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Greetings Everyone,
I'm not new to NerdFitness but I am new to forum posting.  I really enjoyed Steve's book and found myself saying "Yes!" aloud as I read it last year.  I was especially inspired by the stories of people who share my love of fantasy and sci fi lit and found creative ways to integrate that into their lives.  I sought out the website and the community and in the past six months I've learned a lot.  But life seems to have thrown a new challenge at me and I plan to look here for help and support (also I will be joining as a full member soon).



Ive been a powerlifter for about 20 years now.  My body bears the telltale signs of a life of heavy lifting.  My legs are slightly bowed, my knee and hip joints sound like a bowl of rice krispies when i lift(snap cracke and pop!), and my knees tell me when bad weather is on the way.  My best career lifts are a 501 squat in competition at a body weight of 165lbs.  My best bench was 325(lbs in the gym) and the best deadlift was 485(lbs, again, in the gym). 



Recently though I've developed some severe sciatica and lower back pain.  So bad that I'm having a hard time sitting for long periods of time and heavy squats and deadlifts leave me bedridden. I get numbness in the lower back and a shooting pain in my left kneecap.  

 I can still squat around 275 for reps no problem, but deadlifts are literally a backbreaker.  I can't go above 3 reps on anything.  Even 135 causes pain in the warmups.  If i go too heavy on squats(over 350)  i have trouble walking the next day.  I've got an appointment with a dr but I already sense my heavy lifting days are done.  My body can't take the beatings it did. 
Unfortunately I have a job that involves a lot of sitting( I was an English Teacher for 12 years but left for political and personal reasons.  And any teacher that sits all day is really not doing his/her job).  I like my new job, but all this inactivity scares me.  And I believe it also contributed to the Sciatica. 


I am very overweight:  5'5" and 205lbs.  I'd like to say its muscle, and I believe some of it is, but at the Dr appt I suspect that the body fat measurements will be extremely high. 

Most days I feel like a Jaimie Lannister after losing his hand, or Kvothe when he lost his father's lute.  Squats were my signature lift.  To not be able to do them anymore is hard, and going into the gym without being able to do them heavy is humbling and makes me want to avoid it.


Because I need a goal, and because that goal can never just be looking good(too subjective for me, but I wouldn't mind being complemented on looking better) I've decided to become a bench press specialist.  I can still bench without issue, no major aches and pains, and as long as  I can still squat something I can generate testosterone and human growth hormone production. Also, I can diet down to the 83kg class(about 183 lbs) and probably still hold on to my strength levels.  


My goal is to bench press 400+ in competition.  For those who dont know(and not trying to be condescending here, just informative), a bench press competition lift requires the lifter to pause the bar at the chest and wait for the head referee's 'press' command.  Its harder but cleaner.  And technically its a lot safer than bouncing the bar off your chest. 


To be competitive in this class on the national level I need at least a 365lb bench.  Since switching over to this and experimenting with new programs I've found my bench increase.  I can currently bench 325 with a pause.  But this is at a bodyweight of 205.  So, Im going to be digging in the forums and blogs here for dieting advice ( I dont think I'll go full paleo, but i will stop eating grains and breads and pastas.  I will eat mostly meat, rice, fruits, nuts and vegetables with lots of milk.  Milk is the one food I have a hard time going without.  And of course I must say goodbye to cakes, and pies and cookies my achilles heels).  


In the spirit of this forum Im labelling this Gimli's Quest:  Remember the scene in the movie The Two Towers where Gimli has the wargs and orcs land on top of him, and he has to basically bench press them off him?  That is a good visual image for what I want to do. 


I suppose some people might be asking why I'm doing this here, reaching out to THIS community for support and dialogue.  Well, powerlifting forums tend to be dismissive of injuries, and unforgiving of what they percieve as half measures.  They might get the Jaimie Lannister reference, but not the full meanings behind it.  And most of them will suggest a cycle of steroids(which I have never used and never will).  And too many bro scientists out there.  Instead, what I want here, is community.  I love helping new lifters in the sport, and have several "padawans" at my current gym. 


And if there is one true thing in Steve's book that stayed with me its this:  seek out your own tribe.  That is where you find the community you need.  

In the spirit of the Steve's book I've created my own levelling rubric.  Im posting it here for other people to use.  Feel free to adapt it to your own programming or fitness goals.  Any suggestions or advice will be greatly appreciated.  


Also, for those of you with powerlifting experience: I had done 5/3/1 with a lot of success in the past.  Going to bench only though Ive switched to a Sheiko program.  For the first two months of switching to Bench specialization I used the App for android with intermediate medium and large loads and stripped away the squat and deadlift parts.  Ive now adopted the four day a week Bench program for Master of Sport.  Surprisingly, I can bench  well over 80% of my 1RM on paused benches up to 4x per week and have no shoulder issues whatsover.  Eastern European programming really is on point.  


250,000pts for Mastery
Proof of Mastery:  405 total in an IPF sanctioned Meet.
Levels 0-9:  0-49,999:  Squire
Levels 10-19:  50,000-99,999:  Man at Arms
Levels 20-29:  100,000-149,999:  Knight
Levels 30-39:  150,000-199,999:  Crusader
Levels 40-49:  200,000-249,999:  Templar
Levels 50-+:  250,000:  Paladin

Point System: 
10 pts for a day of lifting
50 pts for 1 month of lifting without missing a day
1000pts for 6 months without changing program
5000 pts for competing in a meet

Points by Bench 
-must be paused but not necessarily in a meet, except for 405
-if you skip a 5lb increment (example: going from 315 to 325) you get the points for the 5lb increment below also (example 315 to 325 = 9040: 4520 for 320 and 4520 for 325)
315:  4520 (+bonus for milestone 4520)
320:  4520
325:  4520
330:  4520
335: 4520 (+bonus for milestone 4520)
340:  4520
345:  4520
350:  4520
355:  4520(+bonus for milestone 4520)
360:  4520
365:  4520(+bonus for milestone 4520)
370:  4520
375:  4520
380:  4520
385:  4520(+bonus for milestone 4520)
390:  4520
395:  4520
400:  4520
405:  4520(+bonus for milestone 4520)


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Sorry to here about the problems,


I can say this from experience, it is a rough road when you used to be able to do something and now you cannot.


But, the good news is, you have a goal in the bench press--and who does not need a goal to keep aiming for.


I will admit to not been big on benching--but, I did bench some when I was younger.


So, If I may, I will share with you what little I know.


First, and being a power lifting I am sure you are aware of this, take your time--warm up everything, your shoulders, elbows, rotator cuff, etc.


Benching tends to tighten the shoulders so if you are not already, get on a stretching plan.


And three, get into the habit of working your rotator cuff muscles--I really like a product called the shoulder horn,


Lastly, because it works the rotator cuff and middle back, and triceps, if you are not,  start doing some overhead pressing


As I think this will help your bench press.


Keep up posted on how it is going


Hope this Helps.

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Thanks for taking the time to respond EricM25.  I appreciate the feedback.  Ive been doing OHP for a while, one of the better things I got out of 5/3/1.  It drove all my other lifts up.  Made me realize that there is always something to learn.  

Im going to become more proactive on the rotators and I will look into getting a shoulder horn.   Since Im now bench only there is a higher likelihood of me injuring them.  

And stretching.  I lift early in the morning now and am starting to see the benefits of stretching more. 

Also, I plan to post regularly on the powerlifting and weightlifting forums my daily workouts and monitor my progress.  Ive been keeping a lifting diary for about 15 years now(oh the dumb things I used to do!!! Makes me blush to read them now) but I'm hoping posting the workouts online will help get me more feedback and positive energy.  

Again thanks for the response.  


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No problem, I am glad to help.


I too have done things that I wish I  had not--but, hey it is part of learning.


I agree I found out about the OHP from an article I read by  Bill Starr years ago--before that I had no clue.


It became a favorite of mine.


As far as the shoulder horn, I have one myself and I really like it--got it years ago--when I was having shoulder trouble,


I still use it to this day.


Hope this helps.

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