When I left Crossfit and started powerlifting early last year, I had some numbers in my head which I considered to be what “Strong” was. You probably have your own numbers but, for me, there was “Strong Girl” and that was a 100kg squat, around 70kg bench and a double bodyweight deadlift. “Really Strong Girl” was a 120kg squat, 80kg bench and a 160kg deadlift. These are totally random numbers that I made up based on almost no information, research, consultation or bodyweight variables. I am the anti science.
More or less (actually more in all cases), I achieved “Strong Girl” numbers in that first year of lifting. But somewhere around the end of last year, before my second powerlifting competition my lifts stalled out in training. I started to fail reps continuously and over the next 6 months, I pretty much banged my head against a wall and destroyed a lot of my confidence along the way. I’m not sure if it was my diet or my training or my efforts that kept me stagnating… but, I made some changes with my primary goal being to break that stall and get bigger numbers.
I committed to eating in a surplus and introduced a period of significantly higher volume training. I started to hit a wall again at the end of that cycle - by failing reps closer to the peak, when the intensity moved up closer to 90%. I've found that failing lifts pretty much destroys my confidence and everything goes down the toilet…So, I moved myself onto a program that moved through waves of a more gradual linear progression. As it peaked AMRAPS were introduced, which I found really positive in terms of developing confidence and familiarising myself with my capacity to grind. This program also incorporated an optional deload week every fourth week, which I timed with my period (or the week in my cycle- when I am consistently useless in the gym). I followed this program for 12 weeks into a 5 week peaking program to take me into my first competition in 8 months.
The competition went almost magically. I got 8/9 lifts and was in a calm, confident and determined mindset. I lifted a competition PB for my squat and my deadlift and I put 25kg on my total from the same time last year. I got all white lights on all three squats, achieving depth in IPF, which I am really, really proud of too. So, I finished with a 120kg squat, a 80kg bench and a 160kg deadlift. That’s right fuckers - “Really Strong Girl” numbers!
I guess because I had stalled out for so long, was already “Strong” and getting “old” it had actually occurred to me that maybe I wouldn’t reach my ultimate random “Really Strong Girl” numbers. I definitely did not make any assumptions about reaching them that’s for sure…So, when I did, in this last competition, I totally surprised myself! I can not actually imagine a more positive training cycle or preparation period. I can’t imagine feeling any better than I did on competition day. I actually can not imagine life beyond “Really Strong Girl” numbers… and I wasn't sure what to do next…
In the few weeks that have passed since my last competition, my understanding of what "Really Strong Girl" numbers are has shifted. There's nothing like watching the girls at ProRaw to make you feel like a total beginner on this strength journey. Liz Craven is my age, almost half my weight and pulled 172.5kg in Sydney for a new IPF world record last weekend. The women at the Crossfit Invitational shouldered stones weighing 60- 72kgs for an event on the weekend. Figure competitor Lauren Simpson can low bar back squat a paused 130kg at U57kg...Yeah, my views on "Really Strong Girl" are changing and there is room for a new category…."Fuck Off Outta the Park Strong Girl".
I can pay a lot of attention to what other people are doing but in the end, it always comes down to finding intrinsic motivation, and competing with other people is not that for me…
One thing is sure, I find it almost impossible to step into a gym and follow a program unless I can answer the fundamental question of "what are you training for?". This answer changes and I think you need to ask it of yourself after reaching milestones. I haven't been able to come up with an answer to that question yet…so, for lack of anything better, I'm two weeks in to running almost the same program I ran for the last competition and I've set in my mind a tentative competition date of March next year. In the meantime, as I go through the fucking high volume motions, I'm continuing to think on an answer...
What am I training for...Google does not have the answer to that question.
1. How long should you train for maximal strength?
2. When should you quit training for maximal strength?
3. If I'm not training, am I just exercising?
4. Whatever I need to do so that I can eat all of the foods? *
5. Should I check myself before I wreck myself?
Anna Brown is an average though super keen