Balancing a nomadic lifestyle with a passion for strength training is
a pretty unique challenge. The wisdom of Uncle Rip’s famous saying,
“When you sign up for a meet, your training improves,” resonates
deeply with me, but the structure of a traditional powerlifting meet
can be a stumbling block for travelers and digital nomads like
myself. The logistics of traveling for international competitions,
eligibility concerns, and dedicating an entire day to compete abroad
can be off-putting, to say the least. The early-morning weigh-ins and
long wait times can test the patience of even the most dedicated.
Additionally, having referees shouting lift commands can become
tiresome for even seasoned lifters.
But I can’t let Rip
take all the credit for this “mock meet” idea. One thing that
never ceases to amaze me is how much clients can inspire me to train
harder. Out of the blue, Martin, a Swedish lawyer, sent me videos of
his no-nonsense garage meet, which included his wife and some
friends. He hit a 175kg box squat (to depth) – and keep in mind
that he could barely squat 40kg when I first met him. He benched
105kg, a complete 180-degree turnaround from his initial bench. His
deadlift was a staggering 190kg, and he almost closed in on 200kg
that day. I was incredibly proud and taken aback by his progress. I’m
usually good at judging who has the dedication for long-term strength
training, but I was wrong about Martin. He made me eat my words, and
I love it when clients surprise me like this. Bra gjort, Martin!
(“Well done” in Swedish, FYI).
So, I thought: Why
don’t I do my own “mock meet”? I only go to meets to beat my
personal records anyway. Placing well, being competitive or receiving
accolades has never been why I train for strength. I love to battle
against myself: me versus me – my favorite adversary.
course, travel has been a wonderful experience. It brings me a lot of
joy to see a dozen countries in a year, but I truly believe that true
happiness can be distilled into three P’s: Purpose, Progress, and
Purpose is the driving force
behind our actions, and for me, it’s about making an impact beyond
ourselves. There’s an indescribable sense of pride that surges
through me when I witness a lifter – someone I’ve nurtured from the
ground up – conquer their first 4-plate deadlift or press 2 plates.
It’s a privilege not all people get in their lifetime, and that’s
the stark truth. My personal records now take years to inch forward,
but watching my clients follow in my footsteps, armed with the
knowledge I’ve imparted, is immensely gratifying. Their victories
fuel my own motivation, and I care deeply about their progress,
perhaps more than even they realize.
me, is the essence of happiness in life. It translates into smashing
personal records at the gym. I demand excellence from myself; I must
always strive to do better. Our prime physical years are limited, and
eventually we all grow weaker (none of us are immortal, after all).
So, why not push the limits now? Father Time inevitably catches up,
and I refuse to become the person who regrets not gaining that extra
25 pounds or not taking training seriously when the opportunity was
Passionate obsession is the missing
ingredient. Passion alone isn’t sufficient; you must display signs of
being obsessed with your goals and interests. This is a sure-fire
path to achieving success beyond your wildest dreams. If you had told
me 11 years ago that I would naturally achieve 300/400/500/600
without steroids, gaining over 100 pounds of body weight in the
process, I’d have thought you were delusional and needed to hop back
into that DMC DeLorean. The truth is, those who accomplish anything
physically demanding or truly remarkable allow themselves to be
consumed by the process.
Take Alex Honnold, for instance,
the first person to free-solo climb El Capitan in Yosemite National
Park. He knew every nook and cranny of that rock, meticulously
memorizing each move. That’s obsession – a necessity when your life
hangs in the balance. The stakes don’t get higher than that. It’s all
about putting skin in the game.
I was traveling in Canada,
so I decided to have my own Canadian Carl Powerlifting Championships.
To transform a regular training session into a meet-like experience,
I implemented several strategies:
wrote on paper my 3 attempts, just as I would in a real competition.
Squat: 220/240/260kg. Bench: 150/167.5/181.5kg. Deadlift:
250/272.5/285kg. This was done 3 – 4 weeks prior to the meet date, as
I had a better idea of what I was realistically able to attempt by
this stage. I intentionally low-balled my 2nd attempt bench to save
it for the 3rd (or that’s what I was thinking, anyway).
I donned my powerlifting singlet (which I had in my suitcase just
in case a meet happened while traveling). This simple wardrobe change
switched me into competition mode. Wearing regular training gear
wasn’t going to make it feel like an event: I wanted to put myself
as close to meet conditions as possible, so the attire felt
appropriate. The spandex was in full effect! My focus and energy were
instantly raised to meet-level alertness.
I introduced elements to add drama, such as having someone take
photos of my PR attempts using my DSLR camera. Just as at
Strengthlifting meets, where Nick is there taking pictures, it added
more realness. It felt like a statement – that this was a moment
worth capturing – and those clicks of the shutter made me want to
perform my best. Remember, the camera never lies.
Spirit: In accordance with traditional practice in Canada, I
brought a dozen Tim Horton doughnuts to share with fellow gym-goers.
I texted members I knew, saying that I was going to max out, and many
were there and were extremely supportive. I did this to create
camaraderie and an atmosphere of support. Several people helped spot
me, cheered, took pictures, and some even helped load my bar. All of
it was great motivation to step up and dominate the weights.
Squat: Being 110% confident in my
squat ability paid off. With well-planned attempts and a “Captain
Kirk Karwoski” mindset, I strapped on my balls from the glove box
and went out there and performed. I surprised myself by successfully
lifting 260kg. Usually my back feels quite fatigued and I have very
little to give by the time deadlift comes around. Today was not that
Bench: I consulted with the resident
powerlifting bench specialist, Ruslan. A Kazakhstani powerlifter, he
has benched 500lbs at 110kg. “Your attempts don’t make sense,
I’ve seen you bench 150×5.” He was right. So I moved to
160/170/181.5kg. In hindsight I should have shot for 175kg, but I
really wanted 400lbs, which was hubris. Really, my problem was
impatience. 400lbs felt light in my hands – a strange and
empowering feeling. I was just too impatient on my descent and
dropped the bar too low onto my belly, which totally mis-grooved me.
The result? A failed lift.
What I did differently than in
a powerlifting meet:
- I used a touch and go, not a paused
rep. I prefer it, I’m stronger that way, and there’s less risk of
injury from a late press call (especially if you’re asking a gym
bro to shout lift commands).
- I used elbow sleeves, mainly
for warmth and comfort. They don’t add significant pounds to my
- Mono-lift arms: these allow me to bench without a
spotter for the un-rack, since the J-hooks swing back. This means I
can pick up the bar from the bench with pinched scapulas, instead of
someone handing me the bar badly. They’re an excellent tool (in my
opinion, better than regular J-hooks). To save your shoulders and
allow you to train consistently, you want a replicable un-rack 24/7
for every set, from training loads to max weights.
- I missed
my third attempt because of nerves and excitement, so I took a 4th
attempt, which wouldn’t have been available in an actual meet. It
was nice to have the option, although my outcome was the same – I
failed 400lbs. But you will be mine soon enough, when I’m
Deadlift: The climax of the mock meet: yes,
I finally deadlifted 600lbs. This lift was similar to my
315lbs press. It felt euphoric, and I was on an adrenaline high for
several hours after. The third attempt, in retrospect, should have
been waved off, because someone turned the magnets on and 285kg was
stapled to the floor. I used straps during my attempts, and straps
are not allowed at a powerlifting meet. I also pulled 600lbs in my
Olympic weightlifting shoes. I like to Olympic lift occasionally (to
put it into perspective, it’s a hobby I take as seriously as a
banker takes golf). So being strong in my lifters made sense to me.
I also wanted to prove
that it can be done in lifters, and that these shoes don’t
adversely affect my pulling mechanics, as many people want you to
believe. You can wear your Olympic lifting shoes at a powerlifting
meet. I’ve done so many times – but be prepared for every
powerlifter and their mother to tell you that you shouldn’t, and
that you should be in Chuck Taylors. Don’t listen to them.
Remember, the net heel in most lifting shoes is 1/4 of an inch.
That’s not the reason you don’t pull 600lbs. Trust me.
In my state of euphoria, after having hit 2 of 3 projected PRs, I totally forgot that I’d wanted to do a weigh-out, like at the Strength Lifting meets. It’s the only true way to weigh yourself, in my opinion. But I’d guess I was sitting at around 260 to 265lbs, give or take a few Sour Patch sweets.
I was very happy with my performance on “meet” day – especially the deadlift. That 600lbs was the dragon I had come to slay. I’m finally in the 600lbs club, and that heavy pull happened after a 573lbs squat and a 374lbs bench. After all, as one particularly strong powerlifter told me, if you just come into the gym and do one lift, that’s not powerlifting – to make your numbers truly count, you have to get a total. A “total”, to the non-powerlifting-initiated, combines your heaviest successful lift for the squat, bench and deadlift. As mentioned above, I did all my lifts slightly against the rules, using mono-lift arms on the bench and straps on the deadlift, but I’m very happy with my total of 702.5kg / 1,549lbs. I have no regrets.
This mock meet was a great idea and I will definitely do it again, when the time calls for it. I learned many important lessons on the platform. So, if you find your training taking a back seat to your nomadic adventures, if you lack the drive to come in and add 5lbs to the bar every week, or if you don’t have a meet near you but you still want to get stronger, consider a mock meet, and set a date with destiny.
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