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Powerlifting Competition Report: YNE Winter Open

Nathan Berry

To give Nathan some context a few months ago he ran across the Sahara Desert for fun. That's the kind of guy he is. He'd never done a powerlifting plan before roughly 12 weeks before this competition.

Oh and he's a competitive rugby player too which certainly had an impact on our training.

I'd describe his body as 'functionally broken' in that he has endless injuries he just doesn't let them get in his way.

He trained on average 3 times a week in the build up to this competition which is a mere 36 sessions!


Squat during Nathan's flight were strange. We thought we had timed our warm up perfectly but essentially the last round of lifters before Nathan finished so much faster than usual which meant we had to literally run from the warm up area and straight onto the platform.

I found out later that lots of other lifters were thrown by this too but still, it's very important to keep track of exactly what is going on during the previous flight to make sure you don't make the same mistake as we did.

Consequently, Nathan missed his first squat due to depth. He'll blame himself, I blame me for not knowing about the progress of the previous flight but I guess I can't be in two places at once.

I have seen Nathan squat 170 in the gym many times so I took a chance and put 170 on the bar which he performed well, if a little slow.

Because of the slow-down I took a small jump to 175 which he unfortunately missed due to depth.

Nathan has only just bought his knee sleeves, belt and powerlifting attire so the fact that he wasn't consistent on depth doesn't surprise me at all. He's only just started so we'll be working on this aspect of his lifting throughout his next training cycle and beyond until he can hit depth every single time now we have chance to work on it without worrying about numbers.

Bench Press

The warm-up for bench press was much smoother with none of the hesitation we saw during the squat warm-up.

In training Nathan was missing lots of commands so in the last couple of weeks ALL WE DID WAS PRACTICE COMMANDS. That isn't strictly true but we practiced them a lot. In the warm-up room he was nailing every single one.

His opener at 105 flew. I've seen 110 get real slow in the gym but we made that jump anyway which he smoked as he did with 115 which I haven't seen him do under competition rules.

We'll be working on technique and muscle mass during our next cycle to improve this lift in all ways!


Nathan is born to deadlift even if his technique isn't quite up to standard yet! He obliterated his opener at 210 and 220kg soon followed.

In the gym Nathan missed 225kg but because 220kg looked so good I decided on a third lift at 227.5kg. Nathan lifted it so unexpectedly fast from the floor that he lost his balance mid-lift meaning he'd get red lights.

To his credit he held onto it even while losing his balance. He'll have beyond 230kg in no-time. It's just a shame he lifted it so well because this lift was no problem for him.

So in just a few weeks Nathan was able to total over 500kg.

What a hero. And he got on the podium!

Chris Kershaw

Training hasn't been the best lately since I appear to have lost the ability to sleep. It is plainly clear just how important sleep is to everyone. Luckily the deload week before the competition sorted out the numerous niggles and injuries that had accumulated in the build up to the competition and I was finally ready to have some fun lifting weights!


My opening squat of 190 flew far better than it ever did in training. 200kg was my second attempt which moved somewhat slower.

I took 205kg as my last lift but unfortunately it was just too heavy on the day. I've squatted 210kg at 74kg in competition so this annoyed me. With some sleep and better recovery I am sure this will be surpassed soon.


I opened with a bench press of 142.5kg after everything went well in the warm-up. Then my other lifts happened.

Oh dear.

I missed 147.5 twice.

Because my hips came off the bench.

Not when driving the bar up but when BRINGING THE BAR DOWN.

Absolute rookie mistakes.

I should know better. Much work to do on this. That opener is just 2.5kg under my competition best but it's still no excuse.


I've just switched to hook grip after a torrid time with a lift that I've never got on with. I missed countless reps in training with weights I should be comfy with. I strained by bicep and the lift just got in my head entirely.

But in the last week before competition hook grip started to grow on me and deadlifts felt good!

All the warm-ups went well. My opener at 175kg flew. My second at 190kg went really well too and then we decided to have a go at 200kg.

It broke the floor....then I just seemed to put it down without much of a fight. Maybe due to my back issues in the past. I don't know. Essentially, if I'm going to deadlift big, I'm going to have to learn to fight for the lift like I can fight for squats and bench presses.

But with hook grip, I am finally excited to see what might happen with my deadlifts in future!

Thanks to Tim Garrett for coaching me and dealing with my endless training breakdowns!

Oh and I came 2nd and qualified for nationals!

Heather Murray

I've trained Heather for many years now and this build up to competition was definitely her best thanks to some changes we made to her training as we have learned what her body responds to.


Heather opened at 127.5 which moved a little slower than I've seen in training so we went for a second attempt of 132.5. I'd planned on 135kg being Heather's second but that wasn't the right call on the day.

132.5kg again moved a little slower than we perhaps expected so we went for 135kg on the third which moved better than the other two for a 5kg competition PB which was massive for her.

I am sure Heather will be squatting over 140kg in the not-too-distant future!

Bench Press

Heather has been trying to bench press 75kg in competition for over a year now and has missed that number in a couple of competitions much to her annoyance.

Recently in training she finally hit that number!

So we were feeling good about what the day might bring.

Her opener at 70 went fast but I wanted to build her a total so took her to 72.5kg for her second which moved well. I think she could have benched 77.5kg on the day but I wanted her to get her 75kg so we took that as her 3rd bench press which she smashed!

Finally Heather hit her 75kg in competition!


Once again deadlifts in training were flying so I was excited to see what the day would bring.

Her opener at 152.5 flew, then she missed her second attempt at 160kg!

I was shocked as it really didn't move.

Heather said she just needed to be more fired up. SO I GOT HER FIRED UP AS HELL and she knocked it out of the water at the third attempt.

160kg is just 2.5kg below her all time best so we'll know next time to get her fired up as hell for every single attempt in order to set up that third attempt for her best ever deadlift.

An absolutely great total (a 15kg pb) that gave her 2nd place qualifying her for nationals and all-England's.

We'll probably keep our approach fairly similar in future with a few technical tweaks aimed to keep her as injury free as possible.

What an absolute superstar in every single way!

Rachel Bradish

Rachel is actually Mark Macqueen's client but I have looked after Rachel at competitions before so we decided to do the same thing again.

In the build up to this competition Rachel hasn't had the best time and has struggled with injury among other things so we really didn't know what to expect on the day.


Squats started well with 142.5kg flying prompting me to make a jump to 152.5kg which was a competition PB for her. From here I decided to let her have a go at 157.5kg because the 152.5 looked good!

However her body language changed greatly from attempt 2 to attempt 3. I don't know what it was, maybe the 152.5kg just felt incredibly heavy but for whatever reason she went from being in "the zone" to "somewhere near the zone."

For this reason (or it being slightly too heavy) she missed the last one but from seeing this I know she'll get 160kg and above before very long at all. Especially when feeling 100% which she wasn't at any point during this competition.

Bench Press

Rachel's bench press looked great in the warm-up so I was looking forward to seeing what happened on the platform.

Her second attempt at 82.5kg moved very well in my opinion so I made another 5kg jump to 87.5kg. Once again I saw the same change in body language from attempt 2 to attempt 3 completely changed from a powerful confidence to something less.

Once again it could be me seeing things but it could also be something to keep in mind and something to improve on for next time by being determined to stay either focused or relaxed (whichever she decides is best) between attempt 2 and 3 during squats and bench press.

I think if she stays strong between these 2 lifts in future some even bigger numbers are on the cards.


Rachel has had big back problems in the past and directly in the build up to this competition. Something was painful in her scapula on the day of competition too so I really didn't know what to expect on the platform this time.

Needless to say I wanted her to leave the competition in a state that didn't require 12 months of rehabilitation before she could load up a deadlift again.

The warm up was speedy yet tentative which is always apparent with people suffering with lower back problems.

We got her out there using as little warming up as necessary to mean she had to do less volume to nurse that back through to the end.

160kg flew, her second deadlift at 170kg didn't fly so I made a small jump to 175kg which went very well indeed!

A great performance resulting in her taking the competition with a total of 410kg.

Steve Taylor

Steve only started training with me a couple of months ago. I always knew he had great technique so it was just about giving him the right programming and confidence to get him to the platform.

We got Steve to convert to hook grip and to be less reliant on straps.

We made sure his training was pain free and we made sure that he was consistently enjoying the process. It seemed to work.

Steve set a goal of getting a 400kg total at some point in the next year.

I had designs on getting to 400kg in this very competition.


Steve's lifetime best squat was 147.5kg. We hit a really solid opener at 140kg to settle the nerves then because his opener looked so easy we then jumped to 150kg which he nailed once more!

We then jumped to 155kg which he took for a big 7.5kg lifetime pb. There is so much more in the tank for Steve. I can't wait to see how he progresses.

Bench Press

Steve's lifetime best was 67.5kg. He's missed 70kg a few times but I knew he could do it. His opener at 60kg went so fast it was unbelievable. Then we put 70kg on the bar which moved well.

We went with a small jump to 72.5kg but I think this just got in his head a little bit so didn't really move. He'll get it and more next time!

I can't wait for that!


Steve's deadlift has been flying in training so we looked to continue the momentum on the platform.

170kg flew without drama as did 180kg to match his lifetime best. From here we went to 185kg which came up but unfortunately he did a slight hitch at the top which is against the rules but we know he can lift it so 200kg beckons just around the corner and he would never have thought that a few weeks ago!

For his forst competition his performance was so assured. I was such a proud coach to see how well he did.

This is just the beginning for Steve. What a journey he has had so far.

Waz Arsalani

I've known Waz a little while now and was greatly looking forward to handling him.

His performance certainly didn't disappoint.

He was determined to get as close to 9/9 as possible and to have a good day of lifting. I really wanted to help him get there.

His back has behaved like a nightmare in the build up to this competition. This meant he hasn't been able to go very heavy in training. This comp was certainly going to be interesting!

He's also very different to my other lifters in that he is very chilled out and doesn't respond to lots of hype. I'm used to lots of hype so I was excited to coach someone with a very different personality.

What was interesting to see was that even someone so calm and collected most of the time still did loads of stupid stuff and was wandering all over expending energy just like everyone else.

Even these personality types react in strange ways to the pressure of competition and crowds so never assume how someone is going to react if you are looking after them on competition day.


Waz was my only high bar squatter of the day. His opener of 180 moved very well. 190kg as his second attempt didn't move quite so well so we then jumped to 197.5kg which was the perfect call. 200kg definitely wasn't there but he ground out the 197.5kg like a boss.

Bench Press

Waz hit a lovely opener of 130kg even though the referee did keep him with the bar on his chest for a long time. I think this is because Waz is a very shaky bencher. His arms move loads no matter what weight is on the bar. I think we can improve this for next time by changing his technique slightly but we will see.

I then made the jump to 137.5kg which he missed. I couldn't believe it! I knew he had this. It was then that i decided that although he had siad he didn't want any hype that we should take it up just a couple of notches.

We didn't scream or shout but just got him a little bit fired up and lo and behold 137.5kg flew on the next attempt.


Waz's warm up was absolutely brilliant. Everything moved so fast and without drama that I knew it was going to be a good deadlift day for him.

His opener at 200kg flew so fast that we made a big jump to 215kg which moved even better. So we made a further jump to 225kg which was ever so slightly slower but still no drama whatsoever giving him a total of 560kg and 8/9 lifts.

An amazing return to the platform.

Concluding Thoughts

Not one lifter missed a command. Everyone performed well and everyone finished with a smile on their face and big goals were achieved.

For me this was one of my favourite competitions that I've ever been apart of.

Thank you to everyone who made it possible. From those who helped with nutrition, dealing with me and my general ullshit and being the mastermind of the whole operation (Coach V) to those who made the competition itself possible.

What an amazing day all round.

It's going to be fun trying to have a competition go as well as this one did!

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