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Are You Ready To Compete? 3 Factors to Consider

Competitions, regardless of your preferred strength sport, are a great way to put your training and practice to the test. They are a way to show strengths and weaknesses with your approach to the sport, a way to have measurable progress in a controlled environment with judges watching you, and they’re a great way to motivate you to make necessary changes with your lifting style. On top of all of this, competing can be the #1 way to keep yourself dedicated to your training and keep you from getting lazy or falling off the wagon. If you work with me and I see that you are progressing fairly well, I may gently nudge you to consider competing, both for your sake and mine. However, competing is not for everyone, just like there is nothing that is for everyone, no matter what people may tell you. There are simply some folks that just don’t have what it takes to compete, and that’s perfectly fine.

“Am I ready to compete?” is one of the top 10 questions I get from clients, as well as random internet folk. You might be ready, you might not. I believe that being ready to compete boils down to three distinct factors, all of which I will discuss in this article: Your numbers, your technical proficiency, and your mental strength. Let’s check them out now.

 

Numbers

“I’m not strong enough to compete” is the usual response I get from clients when I suggest competing. This answer is similar to “I’m too out of shape to go to the gym.” There is no “good enough to compete” range of numbers when it’s your first competition. The goal of the competition is not to set records, but to get some experience under your belt. However, when most people say this, they’re strictly talking about the embarrassment factor. No one wants to be last place, but someone has to be. That someone might be you, and how you respond to a showing of low numbers, whether you give up training or use your last place to light a fire under yourself and improve, is a good indicator of whether or not you should be competing. Below I have a list of what I call “buy-in” numbers for the various strength sports that can be considered generally acceptable weight to put up for your first competition. Of course, there are a hundred different factors to consider, so these are simply general guidelines across all the weight classes of the given strength sports:

Powerlifting:
Women: 150lb squat, 115lb bench, 200lb deadlift.
Men: 225lb squat, 185lb bench press, 300lb deadlift.

 

Olympic Lifting:
Women: 115lb clean & jerk, 100lb snatch.
Men: 155lb clean & jerk, 135lb snatch.

Strongman:
Women & Men: Being able to complete at least two of the five events at a show.

If you are capable of hitting these parameters, you are probably ready to compete when it comes to numbers, although there are other factors to consider that I will expand on below. My first-ever competition was a summer Strongman show where I barely finished two out of the five events for the day. Rather than give up, I competed four times after that in the same summer, trained hard during the winter and then went back to the same show to qualify for Nationals. How you process failure will have a bigger impact on your training and life than never failing. Now, let’s talk proficiency.

Technical Proficiency

Hitting big lifts is awesome! But hitting big lifts in a way that will get your lift approved in your respective strength sport is even better. As there are a LOT (read: too many) Powerlifting federations, you’ll need to make sure you read the rules to understand how your lift gets passed, whether it’s due to squat depth, hands on the bar, or apparel for deadlifts. If you’re an Olympic lifter, you need to understand what pressing out is, making sure no other body part but your feet touch the platform, etc. If you compete in Strongman, you’ll need to understand things like not locking out overhead, getting the whole implement across the finish line, etc.

If you don’t spend any time on technical proficiency, there really is no point in competing, as you will be not only wasting your own time, but the time of other competitors, the judges at the competition, and the spectators at the competition. Don’t go the route of “hoping” things will simply fall together when competition day rolls around. If you never train bench with your butt on the bench, it won’t magically stay on the bench on competition day. if you never squat to depth, you won’t suddenly have the ability to hit proper depth with your “max” gym weight when it’s time to compete.

As a coach, what I look for on my client’s lifts is consistency. I’m anal about it, ask around. I want all reps to look the same, from warmup to max weight. If you can stay consistent with your technique, and you have the numbers listed above, it may be time to consider competing. What I’m looking for at your first competition is not necessarily PRs or even your gym maxes: it’s hitting all your list and getting no lifts invalidated. This will have a huge impact on your psyche throughout the competition. Which leads me to my final parameter: let’s talk mental strength.

Mental Strength

At the risk of sounding overly cliche here: mental toughness is arguably the most important factor when it comes to competing. Hitting your lifts is all well and good, but how you mentally process a missed lift can make or break your competition. The most important thing to do when a lift is missed is to accept it and move on. You aren’t getting the lift back and you aren’t changing the judge’s mind. We have all had calls that we thought were bad, which simply makes the playing field equal. The judge’s word is final, and going up to everyone with your lift video and asking their thoughts simply takes time away from preparing for the next. Athletes who generally pout and throw temper tantrums in training are athletes that are nowhere near ready to compete. I have had a handful of athletes walk out of a competition after missing some of their lifts or events, which is embarrassing for everyone involved. If you are an athlete that can stay out of their own head when things are going south, you should be alright in a competition.

On top of this, mental toughness also means patience and trust. Too often I see athletes at their first competition doing dozens and dozens of reps, sometimes over their opener weight, to “build confidence.” To me, nothing about that looks like confidence. Instead, it looks like insecurity and under-preparation. Mental toughness means going in with a warmup plan and sticking to it. An opener should be a weight you can do in your sleep, and if ANY of your warmup reps are slow, your opener weight is too heavy. Picking proper openers will help you hit a successful third lift. Because no one cares what your opener is if you miss the last two lifts.

 

In closing, competing successfully can depend on a variety of factors, but the three I have outlined in this article are what I consider to be the most important when it comes to deciding whether or not to dive into your first competition. If you have any more question about competing, feel free to contact me at Brandon@liftbigeatbig.com

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You Should Probably Hate Your Coach

Hey team, quick rant here, concerning the role that your coach is supposed to play during your lifting career. I recently ran across an Instagram page that I spent way too long hate-scrolling down, where the athlete consistently talked about lifting for 8, 9, 10 days in a row without taking a break. The athlete would do near max/max singles that weren’t in the original program, and the athlete routinely bragged that they were able to convince the coach to let them do these singles, even though that’s not what the coach programmed. The athlete also, ironically, had photos of all kinds of injuries the athlete was suffering, aches and pains, and some photos where their knees looked like they were attached to their rectum in the bottom of some horrifically failed squats. The athlete recognizes all of this, but doesn’t care, because “gym is life.”

My point in all of this is a simple question: Why does this athlete even have a coach?

A coach is supposed to be the adult in the room. I have written before that a lot of the time, athletes can behave like children when it comes to their training. Not temper tantrum-in-the-grocery checkout lane-type of tantrum, but more along the lines of short-sighted thinking, seeking immediate gratification vs. reaching long-term goals, and risking injury for a quick payoff when a bigger payoff can be achieved with more of a slow, steady approach.

Now, what do I means when I say that you should probably hate your coach?

It’s simple.

Because your coach should not be giving into your daily whims, your spur-of-the-moment PR attempts because you think you’re feeling ready, even though it can mess up the whole cycle, and failure to force the athlete to take rest days. If your coach does not think long-term for you, does not program rest into your training as a VERY necessary component of the program, and does not make you stick to what is written because they have your sessions planned out for a purpose, why do you even need a coach? You clearly know what you want to do: seek immediate gratification, jeopardize a long-term training goal to “see where you’re at”, and to go hard every day at the risk of serious injury to yourself. A coach that consistently gives into these things is not a coach worth having.

You should hate your coach some days for the same reason you hated your parents when you were younger: they didn’t let you do what you THOUGHT you wanted to do. They saw the bigger picture. They knew that if you went for a PR five weeks before you were scheduled to, you might hit it, you might not. They knew that if you missed it, it would mess with your mind the whole session, maybe the whole week, and subsequent training sessions might have to be altered. They knew that you might hit a 5lb PR right now when you could have hit a 20lb PR if you finished the cycle correctly.

Taking programmed rest days is the #1 argument I have with clients, especially new lifters who fall for the memes that talk about “100% beast mode every day.” These clients haven’t been injured yet, so they may not understand why the rest days are important until it’s too late. Between you and me, sometimes I WANT them to suffer a small injury or setback, because it’s the only way for them to say to themselves “oh ok, I see why I should have rested now. Lessons learned for the future.” Sometimes it really does take an injury to open an athlete’s mind to the limits of the human body and mind. There is no animal or system on earth that does not take “rest periods”, shutdown times, or sleep cycles without suffering the consequences of being overworked, running too hot for too long, etc. Do you really think that someone that’s been lifting for a year or two is invulnerable to setbacks?

This is what I mean when I say athletes act like children, and why you should hate your coach from time to time. Because they are looking out for you, long-term. You may not like it now, and you may not even admit it to them or yourself, but you will be thankful that they forced you to do certain things to truly make the gym a lifelong endeavor. Try to bite off more than you can chew, and you will choke. Not on greatness, but mediocrity.

Rant over.

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Announcing the LBEB Recipe Subscription Service

Lifters, followers, countrymen: lend me your ears (and eyeballs).  I love cooking, and I love experimenting in the kitchen with new techniques and recipe combinations. However, it is a mountain of work just in the kitchen, not to mention the time it takes to take photos & videos, write recipes and edit videos for Youtube and Facebook. In addition to this, there is a significant financial cost as well: for the kitchen tools, the hosting fees, and the ingredients themselves. As much as I enjoy working on the recipes for free, I have to be able to justify the time and labor spent on those recipes, or I will be unable to continue making them.

Because of this, I am announcing a new service for those interested in the daily meals and kitchen experiments I post: the LBEB Recipe Subscription Service.

With this service, you will get exclusive access to recipes that I will not post anywhere else online. You will receive unique and original recipes delivered directly to your email inbox every week. Some of the recipes will include photos with the step-by-step instructions, based on how much work is involved with the recipe, some will include a video, but all will include a photo of the final product. The recipes will be straightforward meals:  I don’t cook under a paleo/low-carb/keto/etc. umbrella. If a recipe falls under one of those categories, then that’s great! But they won’t be limited by any of those options.

Now, you may not use every single recipe that I send out, as some may involve kitchen equipment you don’t currently have, but the majority of them will be recipes that can be used by the average cooking enthusiast. There will, of course, be sous vide recipes, as you know I love my sous vide cooking.

The subscription will be very affordable, with the three options as follows:

Monthly Subscription: $9.99
6-Month Subscription: $29.99
Yearly Subscription: $49.99

You can cancel the subscription service at any time, although there are no refunds for this service. Your emails will start arriving 2-3 days after you sign up, so make sure you use your current email if your Paypal is tied to another account.

By signing up for this service, you will help support the LBEB brand as I continue to make original content, free articles, videos and tutorials, and finally, help lay the groundwork for my cookbook. You can register on the signup platform below. Bon appetit!


Recipe Subscription Options



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Your New Favorite Biscuits & Gravy Recipe

Confession: I am an absolute sucker for biscuits and gravy. It’s like pizza for me; even if it’s not great, it’s still biscuits and gravy. I have made close to 100 batches of biscuits over the last two years or so, trying to perfect my recipe while still keeping it simple. I am here today to share that recipe with you. Because I am a bit extra, I heightened some of the ingredients for my own flavor palate, but you can use the standard forms of the ingredients and still have some of the best biscuits and gravy of your life. By making loose piles of batter before baking, you will ensure that your biscuits are fluffy and perfect for adding gravy on top of. Remember we aren’t going for a biscuit sandwich, we want fluff and pieces that are easily broken with a fork while eating.

I am keeping the listed necessary ingredients separate for the biscuits and the gravy, in case you want to make either of them separately, and to avoid confusion. Let’s get to work!

Biscuit ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
4tsp baking powder
1/2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
4tbsp chilled but pliable butter (I used 2tbsp browned butter and 2tbsp beef tallow, you can try a mixture like that if you like)

Gravy ingredients:
1lb sausage
1/2 carrot, finely grated (this will add some great color to the gravy, and a nice flavor profile with the paprika added)
2tbsp all-purpose flour
2tsp paprika
2 cups whole milk

Biscuit directions:

In large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt). mix thoroughly with hands.
Add butter or tallow, making sure to break into as small of pieces as possible. Don’t use frozen or melted butter, as it will either be too hard to break up, or too runny to form small clumps in the batter.
Add buttermilk, mix with hands.  Mix just enough so there are no dry clumps of powder, as mixing too much will leave your biscuits flat.
Place into loose clumps on cold cookie sheet. making hard-formed piles or cutting with a cookie cutter will keep your biscuits from getting fluffy, as the air bubbles can’t expand.
(You can make any many biscuits as you like with this, I made three with mine because it was for one meal)
Place cookie sheet with biscuits into fridge for at least 30mins. Brush tops with melted butter if you like, to keep biscuits moist while baking.
Bake for 13mins in 450F oven. A pizza stone works best for this. If you don’t have a pizza stone, put another cookie sheet in the oven while it preheats, then add biscuits to the new cookie sheet, removing from the old with a spatula.

Gravy directions:

In saute pan or cast iron, brown sausage with 1/2 grated carrot.
When mix is fully browned, add 2tbsp flour until no white flour is visible, and all fat is soaked into the flour. Add 2tsp paprika.
Add 2 cups milk, and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Hold the boil for 90sec, then turn to low to help thicken.

Plate your biscuits by breaking into clumps, them top with the gravy and sprinkle finely chopped parsley.

Bon appetit.

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The LBEB Mental Health Series

Below is a collection of videos I made on various topics regarding mental health, including depression, suicide, my developmental, and the comparisons of mental health issues like you’re trading Pokemon cards. See the videos and their descriptions below.

I get pretty personal and introspective in my video today, and I want to discuss my learning/developmental disorders, and how they have shaped me as a person, a lifter, and a business owner. The most important thing you can do if you have these things is to talk to someone about them. If you know someone who suffers from them, the most important thing you can do is listen.

You aren’t alone, and there are resources available for you to use, to help you through your trying situations.
Here are some links that explain in a little more detail about my own issues, and how you can re-purpose them into positives, rather than negatives in your life:

http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/nld.htm

A few months ago, I made a video about my mental illness, and how it has shaped my existence. I decided to make a followup video regarding mental illness, and discuss how opening up to others about your issues can cause the listener to think it’s a “competition”, because they know someone else who has a “worse” problem, so yours isn’t that bad. Mental illness is not a competition, and that is what I discuss in this video. Thanks in advance for taking the time to watch it.

In the latest installment in my mental health series, I have decided to discuss a topic that I spend a great deal of time dwelling on; suicide. There has been a great deal of death in my life this year, some voluntary, some not, and combined with the suicide of my uncle before I was born, I felt it was a good topic to bring up. I also discuss how this culture of “suck it up/tough it out” can directly contribute to feelings of isolation, which can lead to suicide. I also discuss the hypocrisy of this culture, which will, in turn, tell people that those who say “suck it” are not going to be safe people to open up to. Physical ailments are easy to understand, because you can SEE them. Mental issues are not so visible, and can be easily dismissed or mocked, which further leads to feelings of isolation. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and I feel that these things need to be discussed, in order to make well-rounded individuals, which will, in turn, make for a better society. Thanks for taking the time to watch this, let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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How Long Do I Rest In Between Sets?

A very common question we are asked, by both online and in-person clients, “How long should I rest in between sets?” Here I outline how long I recommend resting for each of the following:

Compound lifts.
Assistance lifts .
Bodybuilding movements.

If you have questions, let me know in the comments.

 

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How The “Real Woman” Movement Can Harm Itself

In today’s video, I discuss what I refer to as the ‘Real Woman Movement” (Real women have curves, no thigh gaps, etc), how it can actually hold itself back, and can cause more harm than good. I use some examples from my own experiences as a coach, as well as examples from the experiences of African-American women during the period of second-wave feminism. This is not a feminist-bashing video, I am a feminist myself, so if you want to see some bashing, you can check out a Dan Bilzerian video. Please enjoy, and let’s get a discussion going.

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Why “Wanting to Inspire People” Isn’t a Real Goal

In today’s video, I want to discuss the concept of “I want to inspire people / I want to be the reason someone doesn’t give up.” Of course I don’t think that being inspiring is bad, inspiration is great! However, inspiring people shouldn’t be your goal, because it’s not a goal, it’s a cry for attention. Instead, it should be a byproduct of the actual goals you’re trying to achieve. It’s similar to the concept I’ve discussed before, regarding the difference between people who want to BE strong, vs. people who want to GET strong. Let me know what you think in the comments, thanks in advance for watching.

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Are You An Alpha Male?

In today’s video, I want to discuss what makes up the alpha male, and why it isn’t what you think. I discuss the outdated hypothesis of the alpha wolf, and how that pertains to humans today. I also discuss why buying beer, bacon, whiskey and lots of guns doesn’t make you an alpha male, it makes you a sucker for marketing (much like Girl Power in the 90’s, and the female empowerment movement today). Thanks in advance for watching.

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