Powerlifting and Rehabilitation; Peta Day meeting the challenges with patience and determination!

Powerlifting can be a brutal sport. It takes dedication, mental toughness, determination, and a real love for the sport. Even more so when you sustain an injury.

Peta Day is one strong woman, not only physically, but also mentally! In this article, Peta talks about overcoming injury and the challenge of approaching a powerlifting competition following injury.

Saturday 11 July 2020.  I was competing at the Oceania Powerlifting Pacific Invitational. This was my 14th powerlifting competition and 5th international meet.  I was primed to deadlift 152kg to break my own Powerlifting Australia, Oceania, and World Powerlifting World records in the 60-64 year age group.

Warming up for deadlifts and a sharp pain behind my right knee caused me to drop the bar from knee height.

Was it just a temporary “funny ping” or was it more serious? My heart sank. I needed a successful deadlift to cement the Oceania and PA national records in squat, lifted earlier in the flight.  But now, I was limping.  Still in shock, I pulled a token 65kg to get a total.

Reality set in. No longer indestructible, and never more conscious of my age. For a brief moment, I heard my inner voice say: “I’m too old for this”.   Then: “I’m not done yet. The boat may be leaking, but it’s not time to abandon ship!

By the time I had driven home (in a manual car!) I had a plan of attack:  Keep the knee as warm and mobile as possible, identify what made the pain worse (straightening the knee and hinging forward), organise initial physio and exercise physiology appointments.  And reinforce my mental toughness in preparation for rehab.

Powerlifting is a hobby, but I see myself as an athlete.  Mature-aged, but an athlete nevertheless.  I will never achieve ‘Elite’ status but training and competition are a huge part of my life.  Powerlifting is my passion!

Having done resistance training for more than 25 years, I started powerlifting 51/2 years ago at 56 years of age.  As a master’s lifter, I want to be not just “strong for an old person”, but competitively STRONG in the sport.

Peta Day Squat
Photographer: Jimmy Leuenberger

Rehabilitation IS strength training

Injuries are a part of every sport.  Every athlete – whether elite or hobbyist or masters lifter – needs the support of experts who are qualified to rehabilitate injury.

Just as importantly, athletes need experts skilled at identifying and correcting movement patterns that have the potential to set us up for injury, or which cause energy leaks that could be directed into a more efficient lift.

Tendons lose their elasticity over time, and I had sustained a Grade 1 strain to the distal medial hamstring tendon, just behind my right knee.

Five years ago, Kelly Mann @PerforMotion guided my successful rehab for a long-term shoulder pain, and three years ago, for a nasty hamstring tendinopathy.  I had first-hand experience in the value of patience and commitment to the rehabilitation process.  Now, I was still working with PerforMotion again, but this time with Tom Haynes, renowned Exercise Physiologist and now my powerlifting coach.

I knew that this setback would be an opportunity to work on the weaknesses that contributed to the injury and to come back stronger.

Initial rehab was performed within the pain threshold of 2-3 out of 10.  It needs mental toughness and a deep faith in the rehabilitation process and body’s resilience to reach into that threshold, to meet it, to accept it, to not fear it. It takes patience and discipline to not exceed it.

Initial rehab included delights such as tempo Spanish squats, hamstring rollouts, loaded elevated feet hip glute bridges with isometric hamstring holds, Sumo deadlifts and Copenhagen holds.  5 months post-injury we started a conservative comp prep.

Powerlifting Competition come-back and mindset

Older women can compete in powerlifting – we just need to be a little smarter about programming and how we train, and Tom Haynes is the best in the business.  He uses RPE-based programming and post-session check-ins to ensure I train with intensity and good form, but don’t overdo the volume in order to avoid fatigue.

Peta Day Deadlift warm up
Photographer: Jimmy Leuenberger

In the weeks preceding any comp, I practice comp day routine from warm-up to executing lifts with the same timing of the meet, visualising each lift as if it was in competition, hearing the referee calls in my head.

In training, I wear the footwear, socks, soft suit, and T-shirt I intend to use on the day and eat the snacks and drinks I will consume on the day.  In the 5 day lead up, I reset my body clock to wake up at the time needed for comp day and get accustomed to delaying breakfast until after planned weigh-in time.

This time around, anxiety around re-injury could have impacted my competition prep and performance.  But it didn’t!  I had done the work and all I foresaw was a successful, enjoyable day.

 

On 20 February, 2021, after a soft “peak” I competed at a local meet to qualify for major competition later in the year with World Powerlifting.  Stuck to my plan of 2 attempts each for squat and bench and pulled an easy, non-grinder 152kg conventional 3rd deadlift to nab another Australian age group record.

Peta Day Deadlift 152kg very happy face
Photographer: Jimmy Leuenberger

I have lost count of the number of Australian, Oceania and World Powerlifting world age group records I have set.  Setting records is a big motivator when slogging through the brick-by-brick training we all do.  But that 152kg deadlift record was definitely the sweetest yet!  It was the ultimate expression of all the months of patient and diligent rehab. And even more special because my son Huw handled me so expertly on the day.

Injury rehab and movement correction is not glamourous.  It requires commitment, determination, patience and a strong resolve to see it through.

I have a mindset that ‘rehabilitation is strength training’. It sees me through the discipline of rehab.  Best of all, rehab is an opportunity to chip away at my weaknesses so they become my strengths!

New Year, New Chapter for Jenelle Schultz

Jenelle Schultz APU comp 155kg sumo deadlift crop

New Year, New Chapter as Jenelle Schultz joins APU in 2021

This year I’ve decided to lift with Australian Powerlifting Union (APU), a decision I made after Powerlifting Australia nationals last year. I’ve loved my time at Powerlifting Australia, where I’ve made a ton of friends, and have 3 national, 1 Oceania and 1 World title from the last 3 years of lifting under this banner, but as they say ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result’, so I’m keen to reach for the challenging levels of competition I see in the IPF, the international branch of APU.

I have many powerlifting friends, including my coach and teammates, who are taking this same path, so it feels right for me.

Of course, my love of bright and shiny things (medals perhaps?) draws my immediate attention to the APU state and national championships, both in the first half of 2021. Being a newbie to the federation I need to qualify to participate in both, but due to the time constraints (or maybe just because the APU people understand that I like cookies?) I have the luxury of not needing to qualify in my usual weight class, so I registered for the North Queensland State Qualifier as an under 63kg.

Jenelle Schultz APU comp 155kg sumo deadlift

The competition was on Saturday 13 February in a (gasp) Crossfit gym up at Townsville. I travelled up with Sarah Wheal, a powerlifting friend who is an ex-crossfitter (just in case I inhaled the crossfit fumes – so tempting, I reckon I’d be good at muscle ups!) and we committed to an under 24 hour turnaround for this adventure!

Early Saturday morning we awoke to a steamy 45 degree day with 98% humidity at 5am (haha, not really but it felt like it) and made our way to Crossfit Townsville.

New fed, same comp day feels – some new faces and some familiar ones – I soon settled into the warm up routine after weigh in (a light u63 at 59.45kg, even with a couple of cookies on board!), tunes on, food in, brain on.

Being my first competition without any of my McDonald Strength team mates around, I was feeling a little nervous but I had wonderful support from the Panthers Powerlifting and APU Queensland teams, with Colin Webb platform coaching and Lachlan Green helping with warm ups. I came away with my first gold at APU in the u63kg M1 division, and finished 2nd overall on the day on 80.19 IPF points –Brigot Pugh took out first place – we’re both masters – the old girls can lift!!

(Jenelle is wearing an Inzer suit, SBD socks, Irontanks belt, Titan Excalibur deadlift slippers)

My Results From My First APU Powerlifting Competition

Even though this was just a qualifier and I hadn’t done a peak, I had a crack at a bench PB of 82.5kg – not to be this time, I had to settle for a speedy 77.5kg but I did successfully switch from conventional to sumo deadlift and pulled a 155kg, only 1kg under my competition best. I finished with a 352.5kg total, 4.5kg under my total at nationals last year.

In the past I’d have been pretty annoyed with myself at the lack of PBs on the day. This time, I knew that, as a qualifier, the focus would not be on numerical PBs, so I had to come up with some new metrics… I did this retrospectively, because I think it’s important to come away with a win of your own definition, despite the numbers, so here are my PBs from the day:

Sarah Wheal, Jenelle Schultz, Colin Webb, Saskia Urlass
pictured here are Sarah Wheal, Jenelle Schultz, Colin Webb, & Saskia Urlass
  • The confidence and desire to take a third squat – I didn’t need to, I’d already squatted 117.5kg, which was the goal for the day, and in the past squats and I haven’t exactly been friends, so I was intending to just take two attempts and save my energy for bench and deadlifts. But the second squat felt good so I went for the third and it was the easiest 120kg I’ve ever stood up! Maybe there’s a tentative friendship forming after all 😉
  • First APU competition, away from home, without any of my usual crew to support me. I know that sounds a little sad, but it’s not, it’s just the reality of how we need to compete sometimes, and the result shows me that I can do this on my own, I’ve got this.
  • First competition deadlifting sumo – this transition was about 12 weeks in the making, I started block pulls not long after nationals last year and gradually made my way to the floor – I think I like them now 😊

The Powerlifting Community Is Just Like A Supportive Family

Even though I was thousands of kilometres from home, I found that I still had friends and family there on the day – that’s how powerlifting is, the community is always there to support you. It was great to travel with Sarah – we met at Oceanias in 2018, first international competition for both of us – we’ve both been powerlifting a similar amount of time so we have lots of similarities in our journeys (aside from her squat, where she is a few light years ahead of me!).  Seeing old (haha, masters? Or long term?) friends up at Townsville was lovely too – Meaghan Trovato came along to watch the event and took videos for myself and Sarah as she knew we were both attending alone – what a champion, because… no vid, no did! And my sister-in-law dropped in for a bit to see what I do first hand, which was nice because powerlifting can be hard to explain to family unless they’ve seen it.

After the traditional post-comp burger, we made our way home, adhering to the 24hour away-competition deadline, and touched down back in Brisbane in time for a Valentines Day sleep in… next cab off the rank is APU Queensland State Championships in Nambour at the end of this month – I’m back in the under 57kg category so those cookies will have to wait a bit, but I’m definitely having another go at that 82.5kg bench!!

Jenelle Schultz – 2020 How It Was In My Boat

enelle Schultz at PA National Comp150x150

2020 – How It Was In My Boat, by Jenelle Schultz

“I retained my u58 M1 title for the third year running and placed 4th in the u58 opens across the country.”

A friend in Victoria posted this earlier in the year and it really resonated with me.

How it was in my boat 2020

By 2020 standards, I had a very good year. I kept my job, so did my husband, I didn’t have to quarantine or deal with long testing queues, Brisbane was not locked down for long, I wasn’t separated from family.

Overall, my boat is well afloat and watertight and I’m very grateful for that.

What changed for me most in 2020 was the way I train. Looking back to 2019 I had a great routine, 4 sessions a week at Steel & Stone (convenient, on the way home from work, every piece of equipment you can imagine), one face-to-face with my coach Graham, a fun team around me, routine, regular, organised.

My 2020 year started with a few curve balls …

2020 started with a few curve balls even before COVID. Graham moved interstate so I switched to online coaching, some of my teammates relocated to different gyms – I felt like I’d lost my tribe and therefore some of my lifting mojo. But I kept training, made new friends at Steel & Stone, and just kept moving forward in my slightly altered but mostly stable routine.

By mid-March, I was settled into my own ‘new normal’ and one week away from a local competition on the Gold Coast. I was really excited because it had turned into a mini-holiday – waterfront accommodation booked with a houseful of teammates and fellow lifters, a big night out after the comp planned with many burgers and espresso martinis on the menu. Graham was coming up from NSW to coach our team on the day – it was going to be a great weekend.  Jenelle Schultz training deadlift 157.5kg

 

It had also been a really good prep for me – everything was moving well, and my last heavy deadlift was a snappy PB of 157.5kg, 2.7 times body weight.

Then lockdown.

Comp cancelled.

Weekend away gone.

10 weeks of prep gone.

And in the next few days, gym closed.

Nowhere to train.   No equipment.

Just stay home. Go for a walk… what?!

I’m a powerlifter!

How was I going to keep my Powerlifting training up?

Living in an apartment we had zero space to set up a gym – I’d made Steel & Stone my second home and happy place, but now I had to figure out how to keep training because there was no way I was losing that too!

Robert Schultz setting up Jenelle's home gym

After some brainstorming, my husband sacrificed his car space and parked out on the road, then we scavenged for what I’m sure was the last rack and bar in Brisbane, found some mats (also rare as hen’s teeth in April 2020!) and I borrowed some weights from the gym.

Jenelle Schultz home gym being set up

Sparkle Strength Studio was born!

 

Later came a custom bench, blocks and other equipment – being married to someone who can still fabricate things after years of being a desk jockey is a bonus.

Routine back on track – Work, Train, Eat, Sleep, Repeat!

By Easter my routine was back – work, train, eat, sleep, repeat… Training had always been my happy place, but it was a challenge to make it work in my new environment with limited equipment and without people around me. Slowly as the weeks ticked by, I came around to the idea that training alone did have its perks – my choice of music always, slippers during winter, dance breaks as needed. One of my close friends who lived nearby started training with me, which we hadn’t done together for years, so there was a lot of laughter and silliness which kept me going.

As we emerged in the middle of the year and gyms re-opened, I realised I’d grown to love the little space that was just mine, so I returned ‘part time’ to Steel & Stone, and continued to build up the studio at home.

Jenelle Schultz gym set up in new home Jenelle Schultz training bench in her home gym

It was funny to watch the reactions of some of our neighbours when they walked down to their cars during deadlift day, but they got used to the crazy woman throwing the weights around.

In August we decided to move to a house, and one of the must-haves was a large enclosed space for the gym.

The upgrade was fantastic – airconditioned, a coffee machine, bar fridge to keep the pre-workout chilled, a TV, a deadlift platform AND a toilet! It’s still growing and I’m always rearranging it…

 

I got to compete at the Powerlifting Australia National Championships!

My opportunity for competition in 2020 came in October, the PA national championships, where I added 8kg to my bench and 5kg to my overall total. I retained my u58 M1 title for the third year running and placed 4th in the u58 opens across the country. Melanie Lihou, Jenelle Schultz, Zoe Deeks, Jason Raby, Vanessa McDonald at the Powerlifting Australia National Championships 2020

I got to hang out with some of my lifelong lifting friends on the day too, and everything almost felt normal again. (pictured here: Melanie Lihou, Jenelle Schultz, Zoe Deeks, Jason Raby & Vanessa McDonald)

For this competition, I worked with Shelley Stark, my first experience handing over the reins for my nutrition, and her scientific but totally relaxed approach landed me at a magic 57.3kg on the day. I firmly believe in outsourcing nutrition, coaching, recovery, etc out to the experts so that I can just concentrate on lifting.

Going forward I doubt that 2021 will bring us any less challenges or changes – we’re all still in a storm, in different boats, but maybe we are better equipped to adapt and keep moving forward bit by bit, kg by kg.

Jenelle Schultz at PA National Comp 2020My Powerlifting focus for 2021!

My lifting focus for 2021 is to have open goals, not fixed ones. By reframing ‘I want an 85kg bench’ into ‘I want to see how much I can add to my bench this year’ I know that I will achieve no matter the numeric outcome, and not be limited by my own projections and expectations.

I hope this approach will sustain me as a lifter through whatever else gets thrown my way.

 

Competition wise, I now have 3 coming up in the next 6 months, so I better go train…

 

 

Keep Your Eye On The Long Run: Returning To The Gym Post-COVID 19

Michael Jordan Obstacles don't have to stop you.

We have all been through it. Training is going great but then, bang, it’s not. Something has gone wrong.  Maybe we fell off our bike or twisted a knee and injured ourselves. We tell ourselves that we are strong and so we try and lift our regular weights. That goes wrong. We realise we need to rehab our injury. When we finally get back into the gym to build back our lifts, we understand that our bodies are deconditioned. We have the memory of when it all went wrong, be it when our back went out, or when we lost the ability to put pressure through our knee and collapsed. In this situation, we mentally understand how to build back. We can comprehend the risk involved if we don’t do this correctly. Knowing this, we are careful and we follow our program, easing the weights back up.  We learn where we have developed weaknesses over this period and we attack them with accessories. We also learn where we have gained new strengths. Slowly we became one with the bar again.  

 

Hannah Altman Squat set up in the gym at Iron Underground

By now most of us will be facing the situation where we are deconditioned, but for an altogether different reason.

Maybe this is because we have not had access to the barbell and have been doing more callisthenic workouts.

Or maybe we have just been lifting heavy and skipping our accessories because we don’t have our friends there to bully us into doing the boring work. Maybe we are training with equipment that is less than ideal so we have tweaked our form to minimize our chance of failing and really injuring ourselves ( #Stayhome #Staysafe #Kinda #Ihope ).

 

This pandemic will finally end…  Okay, so now you are back ‘home‘ (AKA in your gym), the bar is loaded and you go straight back into it. Guess what? You are likely going to get injured. The first thing you are going to have to acknowledge is that you are going into training a post Covid-19 you, so you are likely deconditioned. The difference between coming out of the pandemic and coming out of injury is you most likely won’t have that voice in your head telling you not to do anything silly, reminding you of the consequences of pushing back to that training volume and load too fast as you have your head saying, I want to PB. 

 

Hannah Altman squat Paul Thompson at Iron Underground

 

Just because you may be feeling strong doesn’t mean that your body is able to handle the same workload straight up as it could before this crisis as your musculature and connective tissues are going to be slightly deconditioned. The body is no longer used to handling the same stress as it could pre-Covid. Along with this, you will have lost some of your movement patterns.  Being back on normal equipment will change your movement patterns. If you push back into your old loads and old training patterns right away you are likely to find yourself visiting the physio. The best way to build back to the pre-Covid you is to gradually increase workload with submaximal loads and minimum volume as your muscles start to adapt again and you regain that muscle memory. The aim here is to allow yourself to increase your muscles’ and your bodies’ work capacity. If you do this you are more likely to be able to increase your strength and hopefully hit a new PB down the track when it counts. Remember the goal is not to hit a questionable PB the day the gym opens and get injured. The goal is to go back to training and hit a big PB on the platform. Keep your eyes on the prize and remember you’re in this for the long game.

Strength, A river cuts through rock, not because of it's power, but it's persistence, slow & steady wins the race at the end of the day

 

 

Remember, post-Covid training is a lot like post-injury training, it’s all about being patient, not A patient, and building back.

In the next article, we will be looking at good progressions for coming back to squats after some time off from the gym. 

 

About the Author:

Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL, and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg, and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg bodyweight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

She currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane, and online.

To book a complimentary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.

     

     

    Covid-19 Band Survival for Powerlifters

      How can I stay consistent with my training through this COVID-19 pandemic?

         One of the key things that any powerlifting coach will tell you is how important being consistent with your training is.  Why is it so important?  That is because if you are not consistent with your training you are going to lose muscle and as I’m sure you all know; muscle is pretty hard to put on.  That being said, I’m pretty sure that the one thing that no powerlifting coach had ever considered when warning athletes not to lose consistency in their training was the federal government making gyms illegal because of a pandemic.

    coronavirus covid-19 image

    Image Retrieved From: https://tse4.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.Hzq_JBCpF30HMs138QRmWwHaCn&pid=Api&rs=1

     

    But Covid-19 has come and we need to stay in control of our individual training, for our own mental health and for our future WILKS scores.  So, what are we going to do about it?

     You are probably in one of two positions right now. You either have a home gym and you are training, but you don’t have perfect equipment and all the accessories equipment that you are used to is not there. You might have imperfect safety racks etc or you’re in the position where you have almost no equipment at all. I’m not going to lie to you but you are probably going to lose some muscle mass, but having said that, there may just be a silver lining.  If you are a powerlifter you probably have an injury history or you struggle with mobility. This is the perfect time to focus on your mobility and strengthening your weaker muscle groups. It is easy to strengthen small muscle groups with nothing more than a glute band and build up your core. You can build your glutes, develop strength surrounding your sacroilliac joint (SIJ) in your lower back, improve hamstring and ankle mobility. You can build that latissimus dorsi strength; along with building strength around the muscles that help to rotate the glenhumeral joint in the shoulder, these being the posterior deltoid, infraspintus and teres minor. As well you can build strength other muscles, such as the coracobrachialis, which is used with shoulder flexion, these muscles are so important but often get neglected when we are busy focusing on our primary lifts. Building strength and stability in these smaller muscle groups can help you mitigate your risk of injury once you get back into the gym.  

    Glute types

    Image Retrieved From: https://tse4.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.Hzq_JBCpF30HMs138QRmWwHaCn&pid=Api&rs=1

    What working on these smaller muscle groups and core strength and, what we will call powerlifter mobility, will mean for you is that when you are squatting you may find it easier to hit depth and keep your core engaged.  If you keep your core engaged you are less likely to fall forward in your squat, you will find it easier to get into position and to create tension in your squat by having that improved shoulder mobility.  That improved ability to protract your scapula will allow you to produce tension in your deadlift and hold form when you are benching and improve your ability to hold position through improved ankle mobility.

    Resistance bands for training through covid-19

    Image Retrieved From: Amazon Resistance Bands

    The Covid-19 crisis is here, but from a powerlifting point of view, we must make the best of the hand we are dealt, and take advantage of it to rehabilitate any injuries or minor muscle weakness by focusing on strengthening some of those smaller muscle groups. And for this you don’t need much equipment, just a band.

    My next article will be how to get back into the gym and training after having all this time away from the gym.  I will discuss how to avoid injury by looking at some of the common mistakes that deconditioned lifters make when going back into high load strength training such as powerlifting, strongman and weightlifting.

    brain with dumbbells image

    Image Retrieved From: https://masterofmemory.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/135-1080×675.jpg

    Infinite Strength & Rehabilitation has put together a complimentary generic powerlifters band mobility program available if you email me. As the program is generic it is not specific to individuals. If you would like some one-one guidance, feel free to Message Me or email me.

     

    Stay Safe, Stay Strong & Become Mobile.

     

    Hannah Altman – Squats; High-Bar v’s Low-Bar? There is no incorrect answer!

    Low-Bar Squat                              High-Bar Squat

    Emily J Seymour Low Bar Squat
    Photo: IU’s Emily J. Seymour
    Keely Reinke High Bar Squat
    Photo: IU’s Keely Reinke

     

     

     

    V’s

     

     

     

     

     

    High-Bar v’s Low-Bar Squat?

    There is no incorrect answer!

    Whether you choose to use a high-bar or low-bar squat will depend on multiple factors, such as goals, gym, age, and injury history. Though both high-bar and low-bar squats are both squats, and they can both be used to supplement each other, the bottom line is that at the end of the day they are both very different lifts and they rely on different movement mechanics and transfer of forces.

    In general, high-bar squats are used by the population at large in the gym as well as by weightlifters, CrossFit athletes, and cross-training athletes, for example.  As for low-bar squats, powerlifters often use them when competing on the platform. You also find that athletes training for strong man competitions usually use low-bar squats.

    Barbell Placement For The Squat…

    As the name implies, in a low-bar squat the bar is placed on the back across the spine of the scapula. In other words, the bar is resting on the posterior deltoid. On the other hand, with high-bar squat the bar is placed on the upper back, lying above the shoulders, just below the C-7 vertebrae.  A very common mistake untrained gym-goers make is placing the bar too high thus putting pressure directly on the C-7.  This is why they often get pain in the neck and sometimes in the hand. We will discuss this type of neural pain in our next article.  You will often see people using a foam pad or a towel to minimise the pain they feel when they are doing a high-bar squat, but the fact of the matter is that this pain is caused by the weight pressing against the C-7.

    How does the Squat Work?

    Now let’s break down how the squat works. With a low-bar squat, you have a wider foot placement than with a high-bar squat. Your hips are pushed back and you will have a slight forward lean and, in general, a wider hand grip. The width of the grip depends on the individual.

    On the other hand, with the high-bar squat, you typically have a narrow stance and lifting shoes with a heel are used to assist with this movement. Your hips are directly under the bar and you hold your chest nice and tall and your hands have a narrower grip. But just like with the low-bar squat, the grip depends on multiple factors that are different with each person. There is no size fits all hand grip.

     

    Low Bar Squat

    Tara Reinke Low Bar Squat
    Photo: IU’s Tara Reinke

    The Benefits of Low-Bar Squat …

    The low-bar squat is generally used for two main reasons, one of which is to build up the posterior chain. This build-up occurs because the low-bar squat forces the hips back to produce and absorb the force. This creates the forward lean of the chest and, in general, allows lifters to lift heavier weight. This is why we generally see this type of squat used in powerlifting, where the aim is to squat as much as possible to depth and to be able to grind your way out of that hole. Low-bar squats ensure that the torso can be horizontal while the load shifts more into the posterior. This allows the glutes and hamstrings to be more involved and requires less range of motion from them. When the torso is upright like it is when we are performing a high-bar squat, this limits the ability of the body to get out of the hole when under a substantial load.  This is why, for powerlifting, the low-bar squat is a platform favourite for most coaches and lifters.

     

    Low Bar Squat

    Hannah Altman Low Bar Squat
    Photo: IU’s Hannah Altman

     

    The Benefits of High-Bar Squat …

    High-bar squats are the most basic form of squatting and resemble a position stance used in general day to day living. They also typically have a positive spillover into weightlifting and most performance sports as they build certain muscle groups along with building core strength and improving posture.

    In our next article, we will look at how to choose your squat variation in order to minimize injury risk and improve platform performance.

    About the Author:

    Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL, and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

    She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg body weight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

    She currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane and online.

    To book a complimentary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.

       

       

      Hannah Altman – Rowing to Bench-Press Success

      Hannah Altman – Rowing to Bench-Press Success

      The latissimus dorsi (lats) is the primary muscle that is used for the pulling motion, such as in rows. It acts mainly as a shoulder extender but plays important secondary functions as an internal rotator, adductor, and horizontal extender.   

       

      latissimus dorsi lats

       

      Though these muscles are not the most important part of a bench, they do lay the foundation for a strong bench. 

      When you are bench-pressing you are in internal rotation. Along with this, you will be in a position of internal rotation, shoulder flexion, shoulder abduction, and horizontal flexion. Strong lats are important when it comes to raw bench particularly for lightweight female lifters.

      This is because strong lats will allow you to press against the bench to help grind the bar back up. This being said, lats are even more important when it comes to equipped benching, which we will touch upon another time. 

       

      A successful bench press means being able to control the eccentric phase of the bench, which is essentially rowing the bar into the chest.

      This is the result of being able to control the movement in your upper back. Being unable to do so is what often keeps a lifter’s bench from progressing, as you need to be able to control this motion. As well, you can’t allow this motion to be so slow that it leaves you fatigued; leaving you unable to press the bar back up.

      What Are The Main Muscles Used In The Bench-Press?

      With regards to bench-press, the main muscles you will be using are the agonists located in the chest, triceps, and shoulders. When we think about the bench-press these are the muscle groups we often want to focus on building. We often forget about the antagonist which, in bench, is primarily in the upper back and the lats. These are responsible for the downward movement (row) that happens during the bench-press action. 

      To summarize, using the back to help row the bar into your chest will mean that the body will produce an effect like a spring-loaded device. This is why equip bench, once one learns how to control it, is stronger than raw bench.  And, this is because the muscles can throw the weight back up as soon as the muscles release into the press phase.  This allows the agonist muscles to unload maximal amounts of torque. 

      What Accessory Exercises Build A Better Bench-Press?

      Hannah Altman Pull UpsAccessory exercises that build lats are crucial to bench-press past a certain point. Rows are one of the best exercises you can do for your lats. And, when it comes to rows, the stricter the better. Being stricter means that you can’t use the momentum from the body to cheat the movement. For example, one can do pull-ups and chin-ups with no cross fit movements. If those are a bit of a challenge you can use a band for assistance or ask your training partner to help you. You can also jump into them and control them down etc. One can also do landmine rows and lat pulldowns to name a few other appropriate exercises. Another key to success rests with warming up the lats with a band to get them firing before you start training. 

      Remember, the bench-press is more than the press. There are two sides to all stories. Remember the row in your bench, it is not just all about the press. 

      Next year we will look at the press in bench-press and trust me when I say, it is all about the chest. 

      About the Author:

      Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

      She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg body weight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

      She is currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane and online.

      To book a complementary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.

         

        Wendy Chan – 3rd Ever Woman To Secure A 500 Wilks Score!

        Wendy Chan – Elite 1 Powerlifter, Member of Powerlifting Australia in affiliation with World Powerlifting.

         

        Powerlifting is the sport of strength. Men and women of all ages and sizes compete.  It consists of three attempts at maximal weight on three lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift. Similar to Olympic Weightlifting, it involves a single lift at maximal effort of a barbell loaded with weighted plates. Each athlete assigns themselves to a federation, age category and weight class in order to compete. 

        Wendy Chan Oceania Champion MedalsMy name is Wendy Chan and I am an Elite 1 Powerlifter.  I am a member of Powerlifting Australia that is in affiliation with World Powerlifting.

        I began my journey in October 2014 under affiliation with IPF (International Powerlifting Federation). I competed in my first competition at Iron Underground in Albion. As this was my first competition, I was classed in the junior age category (18-23 years) weighing in the U52kg class. I gave it my best shot with only 2 hours to ensure I would be 52.0kg or less. I attained a 115kg Squat, 55kg Bench press and 122.5kg Deadlift; totalling 292.5kg at 50.35kg BW (Body Weight). This gave me an unofficial national record in this class, however as I had only been a member of Powerlifting Australia for 3 months, I was unable to receive this record. I did walk away with a Gold medal in my weight category and overall ‘Best Female Lifter’ on the day (this is a calculation of strength level against relative body weight).  

        Due to this unfortunate formality; my hunger to attain a record sparked.  

        The year later, March 2015 I competed in my second ever competition. Once again, I had signed up at Iron Underground in Albion to help build my confidence in an environment that was familiar. This time round I managed 107kg Squat, 57kg Bench Press and 127.5kg Deadlift, Totalling 292.5kg. Now, when you look at the numbers, I Wendy Chan squat focusdidn’t make much growth between the two competitions. However, when you consider the body weight difference; progress was evident. In 2015, I decided to drop down to the lighter weight class of being U47kg or less. So, for this competition I weighed in at 45.35kg. I scooped up my first of many Junior National Records in the U47kg weight division and a secured spot to compete at a National level.

        August 2015 was my first time on the big stage, National level! 115kg Squat, 62.5kg Bench Press and 130.5kg Deadlift. Total 308kg @46.3kg BW. I was speechless when I was announced Junior National Champion of Australia! I took a short break then ended the year in December with 120kg Squat, 65kg Bench Press and 132.5kg Deadlift. Total 317.5kg @47.7kg BW. This was an emotional competition as I didn’t quite make the weight class…I was 700g’s too heavy. Thankfully because it was just a local competition the meet directors allowed me to compete. This year ended on what felt like a low…

        Then I was invited to compete at an International level come 2016.  This was my redemption year travelling to Killeen, Texas in June. I was crowned U47kg Junior World Wendy Chan Deadlift smileChampion! Receiving Gold in Squat 120kg, Bench 67.5kg and Total 315kg, Silver in Deadlift 127.5kg. I broke a number of National, Oceanic and Commonwealth records. I also competed in my first ever Open National Championship in October securing: 125kg Squat, 70kg Bench and 132.5kg Deadlift. Totalling 327.5kg at 46.5kg BW. I became not only Open National Champion as a junior but Junior World Champion.  

        2017     I began my year competing in the U52kg weight division before knuckling down into 2 major competitions towards the end of the year. Open National Championships in Melbourne gave me gold once again with a 125.5kg Squat, 72.5kg Bench and 145kg Deadlift. Totalling 338.5kg. My final competition in 2017 would be my last as a junior (under 23 years of age). Travelling to Singapore for the first time and wanting to secure some World Records under my belt. I weighed in at 46.6kg the morning of. My nerves were through the roof, nothing familiar but the weights and my coach. I was placed in the second group for the morning with the lightest male class. I was even more nervous and concerned with the unknown. As I stepped out onto the platform, I knew it was my last chance to give it my all. This was and is my proudest moment to date. I walked away winning Gold in my weight division once again. I also received numerous Oceanic, Commonwealth and Australian National Records. But my day wasn’t done there. Walking onto the podium I was awarded with breaking the World Records in the IPF for: Squat 132.5kg, Deadlift 150kg and Total 355.5kg.

        2018     a change in affiliation to WP (World Powerlifting). I had a small break; only competing twice. Nationals in Melbourne was a stressful time. I went out to dinner with family the night before and woke up 1.3kg overweight!! I had to try every trick in the book. Tears flowed and I was on the verge of giving up. With 15 minutes to spare I pulled myself together and decided to give it a go. Stepping on the scales I made it. Totalling 358.5kg. Following this competition, I decided to no longer chase numbers but work on securing a higher Wilks (total to body weight score).Wendy Chan Medals Collection

        2019     I am working towards maintaining my new weight category and building strength. This year’s goal was working towards being the 3rd ever female to secure 500 Wilks points. June lead me down for yet another trip to Melbourne to hold onto the Open National Championship for the 4th time running. A total of 370kg and 494.57 Wilks. With only 5.43 Wilks points to go it was in my near future. I had all fingers crossed for this to be my end of year celebration…so as of Saturday 7th December 2019 this was achieved. At a local competition, once again held at Iron Underground in Albion; I walked away with a 134kg Squat, 78kg Bench Press and 167kg Deadlift. Totalling 379kg @ 47.4kg BW and 506 Wilks!!! I achieved 8/9 lifts. Missing my 2nd attempt squat at 134kg and having to reattempt. The moment I wasn’t able to stand up with this weight on my back I lost all hope to achieve my goal. I ran back to the warm up room and out the back door in tears, kicking myself for setting up such a high expectation. Little did I know once I had my cry and reminding myself to calm down and that it wasn’t the end of the world, everything came together. The stars aligned and the cards were in my favour once again. I won gold in u48kg class and overall best female lifter.

        Arief Hunter & Wendy Chan

        All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing support and programming that Arief Hunter does for me. Whether I believe it or not “trust in the process” he always says. It seems he knows me better than I know myself. Always growing and learning by living in the moment.

        Hannah Altman – How To Drive Through Your Shoulders In Bench Press

        Hannah Altman – How To Drive Through Your Shoulders In Bench Press

        Think About Those Lats!

         

        In this article we are going to focus on how we can use the bench to create torque and drive that bench PB, moving on from last article’s focus on the arch.

        Your feet should be positioned wherever they feel most comfortable when you are benching but ensuring that they are not going to slip and that they are providing a stable base to keep your bum on the bench. The goal of your foot Hannah Altman Bench Press Upper Back Set Upposition is that it is going to allow you to generate power from your legs to your upper back. That’s where the power comes from.

         

        As you get more and more elite with bench-press you start to notice that everything makes a difference down to the shirt that you are wearing. If you wear a shirt that does not have good grip it is easy to slip out of your arch. In this case, your shoulders will no longer be even on the bench and you will no longer be in a position to drive into the bench with your upper back.

         

        Some people think that bench is all chest and triceps but a major component is back strength wrist stability, core strength, ankle, thoracic and hip flexibility. We are going to focus on what the lats are doing during the bench press. This muscle can actually make or break your bench press and, surprise, this muscle is in your back.

         

        The latissimus dorsi muscles, otherwise known in gym bro language as lats, are the large v-Hannah Altman Latissimus Dorsishaped muscles that connect your arms to your vertebral column. This is a series of approximately 33 bones called vertebrae, which are separated by intervertebral discs. The column can be divided into five different regions: the cervical, thoracic, lumber, sacrum and coccyx. Each of these regions is characterised by a different vertebral structure. They help protect and stabilize your spine, while providing shoulder and back strength. Your lats also help with shoulder and arm movement and support good posture.

         

         

        If boosting your numbers on the bench is your goal, this requires building a bigger back. This will carry over to your other lifts.

         

        When using your back the best way to think about things is to bench on your shoulders. But the key is to not lose your shoulder positioning on the bench when you unrack the bar. Once you have the bar in your hands the best thing Hannah Altman Bench Press Shoulder Set Upto do is think about trying to break the bar. The goal is to create power and torque in the shoulder joints. This comes from actively engaging your lat. As you press, you should feel your back muscles tightening and this will help you get through those nasty sticking points when you’re trying to get that PB and help prevent any shoulder injuries. This will also put you in a stable position on the bench, which should help ensure that you are even and won’t move.

         

        Next time we will be looking at how to build those lats for a bigger bench-press.

        A recommendation for a good bench shirt is SBD or Iron Underground shirts: They stick to the bench and are approved by World Powerlifting.

        About the Author:

        Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

        She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg body weight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

        She is currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane and online.

        To book a complementary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.

           

          Hannah Altman – How does the bench press work?

          Hannah Altman – How Does The Bench Press Work?

          Let’s talk bench press – arch and bench contact.

           

          For women, the bench-press is arguably one of the hardest lifts to progress. In this next series of articles, coming out every two weeks for Powerlifting4women, we will be discussing how to break through the bench and avoid injury.

          Hannah Altman Bench Press Set Up

           

          A major point to consider with bench-press is that it is an extraordinarily technical lift and there is not a lot of room for technical breakdown if you want to get three white lights in competition.

           

           

          The first thing to keep in mind with regards to bench-press is the set-up.

          You need to set up to ensure your hands are in the right position for your body type and for how you’ll need to build your bench strength. This is because bench-strength is built in the accessory work that you do (December article).

          Once you grip the bar you need to ensure that your feet are set so you have leg drive. You must have a decent arch such that your bum is in contact with the bench. You need to ensure that your arms are fully extended and that you don’t lose your arch when you unrack the bar because the bigger the arch the less the bar needs to travel.

          Not losing that arch can come down to your breathing technique as one of many factors. Once you start the bench you lower the bar through the eccentric (downward phase) movement, then you need to be able to hold that stopping position at the bottom long enough to get a press command from the referee.

          The concentric (upward phase) part is where things often go wrong in the bench press. You need to ensure your feet don’t move, your bum stays on the bench, the bar only moves in one direction (meaning that if you get stuck and the weight pushes you down you are finished). Also, you need to try and avoid hitting the rack because that can throw off your bar path and you won’t be able to lock it out. Oh, and don’t beat your rack command.

          So, to summarize, there are heaps of components that go into doing a proper bench-press and if your technique is off you are likely to slip up and will end up getting a red light.

          Hannah Altman Bench Press with Paul Thompson at IU Iron Underground, Brisbane

           

          One of the biggest mistakes that lifters make is that they don’t train variation in their lifts. Every lifter has a sticking point and different variations of the bench-press can target those weak points so that you don’t fail your bench-press at the same point in the lift.

          In this article, I’m going to focus on what, in my opinion, is the most important part of the female bench-press and how to avoid one of the biggest red light makers in bench. This refers to an Instragram post from the 23rd of August 2019 on HannahAltman ES.

          The reason why we arch our back is to minimize the distance that the bar has to travel (shorter bar path). Though the one little down side of the arch is that the bigger the arch is higher the risk of lifting your bum of the bench.

           

          This being said, there is a lot of false information out there claiming that arching one’s back for females will cause lifetime back injury.

          What many don’t take into consideration is the fact that lumber and thoracic vertebrae and inter-vertebral discs are actually safest in a lordodic position, which is the fancy term for being arched. The main reason for this is that discs tend to herniate posteriorly due to the presence of an incredibly robust anterior longitudinal ligament in front of the spine.

          Even if the disc somehow manages to herniate anteriorly, the resultant herniation would likely be asymptomatic as the spinal nerves are behind the inter-vertebral discs, not in front of them. Arching the lower and mid back does not push the limit-range of motion of the cervical spine in the neck, so there is less concern of the probability of injuring the neck with arched benching.

          If your form is correct, arched benching (with a retraction of the scapulae) allows a greater use of the lower fibres of the chest muscles. Not only is this pushing angle likely safer for the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder, it’s also conducive to the great use of the larger mass of lower fibres (vs. upper fibres) of the pectoralis. This creates a more forceful lift without sacrificing as much safety as a flat pressing position might (August 24th 2019).

          This being said, an increasingly common que used by coaches is to bench with one’s legs. The issue then becomes that when we do this we lift our bum off the bench, causing one to get three red lights. We end up lifting our bum, using this approach because when we drive through our legs we initiate the force towards the ceiling, which pulls our bums up.

          Hannah Altman Bench Press Arch

          However, if we focus on driving our shoulder into the bench, the force goes into driving the bar back up which is more likely to end in more bar speed and no red lights.

          There is heap more that goes into the bench-press. Our next article will be on how to use the bench to generate more force and to minimise shoulder injuries.

          About the Author:

          Hannah Altman is a qualified exercise scientist BHS| BCOM | MPHIL and Strength Coach Fitrec, a Pilates instructor and Nutrition Coach PN1 Elemental L2, focusing on injury prevention for strength athletes. She is currently studying for her doctorate at Queensland University of Technology.

          She holds multiple junior bench-press records, the current one being 95kg and has a top bench-press of 103kg at 69kg body weight. She is ranked in the top 20 in Australia based on Wilks in all three lifts and in Bench-Press.

          She is currently coaches out of Iron Underground in Albion, Brisbane and online.

          To book a complementary session; to get a 10% discount for rehab, prehab or just performance and to increase your bench, choose from the options below. Contact Hannah on 0452285271.