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RPS 5th Set Black – 2019

Contest Report

By Gary F. Zeolla


9/10 (missed just one of ten attempts, on Benches)

Two Personal Records (50s PRs) (Squats and Deadlifts)

Four RPS Raw Masters (55-59) Records

One RPS Raw Open (all ages) Record (Squats)

Two All-time Raw Masters (50-59) American Records (Squats and Deadlifts)

Two All-time Raw Masters (50-59) World Records (Squats and Deadlifts)

#17 on All-time Raw Open (all ages) Ranking List (Squats)

First Place, 114-pound weight class

Best Lightweight Lifter




      I competed in the 5th Set Black powerlifting contest for the Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate (RPS) in Tarentum, PA (near Pittsburgh), on Saturday, September 28, 2019. It was held at Legends of Pittsburgh Fitness and Performance Center in Pittsburgh Mills Mall.

      I competed in the Am (drug tested) division, 114-pound weight class, men’s masters (55-59 age) and open (all ages) categories, Modern Raw (raw with wraps) division. For my final workout logs leading up to this contest, see 2x2 Trinity Powerlifting Training Strategy: 2019 Trinity #1, Stage Two.

      The meet director was Ame Rychlak (widow of Gene. More on that later). I have no idea what the name “5th Set Black” meant and never thought to ask.




      I weighed 124.6 pounds on Wednesday (9/18). I needed to weigh 114.6 at 9:30 am Friday (8/27) to make weight for the 114-pound (52 kg) weight class. That meant I had ten pounds to lose in 9 days, which was about 8% of my bodyweight. By the morning of weigh-ins, I was down to 116.8 pounds. I took a long hot bath, but that only got me down to 116.4. That was at 8:30 am. I went ahead to the contest site in hopes my scale might be a bit heavy.

      On my first try at weighing in, right at 9:30 am (I was first in line) I weight 115.4. I wasn’t worried, as this has happened twice before, being one pound over on my first try. But both times, I spent an hour spitting and then made weight on my second try. But this time, that only got me down to 115.2. I waited another hour, did some more spitting and walking around, then tried again. Once again, I dropped just 0.2 pounds, so I was down to 115.0.

      About this time, another lifter who also was about a pound overweight came back. He had gone to Dick’s Sporting Goods, also located in Pittsburgh Mills Mall, and bought a rubber suit and had done a lap around the mall in it. He lost his needed pound that way. I could have done that myself, but I find such to be very draining, so I was trying to avoid it, lest it affect my performance the next day.

      As it was, after waiting another hour, I tried again, and this time I made weight! I even overshot it down to 114.4. I have no idea why I only lost 0.4 pounds the first two hours but then lost 0.6 pounds the third hour, while doing basically the same thing the whole time, waiting, spitting, and walking around.

      After making weight, I downed a quart of homemade veggie/ fruit juice with added salt to restore sodium and potassium. I then headed to Eat ‘n Park, also at the Mall and ordered a stack of pancakes, a glass of milk, and a glass of orange juice. After eating that, on my way home, I stopped at Subway and got a 12” roast beef sub to go. I ate that later at home along with other food, mostly carbs.

      The next morning (the morning of the contest), I was back up to 121.4 pounds. That is the most I ever weighed the morning of a contest when competing at 114s. My morning contest weight has gone up about a pound over each of my last few contests. That reflects that my normal weight is going up.

      After my last contest, I said I was going to move up to 123s, but I still had goals at 114s that I wanted to attain before doing so. That is why I cut to 114s for this contest.




Gear: Crain: power belt, Genesis wrist wraps; APT heavy knee sleeves/ APT 2.5-meter knee wraps/ Crain 3.0-meter knee wraps, singlet.

Warm-ups: --/15, 65/9, 135/7, 165/5, 195/4, Gear (sleeves): 225/3, 255/1

Warm-ups: --/15, 65/9, 135/7, 165/5, 195/4, Gear (wraps): 235/3, 275/1




Sleeves: 275, 290, 305

Wraps:   295, 310, 326.1

Sleeves: 275. Wraps: 310, 326.1, (332.5)

Actual: Sleeves: 275, Wraps: 310, 320, 331.1


      I have been struggling since I began competing again in 2015 after a six-year break whether to use sleeves or wraps for squats. After using wraps for decades, for some reason, they have simply become very difficult for me to use. I find it very tiring to wrap and almost impossible to do multiple reps with wraps. I have also had problems with my form with wraps, having dumped the weight a couple of times in training as a result.

      Sleeves are far easier to use, and I have no problems with doing multiple reps and with my form when using them. However, wraps of course add far more to the lift that sleeves. And I need that extra poundage to hit the goals that I have. That is so as all of my goals are for records or ranking lists that are raw with or without wraps, so to give me the best advantage, I need to compete with wraps.

      Also, when using wraps, I have struggled over which brand and length to use. I have mostly used Crain wraps, usually 2.5-meter, but I also have 3.0-meter Crains, along with 2.5 meters in several other brands. While doing some cleaning earlier this year, I came across three pairs of 2.5-meter APT Black Mamba wraps I had gotten last decade but had forgotten about, so I have used them of late as well. They are a bit easier to use than the Crains, but not quite as effective, especially as compared to the 3.0-meter Crains. APT is now out of business, so I cannot get 3.0 meters in them.

      Heading into this contest, I was not sure what I was going to do. Due to a health setback, I had to push my peaking (final) Squat workout back a day. Given the problem, I thought it best to use sleeves for that workout to be sure I could get through it. That worked in that it went as planned. But I was still not happy with using sleeves. I had used sleeves for my last for my last two contests but was not satisfied with the results due to that lower poundage and not being able to hit my goals.

      But then I came up with a great idea—use both. Start with sleeves, then switch to wraps. In that way, I could assure getting my opener by using sleeves and save energy by not having to wrap as much. For this contest, I used sleeves for my final two warmup sets (for which I use gear). I then used sleeves for my opener of 275. That went well. Then I switched to wraps for my second attempt.

      The main difficulty of switching from sleeves to wraps is I have to take off my squat boots, so that I can take off the sleeves, then putt the boots back on. That takes a couple of minutes and is a bit difficult, as I have to loosen the laces to get the boots off and on, then tighten them again.

      I was going to use sleeves for my first two attempts then wraps for only my third attempts. But that would have me doing all of this boots stuff right before my hardest lift of the day. By changing between my first and second attempts, I can get it done before a not full max lift, then rest as normal for the final lift.

      However, I had only done one workout beforehand where I used sleeves then wraps, and that was not in this precise manner. That left me a bit unsure on what to do for my second attempt, as the most I had done in training with wraps was 315. But based on my peaking workout and assuming wraps would add at least 20 pounds, I went up to 310.  I used my APT wraps, since again, they are a bit easier to use.

      That set went well, thought it felt quite heavy. That is why I only went up by ten pounds for my third attempt. I also switched to my 3.0-meter Crains. With those, the third attempt felt very good, about the same level of difficulty as the second attempt.

      It was then I decided to go ahead and try a fourth attempt, as there were three goals I could hit if I got the lift. The first as my all-time raw master American and world record stood at 325, from a lift I did two years ago, the last time I used wraps at a contest. I thought of trying to break it on my second attempt. That is the reason for the 326.1 under “Planned” attempts with wraps. Note that, for this all-time record, 114s and 123s are lumped together. That means I did not need to cut to 114s to break it. But I did for my next two goals.

      But first, according to the RPS rulebook, an all-time world record can be broken by as little as 1.1 pounds, while an RPS record can only be broken by as little as 2.5 pounds. There were “chips” (very small green plates) at the contest just for these purposes.

      I had talked to Ame beforehand to verify that I could utilize these chip plates if need be. Given the difficulties I have had in training, I figured the best route would be take full advantage of the rules and to hit my goals by breaking the records by as little as possible.

      However, my second goal was to break the RPS open squat record at 114s. It stood at 330. Normally, I would have had to go to 332.5 to break it. But since the lift would also be an all-time record, Ame said I could do 331.1 for both.

      Note that this was the only open division record I had a chance to break, but I paid the crossover fee of $35 just so I could have a shot to break it. In the masters (55-59) division, there were no records, so, as long as I did not bomb out, all of my lifts would be RPS masters records. That’s quite meaningless; that is why I wanted the open record, to break a meaningful RPS record

      Then there is my third goal, and this was the most important, but a bit complicated. I am currently listed #19 on the Soong’s Top 20 All-time raw open ranking list for 114s for Squats with a lift of 330.5 pounds done back in 2008. I am actually in a three-way tie with two other lifters with a 330.5 squat, but they are listed as #17 and 18 since their lifts were done before mine. I have been wanting to up my lift and break that tie, so as to move up to #17.

      This is very important to me, as being listed at #19 for 114s meant it might not be too long before I got pushed off of the Top 20 list. But moving up to #17 would give me some breathing room, so that I might stay on the list for a while longer. It was mainly to break this tie and move up on this ranking list that I decided to stay at 114s for this contest. The other two were bonuses.

      That is the complicated background and why I took a fourth attempt on squats for the first time ever. I got really psyched up, took the weight off of the racks and began my descent. As I did, I thought, “I got this!” I hit bottom, came up slowly, very slowly, but steadily with not stopping to lockout. Three whites!

      And with that, I hit all of the preceding goals. I know it is only 0.6 pounds in a couple of cases, but that did the trick.

      But let me say, if I had been more familiar with my “Sleeves them Wraps” plan, I would not have had to have taken a fourth attempt. I probably would have gone: Sleeves: 275, Wraps: 315, 331.1. But that is why I will use this Sleeves them Wraps plan in training, so I will be better prepared next time.




Gear: Crain: power belt, APT wrist wraps, singlet.

Warm-ups: 50/15, 70/9, 90/7, 110/5, Gear: 125/3, 140/1



Planned: 150, 160, 170

Actual: 150, 160, 170 (miss)


      Taking the fourth attempt on squats meant I had less time to prepare for benches. That is why fourth attempts on squats and benches are generally not wise, as they leave you with less time to prepare for the next lift. But there was to be a break between squats and benches, so I figured I’d be okay.

      Warmups and my first attempt on benches were uneventful. But my second attempt was very difficult. I thought of only going up to 165 for my third attempt, but just going up by five pounds didn’t seem worth it, so I stuck with my original plan and called for 170.

      I got it up about halfway but then stalled. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I thought for sure I’d get it moving again, but just could not. I fought through two such benches in previous contests, but it just was not happening this time.

      Maybe if I had not been tired out by the fourth squat attempt, I would have gotten it. But no matter, as benches held little importance for this contest, other than its contribution to my total. If I was going to miss a lift, it was best it was a bench attempt.




Gear: Crain power belt, singlet; Uxcell knee sleeves; Sheik wrist wraps.

Warm-ups: --/15, 45/9, 135/7, 185/5, 235/4, Gear: 285/3, 335/1



Planned: 365, 385, 405

Actual: 365, 385, 401.1


      I pulled 400 for the all-time raw masters record at my contest a year ago. I was hoping to up that record at my contest in March of this year. But due to problems in the days leading up to that contest, I felt terrible. As a result, I only tried 400 again but missed it due to losing my grip. Since then, I have been working on my grip.

      With that background, my warm-ups and opener were again uneventful, but also again, my second attempt felt really hard. But I still wanted to try to better that 400 pull. I initially told the scorer 405, but as I thought about, it, I figured I might as well use the same approach as on squats and just go to 401.1.

      I got really psyched up for the lift, so much so that as I grabbed the bar, I just knew I would get it. It was hard coming off of the floor, but once it did, it was a slow but steady climb to lockout.

      The head judge then made me hold it extra long before giving me the “Down” command, probably because of it being an all-time record. But I held it with not problems. I guess the grip work I’ve been doing worked.

      In any case, after I set the weight down, I got really excited and did a lot of fist pumping. It was a very good lift. But in retrospective, I could have gotten the 405. But as it was, increasing my record by just 1.1 pounds is not much, but it will keep someone else from doing what I did, using chips to break my 400 record.



Total and Attempts Ratio


      I totaled 881. That’s 14 pounds less than my best this decade. But that total does not include my fourth squat attempt, as fourth attempts do not count toward the total. That is another problem with them, along with tiring you out and taking time away from preparing for the next lift. But if I had taken that lift on my third attempt, as I would have done if I was more familiar with my Sleeves then Wraps plan, then my total would have been 892.

      Then, if I had not missed my third bench attempt (which again, might have been due to that fourth attempt), I would have totaled 902. That would have been significant for the obvious reasons of breaking the 900 millstone.

      But as it was, the total was not my main concern for this contest. My squat and deadlift were, and I accomplished what I wanted on them. As such, I am very happy with my performance.

      I went 9/10. I missed just one attempt for the third time this decade. I have now missed my third attempt once on each lift, meaning once on squats, once on benches, and once on deadlifts. But all three times, I got all of my other attempts. I went 9/9 in the rest of my contests this decade. That means, out of eight contests, I’ve gone 8/9 twice, 9/10 once, and 9/9 five times, for a total of going 70/73 at 114s this decade. Not bad.


Best Lifter


      Going in, I knew it would be a small contest, with just 24 lifters, but that included bench only, deadlift only, and ironman (bench + deadlift) contestants. As it turned out, there were 18 full power lifters.

      With that small of a contest, I thought I might have shot at Best Lifter, depending on if they lumped raw and equipped lifters together or had separate Best Lifter trophies for each. That was another reason I cut to 114s, as I knew it would give me a better coefficient.

      As it turned out, there were three Best Lifter trophies: one for women, one for lightweight men (up to 198s), and one for heavyweight men (over 198s). I won the Best Lifter for lightweights. This is the fourth time I have won a Best Lifter trophy. All have been at small contests, but I’ll take it. This time, five other lifters besides myself would have been considered “lightweight.”

      On an interesting point, the woman that won Best Female Lifter only took second in her weight class. But since she weighed in well below the limit, her coefficient was better than the woman who beat her in the weight class.

      That shows how much of a different a few pounds in bodyweight can make when considering Best Lifter and why my cutting to 114s helped me win Best Lifter. If I had gone 123s, I might not have won it. I say that, as I doubt I would have totaled any more if I had gone 123s, unless it would have been the ten pounds from my missed third bench attempt.




      As indicated, the venue was Legends of Pittsburgh Fitness and Performance Center in Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Tarentum PA. This mall is only about 15 minutes from my home and about 15 minutes from Pittsburgh. I’ve been in the mall many times, but I had never been in this gym before, so I checked the gym out a few weeks before the contest, right after I had sent in my entry for the contest.

      It is a very large and well-equipped gym, including two soccer fields. I assumed the meet would be held on one of the soccer fields, but instead, it was crammed in at the back of gym. Both the warmup room and the contest site were very cramped.

      But worst was the lone bathroom was way at the other side of the gym. I am glad I was not lifting equipped, as it would have been a real pain to have had to walk all that way to change in and out of my squat and deadlift suits. But my equipped days are long behind me, and potential problems like this one are one reason why.

      But what was a problem was just as deadlifts were starting, I had to pee. But I did not have time and I did not want to tire myself out making the long trek to and back from the bathroom, so I had to hold it throughout deadlifts. If the bathroom had been nearby, I could have dashed in and out between attempts. But as it was, having to hold it was not an ideal way to pull a 1RM deadlift!

      The point is, this could have been a good venue if they had used the larger available areas and which were much closer to the lone bathroom. But as it was, it was less than ideal.

      But that was overridden by the first point, that the contest site was just 15 minutes from my home. This was the first time this decade I did not have a long drive and hotel stay for a contest. That saved me a lot of money, time, and energy and enabled me to make it through this contest much easier than previous ones, despite some health problems heading into it.


The Contest Itself


      The contest itself was very well run. It started right on time at 9:30 am, and we were finished and out of there by 2:00 pm. It was a well-paced meet, not too slow but not too fast either.

      Ame Rychlak has been doing contests with her husband Gene for many years. In fact, she mentioned as she announced me winning Best Lightweight Lifter that we had met at her first contest as meet director. That was back in 2007 at a contest held about an hour from my home. Her then-fiancÚ Gene was to be the meet director for that contest, but he was in the hospital at the time, so Ame took over for him.

      Then this summer, Gene passed away in a hotel room, just as they were preparing for a contest. For those who don’t know, Gene Rychlak was the first person to bench a grand. I believe he topped out with a 1,100-pound bench! But he also always had heart problems, and that caught up to him this summer.

      The RPS was Gene’s brainchild. But after his passing, Ame took the reins and vowed not to cancel any contests. I am very thankful she did so, as I was very glad this contest went on as planned. And kudos to her for handling things despite I am sure her ongoing grief.

      I would also like to thank Beth. She announced alongside Ame at the contest and conducted the weigh-ins the day before. They were scheduled for 9:30-10:30 am, 3-3:30 pm, 5-6 pm on Friday. But Beth said she was going to stay around the meet site the whole day. I was glad for that when I didn’t make weight on my second try. That was at 10:30 am. If I had to wait until 3:00 pm to try again, that would have really messed up my plans for eating and rehydrating. But with her sticking around, I made weight by 12:30 pm. That two and half hours made a big difference.


Before and After the Contest


      As indicated, I had a health setback the week before the contest which messed up my final squat workout. I continued to have problems throughout the week, getting very little sleep. But thank God, I finally got a half-decent night’s sleep the night before the contest. As a result, I felt much better for this contest than for my previous two contests. That helped not only my performance but also my enjoyment of the contest.

      It also helped that the start time for the contest was pushed back from 8:30 to 9:30 am. I was a bit leery about that 8:30 am start time, as I am very stiff in the mornings due to one of my health situations, and that can make it difficult to hit depth on squats. That extra hour gave make time to loosen up. It was also vital in me feeling as good as I did for the contest, as that extra hour of sleep really helped.

      Then after the contest, I did not have near as much to do as I usually do with no hotel stay and travel time. Then after I get home, I usually have lots of wash to do over several days, with having to wash everything I had with me at the contest and in the hotel. But with only having to wash contest stuff, I should it all done in one day.

      My plans are to resume training a week after the contest, on Sunday October 6, 2019. The training plan I used up to this contest worked well, after some changes I made along the way to it. I will be using a modification of it that I will post about later.


Future Plans and Conclusion


      I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me the strength to make it through this contest and for it going so well. I would also like to thank not just Ame and Beth but all who had a hand in putting on the contest. Thank you for the very well-run meet.

      My dad was at the contest and took the pics of me seen on the pics page. Thanks to him for coming, helping me with my gear, and for taking the pics.

      Assuming all of my records and placement on the ranking list go through as discussed, it is a good chance I will move up to 123s for my next contest. What I accomplished at this meet fulfilled my goals for 114s. With those behind me, I can set new goals for 123s.

      To reiterate, the all-time raw masters records that have been my primary focus since I started competing again this decade are for 114s and 123s combined. That means, I have been handicapping myself in regard to them by cutting to 114s. It also means, I hope I can push up those records by moving up to 123s.

      There are two master age classes for these records, the 50-59 division I am now in, then 60+. I am 58 years old right now. I’m not planning on entering another contest this year. But my very tentative plan is to enter two contests next year (2020), one in the spring then another in the fall. By my next contest after that, in 2021, I probably will have turned 60 (what a thought!).

      That means, God-willing, I will have two contests to improve on my records in the 50-59 division before moving up to the 60+ division. Here’s trusting the LORD that I can continue to train and improve for that time period and beyond.

      For pictures from the contest, see RPS 5th Set Black – 2019 – Pictures.

      See also the following newly updated pages:

    Summary of Powerlifting Contests, USA Rankings, and Records

     My Powerlifting Accomplishments.

    The full meet results are posted on the RPS’s website at: 2019 RPS – 5th Set Black 2 Redux.


For my initial workouts after this contest, see 2019-20 Tetra-Trinity #1  Powerlifting Training Plan: Rotations I & II of VI.

The above contest report was posted on this site September 30, 2019.

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