26 Nov Paul Oneid – EPC Finals Meet Write-Up
On Saturday, I competed in my first meet in a year – the EPC Finals in Guelph, ON. This was an IPL sanctioned meet and I competed in wraps at 220lbs. It was at this meet 1 year ago where I tore my quad and I specifically chose it for that reason. I ended up with an up and down day going 3/3 on the squat with 777lbs, then only hitting my openers on bench and deadlift. My final results were 777 – 396 – 666 – 1839 @215.4lbs.
Now, as you can see from the video, there was a lot of emotion after this lift. Let me provide some context…
In Feb, 2015 I had my best lifting performance to date. I was planning to compete at RUM 7 (I think?), but due to a change in career, I could not afford the travel and opted to compete 5hrs from home in Vermont instead. I competed against Carlos Reyes, who was in a similar situation. I ended up going 800-430-700 – 1930 @218.5, losing to Carlos by only 15lbs. He has since gone on to total well over 2k and lift against many of the best in the world. After that meet, which if you’re good at math was almost 4 years ago, I was determined to be one of the best in the world.
In the months that followed, I pushed myself as hard as I could taking some liberties with my body that I would soon regret. I had been dealing with IT band pain for as long as I could remember at this point and I did very little to resolve it. Some treatments here and there, some SMR, some correctives, but never addressing the issue. I hired a very notable coach to prep me for my next meet and training was going incredible. Hitting 20-30lbs PRs on every exercise, every week. Yes, I was still in pain and moving poorly, but I was strong, so fukit. This continued until 12 weeks out when my body finally decided to fight back. I tore my lateral meniscus in my left knee while squatting my 3rd set at 665×4. I tried my best to rehab it, but it was futile and I eventually had surgery in Dec 2015. Typically, menisectomies (cleavage of the meniscus) are simple procedures, but because of the severity of the tear and the damage I had done to my IT band, mine was not simple. The surgeon had to perform a partial lateral release, where they shave down the IT band to release tension. My patella had actually been tracking laterally by over a centimetre – hence the chronic pain and tendonitis in my knee.
Lesson 1 Ignored – Take care of your issues and listen to your body. It always wins!
In keeping with the theme here, I rehabbed as fast as I could and got back on the platform before I should have. Because of the quick rehab and the lateral release surgery, I had developed a very significant hip shift preventing me from deadlifting sumo, or squatting in my normal stance. Instead of slowing down and addressing the issue, I just said fukit and switched to conventional and squatted more narrow. 6 months after my surgery, I went 5/9 via 780-400-670 -1850 @220lbs. After this, I should have been happy to be back competing, but I wasn’t. Not only that, but I had to relearn how to pull conventional and try to squat more narrow. This time, I semi adjusted the plan. I started working Jon Byrd as my coach and worked hard to resolve the hip shift. I managed to improve my squatting, but not entirely, and I remained pulling conventional. I also decided to go up a weight class to 242lbs.
Lesson 2 Ignored – Slow down!
My body took to the new weight well, and I think that bought me some time physically. Working with Byrd, I was healthier and ended up having a solid meet in October 2016. I competed in wraps at 242 in an attempt to qualify for the Arnold in 2017. I put together a solid meet, going 8/9 via 805-420-725 – 1960, easily qualifying me for the Arnold. The issue was that it was actually 5 wilks points worse than my 1930 @220, so I was not even remotely happy. At this point, my mindset immediately returned to that of Feb, 2015 – I was going to be one of the best in the world. I had it in my mind that I was going to go 850-450-750 4 months later and assert myself among the top lifters. I was going to do whatever I had to do to get there. Just as I did in Feb 2015, I continued to make bad decisions with my body and ended up tearing my pec 6 weeks out from the meet. I competed anyway, having my worst lifting performance to date going 3/9 via 765- 410 – 660 – 1835 @242.
BOTH Lessons 1 and 2 ignored again!
Now, you might think I had learned my lesson at this point, but I didn’t. After the Arnold, I was more determined than ever to “show the world” what I could do. I rehabbed the pec faster than I should have and kept pushing the training. Remember that hip shift? still not resolved. Remember that chronic knee pain? Still not resolved. Remember that torn pec? Still not totally resolved. I took a longer off-season after the Arnold and decided to compete at the end of the year in sleeves and return to 220lbs. I thought if I put sleeves on instead of wraps, I wouldn’t be pressured to push the limits in training. Well, needless to say, that was not the case. I kept my bodyweight up at about 240lbs throughout the prep and pushed everything as hard as I could. At about 4 weeks out, the hip shift reared its head again and my body told me to go fuck myself. I tore my right lateral quad while squatting 722 in training. Initially, it was not that bad and I could actually squat relatively pain free, but there was a bunch of bruising and a visible dent in my quad. If you’ve followed my training, you know what decision I made… I competed anyway! I made the HUGE cut to 220 (which was dumb with a torn muscle) and on my second attempt on the squat, I tore the quad again while successfully squatting 705 in sleeves. I finished the meet going 705-418-666 – 1789 @220lbs. I pulled the deadlift stiff leg and kept my 666 opener for the irony.
Let’s take an inventory…
- Feb 2015 – Total 1930@220lbs, good for top10 all-time squat and top20 all-time total
- Dec 2015 – Knee/IT band surgery
- June 2016 – Total 1850 @220
- Oct 2016 – Total 1960 @242
- Feb 2017 – Tear Pec, total 1835 @242
- Nov 2017 – Tear Quad
- Dec 2017 – Tear Quad again, total 1789 @220 in sleeves
Basically, regardless of the amount of effort, energy, or sacrifices I have made in the pursuit of a bigger total, I have not had a PR since Feb 2015. Depressing isn’t it? yea, kinda… but, do you know what’s worse? Aside from the Oct 2016 meet day, I had not had fun lifting since 2015 either.
Time to change!
After last year’s EPC Finals, I decided to take some time away from powerlifting, get healthy and re-think my approach and mindset. I had a lot of issues that needed to be addressed if I was going to be able to compete again. My knees were in chronic pain, and I could not stabilize my hips in any loaded lower body movement. By tearing the quad a second time in the meet, it was actually almost a 10″ vertical tear on my lateral quad, all the way up to my TFL/ Rec Fem. So, now on my left side I had issues stabilizing laterally because of the knee surgery and on the right side I had trouble stabilizing laterally because I was missing part of my quad. All of this because I did not listen to my body and address issues before they became serious.
First goal for the time away – get healthy. Not just address my injuries, but get healthy physically AND mentally. I got an appointment with my GP and started working with Tucker to lose some weight. The weight loss process lasted until May, but the get healthy process is ongoing for life. I am never letting lifting interfere with my physical and mental health ever again. NOT WORTH IT!
With the weight loss, I ended up losing 25lbs and looking the best I have in my entire life. My blood work was perfect and I had resolved my injuries and was pain free. It only took me 5 months away from powerlifting and A LOT of strategic corrective exercise. The problem – I was very weak! I decided to work with Derek Wilcox to help me rebuild and get back to the platform, but guess what happened? I started having pain in my knees and hips. In the past, it would have gone ignored, but not this time. I contacted Derek and said I needed to back off. He understood and I did just that. I backed right off until I was pain free again.
By this time, it was about July/Aug and I decided to take another try to rebuild my strength. I kept a lot of variety in my training, stayed on top of the correctives that got me to my pain free status and I played it very slowly. I also stayed very active and did cardio daily. I did this all the way until the meet this weekend. A nice slow approach and backing off as soon as things didn’t feel right. I took what my body was willing to give me and never forced the issue. Was I as strong as I once was? Nope, but I was having a great time training and many of my training partners pointed this out. One of them, Craig had not seen me laughing in the gym before and he had been lifting at Dynamo for 3 years!!!
Now, don’t take what I said above to mean that I did not train hard. I easily trained harder than ever, but I did it in a calculated and methodical fashion. No dumb jumps and no unnecessary risks. So, what made the squat at the meet so meaningful? One word – FEAR. While I wasn’t in pain during training, my right leg was still not back to 100% strength. If you watch some of my training videos leading up to the meet, you can see a lot of lateral movement in my knees on my heavy sets. It did improve, but it was not resolved. Not only that, but I had become so accustomed to pain and discomfort that overtime I bent my knees I was waiting for it to hit me. Although I was pain free, I was scared to get up on that platform and hurt myself again. I had worked too hard to leave like that. I wrote it at the beginning of all my training logs:
“I have 2 goals:
- Get to the meet healthy
- Build momentum for the future
If there is a PR there, I will take it, but I am playing the long game from here on out.”
I stayed true to this in my approach. I was going to the meet to take what the day gave me and walk away with a starting point to build from. That didn’t do anything the quell the fear, though. To do that, I was going to have to squat. In the days leading up to the meet, I like to take time to visualize my lifts. Every single time I did that, I cried. I couldn’t stop myself. I knew it wasn’t even going to be a PR, but it didn’t matter because the tears were coming lol.
Based on the training, I knew I was good for close to 800lbs again, but I did not want to chase numbers. I set a range of 771-783lbs for my third attempt based on how my opener moved. Both lifts felt really good, but I was having trouble with my feet getting stuck to the carpet on my walk outs, so I opted for the middle of the range. The walk out was trash, my feet were too close together, I was off balance, Mercury was in retrograde, but I knew I had to bend my knees. I maintained as much control as I could on the eccentric and drove up as hard as I could. When I racked the bar and heard Jordie yell “good lift,” I tried as hard as I could not to cry. Then he hugged me and it was over, I was balling. He knew about all the struggles and the work it took to get back onto the platform. For me, this 777lbs squat put all the negativity of the last 4 years behind me and was the beginning of me having fun with training again for no one other than me and my own personal development. No all-time lists, no proving anything to anyone, no sacrificing my body and my health for something I don’t even have fun doing. I am going to be lifting weights for the reason I did when I started – as a vehicle for self-improvement in all aspects of life. I’m proud that through all this I got back to being able to use my drive under the bar to further myself outside the gym by getting married, starting a business, expanding my existing business and furthering my day-job career.
I know this was long winded and probably over the top, but it’s my story. Basically a story about how I lost and found the real reason why I lift weights. I hope that someone finds some worth while lessons in this and is able to avoid some of the pit falls that I fell victim to. I find that those who compete in a sport like powerlifting often have some demons buried deep down. Don’t let yours rule you and drag you down. Use the barbell to overcome them, not feed them.
Oh the rest of the meet… I’ll expand on that in a later log, but I ran out of gas physically and emotionally and only managed to hit my openers. That being said – I got through the meet healthy and I have a ton of momentum to build on, which was the plan all along!
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