Lifter of the Week: Jason LaVigne

By: 10/20/Journalist

Today marks my first of many “Lifter of the Week” articles here on Power Rack Strength. Brian has me handling social media for a reason – I am closely monitoring the 10/20/Life Facebook page, Instagram tags, etc. with the intention of featuring those utilizing 10/20/Life and everything it stands for. Please post your progress…someone is watching and you may be next!

I am stoked to feature a well-deserved Jason LaVigne as our first Lifter of the Week. Jason was born and raised in Mount Clemens, MI and graduated from Oakland University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He currently works for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as a Supplier Quality Engineer. In addition, he is a “big time motorhead” and loves the outdoors.

Jason grew up playing hockey and got into powerlifting in 2013, where he competed in his first meet and “was hooked ever since”. Jason’s meet PRs include a 457 squat, 297 bench, and 540 deadlift for a 1256 total. He had an awesome showing a couple of weeks ago and shared his results with us on the 10/20/Life Facebook page. He looks forward to the continued progress that the plan brings, and shared that “Brian Carroll and the 10/20/Life program is for real.”

Read on for a quick Q&A sesh that I had with Jason!

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How did you discover 10/20/Life and how long have you been utilizing the principles in your training?

I first heard of the 10/20/Life programming in early 2014 through social media and fellow lifters, but didn’t really get a full introduction to it until late summer of 2014. I first met Brian Carroll while competing at the 2014 APF Raw Nationals in Grand Rapids, MI. I actually bought my first 10/20 shirt from him that day! Shortly after the meet, I purchased the book from Power Rack Strength; I had a read and liked what I found. I first used the programming for an offseason between competing at 2014 WPC Worlds and 2015 APF/AAPF States in Michigan, and had stellar results heading into prep for States in March. Shortly after States, I had a massive gallbladder attack that resulted in surgery to have my gallbladder removed.

I had planned on competing at 2015 APF Raw Nationals, but had no chance with the healing time necessary from the surgery. Once I was cleared medically to start lifting again, I went back to the 10/20 offseason programming to start building my strength back, as I was very happy with the results from the first go-round. With missing Nationals, my longtime training partner Greg Shearer brought it to my attention that in order to be eligible to compete at 2016 APF Raw Nationals, I needed to have a qualifier meet on paper within a calendar year’s time.

With wanting to have all of 2016 to focus on Nationals, we set our sights on the 2015 APF Fall Open. At the time we realized this, we only had eight weeks until the meet, so with taking a week to shut down prior to the meet, that left me with seven weeks to train. That prep was my first utilizing the 10/20/Life pre-contest, and I couldn’t be happier with the results from beginning to end. I made it through injury-free, and set an AAPF State record and two APF State records at the meet. I also pulled a monster deadlift PR of 540lbs, which I had posted on the 10/20 page. I was totally overwhelmed by all the support and good words the 10/20 team had to say about it.

Do you use the training templates or does a 10/20/Life coach write your programs?

So far, I’ve pretty much just stuck to the training templates laid out in the book, with a couple small personal tweaks here and there based on extra work I needed in the dead and squat. I saw it was posted online that the 10/20 coaching team will be doing a seminar in December in Royal Oak here in Michigan. I plan on attending and hopefully getting some time with them to have their perspective on my form, what needs work, and how that translates into programming – both offseason and in contest prep as well.

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The years of experience and volumes of knowledge that the 10/20/Life team shares with the public is invaluable, and I’m always looking to learn. It’s a main point of advice I share anytime people ask me about training…always be willing to learn. An open mind is one of the most valuable training tools you can take to the gym or platform with you every time.

What is the most valuable thing that you’ve learned from 10/20/Life?

The main takeaways I have so far start with the importance of core strength, taking care of your back, and listening to your body. Even before fully utilizing both the offseason and contest prep programming, we were using the [Dr. Stuart McGill’s] “Big 3” as part of every warm-up both in the gym training and at meets before each flight of lifts. Hand in hand with that, I’ve really come to realize the importance of a healthy back. Posting my PR pull on the 10/20 page even stemmed to an awesome conversation with Lorne Goldenberg over this.

Lastly on these starting points, really learning about/how to use RPE has been invaluable. I have an extremely high stress and demanding job, and often was going straight to the gym after work to get my training in. Some days I had the gas in the tank, others I just had to train smart. Prior to using 10/20, I would just brainlessly try to blast my way through training, numbers, etc. and had my share of injuries and fatigue for it.

Another major point of the 10/20 programming I like are the groups of assistance lifts given to choose from. We as lifters always have weak points that need to be worked on, and often times those can switch to different phases of the lift. The large groups of suggested assistance work are a constant reminder that you can personalize 10/20 for your own specific needs.

Finally, I admire the work ethic and team philosophy of the 10/20 team in general. Reading all the posts is extremely inspirational, as you celebrate success as a team and go back to the drawing board and work as a team to make improvements when and where they are necessary. I grew up playing hockey, and we always said we play for the name on the front of the sweater, not the one on the back. We won as a team and lost as a team. So having that in my athletic background gives me a real admiration for the 10/20 team ethics.

How does 10/20/Life compare to other programs you’ve used?

It’s given me an invaluable advantage thus far. The utilization of the RPE system as well as the ability it gives you to personalize your training to your specific needs has helped me train heavy, hard, and smart, all the while working on identifying my weak points and changing up the training to bring them up each training session. As I mentioned, I’ve only used it for two offseasons as well as seven weeks of a contest prep for the Fall Open; however, at that meet I hit a deadlift PR and a total PR. These PRs were the first I hit in almost a year’s time, and after surgery earlier in the year no less. I actually just started back lifting this week on the offseason program and am looking forward to the results it will bring as I move forward.

Since beginning 10/20/Life, how have your lifts improved?

I started building my strength back after surgery in April with the offseason program. It gave me a great base to work with when we started contest prep for the 2015 Fall Open. I’ll start with squat: at that meet I hit a 402 opener and then a 435 on my second, which isn’t a PR for me, but was good enough to set the State APF squat record. I missed 457 on my 3rd attempt; just didn’t have it that day. That being said, the biggest improvement 10/20 has given me in the squat is a renewed confidence under the bar. The emphasis placed on form as well as the reverse band work has really trained me mentally on taking a good setup and executing a strong squat beginning to finish throughout the lift.

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Deadlift: I went 446, 501, and 540 that day. 540 was a 33lb PR for me, and was actually 15lbs heavier than the 525 training max I had used for more than a year’s time prior. My previous best was 507; I actually missed 512 on a 3rd attempt at 2014 WPC Worlds, and the heaviest I even pulled during prep was a RB 515. I needed 540 to win, and this was not only the heaviest deadlift I’ve ever attempted on the platform, but this was the heaviest deadlift I’ve ever successfully pulled period. With my training partner/handler Greg Shearer there encouraging me, as well as some fierce competition and a lot of other support, I decided to go for it. I’m a gamer. 10/20 put me in a position to have the strength to pull it off – no questions asked. It put me to a 1256 PR total on the day and set a new APF State total record.

As for bench…it needs work. I’ve made some great form progress with 10/20, but there’s something I’m missing. That’s my fault alone. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting to work with the 10/20 coaches at the seminar in December, start heading in the right direction to figure it out, and finally put up that 303 “Eleanor” on the platform.

Final thoughts?

10/20/life works. Even with limited utilization thus far, I’ve put up two big PRs and found confidence like never before. I’m looking forward to the progress it’s going to bring using it moving forward. As I mentioned in my post on the 10/20 page, I’m a nobody from Michigan. And if it can work for a lifter like me, it’s testament that it can bring big results to any lifter through proper execution of the program.

A quick round of thank yous if I can…I’d like to thank my parents and brother for growing up in an awesome athletic family environment, and all the support I have from you. I’d like to thank my girlfriend and the boys, and all my other family and friends who support me in all of this. It’s hugely inspirational to have everyone behind me; you’re all up there with me on the platform. I’d like to thank Greg Shearer who’s been in this with me since day one; I couldn’t have made it this far without ya, bud. Also, I want to thank Aaron and Dejuan at Double A Barbell, two of the best training partners a lifter could ask for. Thank you to Brian Carroll and the 10/20 team for being a positive influence to the lifting community and the time and knowledge you share with all of us. Finally, thank you Morgan for this awesome opportunity to be featured. 
Big Breath, Get Right, Get Tight…

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Brian Carroll

Brian is a world-class powerlifter with over two decades of elite and pro-level powerlifting under his belt. Coming back from a devastating back injury in 2012 that broke multiple bones and that most experts said he would never recover from, he has returned to the pinnacle of world-class lifting (while 100% pain and symptom-free) and is now dedicated to helping others avoid the same mistakes that he made in the past through private and group coaching in Jacksonville, FL. Brian’s impressive recovery has given him the opportunity to teach and deliver talks to physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, professional strength & conditioning coaches and experts from all facets of sport, on how to avoid injury, while building anti-fragile strength and resilience in athletes.
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