Written By: Simon
Reading Time: 8-10 minutes
Intro: From toilet cleaner to powerlifter.
Yeah you heard that right. This time last year I was cleaning toilets! Fast forward a year and I’ve just competed in my first powerlifting meet, in a pretty good position as a personal trainer and made the most progress I’ve made in both life and the gym.
Not many people knew about what I was doing for work at the back end of last year. I mean, everyone has known me to be the “fitness guy” and a personal trainer.
And I was, but I didn’t want people knowing that I was doing for work at the time back then, no disrespect to cleaners, but I felt embarrassed and pretty damn low.
I was a personal trainer for goodness sake and here I was cleaning a restaurant 5 days a week!
I won’t go too much into how I got into this position, you can find out a bit more about that whole other story below.
"26 ways to a happier, healthier and stronger life."
But cut a long story short, I left my job as a personal trainer at the end of last summer and spent 6 months or so in between jobs before I could get back into a gym, where I belonged and started training people again.
I was frustrated, depressed, broke, tired, stressed, unhappy, but not once did I lose sight of what I wanted.
But once I got back working in a gym, I started to find my feet again, business was getting better, which meant a bit less stress and a little bit more time to focus on my own training.
After a couple months into the year, I decided, I wanted compete in powerlifting.
Now this was a pretty big deal to me and quite daunting.
Up to this point, I’d only really been training properly for a year or so, I used to train like a moron. The classic “bro split” where’d you’d train chest one day, legs one day, back and arms etc... Always training to failure, going “beast mode” every session and doing loads of cardio on top.
The above resulted in me being, yes pretty lean, but about as strong as 12 year old girl!
Enough was enough, so I decided to dedicate a good year or so focusing on strength, building muscle, getting bigger and working on getting my “big 3” numbers up (squat, bench and deadlift).
At the start of this year (2016) my numbers were:
Deadlift: 160kg (with awful form)
The numbers I achieved in my first powerlifting meet and finishing the year are:
That’s 100kg added onto my total in just under a year.
Now you all probably don’t give a crap about those numbers, but to me this is more than just 3 different numbers. I’ve learnt a lot from these numbers and from just getting into powerlifting in general.
And I’m going to share them with you, that you can apply to your training, nutrition, lifestyle and goals.
This blog isn’t all about me, I want anyone reading this to read what I’ve learnt and try apply it for themselves, and hopefully it will help you.
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So I hope this blog is no different, let's get started!
1. Keep the goal the goal!
Now first of all I got this little quote from Steve Hall of Revive Stronger (so thanks Steve), it made perfect sense and something I’d never actually did properly.
My goal was to compete in powerlifting at the end of the year. That was THE goal. That meant making the squat, bench and deadlift a vocal point in my training. It has to be, as that’s what you do in the meet, lifting as much weight as possible in those 3 lifts.
Doing tons of cardio or 10 sets of biceps curls every workout is something that isn’t needed with this specific goal, it’s not going to take you any closer to squatting, benching, or deadlifting more.
Yes you put in “accessory moves” like rows, overhead pressing, pulldowns, lateral raises, close grip bench press etc.… But I still always made sure the squat, bench and deadlift make up the majority of my training, that’s just how it works.
Now also in order to get closer to that goal, I had to be eating enough to PERFORM. It wasn’t about aesthetics anymore. In order to get stronger I had to let go of the fear on putting on a bit of bodyfat and not being obsessed of staying 8-10% bodyfat all year round.
If you want to stay “shredded” all year round AND get stronger, increase muscle and your lifts, I’m sorry, it’s not going to happen, especially if your natural.
You have to focus on one goal at a time. Keep the goal the goal, put all your effort into it and you’ll progress so much more.
I see too many people trying to conquer too many things at once, like doing marathons whilst trying to build muscle and get strong in the gym. There’s nothing wrong with doing other things, like sport, alongside the gym, but just realise it comes to a point where you need to focus your energy on one thing or the other, or you just won’t progress anymore, something needs to take priority.
You don’t see Usain Bolt doing the 100m butterfly at the Olympics, nor do you see Michael Phelps doing the 100m sprint on the track, it’s because they want to master one thing and be the best at it., You don’t need to train like an Olympian, but to get better results, you need to focus on one goal, keep that the goal and work hard on that goal.
Just think to yourself every time you’re doing something in the gym, “will this take me closer to my goal?
Will going out a getting smashed this weekend and every weekend, take me closer to my goal?
Will opting for a donut for breakfast and a pizza for dinner take me closer to my goal?
Will staying up an extra 2 hours to watch shit on TV take me closer to my goal?
If the answer is no, don’t do it, if it is yes, do it, simple!
2. Not everything will be perfect or go to plan.
Perfectionism doesn’t exist, as much as most of fitness industry portrays it to be, it really doesn’t.
No-one “smashes” every gym session.
No-one eats healthy all the time.
No-one looks and feels good 24/7.
Throughout the year, I’ve missed training sessions and felt like crap for some of them.
I’ve eaten “badly” many times, “fallen off the wagon” if you like.
Even at the meet, it wasn’t perfect and it didn’t go 100% the way I wanted it. I failed my third attempt on my bench press of 120kg.
Basically, you’re going to have ups and downs. Good sessions, bad sessions, bad night’s sleep, good night’s sleep, bad days of eating good days of eating etc.…
Obviously, we want to be on top of everything MOST of the time, not missing too many gym sessions, not eating like a slob 5 or 6 days of the week, not getting 3 hours of sleep every night.
But the odd hiccup here and there is perfectly fine, you will fuck up and not accepting that is just setting yourself unrealistic expectations.
It’s how we react to these situations that separates the people who are successful with their goals from the people who are not. Don’t give up if you have a few bad days over the weekend, or even if you have a few bad weeks!
Training and life is a marathon, not a sprint, I know a lot us want things now, but be persistent and patient with whatever it is your trying to achieve, embrace the “journey”, except failures but whatever you do, don’t give up KEEP MOVING FORWARD.
It took the best part of a year to get my numbers to where they are now and top powerlifters have been doing it for years, things take time.
3. It’s not about them, it’s about you!
Now going back to the intro, where I said how I was a bit daunted by the whole decision to compete at a powerlifting meet, one of the reasons was because I had these thoughts in the back of my head “What if people don’t think I’m lifting enough” and “Am I ready or strong enough to do this”?
Basically, after years of being more concerned with other people’s training and what others were lifting, I felt I would be embarrassed and thought people would laugh at what I was lifting.
But what I’ve learnt this year is simple, who gives a shit!?
Honestly, who cares what other people are lifting and who cares what people think of you, if they’re not close to you, who cares?
What really matters is if your enjoying what you’re doing, if your making progress, and lifting more than what you used to, then that’s it.
That’s why I liked the idea of powerlifting, in a sense, your competing against yourself, your trying to beat what you used to do and better yourself. Of course, further down the line, if you want to pursue powerlifting and compete at a higher level, then beating other totals matters a bit more, but if you’re doing it as a bit of a hobby and to just help you become stronger, it doesn’t matter what others think.
If people are more concerned with what you’re doing, leave them to it, because there probably not progressing themselves, ignore them and just keep focusing on yourself, and let your performances do the talking!
4. Rest and recovery is huge.
I’ll keep this one pretty short, but put it simply, if you’re not taking the time to rest up, sleep at least 7 hours a night, de-stress, do some mobility/stretching, you’ll burn out, stop progressing and maybe pick up an injury.
This is probably the first year where I’ve thought to myself “more is not better, enough is better”.
For me, training 4 times a week has worked very well, some may need more, some may need less, but it depends on your lifestyle. I used train at least 5 times a week maybe even 6 or 7. And if I missed a session, I would then go in the next session and push myself harder as a punishment.
Back then, I felt like shit, looked like shit and had the strength of shit.
I didn’t like to rest because I thought I wasn’t progressing when I rested, but learn to like rest days and just think of it as another part of the jigsaw towards your goals.
Don’t think you have to train 5,6, 7 days a week, more is not always better, do what’s enough for you to progress, rest, sleep, eat enough and de-stress every now and then. Since doing this more, my results have got better and better.
I honestly believe focusing more on my recovery has been a big reason why I’ve added 100kg to my total. Rest is good!
5. Invest in yourself.
Okay, final point. And it’s a big one.
When I decided, I wanted to compete a powerlifting meet, I always knew I was going to hire a coach for it.
Why? Because I wanted to do it properly. I had some people say to me, “Simon, you’re a personal trainer, surely you could do it yourself”?
Yes, I could of, but would I have got the results I wanted at the meet, would I have hit 2 PB’s on my squat and deadlift?
Maybe, maybe not.
Also, prior to this year, I had no real experience in powerlifting, I did a couple of free training templates, but that was about it. I didn’t want to go into my first meet half blind, I wanted to do the best I could and I felt hiring a coach would increase my success on the platform.
I meet up with James Blanchard of JB Training and Nutrition (the hero in the middle of the blog picture), about 14 weeks before the meet to discuss my goals. James is a powerlifter himself with an impressive 600kg total, has coached other powerlifters and runs a successful personal training business.
James did my training for the 12 weeks prior to the meet and we have a few sessions too to go through form on certain lifts and other exercises to help with the big 3.
With James coaching, my form is so much better on all 3 lifts, especially deadlifts, as I’ve always struggled with them, I feel that’s improved the most.
So a big thanks to James for all his support in the lead up to the meet and on the day, where he competed alongside me, in the same weight class. He was there to help calm the nerves, warmed-up with me, explained things I wasn’t sure about and gave me constant support throughout, it was a huge boost having him in my corner.
Now, how does this relate to you?
Well, hiring a coach, for whatever it is your trying to achieve, I feel will instantly increase your chances of achieving that goal, especially if your new to whatever it is your starting.
It makes sense to go to someone who’s been down that road already and got a proven track record.
Let’s take fat loss for example. You’ve been trying to get in shape for a while or you’ve put on weight and have decided to get healthier and lose weight.
You have 2 options:
You can try do it yourself. Do all the research yourself, do your own training programme, nutrition plan, when things go wrong what do you do, find out the answer to questions fitness related yourself and so on. Which by all means you can do, but will take you a lot longer and be harder.
Hire a coach. Let them take all the guess work out for you. Do your programme, give you nutrition advice. Take stress off you when things don’t go to plan, keep you on track and increase your chances of reaching your goal.
Yes, you need to put the work in yourself too and listen to your coach, but it makes life a hell of lot easier when you’ve got someone guiding you to your goal, and probably less time too, think of it as a little shortcut.
There are some bad coaches out there, and you hear a lot of stories of people not getting the results they wanted, that may be the coaches fault, it may be your fault, it may be both.
But if you’re willing to invest in yourself, seek out a good coach who truly wants to help you and put in the work down your end, then only good things will happen.
As it did with me and James. He supplied the training, answered any questions I had along the way, supported me and I worked hard in the gym, ate well (most of the time) and I took care of my recovery.
And it worked.
So, don’t think, hiring a coach is an expense, it’s an investment. An investment to help you improve your quality of life, health, achieve your goals and become a happier person.
That’s what we aim to do with anyone who hires us as their coach/personal trainer. And we love doing it!
First of all, thank you for reading, if you still are, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and you can take something away to help you with your own goals.
I’ve learnt a lot this year, but by no means am I done. I have plenty more to learn, you can always get better and keep progressing.
If you want to check out the some footage from the meet, including my 185kg squat and 200kg deadlift, click here.
I will continue powerlifting, this will not be my first meet, I got a huge buzz on that platform and something I want to experience again and keep improving on.
Please give me a shout if you’ve enjoyed this blog and share it if you feel it can help someone you know whether there a powerlifter or not, I’m sure ANYONE can take some inspiration and motivation from this and help them with their own “fitness journey”, wherever they are on it.
If you want to continue following us, make sure your following us on Facebook, which is where most of our stuff goes.
And finally, thank you to anyone who supported me and sent me messages before and after the meet, especially my brother and other half of SJ Fitness Joe, and my girlfriend Amber for waiting around 8 hours before I even lifted!