Bending Emerging Strategies Rules for Competition Prep - Case Study

By RTS Coach Adam Jones

Case Study - Athlete Clinton Lee
Clinton is an international powerlifter who competes in the u74kg open category for Singapore. Clinton has been competing in Powerlifting for 8 years, competing in three weight classes from u93kg to u83kg and now as an u74kg. Clinton’s accolades include a silver medal overall at the 2018 IPF Open Classic Worlds in the u74kg weight class and he is currently the highest-ranked men's lifter in the Asian Powerlifting Federation (IPF).
Clinton has been working with me for over a year now. Previously his training was mostly block periodization with very high specificity. His blocks were typically 3-4 weeks long, increasing intensity leading into competition and tapering in a typical block periodize fashion.

After transferring to RTS his initial response in his first development block when finding his time to peak (TTP) was very successful, lifting a 5 rep PR in the squat. During the preceding pivot, things went south when Clinton sustained a back injury doing conventional deadlifts. Consequently, we reduced training stress and then rebuilt momentum. Unfortunately, Clinton was then involved in a motorcycle accident where he sustained bad abrasions to his knee(unable to bend) and re-injured his back. This happened two weeks out from his qualifier for the IPF Worlds 22, unfortunately, we had to make the tough decision and pull out from the meet. Luckily A few months later we were given an opportunity to compete in Malaysia at an IPF sanctioned meet to have another attempt to qualify for worlds.

There was no preparation for this meet. We were already two weeks into a development block and starting to gain some momentum. We decided to continue the current block he was in until the meet. The block wasn’t ideal for “Peaking”, but it was what Clinton needed at the time as we were still making progress following his back injury. For context, Clinton’s TTP is 1x Intro + 4x Development Blocks. This block pushed his typical block length an extra week, so we decided to use a taper to extend the block. His microcycle structure is four days a week, his template structure was:

  • Day 1 - Secondary Squat, Secondary Bench, Back Rehab
  • Day 2 - SDE (Special Development Exercise) Bench, Main Deadlift, Back Rehab
  • Day 3 - Main Squat, Main Bench, Back Rehab
  • Day 4 - SDE Bench, Secondary Deadlift, Back Rehab

There were no SDEs for squat and deadlift as they would aggravate his back. His SPE (Special Preparatory Exercises) slots at the end of each training day were for injury-specific rehab work.

The meet was successful with Clinton achieving his qualifying total of 712.5kg total (-17.5 off his best) with a squat PR of 262.5kg.
After the qualifying meet, we went straight into preparation for worlds. We had three months to get ready. We wanted to remain conservative to avoid aggravating his back and we knew he responds well to more specificity. So we kept specificity high with his squat and only trained the competition squat with no SDEs. Bench specificity was also high with the competition exercise trained twice a week and SDE’s staying specific as well which included; extended pauses on the chest, eccentric tempos, and touch and go with no modifications to grip, incline, pins, or ROM. We found deadlifts were taking the longest to feel familiar again as the strength/technique in the start position wasn’t dialed in. We trained the competition exercises for deadlift once a week with one SDE day which targeted the bottom position. The prep went reasonably well for squat and bench, those two lifts gained decent traction. Deadlifts went well for one block but were then inconsistent leading into worlds, mostly due to grip reconditioning.

Clinton was aiming for a podium finish, but unfortunately, he missed bronze due to body weight. Regardless, considering his preparation, his performance was solid:

Squat - 247.5kg, 260kg, 262.5kg (equal PR)
Bench - 165kg, 170kg (equal PR), 172.5kgx
Deadlift - 285kg, 297.5kg (-10kg PR), 305kgx

Total - 730kg (equal PR)

It all came down to the last pull and unfortunately, Clinton tore his hand and lost grip at lockout. If the pull was successful he may have placed second.
Considering the previous 12 months leading into this meet, it was a valiant performance by Clinton. He gave nothing less than his best on the day.
I use a collaborative approach to coaching Clinton. He is an experienced coach himself and has a good understanding of what works for him, this helps when deciding which strategies and protocols to use. Our process utilizes a lot of brainstorming which I personally enjoy. It opens my mind to some “outside the box” thinking which has led to a strategy I developed called “Contrast”. Contrast isn't like a typical ES four-day development block. There are no SDEs for squat and deadlift but there are SPEs. There is more competition benching and it has SDEs and SPEs included. Main working sets are at the end of the week (day 3-4) and secondary work at the start (day 1-2). The starting points for your competition exercises are established in the pivot beforehand by using competition exercises in the pivot.
I wanted to show you an insight into my experience coaching Clinton over the past 12+ months. We used intro blocks, more specificity, and used a lot of the athlete's intuition to prevent injury flare-ups. 

I’ve been utilizing Emerging Strategies for my programming for over four years now, and I have developed my own style of creative problem solving, which has been heavily influenced and evolved by the variety of athletes I’ve coached and other coaches I have acquaintances with.
So, if you're using Emerging Strategies for you and your clients or thinking about implementing them yourself, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and bend some of the rules when you think it is necessary. It’s a system that is evolving and can be implemented in many different situations.