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YNE November 2023 Write Up

This was an epic one. We were in Riccal for the YNE Winter Open. This is a great venue which always attracts a wonderful crowd.

What a competition.

This weekend we had a number of people from the Heavy Metal Strength community competing.

We had fan favourite Talia Anastasiou, Matt Ridgley, and Rhea Sutcliffe (handled, not coached, by me)

Talia Anastasiou #talspeed

Backstory time. I've worked with Tal for years. She's wanted to compete in powerlifting for ages. But bad injuries, the COVID pandemic, and various other factors made competition seems a far-off dream that may never happen.

We've had sessions where she was in tears with pain. We had sessions where I was pleading with her to keep going because I believed in her but all her belief was gone. Compound this with an injury history which is colourful to say the least and you have a minefield of issues to deal with.

Back when Tal started lifting with me, she was sure she was a difficult client. She thought she was too much work, thought she would never squat 100kg, would never have good technique, and had a whole host of other intrusive thoughts.

I didn't see any of that. I saw an insecure person, with bags of potential. Yes, she asks a lot of questions but that's because she needs to know WHY she is doing anything and because she is highly likely to be neurodivergent, a million questions are always popping into her mind and if she asks me lots of questions, it means she trusts me with her true self because she won't ask ANYONE these questions. It means I'm in the inner circle.

Over the years, I think I've convinced her that she is great to work with and I love it.

As competition approached, we began to see it was going to happen. Yes, I didn't sleep much during the build-up to the competition and I was more nervous for this competition than I have been for any other, but we got there.

It took me a couple of hours to properly calm down (I looked calm on the surface I believe) then it was time to get to business in the AM flight.

Tal had no issues at the weigh-in. She seemed cool, calm, and collected. It was GO TIME.


In the warm-up room, Tal looked calm and composed. My explicit instruction on competition day is to 'just lift' and I'll look after everything else. I'll manage timings and getting a platform and all the other competition worries lifters have if they are handling themselves or their handler isn't as experienced.

If a client is chill, I don't wrap them in cotton wool, I just make sure they are happy, well-hydrated, and not expending too much energy on anything but lifting.

Once I knew Tal was in a good place, I found us a rack and we proceeded to calmly work through the warm-ups. We timed them perfectly.

It was time for her first squat. She was one of the final women to lift in her flight, which is lovely for someone doing their first competition.

There was a lot of nervous energy as there always is before the first squat. We loaded 140kg. She got her feet all wrong, pushed out of the hole on effectively one leg, but because of the wiggle room we've built over the years it flew.

Due to something like adrenaline, or perhaps a spotter made a mistake, she started walking forward before the 'rack' command resulting in a no lift.

For someone right on the edge of qualifying for the British and having a huge total goal, this was not the start we would have wanted.

I was faced with a choice. Go up to our planned 2nd because it moved so well or stick at 140kg and get a squat on the board.

In the 30 seconds, I had to think about this I decided the weight moved so quickly that a jump would be no problem as long as she waited for the rack command.

She seemed relaxed and we've practiced these scenarios in the gym before so she was ready.

We loaded 147.5 for the next one. It moved well. She stood at the top until every spotter moved her in and nailed the lift. Originally, I thought we'd go to 152.5 and be happy. It would put more pressure on her last deadlift meaning she'd need a 175kg-180ish pull but I thought she had that in the bag, however, wherever you can eek a little more from the earlier lifts, the more chance you have of building an impressive total.

So I loaded 155kg.

This would be a 2.5kg lifetime PB. I never thought of loading this in the gym. Her singles in the gym were mostly from 140-150kg. This concerned her at the time, but I knew if she made these numbers fly in the gym then she would smash a PB on the platform.

I'll let you decide how it went as you watch the video below.

2/3 on squats and despite the initial hiccup, we were ahead of our plan.

Running total:


Bench Press

Bench has been flying in the gym.

Just before bench, Tal complained she was feeling sleepy, so we took in a little caffeine to reassure her and when the warm-ups began, she was alert and ready to take on the world again.

Warm-ups flew. We nailed every command and the weight was flying.

She made no mistakes on her opener and 80kg flew like it was an empty bar, so I made a larger jump than planned, going up to 87.5kg

This flew again, prompting me to load 92.5kg.

She missed 92.5kg, unfortunately, hitting a sticking point just above her chest after her elbows flared, meaning the lift was doomed as soon as she pressed.

Initially, I thought I'd made a mistake, but watching the 87.5kg lift back, I have no regrets. I made the right call. All evidence pointed towards 92.5kg being the lift to go for.

Running Total: 242.5

Totals required: 392.5kg to qualify for the All-England Championship

To qualify for the British championship: 415kg

Deadlift required to achieve these goals:

All-England: 150kg

British: 172.5kg


Our opener was set to 160kg

This had flown in the gym until our very last session, where she needed to retake the lift. This meant her confidence going into this lift must have been somewhat threatened. You couldn't tell as she made it fly.

This gave her a 402.5kg total. A 400 total in your first competition is big. She hit the total and qualified for the All-England with room to spare.

My plan was now to go 170kg on her 2nd then something like 175-180kg depending on how 170kg moved because I knew it would move well.

It did. Unfortunately, the referees either thought she hitched or had a soft lockout. It didn't matter, because she failed the lift.

This again meant I had a choice to make. Go 170kg again and be happy with a 412.5kg total, missing the British qualifying total by 2.5kg or increasing the weight on the bar and going full send on 172.5, get her to really exaggerate the lockout and see what happens.

I thought 412.5kg would be more difficult to take than a 402.5kg total. She'd beat herself up for not at least giving it a go. So we loaded the 172.5kg and went crazy.

Here is the video below:

A 172.5kg deadlift meant she qualified for the British championships on the nose. She qualified easily for the All-England. PB'd her squat and deadlift, made 87.5kg move faster than she ever has and performed like a true athlete, and adapted to spanners being thrown at her from all directions.

Seeing someone compete has never meant so much to me as when Tal competed here. It took years of work.

I was an emotional mess at the end of her competition.

What a performance.

Things To Work On

  1. Discipline with squat commands

  2. Working on her deadlift lockout

Practicing commands will come with time. I think she needs a couple more competitions to eliminate the mistake she made on her first squat. Luckily, she is thirsty for more competition so this shouldn't be a problem going forward.

With the lockout, I feel this wasn't addressed before the competition because we always train in a busy gym with people around us so looking at her deadlift from the side.

So we'll be drilling her to get her shoulders further back at the top of each deadlift. We know she can already do that with PB weights, it will be a case of practicing in the gym and making it second nature. You can see on the 172.5 she nearly forgets to do it. Luckily, she pulled it together and made the total.

All being well, we'll see her at 1-2 national championships next year.

Rhea Sutcliffe

Rhea isn't my client but brought me in as a handler as her coach is suffering from an extremely debilitating back injury meaning even getting to the competition would be an extremely risky, painful thing to do.

So, thanks to half my clients pilling onto her Instagram recommending me, we made a plan and decided to go for it.

Rhea told me she feels a little all over the place on competition day and that timings have felt off in the past and she's had issues fighting for racks and knowing what's going on.

Luckily, I can look after all those things.

I set out a loose plan. We compared that with what her coach sent over and we decided to go with that as it's what she knows. Equally, we decided the same with her attempts and I could adjust as I saw fit.


I could see Rhea was worried about running into trouble on squats. It's tripped her up before and I was determined it wouldn't trip her up again. I kept her informed of every decision I was making, assured her of her technique and used encouraging language throughout.

Warm-ups were flying.

She was calm and collected as she realized she was in good hands.

With great composure, she hit 105kg/115kg and hit a 120kg final squat for a 5kg PB. You can see the video below.

No grind. No red lights and more in the tank.

What a start.

Running total: 120kg

Bench Press

She opened at a very respectable 60kg. It flew. We went to 65kg, for a comp PB. It moved well. We toyed with the idea of going to 70kg but we decided it was getting greedy, so we loaded 67.5kg for a 5kg competition PB.

As you can see from the video below, it was exactly the right call. A gram heavier and this wasn't going. What a grind, what an effort. What a lift.

Running total: 187.5kg


This is where the competition begins for Rhea as she chased the total record for her class. Her opener at 145kg flew. Her 2nd at 152.5kg flew too so we went to a big 160kg which as you can see below was completely electric.

Rhea PB'd everything from her squat to her total. She added 17.5kg in total, since July. This is amazing progress for such a high-level lifter.

I know Rhea was worried about her mentality going into the competition, since the comp, people have commented on how assured her performance was. That's what is the main benefit of the handler, to allow someone to chill out so they can just lift and that's exactly what Rhea did.

And she didn't get one red light. Brilliant work.

Total: 347.5kg and a new total record in her class.

Things To Work On

Rhea was the complete powerlifter on this day. We executed everything perfectly. I think going into every competition with a solid plan and someone to keep her calm and organised in the warm-up room is all that's required.

Loads in the tank. A privilege to handle. I hope it isn't my last time working with her.

Matt Ridgley

I've been working with Matt for a few months now. This is his first official competition with me. During his last powerlifting competition, he bombed after missing all his deadlifts. Since then, he's done a deadlift and bench competition to keep his platform practice up but today was the big one.

During the last few weeks of this prep, Matt had a lot of work to do on his squat and deadlift. He was cutting depth and hitching his deadlift. His decision-making in the gym went a little bit south as well and we had a few instances of getting a little carried away with load selection during bench press he had a fun time nearly choking himself with the barbell, which wasn't how he imagined that session going.

We decided to get tough on him, demanding he be harsh to himself with his squat depth, we gave him loads of rack pulls to practice finishing his deadlift smoothly, and we reinforced good decisions in the gym and made it clear that the gym is not the competition. Lift what you can in training, not what you want and it's more likely you'll lift what you want on the competition platform.

You'll see the result of these strategies below.

Matt also had a moderate weight cut for this competition, with a couple of kgs to lose. I gave him a water-cutting protocol he followed to the letter. We thought he was still a little over weight at 5 am, 6 am, 7 am, and going into the weigh-in room. It turned out his scales were weighing approximately 1kg over, so he weighed 600g under what he needed.


Matt had a long time to rehydrate and fuel before lifting.


His opener at 140kg flew. His 2nd at 147.5kg moved ok, not great and not badly, so I took a jump to 152.5kg. I'll let you decide what you think of his final attempt below. I'm happy with the call I made and think there is more in the tank in the future.

All 3 lifts smashed and we're on the board.

Running total: 152.5kg

Bench Press

After the choking incident, we decided on a conservative opener of 70kg which he's hit numerous times in the gym. It flew as I'm sure you guessed I'd say. I planned to jump to 75kg, then 80kg, but 70 moved so well, I pushed the numbers a little. We jumped to 77.5kg for the second which moved well prompting me to jump 5kg to 82.5kg, which was 2.5kg over my plan.

82.5kg was an ABSOLUTE GRINDER as you can see. 100g more, and this doesn't go. Another comp PB for Matt. Lovely stuff.

Running total: 235kg


This is where Matt came undone in his last IPF competition. Would he hitch his deadlifts due to nerves?

For this reason, we took a conservative opener at 150kg for a ride. He didn't hitch. It was beautiful.

We jumped to 160kg. It moved in a lovely fashion. We loaded 170kg. His joint lifetime PB. The boy nailed it. No hitches. 9/9, while pushing himself, the competition after the bombing.

Matt was my hero on this day. He did every single thing I asked of him.

Well done Sir. You should be proud of yourself.

Here are all of Matt's lifts:

Things To Work On

We'll continue to hammer his squat and deadlift technique and keep things moving forward in the strength department. Matt just needs more time powerlifting to keep improving. When we get to the competition, Matt is a natural competitor and took everything in his stride.

Well done on your 32.5kg total PB Sir. I can't wait to see your continued progress.

What a weekend of lifting.

If you require coaching or handling, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


The Heavy Metal Strength Coach

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