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IPA World Powerlifting Championships 
Contest Report

by Gary F. Zeolla

Two first place medals, SEVEN IPA World Records, 8 for 9


I competed in the International Powerlifting Association World Championships on Friday August 8, 2003, in Harrisburg, PA. I competed in the 114-pound weight class in the men’s amateur, open and masters (40-44) divisions. My training leading up to this contest is detailed at Training Routine and Mini-Cycles (4/19/03 - 8/8/03).

My attempts were:

















I left for the contest Thursday morning for weighs-in that afternoon. I was hoping to get a good night’s sleep on Wednesday, knowing it would be a long weekend. But, without going into details, due to family problems I got very stressed out Wednesday evening and was unable to sleep at all that night. So I was dragging before even leaving.

I then had a four-hour drive from the Pittsburgh, PA area to Harrisburg. It should have only taken 3 hours, but all the construction along the PA turnpike really slowed me down.

The contest was being held at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Convention Center. I arrived at about 2:00 pm, but had to wait until 4:00 to weigh-in. I was a little worried as I was still a little overweight that morning, but I weighed-in at 113.7 pounds, 8/10s of a pound under the limit of 114.5. So that went right.

But then I barely slept Thursday night as well. I’m no quite sure why. I wasn’t really nervous, so I don’t think that was the problem. I think it was just the “strange” atmosphere. I also had problems regulating the A/C, and kept having to get up to adjust it. I’d be too cold one minute and then too hot the next. The A/C even ran “rough” on occasions and would wake me up. But whatever the case, come the morning of the contest, I really felt terrible. But I had to lift, so off to the convention center for the competition.

My session was divided into three flights. All of the women were in the first flight, the teenagers and me, the only 114 pounder, in the second flight, and the rest of the men up to 165s in the third flight.

At my last contest I lifted first, so it was easy to time when to start warming up. But with the women going before me, I had to time my warm-ups based on where they were in their lifting. Since I was warming-up, I didn’t really get to watch them lift, but it was obvious there was a lot of good lifting going on. In fact, so many women were taking fourth attempts for world records that it messed up my timing for my warm-ups.

I wanted to time it so that I would take my last warm-up when the last woman was taking her second attempt. With 11 women lifting, I figured that would give me about 15 minutes to my first attempt. But all of the fourth attempts made it more like 30 minutes. I’m not used to taking that much time between sets, but it didn’t seem to throw me off. But it did give me a chance to see some of the good lifting the women were putting in as I sat there waiting to lift myself.


Once I started warming up, I didn’t feel too tired. And my warm-ups went well. I did have one minor problem though. When I put on my squat suit, I somehow lost a sock! I’m serious. I looked all over the place, and couldn’t’ find it. When I was unpacking my gear later I found it stuck inside the “power slickers” I had used to help get the suit on (these worked very well, BTW).

Fortunately, I had an extra pair of socks in my gym bag. At my last contest, when I took my squat boots off, I accidentally knocked over my water jug and then stepped in the puddle! At that meet, the contest was being held in the ballroom in the hotel, so I just had to run upstairs to my room to get another pair. But this time, the hotel and convention center were different buildings. So running back to my room would have a problem. But with the mishap last time, I was prepared this time.

In any case, I opened with 310. This was enough to break my own masters record I had set at my last contest. It was easy, and good for three white lights.

My second attempt was with 325. This would be enough to break the IPA open squat record, the one record that I did not break at my last contest. And again, it was a rather easy lift and good for three whites.

Going into the contest, I was debating on 335 or 340 for my third attempt. 340 would have been nice as it would have been almost exactly triple bodyweight. But with the lack of sleep I figured I’d better be conservative and only try 335. I got it with strength to spare. I probably could have gotten the 340. Oh well.


When I started getting ready to warm up for benches, I couldn’t find my belt! I thought I put it in my gym bag after squats, but it wasn’t there. I looked where I had taken my squat suit off, but it wasn’t there either. So I ran back to where I was sitting by the platform, but it wasn’t there either. At this point, I was in a near panic. Not only was this my brand new, bright red power belt, but I had no idea how I would finish the contest without it.

So I went to the scorers’ table and asked them to make an announcement, but no one came forward. Meanwhile, I’m still looking all over the place. I finally found it “hiding” behind someone’s gym bag in the warm-up room. What a relief!

But as I started warming up for benches, I felt terrible. The lack of sleep finally caught up with me, and the iced tea I was drinking didn’t seem to be doing a thing. So I dragged through my warm ups and headed for the platform.

I opened with 185. I got it rather easily, but my form was way off. I came up uneven, my right arm lagging behind. The uneven extension is due to my right shoulder still being weaker than my left from a bicycle accident I was in four years ago. I really need to concentrate to come up even, and with the lack of sleep, I wasn’t concentrating enough. But at least I locked out even, so I still got three whites.

Between attempts I tried to get my head together and get psyched up. My second attempt was with 200, which would be enough to break my own masters record from my last contest. I barely got it, wobbling on the way up. But it passed, again with three whites.

With the second attempt being so difficult, I considered passing on my third. But I figured I might as well try 205. It went up to about 6” off my chest rather easily, but then stalled. But I kept pushing, and kept pushing, and kept pushing, and kept pushing, and then finally gave up. I just couldn’t punch it through my sticking point. And with that, my chance to repeat the perfect 9/9 day I had last time was lost. But at least I broke my record.


After benches, I went into the warm-up room and tried to lie down for a few minutes. But then I got confused as to where things were on the platform and started warming up too early. So I had to drag out my warm-ups, taking way too long between sets. And the whole time, I felt really, REALLY horrible. I honestly didn’t think I would make it. But then “something” happened right before my final warm-up.

I’m not sure what it was--maybe I got my second-wind, maybe the caffeine from the iced tea I had been drinking finally kicked in, or maybe I somehow subconsciously psyched myself up. But whatever it was, I felt a surge of energy just as I was getting ready to do my last warm-up (310 for a single). The weight flew off of the floor. At that point, I KNEW deadlifts were going to go well.

I opened with 340. It was easy, and good for three whites, but my form was off some. So again, I had to sit down between attempts and try to concentrate more. My second attempt was then with 355. This would be enough to break my masters and open records from last time. It came up rather easily, and with three whites.

Going into the contest, again I was debating on whether to try 365 or 370 for my third attempt. But I only needed 365 to total 900, so I called for that. I really wanted to hit the 900 milestone, so got really psyched for this lift. And I got it with strength to spare, and again with three whites.

The lift looked so easy that I had several people tell me I should take a fourth attempt. I thought of it, but I didn’t want to push it. With the lack of sleep, I thought it best to just call it quits.

Medals and the Future

Once again, I was the only person in my weight class. So winning the two first place medals was rather meaningless. But still, two first place medals at a world championship does sound good!

It is a bit of a drag being the only one in my class. But it does enable me to focus on breaking records without having to worry about what anyone else is doing. So I’m not sure if I will enter the next major IPA contest or not.

It would be the IPA National Championships, November 14-16 at the same location as this contest. I’ll wait to see how my training goes over the next few weeks before deciding if I will enter it or not. If I think I can increase my lifts and hence my records significantly then maybe I will enter it. Also some personal considerations might prevent me from being able to enter. So I will wait to send in my application.


Despite some problems along the way, I got my main goals for this contest: I broke all six of my own records and added a seventh. I also hit the 900 milestone on my total and managed to go 8/9. So it is good to know that even under less than ideal conditions, I can pull off a good meet. But I don’t want to have to do it again!

It should also be noted that the only red lights I got were the three reds on the missed bench attempt. So in my first two contests in 21 years, I have yet to get a red light for a rules infraction. And only one missed attempt out of 18 isn’t bad either.

I added 50 pounds to my total in four months time, including 30 pounds to my squat and 15 pounds to my deadlift. So those lifts are going well, and that is exciting. But benches only went up five pounds. Benches were my worst lift I college, and they’re shaping up to be once again. So benches will be a priority in the coming weeks. 

For pictures form the contest, see IPA World Powerlifting Championships - 2003 - Pictures.

See Cutting Weight/ Post-Weigh-in Eating and Drinking for a discussion of these issue in relation to this contest.

See Training Routine and Two-Week Rotation (8/13/03 - 11/14/03) for the training routine I started using after IPA Worlds.

IPA World Championships - 2003 - Contest Report. Copyright 2003 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: Contest Reports

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