By Tim Paynter, @paynterperiodization
Do you suffer from bicep pain in the elbow during the bench press? If you’ve been powerlifting for long enough, chances are you’ve experienced this before. At times, the pain can be so bad it’s almost debilitating. What is this pain, what causes it, and how can you fix it?
Biceps pain in the elbow is typically called distal biceps tendonitis which is caused by inflammation around the distal biceps tendon on the radial tuberosity (where the biceps tendon attaches to the forearm bone). However, for most of us who have been powerlifting for a long period of time, the pain may actually be associated with true inflammatory tissue changes (deterioration) in that tendon which is actually called tendinosis, not tendinitis. This commonly causes pain during flexion of the elbow, which for powerlifters occurs towards the bottom of the bench press.
The onset of this pain is often associated with a strain from sudden increases in the amount of activity (increases in volume or frequency) or from overuse (accumulated damage over and extended period of time). However, sometimes this pain can also be associated with flaws in technique and form during the bench press.
To “fix” this issue, you need to first take a step back and look at your current and previous training history. Have you recently had a rapid increase in volume, intensity, or loading in the bench press? If so, this may be a sign that you need to dial those back a bit. Reducing the total amount of sets, reps, and loads you’re using in training may very likely be necessary. If all of those parameters have been accounted for and you’re still experiencing biceps tendon pain, then there may be some corrections that are necessary in your form.
One of the most common form issues I see during the bench that can cause this is improper stabilization of the bar. Start by making sure your shoulders are depressed with your shoulder blades pinched together to create a stable foundation. Once you’re confident in your shoulder stabilization, next you should check your grip width. A grip that is too wide often places excess stress on the shoulder, while a grip that is too narrow (which may be the cause here) places excessive stress on the elbows. I suggest a proper grip width that allows your forearms to be at or very close to perpendicular with the floor at the bottom of the bench press. Next, consider how you are applying force into the bar. One overlooked cause of elbow pain is when we are using our biceps and pecs to help stabilize and control the bar during the press by internally rotating our shoulders and elbows during the press, this puts constant pressure on the biceps during the bench press. Instead, stabilize the bar by externally rotating the shoulders and therefore the elbows during the bench press. Imagine you are trying to bend the bar towards you and pull it apart instead of trying to bend it away from you and push it together. This uses your triceps and back for stabilization instead of your biceps and front delts. This sounds a little complicated so if you’re unsure about it use a long piece of 1 inch PVC pipe to help practice. Make sure the pipe bends with the ends towards the ground, raising the center of the pipe bending it away from you. If the ends are bending towards the ceiling and center is bending in towards you, you’re doing it wrong.
If your programming and form have been addressed and you’re still experiencing this pain it may be a good idea to take a short break from bench pressing or looking at other lifts such as the squat, deadlift, or any assistance exercise where you may also be placing excessive strain on the biceps’ tendon. Correcting your grip/grip width during the squat may also be necessary, as well as, ensuring your arms are not bent at all during any portion of the deadlift. You may also try avoiding assistance exercises that are putting excessive strain on the biceps’ tendon like curls, pulldowns, etc.
While some aches and pains are common to powerlifters, they don’t all have to be accepted as part of the game. Look for ways to correct underlying issues and address these aches and pains before they become worse or cause irreparable tissue damage. I hope these tips help, if they do, please let me know which ones. If you know any other fixes, feel free to let me know as well. As always this is NOT medical advice and you should certainly consult medical attention for any injuries sustained while powerlifting. Thanks for reading.
Recovering from Minor Injuries
By Tim Paynter, @paynterperiodization
Hey, powerlifters! We need to stop being afraid to take time off when we’re injured.
I see it time and time again. A lifter gets injured but continues trying to train, despite the injury. We’ll often say things like, “I can just train around it” or “I can push through it”. While we can all admire that dedication and drive to succeed, it is rarely effective and often causes minor injuries to turn into something much worse. So, what should we do when we find ourselves suffering from a minor injury? Take time off? No way, right?! Actually, yes way… I say this from experience. In my time under the bar, I’ve been lucky enough to never have any sort of catastrophic injury. However, I have dealt with numerous muscle strains, partial muscle and tendon tears, SI dysfunction, low back pain, rib subluxation, tendinitis, etc. So how have I overcome them? Rest.
Sometimes not going into the gym and training is harder for us, mentally, than training hard. To many of us, training is as much about sport as it is about therapy. We want to push ourselves hard because during that training session, even if only for a moment we can forget about everything else that is going on outside of the gym. It is a release of the stress and struggles of day-to-day life. But when we are injured, we must understand the difference between therapy and sport. If we want to be competitive then we must understand that we are not going to be able to compete to the best of our abilities if we’re injured.
Aside from the typical ice therapy, heat therapy, and other immediate responses, I’ve found that most minor injuries like muscle strains, tendinitis, and others are often completely healed the most efficiently by simply staying out of the gym for a short period of time, typically less than 4 weeks but occasionally up to 6 weeks. We need to let our bodies rest and use all of its resources towards healing the injury. When we continue training through or around the injury many of our body’s recourses are taken away from healing that injury and put towards muscle recovery from the continued training. This, in turn, prolongs our recovery time.
So, what should we do during that time off from the gym? We can and should do things that increase blood flow such as some form of cardio, stretching, mobility work, etc. that does not involve using the injured area. I would suggest staying away from anything that stretches the injured area, especially if it is an injured muscle. We should also spend this time evaluating what may have caused the injury in the first place and attempting to correct faulty movement patterns, poor exercise selections, etc.
Once we’ve taken a sufficient amount of time off, which is going to differ based on the injury type and extent of that injury, we can ease back into training. That is often going to involve very light training for anything that involves the injured area to access tolerance. We should not try to jump right back in where we left off. Chances are we’re going to have lost minimal strength and fitness over such a short break, especially if we keep our nutrition in check during this break. But we should still start off light to be cautious and build back slowly. In terms of longevity, we’re better off safe than sorry. Take one to two training blocks to slowly work back up to where we were before the injury and to correct the issues causing the injury. In the grand scheme of things, a few weeks off and a couple of lighter training blocks isn’t going to affect the end goal of being as strong as possible for as long as possible much at all. However, jumping right back in and going balls to the wall without addressing underlying issues just to reinjure the affected area will certainly cause a much longer set back.
I know this isn’t necessarily what we want to hear, but it is often what must be done. Sure, we can spin our wheels for a bit and possibly end up in the clear later on but it’s most likely not the most efficient way to recover. This is simply my experience and what I suggest for my athletes, it is certainly not medical advice and I have no credentials, aside from personal experience. However, I’ve seen it work many times over for myself and others willing to try it.
By Tim Paynter of Paynter Periodization
This is a question I get a lot, mainly from athletes new to the sport and going into one of their first couple of meets and it’s a great question. Afterall, food is what fuels you, so if you want to perform at your best you need to high performance fuel. The number one rule to follow would be to stick to the foods you know your body can easily digest. Meet day isn’t a great time to experiment with new foods or even new supplements for that matter.
Let’s start with breakfast. We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? That couldn’t be any more true on meet day. Most meets start in the morning, so breakfast is going to be your first meal and might even be the only full meal that you’ll get to eat on meet day. I suggest starting off with a higher carb breakfast than usual. I like having pancakes, waffles, or toast as my primary carb source for a meet day breakfast. Add a little syrup or jelly if you’d like. It’s okay to have more calories than you usually would because you’re likely going to be burning more calories than you usually would. I also like having some sort of fruit with breakfast, usually a banana but it could be any fruit that you like and have available. For your proteins stick to something a little lower in fat as to not slow down the digestive system too much. I like having turkey sausage/bacon and eggs or egg whites in an omelet with a little bit of cheese. But if you don’t normally eat these foods then meet day may not be the best time to try them out. Your fats are likely going to be covered from adding a bit of butter to your pancakes, waffles, or toast and from the fats in the egg yolks, sausage/bacon, and cheese. If you’re traveling and don’t have time to sit down for this type of breakfast, I’ve found that the breakfast sandwiches from Subway like the steak, egg white, and cheese on a flatbread to be a good meet day breakfast as well. Try and consume your breakfast at least two hours before your flight is set to start warming up at the meet.
During the meet, I like to keep food around to snack on. Snacks should be high in carbs and relatively low in fat. I like fat-free chips, fruit, muffins, Pop-Tarts, granola, just whatever I’ve been craving or eating at least semi-regularly during prep. If you’re at a small meet or if the meet is just moving at a fast pace, you may not have time to eat a full meal between each event so these snacks may be your primary food source. Snack as often as you’d like but do not over eat as that can make start to feel bloated or sick.
After squats and if time permits, I try to have my first small meal. Again, stick to foods that are easily digestible. High carb, low fat, moderate protein. For this, I like a meal replacement protein bar or a small sandwich with some fat-free chips. Again, stick to something you’re familiar with so if you normally meal prep and eat pre-pared meals, then bring one with you to the meet to eat. Something that doesn’t have to be heated up would probably be best since at most meets you aren’t going to have access to a microwave or anything like that. I suggest a meal between squat and bench because if you’re still digesting your food or feel a little bloated during bench, that’s not likely to negatively impact you as much as it would during squats or deadlifts. In fact, a little bloating may even be helpful during the bench press.
After bench press, I try to not eat a small meal and instead just have a small amount of a snack. The deadlift is, for most athletes, more reliant on leverages than the squat and bench press. You’re likely not going to want to have a meal beforehand because it’s going to make you feel more bloated. This can cause your belt to feel too tight and your hands to swell up. If your belt is too tight, you’re going to feel like throwing up when you bend down to grad ahold of the bar. No one wants to be the next lifter than goes viral for puking all over the head judge on the platform. If your hands are swollen, you’re going to struggle gipping the bar. However, if you have some ice handy, icing your hands before deadlifting can combat that swelling.
Now let’s cover hydration. What you drink is just as important as what you eat on meet day. Again, stick to what you’re used to drinking. Water and sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are great for meets. I suggest the lower carb or zero carb versions. I recommend alternating between water and sports drinks. These drinks will help you remain hydrated throughout the meet despite how much you’ll be sweating and how hard you’ll be working. Do not overconsume or force yourself to drink more than you need. This will cause you to fill your stomach up with water which will make you feel sick and bloated. So, sip instead of chugging. If your mouth feels dry then you aren’t drinking enough but if you stomach feels full then you’re probably drinking too much. I would suggest avoiding carbonated beverages during the meet as this may cause digestive issues and/or bloating.
What about supplements? Again, stick to the supplements you’re used to. If you normally take a pre-workout supplement then feel free to take that before the meet. I suggest taking it right under an hour before your squat flight begins then again right under an hour before your deadlift flight begins. As for any other supplements such as creatine, vitamins, etc. just take your normal dose with breakfast or with one of your snacks. You don’t want to take anything new or out of the ordinary as you don’t know how it will affect you.
There you have it, all the information necessary to stay satiated, energized, and hydrated on meet day. Moderation is key. Stick with foods and drinks your normally consume and you should be fine.
Rule #1: Stick to foods, drinks, and supplements that you know. You don’t want to try new foods, drinks, supplements on meet day. You don’t know how it will affect your body and/or your performance.
Rule #2: Consume in moderation. Overeating or drinking will make you feel bloated, lethargic, and/or sick. Eat/drink enough to stay satiated, hydrated, and energetic.
Rule #3: Select foods/drinks that are easily digestible and won’t negatively affect your performance. High carb, low fat, moderate protein meals and snacks are typically a good choice.
Rule #4: Time your food appropriately. Eat a good size breakfast no less than 2 hours before your flight begins. Snack lightly throughout the meet. Eat a small meal between squat and bench if time permits. Avoid eating too much before deadlifts.
Rule #5: Caffeinate appropriately. Take your usual amount of pre-workout about an hour before squat and about an hour before deadlits. Avoid carbonated energy drinks and avoid trying new pre-workout supplements at the meet.
by Stacy Smith, Leisure World News
When powerlifter Charles “Chuck” Lund turns 75 years old in March, he will be on track to beating the highest world record of pounds lifted – 450 pounds for a squat, bench press and deadlift – by someone in his age category.
What might seem impossible to some seems likely for Lund; he lifted 533 pounds at his last meet and is on the verge of lifting 600 pounds – his goal for next year. This year alone, he’s broken state and national records held by the United States Powerlifting Coalition (USPC) and World Powerlifting USA (correction made per Charles Lund).
The septuagenarian, who says he’s not athletically gifted but has always been very strong, switched from boxing to weightlifting at 54 years old, and has loved every minute of it ever since. Lund will compete in a USPC meet on Saturday, Nov. 13, at 9 a.m. at the Frederick, Maryland, fairgrounds.
Although Lund was initially discouraged that he’d lost a great deal of strength in his fifties, he found he was able to lift more and more weight over time, and that he was indeed competitive with those in his age and weight group.
Following a few years with a great coach, Lund qualified for a USA Powerlifting tournament at 57 years old in 2004 and took first place in his weight and age categories, lifting more than 1,000 pounds total.
When Lund and his wife moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Silver Spring, Maryland, four years ago, Lund started working with strength resistance bands following a treatment regimen for stage 3 melanoma, which is now in remission.
In October 2020, the couple moved to Leisure World, where Lund began working with fitness trainer Sam Ellis in the Fitness Center in Clubhouse II. Lund wanted to move from resistance bands to free weights, and Ellis agreed to help.
“I’m grateful to Sam for helping me to lift safely at my age. We worked this past year on correct form and strength training [for] squat, bench press and deadlift,” he says. Squat, bench press and deadlift are forms of weightlifting that work different muscles.
Lund has learned along the way when to push himself and when to take it easy.
“Lifting more and more weight very gradually is important,” he says, adding that powerlifters should lift enough weight to destroy muscle tissue to a point that it can build itself back even stronger, but not so much weight that the muscle tissue can’t repair itself within a reasonable time.
Lund says that days off from weightlifting are critical. “Too many lifters lift too often or lift too soon after an injury,” he says. Lund has never had a serious injury from weightlifting.
Boxing and weightlifting are lifelong passions for Lund, activities he’s participated in ever since he was a kid. He’s even inspired his grandson, who just graduated high school, to start powerlifting.
Now, as Lund ages, he’s “obsessed with life-extension and health strategies.” With his doctor’s approval, he takes extra protein powder, niacinamide (B vitamin) and quercetin and pterostilbene, which are rich in antioxidants. His blood pressure and cholesterol are at lifetime lows.
“I feel as good as I have at any time in my life. I’m slower and less strong and have some memory issues, but at least I feel as great as ever,” Lund says.
Bombing out. Our topic covered on this Tuesday by Timothy Paynter of Paynter Periodization.
What is it and how can you avoid it?
Bombing out refers to failing to register a successful attempt in any one of the competition lifts on meet day. When this happens you become disqualified from the competition. Obviously, you want to avoid this.
The best way to avoid bombing out is by opening with an easy weight that you have completed many times before to competition standards, on competition equipment, with the same commands you’ll be using in the meet. I suggest lifters practice their openers anywhere from 2-3 times in the last few weeks leading up to the meet. Practice builds confidence and confidence is crucial on the platform. I also suggest practicing in an atmosphere as similar to the meet as possible. So wear your singlet/competition approved equipment (wraps/sleeves/belts etc.) and have a friend(s) call the commands for you. Be familiar and honest with yourself about competition standards. Record your lifts from multiple angles to ensure you’re squatting to proper depth, pausing your bench press, and not hitching your deadlifts etc..
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to open LIGHT, around 88-90% of your planned third attempt. The whole purpose of your opener and second attempt are to set you up for a successful third attempt. No one is going to remember what you opened with when you’re nailing your third attempt anyway.
Instagram @paynterperiodization or email email@example.com for coaching.
By Kristine Rae Olmsted
My journey to powerlifting started with CrossFit boot camps about 9 years ago. Having been a nationally-ranked distance swimmer in earlier years, and after many years of being sedentary, I decided I wanted something active to do. A friend was starting boot camps at a CrossFit gym that wasn’t too far away, so I joined her. I fell in love with the community, the camaraderie, and the supportive yet competitive atmosphere.
After about 6 months of boot camps, I felt like I was ready to tackle CrossFit. I had been particularly intrigued by the barbell movements, primarily the squat. Squatting under a barbell just looked so primal to me- just about anybody can do it, from toddlers up through big, burly dudes.
I had a health condition related to environmental allergies that prevented me from breathing effectively for about 5 months out of the year- so CrossFit and its metcons weren’t going to work for me. I called the gym owner in tears, thinking he would kick me out of the gym as a liability. What he said astounded me- “Well, what CAN you do- can you lift?” I replied that lifting was my favorite part of CrossFit anyway, and a lifter was born. I signed up for the gym’s barbell club and began learning the basics of the squat, bench press, deadlift, snatch, and clean-and-jerk.
I’ve always been strong. I can recall being a kid and helping my mom move furniture, and people commenting on how physically capable I was. Turns out being strong in general translates pretty well to being strong with a barbell. I began, like many newbies, to excel in the deadlift (which I will argue is the least technical lift of the 3 powerlifts), and to a lesser extent in the squat (second most technical), but bench (most technical) took some doing. I wasn’t particularly interested in the Olympic lifts- it was brute strength I was seeking. After about a year of barbell club, I felt like I had exhausted my ability to progress in that environment.
Like many new lifters, I would read everything I could about lifting, the science of strength development, and programming. My favorite author, Coach Rick Scarpulla, was coming to the gym to give a seminar, and I excitedly volunteered to pick him up and ferry him around for the weekend. I could see from Coach Scarpulla how much technique I had to learn, so I focused mightily on technique for a year, until he came back for another seminar- the weekend of my 40th birthday. I told him I wanted to feel 400 pounds on my back in celebration of my big day. Not only did I feel 405 on my back, I squatted it (albeit with bands up) and was hooked on big weight. That weekend I signed on with Rick as my new coach. (This was challenging since he was in New York and I was in North Carolina, but we made it work.)
I had been intrigued by equipped lifting for some time, and Rick and his crew lifted equipped. I started dipping my proverbial toes into that water and felt like a newbie all over again- as many new equipped lifters experienced. I got stronger and technically better, and ended up winning two Nationals and one World Championship in single-ply before venturing into multi-ply- which is where my heart resides. To date my best lifts are a 565 squat, a 365 bench, and a 425 dead.
Nine years of awesome experiences, new friends, and character-building challenges…all thanks to simple beginnings in a CrossFit boot camp. I am profoundly grateful.
The primary goal of beginning the USPC was to enable meet directors to develop the best meet experience for lifters. The USPC is a positive, encouraging federation from the top down. By providing local support to new and upcoming meet directors, we are automating and developing processes that benefit the lifters.
One of the ways we accomplish this is by having the best equipment on the market for lifter and spotter safety - the DynaBody Monolift. A monolift provides more safety for a squatter. Imagine the energy you expend by having to step back with a few hundred pounds of weight on your back or, for elite lifters, think of walking out 800+ pounds. The monolift makes squatting heavy weight much safer and also provides an extra layer of safety by having straps/chains that aid in preventing the bar from hitting the ground if something goes awry. Do you want to walk out your squat? You can do that, also. The USPC is giving you the option to do a "stand and go" squat or walk it out. How much better does it get than that?
We also utilize a DynaBody Competition Bench at our meets. This bench is sturdy and unshakeable. The pad is much thicker and considerably wider than the typical combo-rack insert benches.
Our online testing procedure for becoming a judge is revolutionary. The test is not a "gimme" and is not just a True/False test. No two tests are alike since the system randomizes the questions. If you have judged with another federation, you should not take this test lightly. Once you pass the test, however, you are not automatically placed into a judge's chair. There are other criteria which need to be met in order to acquire your judge's shirt (which of course is free to you)! Before you attempt to take the test (or lift in a meet) be sure to read the USPC Rulebook, which link is here.
These are just a few ways in which we are changing the face of powerlifting --come to a meet to see more!
When the seeds of creating a new powerlifting federation were first planted in 2018, I could never have envisioned how the world would change within the next few years: the victories, heartbreaks, losses and struggles that we have all encountered over the past year, specifically. But if life is a teacher, the biggest lessons to learn are that nothing lasts forever, life always gives us opportunities to grow and learn, and at the end of the day we are all in this thing called "life" together.
The sport of powerlifting is a great way to bring us together to support each other in our struggles, whether those struggles are mental, emotional or physical. It's hard to think of other sports that are capable of having an 11 year-old just starting their strength journey, an internationally competitive 30 year-old, and a life-experienced 82 year-old lifter sharing the same equipment and platform on the same day. If we intend to learn and grow as people as well as lifters, the first step is coming together to support each other regardless of our backgrounds, genders, ethnicities or sexualities.
Isn't the sport of powerlifting amazing? Message us if you would like to share the story of your powerlifting journey with others in our next newsletter/blog.
Presented to you by the USPC & WPUSA:
The United States Powerlifting Coalition was created to provide powerlifters an atmosphere where they can be comfortable in a safe, lifting environment. We utilize a monolift on the platform in order to provide the best experience for both lifters and spotters and to promote safety and confidence when squatting; a fat pad bench with face savers and Texas squat, power and deadlift bars on the platform.