Client in the spotlight – Where Stanton Strength athletes are featured that have accomplished amazing feats of strength or physical transformation.
I first met Alan during my time at Elite Performance Center. Alan was an unassuming older adult that initially caught my attention when he ripped a 400-pound deadlift from the floor and knocked out 12+ strict pull ups in his mid-sixties. Alan had a wonderful way of telling the driest, absent of facial expression, and sometimes terribly inappropriate jokes. To this day he still catches me off guard and I love that quality about him. Alan and I trained alongside one another on Saturday mornings.
After a period of time we had a conversation about his bench press and how I noticed he was continuing to hit the same numbers over and over without advancement. Each session Alan would work up to a near max, possibly attempt and miss 225, and call it a day for bench. Apparently, this had gone on for almost 2 years. I suggested that he allow me to make some small adjustments to his bench programming and form and that I thought this goal was achievable. After a short time, he nailed his first 225-pound bench press and so began our semi-professional relationship.
I would later work with Alan as an occasional training partner and friend with small form tips and periods of strength programming. Alan would go on to win IPL worlds two times under my programming guidance but mostly under his own direction. This year however, Alan sought me out to be directly involved with his training and to prepare him walk on the stage in his best shape yet. Now 68 years old, it can be a challenge to stem the tides of age and maintain what has already been accomplished. Alan was not satisfied with that and expected more, and therefore, so did I.
We had seventeen weeks to prepare for one of the biggest stages in Powerlifting, IPL World Championships. Alan would compete in the Masters 90kg weight class and he already weighed towards the top or slightly above the weight cutoff. No easy gains from bulking for us. The general nutrition strategy was therefore maintenance with an adequate intake of protein spread evenly throughout the day.
Upon first assessment Alan was very good at displaying his strength but severely lacked training capacity and positional endurance. To address this, we began with 4 weeks of accumulation (high volume, low intensity), a recovery week, then another 3 weeks of accumulation. Accumulation of volume for older adults is always a difficult task due to their diminished capacity to recover. To address this, we focused on positional endurance, or the ability to maintain proper position under load. A movement performed with adequate positional endurance is performed with less variance, consumes less recovery resources, and establishes or reaffirms an effective motor pattern. Positional endurance was improved through light sets of eight and selective use of 2 count paused secondary movements. Sets of 3’s at moderate weight provided the necessary skill practice and accumulation of heavier weights. By utilizing excellent movement, we were able to improve Alan’s training capacity and decrease the recovery demands of each individual set.
With a solid foundation established we moved on to 3 weeks of intensification (moderate load, moderate volume) followed by a week of realization (de-loaded volume, high intensity). Moderate sets of 5 and heavy sets of 2’s were utilized with increasing weights. Paused repetitions continued to be very useful but were performed for with higher loads for less repetitions. It was determined that 3 sets of volume, while adequate for lower body movements, was inadequate for upper body movements. Upper body movements were adjusted up to 4 sets and down to 4 repetitions to maintain the same volume at the same relative intensity. The higher absolute intensity and increased number of hard sets allowed progress to continue. The training block culminated in establishing a 2-rep maximum. As we exited this block a considerable amount of fatigue had been accumulated. Good thing we still had four more weeks to prepare and carefully remove volume and dissipate fatigue.
The final four weeks focused almost entirely on the competition movements with the highest loads performed for minimal sets. Openers were established three weeks out, seconds were attempted and thirds predicted 1 week out. Fatigue was still very present at 1 week out and Alan’s second attempts were performed extremely slowly or had to be adjusted downward in weight to be accomplished. Had we created to much fatigue to recover in time? The final week Alan worked up to a single squat and bench at opening weight, then a single at 60% four days out, and finally a single at 70% two days before competition.
I met Alan in Las Vegas for IPL worlds at the Golden Nugget Hotel. Game day had arrived. Alan made weight without a weight cut and called it in for an early night. Alan was instructed to only consume his normal foods with a focus on carbohydrates in preparation for the event. I met Alan at 8am in the morning to begin warming up squats. From the first few sets it was evident I was working with more rested and determined athlete. Another week of rest was just right, and Alan was prepared for war.
For those that have not experienced the first squat on a big stage, it can be overwhelming. So much training invested, the noise, crowds, and serious atmosphere of the judges can cause some to falter while other rise to occasion. First attempt was set at 130 kg, a weight intended to be far too easy. I called Alan to depth and with ease the first squat was in the books! For the next repetition we adjusted depth about 1” higher. Second attempt of 145 kg, which the previous week Alan had cut high, looked like a warmup. The third attempt of 154 kg would be the Masters 90kg class world record. Alan descended into the hole very uneven but hit depth exactly correct and with a significant struggle took the record. A fourth attempt was called at 155 kg in order to advance the record by a small margin. That lift can be viewed below.
With a very successful squat showing, we headed off to get some food. Alan stuck to familiar foods and made an effort to hydrate. Warming up for bench press demonstrated that Alan remained very prepared. 95 kg was called. In non-dramatic fashion the lift was executed perfectly. Second attempt of 100 kg faltered on the way down to his chest as the wrists extended back. Alan fought it back into position for three white lights! Attempt three was called at 108kg in order to break his own world record. The descent this time was much more controlled and despite a little sticking point about half way through the lift, he made the attempt. A fourth attempt was called at 110kg to further his own record. That video is below.
As the saying goes, the meet doesn’t start until the bar hits the ground. Alan and I made an audible to increase his opening attempt from 165kg to 180kg in order to take the total world record with the first attempt. Alan was a little nervous warming up, but it was obvious to me that this would be no issue. First attempt was setup correctly and locked out to cheers and three white lights. Second attempt Alan did not set his back correctly and allowed the bar to drift from the shins with 190kg on the bar. Through determination and grit he pulled it back in and locked it out. Repetition three, the final lift of the day, we called 195kg. That repetition can be seen below.
When all was said and done, Alan completed 11/11 attempts, achieved personal bests in all three lifts, and achieved three world records for the 90kg master class. Oh… and he won his third world championship title. Celebration of his success was done in Las Vegas style. Alan the 3-time master world champion.
Reflecting on our time together I feel as if we nailed the programming perfect. Given more time and advancement we would probably have had to use escalating intensity sets for volume work instead of working straight across. If we were able to work more often in person I think we could still achieve some more pounds through form adjustments. Alan’s total increased from an estimated 865lbs to an actual 1009lbs. I am very proud of Alan and his hard work and perfect execution. At Stanton Strength we are proud to have such an accomplished team member and friend. One more year at his current master class and then we need to obliterate the 70+ records. We got work to do!
Thank you to Cameron Martinot for the photographs and to the encouraging words of our teammates, family, and friends. Congratulations to the World Slayer, Alan Levine!