Change is Good
Of all the facets of lifting to be changed, approach any change on meet day with the greatest care. One mistake or misjudgment can wipe out months of training in the bat of an eye. First of all, do not eat anything you are not accustomed to the morning of the meet or during the meet itself. You may hear that oat bran pancakes with hot sauce is a secret morning of breakfast for the new lifter you met at the Denny’s. What you must be aware of is; if you have not had oat bran pancakes with hot sauce before, you can not know what its effects can be on your lifting. The worst result would be stomach craps and dehydration. Another lifter may drink large amount of orange juice throughout meet day to keep his energy level up. This same amount may absolutely lay waste to your meet performance. I would suggest taking any meet day dietary suggestion back home with after the meet and give it a dry on a day when you have no contest to worry about to play it safe, otherwise consume the same food and beverages as you did before.
Meets are one of the best places to hear about new lifting gear such as squat suits, bench shirts and knee wraps. You’ll a lot of lifters either praising or debunking the latest triple layer knee wraps and such. Many times the information and opinions you hear here can be valuable but do not try any new gear on meet day. Changing gear on meet day can be disastrous. You need time and several workout sessions to become accustomed to their use and the leverage changes they may cause. Trying new gear on meet day with maximum weights can change your whole perspective of execution of the lift. This could result in missing a lift or at worst, injury due to a miscue in lifting the weight on the platform. Use what you came with but you may want to order some new brands of gear for the next meet. Give them a try during your training sessions to see if they have merit or not. If they don’t, then you have given them a try and eliminated them from future consideration. If they are miracles, then us them in your next cycle and in competition after becoming accustomed to their effects and feel.
Changing lifting technique is another factor to consider. This can range from grip and width changes to using different style of execution such as regular deadlift style to sumo. At one meet I was at a lifter could not get a successful lift in with his sumo style deadlift, so as a last ditch effort, he attempted and made his third deadlift using conventional style to finish the meet out. I would assume he was trying out a new deadlift style, but on meet day, it was not working so he reverted back to his old style and saved the day. If you do decide to change styles or techniques, I would not use it in competition until you are sure of succeeding with competition weights.
The best time to begin use of a new lifting style is in the off season, which I define as more than 10 weeks prior a meet. This can give you plenty of time to get used to the new style and make adjustments in training and evaluate if it works for you. For example if you want to switch from conventional deadlift to sumo, you should start doing very light sumo deadlifts in training far in advance of your contest training period (which is 10 weeks or less prior a meet). Changing styles may require increasing flexibility for best execution and the sumo style deadlift is a prime example of where maximum flexibility is crucial to get a maximum lift. Hamstring stretches would be highly recommended in this effort. This would also be true to switching to a wider stance squat. Increasing the width of your bench press grip will definitely decrease the distance the bar must travel and will add more pec to the movement, but flexibility in the shoulder area, especially at the pec/delt tie-in is necessary to both execute the lift optimally. This will also lessen chance for muscle tears and pulls on muscles that are not quite ready for the new exercise style.
Change can be good. In the office next to me there is a quote from Albert Einstein saying; ‘Insanity is trying the same methods time and time again and expecting a different result’. As competitors we should always be evaluating our training methods, diet and lifting gear for their current effectiveness. Even something that has worked for a long time may not be effective forever. Sometimes new and better products and methods become available that can improve results. Sometimes new products and methods can prove that our current ways are still the best. Use common sense when deciding to make a change; at a contest is risking a heck of a lot. Try new things out during your training cycle, either during the off season or early in your contest training period to allow adequate time to evaluate. Change can be good but plan it carefully and make changes only for the better not just to change.
By: Doug Daniels
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