x 3

255 x 2

275 x 1 x 3


Bench few up today. Was really happy with this week considering I started cutting back my carbs. I’ve also learned for the first time to push out my elbows on the way up. Big difference.


Strict Press 4 x 8 75#


Bench Supported Rev. Fly

4 x 10 25# DBs



135 x 10

225 x 8

315 x 5

405 x 3

495 x 1

515 x 1

525 x 1 (work set)

535 x 1 (work set #2)

550 x 1 (work set #3)


Worked up to 550 today. Possible opener, but days like today I’m not sure. It took a long time today to get up to it, but I got it done. I believe it came down to the training atmosphere. Also, the fact that I have reduced my carbs throughout the week might have something to do with it. Took 3 naps yesterday which I think helped, but took more will power to get this weight up, but it went. One more week of heavy training to go. I’m gettin’ pumped!!

GHR 3 x 12

Week 5 Training

Squat Day
135 x 15

205 x 6

255 x 3

375 x 1

415- 2 x2


I came in feeling not so sure about my workout, but that’s why you warm up. I’ve changed up my warm-up attempts as well. I figured if I didn’t feel gassed going into my workset that lowering my reps would be good. I also started taking bigger jumps on my warm-ups. This way I could have more stamina to do more worksets

B- GHR 3 x 10

Knee to Elbows 3 x 12-15


Bench Day

135 x 10

185 x 8

225 x 5

270 x 2 (pause)

270 x 2 (pause)

270 x 2 (pause)


I was happy with this weeks bench. I was schooled on how to use my elbows/shoulders by pushing them out on the way up. For years I’ve been tucking my elbows on the way up. So next week I’ll work on using them more efficiently and try to maintain the bar path.

B- Close Grip Bench

185 x 10

185 x 10

185 x 10

C- Pullups 5×5- 8k



135 x 12

225 x 10

315  x 5

405 x 2

475 x 1

500 x 2

515 x 2

520 x 1

Not much to say here. This week was doubles. I felt hella good and went for 520 for a single. Nuff said.

B-RDL 2 x 15 135


C- Rollout 1 x 10-12


D- Toes to Bar 2 x 10

Week 6 Training

Squat Day

A- Max Sets of 3

Warm-up 1: 135 x 10

Warm-up 2: 225×5

Warm-up 3: 375×1

Work set: 405-2 x 3

Needless to say, I was looking forward to this day. After weeks of high volume and belt-less training, It was time I started getting closer to my max and using a belt. The video below was actually my best set. I used the belt on the second set, but it didn’t feel as good yet I had more stability. Evidently my midsection seemed to have grown to compensate for the lack of the belt and create a better foundation of strength and stability. It felt a bit harder than I wanted to, but looking back in my books, I don’t think I’ve squatted 405 for more than a double. I’ve done 415 for a double in training for Nats, but 405 with no belt–in weightlifting shoes–for triple is a big difference.  All in all I’m happy with the result.

And if my squat seems a bit high…fuck off. I bury my squats when it matters.

B- Front Squat 5×5 135

Bench Day

A- Max Sets of 3 (paused sets)

Warm-up: 135 x 10

Warm-up: 185 x 5

Warm-up: 225 x 1 (with pause)

Warm-up: 245 x 1 (with pause)

Work Sets: 265- 3 x 3

Drop Set: 225 x 8

Since the bench is my weakest, it’s fair to say in terms of the numbers/percentages it’s not quite the heaviest in training for needing a belt. It’s strange. I suppose it’s about how taxing the weight is on the body, but unless I’m in the 300’s I’m not going to feel like I’m going to die. I could of gone for another set, but being the smart guy that I am– I knew it was going to look like shit. The video is the 2nd of the 3 sets. The 3rd one started to look bad so I stopped. The drop set was random, I wanted more volume. I will be doing this from now on.

I knew I was going to need wrist wraps though, especially ever since I went 3 fingers on my AMRAP squat a couple weeks ago. The wrists have been feeling weak since then so I used the wraps as precaution. It’s important to note they’re 26-32cm wraps too, competition legal. No sense in using what you can’t use on stage, ya dig?

B- Incline DB Press 4 x 6

65 x 6

70 x 6

75 x 6

80 x 6*

(*rep PR at this weight. Probably won’t go past this for the following weeks by lowering the weight and upping the volume for light work so I don’t kill the shoulders.)


C- Landmine Row (with horn grip attatchment)

55 x 10

60 x 10

70 x 10

C2- Banded Triceps Pushdowns

Green Monster Band- 3 x 15
Deadlift Day

A- Max Sets of 3

Warm-up: 135 x 12

Warm-up: 225 x 10

Warm-up: 315 x 5

Warm-up: 405 x 1

Warm-up: 455 x 1

Work Sets: 480- 4 x 3

I was very pleasantly surprised at my performance on this day. There’s no doubt with the help of #2scoops of pre and an awesome dinner the evening before that knocked me out, I was ready to lift. Today didn’t come without a challenge and work threw a wrench into things, but I was able to utilize my time wisely and get my shit done. I think the 2nd and 3rd sets felt best, but mainly the 3rd set (see video below). I noticed in the videos my chest keeps dipping forward which pisses me off a bit, but I hadn’t stretched like I have been recently and worked on activation drills before hand. I was just ready to go, man. Decided to go head and use a belt right from the jump and boy did I feel  a difference. Like the squat, it took a little getting used to, but the squat is my bread and butter. There isn’t much that could mess it up. I was ready to go for 500, but Coach Curtis made the call for 480. Now I know for sure I’m ready for 500’s. 

B- Snatch Grip Rack Pulls

225- 4 x 8

C- Weighted GHR w/ 8kg KB

3 x 8

Week 7 Training


A- 7 x 3 @ 75% of 90% (305)

No video this week. Totally erased all of my videos for the squat. Needless to say though it went well, especially towards the end as always. I realize it is going to take me a few sets to get warmed up regardless of my warm-up sets.

B- Reverse Hypers 3 x 10 50#



A 7 x 3 75% of 90% (210)

Even though I didn’t have a spotter, the weight wasn’t nearly as heavy today as it was last week when I did 85% for AMRAP. Thus this week was easy of course, but still high volume sets. Using a spotter for sure helps a ton, but given I was the only one in the gym this day I did what I needed to do.

Incline Dumbbell

60# x 8

65# x 8

70# x 8

75# x 8

B2- Bodyweight pullups 4 x 10


A- 7 x 3 75% of 90% (410)

On this day lifting over 400 and feeling the way it did towards the end was gratifying. It seems every week I train without a belt I feel like I’m getting stronger. Some people don’t like to use a belt period, but I know now more than ever that it is more of a tool than something to rely on. I will work on not “bouncing” the weight off the ground and more resetting after each lift when I’m about 4 weeks out to work on technique. 



A- Shoulder Press 6 x 4

105 x 3

115 x 2

125 x 1

B- Curls 4 x 10 20#

B2- Lateral Raises 4 x 10 20#

C- Alligator Walks to Pikes 1 x however many