Category Archives: real life

This is my last post on this site…….I’ve moved!

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Thanks for following.

Joe “Ironman” Norman



2012 APF Single-Ply Nationals

Yesterday’s meet day started out like every other meet day. I got to the meet early, set my stuff down, got my rack height and went back to the warm-up area and rested. I was in the second flight so I was able to get a good 45+ minutes rest before I needed to get warmed up.

I planned on opening with 959 lbs. so I planned my warm-ups as follows:

Bar x 5
Bar x 5
145 lbs. x 3
145 lbs. x 3
235 lbs. x 3
465 lbs. x 1 – Start briefs
665 lbs. x 1
845 lbs. x 1 – Start suit

Everything was going well, until the last warm-up. On the way up the injury I suffered a few weeks ago in my right arm reoccurred. I felt something pop in my elbow join with shooting pain going down my forearm and up my bicep. Pissed off and discouraged, I was going to drop my opener, but my handlers convinced me that I should stick to my plan, deal with the pain and stay with the opener. I agreed and figured that we could re-access the situation after I opened. Here’s the video of my opener. I don’t have any more videos because I told my wife to forget about filming, that it was going to be a bad day.

As you can see by the video, I had absolutely no speed out of the hole that I usually have. I was so worried about my arm that I couldn’t concentrate on squatting. My plan for the competition was to open with 959 lbs. then go straight to 1,060 lbs. to try and get the all-time highest single-ply squat. After that opener, my handlers and I decided that it was best to take more of a conservative jump, so I went to 1,019 lbs. On my second attempt, I set up with the bar a little higher on my back to try and help the arm out a little, but as I descended, my arm just couldn’t keep the weight in place and it dropped a little on my right side. This caused it to shift and threw me off balance a little. I tried to compensate but when 1,000+ lbs. starts to move one way, 255 lbs. of muscle and bone just isn’t going to stop it, so I shook my head for the spotters to grab it. I passed on my third attempt.

959 lbs. – Good
1,019 lbs. – Miss

At this time, I was ready to throw in the towel. I was pissed off and my arm was hurting.  As I sat there with a frozen bottle of water on my arm, we had to come up with a new plan for the rest of the competition. My plan was to take a token bench and deadlift and call it a day, but my handlers had much more in mind. They knew how much I trained for the meet and that even with the injury I could possibly put a nice total together.

The plan we came up with for the bench was this. Ice the arm as long as I could before the bench started. Warm-up raw and find a relatively easy raw opener, then put on one of my larger shirts so it would not be so hard to touch and see what weight I could push up within the pain limits of the arm.

The Bench went like this:

Bar x 5
Bar x 5
135 lbs. x 3
225 lbs. x 1
315 lbs. x 1
405 lbs. x 1 – Start shirt
455 lbs. x 1
495 lbs. x 1

315 lbs. – Good (Raw)
551 lbs. – Good
600.7 lbs. – Good

On my last warm-up I was able to bring the bar within a one board to my chest so we decided that another 50 lbs. would make it touch, that’s why we went to 551 on the second attempt. The opener went easily. On my second attempt I was able to touch pretty well and push it up pretty hard. I left my belt unbuckled so the shirt could ride up and make it easy to touch. The only issue I had was at the lockout. When I bench, I get a good blast off my chest making my press more of a “throw up and catch” style. The bar comes up fast and I have to kind-of catch it at the top when it gets to lockout. This causes the bar to drop down hard on the arms at lockout.  I felt another pop in my arm again as I caught the weight and it took everything to not let the arm drop. It may have actually dropped a little but it wasn’t enough for the judges to red light me. At that time I was ready to pass my third, but my handler again said it looked like I had another 50 lbs. or so left in that arm so he convinced me to keep going. For my third attempt I decided that I needed to slow the weight down and not pop so hard of my chest, horse it up in a way, so I wouldn’t have the lockout hit. We readjusted the shirt and rolled the sleeves up as high as we could to get the sleeve pressure off the elbow joint. I also buckled my belt this time to keep the shirt from riding up. This time it took longer to touch but I was able to push it up slower and locked out slower. My lockout wasn’t the prettiest thing but I was able to get two white lights.

My plans for the deadlift were to open with 622.7 lbs. then try and push it over 700+ lbs. With the arm we had to change those plans as well. My handlers and I figured we would let me warm-up and see what the arm could take, then figure out an easy opener. We also decided that I needed to switch my grip. I normally deadlift with my right hand under and left hand over the bar; if I were to try and pull with the injured arm under, it would have hurt it even more.

Here’s how the deadlift went.

225 lbs. x 1
225 lbs. x 1
315 lbs. x 1
425 lbs. x 1
515 lbs. x 1
565 lbs. x 1

600.7 lbs. – Good (Lowered form 622.7)
650.2 lbs. – Good
705.2 lbs. – Missed

The overhand grip with the injured arm didn’t affect the deadlift very much at all. I was able to hold the bar without pain. The only issue I was having was switching my grip. When you train and compete for thirteen years one way and in switch something, it is just awkward to say the least. The first two attempts came up pretty easily but on the last attempt I floated the weight out in front of me and just couldn’t get it back in position.

Despite all the madness of the day, I ended up with a 2,209.9 total, my third highest personal total in single-ply gear, so I can’t complain. Also, going in to this meet I was under the belief that there was a $500 cash prize for winning your weight class. To my surprise, they did not give out money for winning your weight class, only the best lifters in the raw and single-ply division got cash prizes, $1,000 for each. My total was enough to win my class and take best lifter in the single-ply division. So I got to come home with $1,000 in my pocket. I owe it all my handlers for keeping me from quitting, for pushing me throughout the day and for coming up with back-up plans for the bench and deadlift.

I guess if there is any moral to this story it would be:  Don’t give up, don’t quit! You will be surprised what you are capable of when you fight through adversity and misfortune.

I spent 13 weeks training for this meet, got injured two week before it, re-injured on warm-ups, but with the help of my friends I was able to make a bad day into a good day. I may have not hit the goals I set out for but the day turned out well considering the situation.

P.S. I bought everone dinner for helpign me so much.



Comments and questions are always welcome.

Competition Training Oversights

It’s less than a week to go before competition. All the heavy lifting is complete but training for the meet is far from over. There are still two important aspects of competition training that often get overlooked and are just as important as actually lifting weights. Those are Rest and Inspiration.

Most lifters, including myself, get so caught up in training, that they forget they have been beating their bodies up for weeks. The natural momentum leading into a meet gets you all pumped and excited that you just want to keep it going.  Most people also get it in their heads that they will lose all the gains they made if they stop to rest.  This is just not true. In fact, you will probably make some last minute gains, if you do stop and rest the week before the competition. An old training partner used to tell me. “The work is done. You aren’t going to get any stronger in one week, so rest.”

Inspiration can come in many forms. Music, movies, photos…. The week before a competition, I like to watch certain movies that get me pumped for the meet; Rocky (1976) and Rocky Balboa (2006), to name a few. I also like to watch my own training and competition videos. Watching myself hit some personal record lifts, not only get me in the proper state of mind for the meet but boost my confidence and ensures me that I can go to the meet and accomplish any goal I set for myself.

Get your rest and find your inspiration the week leading into competition. When meet day comes, you will find yourself physically and mental ready to accomplish anything.




Comments and questions are always welcome.

What’s Your Perspective

I will be posting last night’s training log and videos later tonight, but I thought I would share this quick story.

Last night was my last heavy squat day before my up-coming meet. As I was getting ready for my second to last heavy set, one of my lifting partner’s children came out to the gym.

Looking at the bar, she said “Why’s the bar bending so much?”

My partner turned to her and said, “Honey, there’s a lot of weight on there.”

I didn’t think much of this until I was driving to work this morning. It’s a funny thing being a competitive powerlifter. We sometime forget that our perspective or what may seem perfectly normal to us, like a bar bending under a half ton of weight, is in fact not normal at all. And even beyond that, we get under the bar to squat it.



Comments and questions are always welcome.

Q & A: Squatting Questions…

Yesterday I received an email from fellow master lifter, Steve Peterson. Steve is based out of West Richland, Washington and is currently getting ready for the APF Master Nationals, being held at the end of May in Baton Rouge, LA. Steve is currently ranked 4th in the squat, 6th in the deadlift and 9th for total on’s Master Men’s rankings. He has a 925 lbs. squat and is looking to break that 1,000 lb. barrier in May. I was glad to help him with some advice, the email chain is below.

I need to pick your brain. Are you only squatting once a week? No speed day?
I am 8.5 weeks out from Masters Nationals. Got a good template you could throw out for me to bump me over 1000?
I did a 925 my last meet in Oct. Then I had my prostate removed due to cancer. They got it all.
My template has been Monday: Speed Bench, Tricep work. Tuesday: lower back and upper back work. Thursday: Max effort bench, tricep work.
Saturdays: Max effort squat, Have SSB, Cambered bar, Texas Squat bar. Rotating all.
Can’t wait to get your book. I want a signed one brother!
Thank you,

My Reply:


First, I’m sorry to hear about the cancer and I glad to hear everything is going well now.

As for your questions, I always squat twice a Week, unless I deadlift on the heavy (max) day. I don’t like to miss light (speed) days at all. Those are the days to get the soreness out. I like to have at least three days between the heavy and light day. If I squat on Monday, I do speed on Thursday. From what you stated, it looks like you already split your week up appropriately; just add the speed squats on Tuesday and take the back exercises a little lighter.

Now, leading into a meet, save most of the effort on the max days. As the max day workouts get harder and the weights get heavier, lower the weights on the speed days. Normally, on a speed day you would do squats for 10 sets of doubles with 40-50% of your max weight. Drop the percentage down to about 20-30%. Use these days to recover and work on form.

As for a meet program, I usually start 12 – 13 Weeks out.  This is my current program going into the APF Single-Ply Nationals.

Week 1:  Safety Bar – Raw
Week 2: Box Deadlifts – Raw
Week 3: Band Assisted Squats – Raw
Week 4: Chain Squats – Raw
Week 5: Deadlifts – Suited
Week 6: Squat – Briefs Only
Week 7: Safety Bar Squat – Briefs Only
Week 8: Chain Squats – Suited
Week 9: Deadlifts – Suited
Week 10: Band Assisted – Suited to 115-120% of max at the top
Week 11: Squat – Suited to 90-95% of Goal
Week 12: Squat – 3 sets 5 reps with warm-up weight
Week 13: Meet Day!

As you can see, I like to start off a meet program doing the exercises raw. This gives me a good gauge of where I am strength wise. As the weeks progress, I will start with the briefs, so I can start getting my body used to handling the heavier weights. By the time I’m five weeks out, I start with the suit, again allowing me to go heavier and get even more accustomed to the heavy weights.

If you have chains and bands then try to incorporate chain squats and band assisted squats when you are about 5 weeks out. Either one of these exercises allows you to overload the top-end weight.

You want the top-end weight to be around 15 – 20% over your max. Now this may sound crazy, but if you use a lot of chain weight on the chain squats or a lot of bands on the band assisted squats, then it’s not so bad.

Let’s say you use 300 lbs. of chain weight, with your max of 925 lbs. you would need to go up to 1,060 lbs. at the top (15% over max). In the hole the weight will only be 1,060 – 300 = 760 lbs. (around 80% of your max). Now add another 60 lbs. of chains. Still at the top the weight is 1,060 lbs.  Taking away 360 lbs. leaves 700 lbs. (76 % of max).  This will do two things. First it will get you used to un-racking weight much heavier than your 1,000 lb. goal.  Second, you will be able to work on blasting the weight up out of the hole. The same theory applies to the band assisted squats. You will want to do these exercises fully suited so you get used to the heavy weight in your gear.

As for the rest of the program, two weeks out is for working out the kinks in the gear and to push yourself to a heavy weight that’s close to your goal. One week out if for rest, take it light and do some reps. Just enough to get the blood flowing but not enough to feel sore.

As for light days, as I said earlier, the heavier you go on the max days, the lighter you go on the light days. I only use 235 lbs. for my speed sets when I’m in the middle of a meet program, sometimes only 195 lbs.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, let me know.

Good luck and keep me informed.




Crossing Over from Single-Ply to Multi-Ply Gear.

Recently I had a conversation with Chris Pappillion, a well-known lifter out of Texas. Chris currently competes in both the United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) and the United States Powerlifting Federation (USPF) in the single-ply gear. Right now he is ranked 3rd in the 242 lb. weight class on’s lifter rankings. He has decided to give it a try in multi-ply gear and compete in the upcoming Southern Powerlifting Federation (SPF) Longhorn Classic Powerlifting and Bench Press Championship being held in Texas next month. New to multi-ply gear, Chris asked me for some advice on how to make the transition from single-ply to the multi-ply gear.

Our conversation went as follows:

Chris: Man what’s the best way to cross over from single to multi-ply on squat?

Me:  Start with the suit first. Use your single-ply briefs under the multi-ply suit. Once you feel comfortable with that combination, train in the multi-ply briefs alone for a while to get used to them.  Next, put them both together. You will also need to brief and suit up early in your work outs. At 315 lbs., put on the briefs. At 500 lbs., put on the suit over the briefs. Always pull straps even if you can’t get down, this way you can get used to the gear with weight that is easy to handle.

You will also be forced to hold the bar higher on your back with the ticker material, so put the mono-lift up a little higher than your normal rack height. This way you can get set up properly under the bar.

The biggest thing with multi-ply gear is that you need to stay upright throughout the lift as much as possible, from start to finish. If you aren’t upright, the gear will try and keep you locked in the wrong position and it will be hard to get back into the position during the lift. It’s not as forgiving as single-ply gear.

Chris: So you think I should use a multi-suit no briefs to get used to it first?

Me:  You can do that or use the multi-ply briefs alone first. Either way, use one or the other, not both, until you get used to them, then put them together.

What suit and briefs are you using?

Chris: Titan Boss suit and Titan Boss briefs! I hit 900 lbs. in the suit alone no straps but when I put the briefs on, 900 lbs. is 3 inches high and at this meet we have to break or bomb!

Me: Do you have single-ply briefs?

Chris: Yes!

Me:  What kind? Titan?

Chris: Yes! Should I do legless or regular?

Me:  Try the regular; the longer leg will let the suit slide up on top of them better and get settled in more on your body.

Chris: I’ll try it Friday. Joe thanks!

Me:  On the Boss suit you can get away with leaving the straps a little loose. Try it with the straps almost falling off your shoulders, then as the weight gets heavier, tighten them up accordingly.

Chris: What happens when I jack them? Man when I was going down with all that gear it messed my form up bad!! I got to get this multi-ply gear down, cause I already said I was going to do it! I want a 2,500 lb. total. I got the bench and dead just need the 1,000 lb. squat.

Me:  The most IMPORTANT thing to remember is to stay in form, if you don’t get down, don’t worry. Do not break form, just keep going up in weight until you can reach parallel.

Chris: K I got you man! Let me know when that book comes out I want one! You need to get dealers to sale it for you that shit will go Joe! You got enough credit to do it!!

K thanks

Me:  Good luck and keep me up to date on your progress.

When crossing over from single-ply to multi-ply gear or even the other way around; it is always a good idea to gear up early in your workouts. This way you can adjust your form with lighter weight. One last thing, remember the golden rule “DO NOT COMPROMISE YOUR FORM!” no matter what. To lift the big numbers you will need perfect form, so stay in form, break in the gear and squat.


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New To Chain Squats?

Last November, I had the pleasure to speak with Ann Leverett and her husband Earl. I was competing at the United States Powerlifting Federation’s (USPF) Southeastern Cup held in Adel Ga. For those of you who don’t know Ann, she has been competing for years, holds numerous records in multiple federations, and is one of the most top master woman lifters today.

At the meet Ann and Earl had asked me what I though about chain squats to help build up her squat. Not having too much time to get into details, I told them it was a great idea. I am very much a chain squat advocate.

The following week, Earl sent me a message on Facebook to discuss the topic further.

Our conversation went as follows:

Earl: Joe, I need some insight on squatting with chains for Ann. Let’s say her max squat is 300 lbs., what weight would she put on the bar and how much weight in chains? I’m sure we will need to experiment some, but I really don’t even know where to begin.

Me: Have her start out with roughly 120 lbs. of chains and work up to 350 lbs. total weight (230 bar + 120 chains). Start with bar and chains jumping one chain at a time each side until all chain weight is achieved, then add bar weight.

Triples all the way up until they get hard then drop to singles. If 350 lbs. is easy, keep going up. You want to overload at the top as much as possible. Remember the chains need to be hung so that almost all chain weight is off the bar in the hole.

Earl: Thanks! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Me: Another option with the weights is to use more chain weight, maybe 200 lbs. and work up to 200 lbs.  in bar weight. This will make it even more of an overload but still lighter in the hole then her max of 300 lbs. by 100 lbs.

I chose the bar and chain weights for Ann to give her a wide de-load and re-load range. On her top set of 350 lbs., the weight in the hole will be approximately 60% of her current max and at the top of the lift it will be 15% – 20% over her max. With the weight being only 60% in the hole, she can concentrate on blasting the weight up hard and fast. The speed achieved will help her through any sticking-points during the lift. But, what I believe to be the biggest benefit is the top end weight. The weight she will have to un-rack and hold will be more weight than her max, thus conditioning her body to “feel” and handle heavier weight.


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