I equipped a garage gym during the Covid-19 lock-downs at the urging of my older son and my younger son has now also caught the strength training bug. My older son is focusing on Olympic weightlifting, which involves explosive lifts to chest or overhead. The competition lifts are the snatch and the clean and jerk. My younger son has shown an aptitude for powerlifting with its three competition lifts: the squat, the bench press and the deadlift.
I suggested he compete in the Swiss Drug Free Single Lift and Powerlifting Championships 2022 on 25 September. He set new Swiss single lift records for bench press (95 kg) and dead lift (210 kg) in the 16-17 year age category and the under 82.5 kg weight category. The short video below shows his 210 kg deadlift.
Three months later, Felix competed in an informal powerlifting competition in Geneva on 17 December. He improved all three lifts with a squat of 160 kg, bench press of 107.5 kg and deadlift of 230 kg. This short video shows the 230 kg deadlift. He also lifted 240 kg, but there was some slight hitching before lockout, and I’m not sure it would count as a valid lift in a formal competition.
He has been training with a strength training coach for more than a year, now. His coach tested his progress a week ago and he succeeded in squatting 170 kg and bench pressing 110 kg, still at the age of 16 years.
For the deadlift, he lifted 225 kg without any trouble. He then attempted 240 kg followed by 250 kg. In both these lifts, he got the bar moving off the floor but could not get it past his knees. He is close to being able to lift 250 with some more training. He successfully lifted 240 kg for reps a couple of days ago using the trap bar.
Last weekend, I competed at the Swiss Drug Free Powerlifting Championship 2021, held in Basel on 25 September. This was my first national powerlifting competition since competing in the last SDFPF Championship in February 2019. The 2020 Championship was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic I managed to lose around 10 kg bodyweight and competed this year in the 82.5 – 90 kg category at a body weight of 87.3 kg, almost 10 kg lighter than my weight of 96.5 kg in 2019. Despite my efforts to improve my squat and ensure that I squatted below parallel, I discovered by filming my squats in the week leading up to competition that I was only getting clearly below parallel around 50% of the time.
I opened my squat attempts conservatively at 90 kg, and succeeded in getting a below-parallel valid lift. However, I was disappointed to fail the next two attempts at 100 kg with inadequate depth.
For the other two lifts, I exceeded my anticipated results with a 100 kg bench press and 190 kg deadlift. These were both new Swiss records for the under 90 kg Master M6 age category (65-69 years), as was my powerlifting total of 380 kg. Below are short videos of the deadlift and bench press.
Geneva is about to ease the restrictions associated with the second wave of the pandemic. During this wave, average new cases per day in Geneva peaked at close to 3,000 confirmed cases per 100,000 population in the 14 days to 8 November. This was the highest recorded rate at regional level in western Europe. In other words, 3% of the population were confirmed new cases in that fortnight, and the real incidence would have been higher than that.
As can be seen in the figure above, the social restrictions introduced in most European countries have worked quite rapidly in turning the second wave downwards. The exceptions are Germany where it has plateaued by not yet coming down, though it never reached the levels of nearby countries, and Sweden where it is about to pass Switzerland on the way up. Daily new cases per million population in the USA now exceeds that in Switzerland. The USA now has 12 million confirmed cases, and the CDC estimates that the true number of infections is around 50 million, or 1 in 7 of the total population. Trump of course has gone AWOL and I suspect the USA is in for a bad winter.
My gym closed down again during this second wave. During the first wave it closed down for around 2 months and I tried to continue some light weight work at home. I had borrowed a couple of kettlebells from the gym and was somewhat aimlessly swinging these from time to time. However, my son took up a kettlebell challenge to do 10,000 swings of a 24 kg kettlebell in 4 weeks. He upgraded to 28 kg partway through. That’s 500 a day, and he broke them up with some kettlebell presses every now and then.
I was inspired, and bought a 16 kg and 28 kg kettlebell and started using them 3 times a week. Initially, I was doing kettlebell swings at 28 kg and various double kettlebell routines with two 16 kg kettlebells (see video), though my favourite routine was the kettlebell snatch (second video). By the end of the lockdown I was doing 100 snatches, 100 clean and press and 100 double handed swings.
Approaching retirement from full-time work, the last thing I would have foreseen doing was to take up powerlifting and get involved in competitions. I had plans to spend more time walking and climbing in the Alps, but increasing knee problems (osteoarthritis) around 2014-2015 put that on hold. I stopped doing Crossfit classes in 2015 and instead started to focus on weight training apart from squats.
I had also been reading various books and research relating to exercise and ageing, and became convinced that to maximise my health and functioning into older age I needed to maintain and improve my strength, and that this was probably more important than the endurance cardiovascular training that I had been doing for many years.
I found that I really enjoyed training with heavy weights and low repetitions (usually in range 3-6) and that my knees felt a lot better after a workout. With some coaching on good technique, I was able to substantially increase the weight and volume I was working with and would often leave the gym with an endorphin high and pain-free knees. Occasional lower back pain (related to an old injury during jujutsu training) also became rarer.