My First 100% RAW Powerlifting Meet

May 14, 2012 — 8 Comments

220Kg 484lbs Asian Squat


The well developed, hypertrophied type of glutes that can only be forged under a loaded barbell. This was the first thing I noticed as I stumbled into the gymnasium at around 8:45AM in the morning as the technical meeting was taking place.

It seemed like everybody had them!

Being that this was the first time I had watched and participated in a powerlifting meet, it was a very interesting experience to be surrounded by people who obviously spent time with a heavy barbell across their backs and squatted below parallel on a regular basis. I’m sure many of them have encountered some of the same experiences I've had on my quest to get stronger.

The next thing I noticed was how huge some of the competitors were. I felt like Ray Mysterio Jr. in a line up of WWE Superstars. Or Muggsy Bogues standing among other NBA giants. Or a beardless Gimli standing with other members of the Fellowship of the Ring. You get the idea.

03-RAW powerlifting 2012-05-12

I competed in the 90Kg (198lbs) division at the 100% RAW Powerlifting Ontario Championships held in Toronto on May 12, 2012, and I felt like I was the smallest guy in my weight class. Definitely the shortest. These days, my bodyweight fluctuates around 198-200+lbs, and managed to drop down to 193-194lbs for the weigh in.

Throughout the day I was thinking about competing at a lower weight class 82.5Kg (181.5lbs) for my next meet. Even then, the lifters in that division looked pretty damn big as well.

Weight Cut

I only needed to lose 2lbs for the meet, but I wanted to try out a few different methods that athletes use to cut weight for a weigh in to see how it works for me.

Water Loading And Limiting Sodium Intake

Distilled Water and Mrs Dash

Mrs Dash Extra Spicy is NOT Spicy Enough For Asian Taste Buds.

The first method was ‘water loading’. From what I gather, the idea is to drink a lot of water for a few days, piss a lot, then stop drinking water while your body is still in pissing mode. During this period your body is still in urination mode and you excrete more water causing you to lose weight.

Starting on Sunday, May 6, 2012, I started drinking about 2L of distilled water that I purchased from Shoppers Drug Mart everyday up until Wednesday. The volume of water I was drinking didn’t feel too difficult, because I normally sip from a water bottle throughout the day.

I also cut out as much sodium from my diet as possible, sprinkling Mrs. Dash (sodium free) on just about everything I ate for flavoring.

On Thursday, the first day I stopped drinking so much water, I weighed myself on the scale as was exactly 198lbs. It seemed to have worked.

But after eating and sipping on a little bit of water, I went back up to 200lbs. So either I did something wrong, or water loading doesn’t work well for me.

Hot Sweaty Bath (No Pictures)

The next strategy was to sweat out the water from my body to make weight. I have an uncanny ability to sweat profusely so I’m pretty sure this would work.

I’ve read of a few methods to sweat out the weight, ranging from wearing a garbage bag, sauna suit, sitting in a sauna and taking a hot Epsom salt bath.

I went for the bath route simply because it seemed like the most effective and efficient way to sweat without expending energy. I didn't have any Epsom salt so I just bathed in hot water.

On Friday, the day of the weigh in, I filled the bathtub at my hotel with uncomfortable and barely tolerable hot water, and sat in the tub for 10 minutes. At first I couldn’t tell if I was sweating, but after coming out of the tub and wiping myself dry, I could feel the sweat dripping down my forehead, back and chest. I repeated this for a total of 3 times (so 30 minutes in the bath) and went to the weigh in.

The weigh in location was at another hotel. At the hotel, I had to submit the weight for my openers and then weigh in.

I forget the exact number, but I weighed in at 87-88Kg (about 193lbs) putting me well under the 90Kg/198lbs limit.

After weighing in, I put my clothes back on, drank some juice, water and some whey protein + creatine + oatmeal “shake” that doesn’t mix very well and ends up leaving a residue looking like puke.

The Night Before

I went to bed around 11PM, hoping to get a restful night’s sleep before the meet the next day.

This did NOT happen.

I have obstructive sleep apnea which is “characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep, despite the effort to breathe, and is usually associated with a reduction in blood oxygen saturation” leading to “daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance”.

I usually use a CPAP machine (which prevents me from snoring and allows me to breath smoothly at night) when I sleep, but I did not bring it with me to the hotel.

Big mistake.

I kept on waking myself up because I started to hear and feel myself snoring. This went on all night.

The other thing that kept me up was the noise outside my hotel. The Courtyard Marriot hotel is located right on Yonge Street in Toronto, which I learned is a busy and noisy street, even at night. All night the sound of sirens, car engines and my own snoring kept me awake. I’m not sure how much sleep I actually got, but it was probably a few hours at best.

I “woke up” around 4AM and felt like a spandex-wearing zombie all day during the meet.


01-RAW powerlifting 2012-05-12

I’m generally pretty dazed and confused when I’m in large groups, and the sleep deprivation wasn’t helping.

I arrived at the meet while the technical meeting was taking place where Benjamin Butty (67.5Kg lifter and one half of the Barbarian brothers) was demonstrating the lifts.

My flight did not start lifting until the afternoon, so I spent a lot of time sleeping with my eyes open sitting and waiting, wondering if I needed to arrive here this early in the morning!

Throughout the day I met a few people at the powerlifting meet who I only communicated online through Facebook, Twitter or Fitocracy.

Peter Ciolfitto competed in the 82.5Kg weight class. This was his first powerlifting meet as well. You can read about his experience here.

I also met Craig Hirota who gave me a lot of valuable advice for the past few months. He was helping out at this event, and, if I didn’t know any better, would have thought he was a Japanese pro wrestler because he’s a beast in real life.

I also encountered Sahil Mulla aka FitJerk, who only did the deadlift at the competition. Read his experience leading up to this powerlifting meet here.

At first I couldn't recognize him fully clothes or wearing a singlet, but after his deadlift I suspected it was him. And contrary to his name, he’s a pretty nice guy!

Here he is helping me warm up my right pec:

04-RAW powerlifting 2012-05-12

I regret not talking with more people or having longer conversations, but this sleep deprived state had me feeling pretty screwed up the whole day.

Anyways, onto the lifts!

Warm Up Area

Warming Up

Warming Up in my 2XL Titan Singlet

The warmup area was along the side of the gymnasium. There were 2 platforms. One platform had a nice looking bar, nice squat stands and nice looking plates. Problem was that everything was in Kilograms. I'm used to using weight plates in pounds, so I decided to warm up at the other weightlifting platform. This area had the familiar steel Olympic plates, and a bar with the most aggressive knurling I've ever felt in my life! It could probably be used to file wood or exfoliate the calluses off my hands. No complaints though, I actually liked the feel of the sharp knurling.


I initially had hopes I could get a 1300+ total, but alas the stars did not align that day. I only managed a 542.5Kg/1193.5lbs total.


Opener: 182.5Kg (401.5lbs)

Pretty easy. I read somewhere you should open with a weight that you can do for 3 reps on any given day. I was planning on opening with 200Kg (440lbs), but being that this is my first meet, struggling with some low back pain and not wanting to screw up my first lift, I played it safe.

From the video, you can see my facial expression doesn’t change much.

2nd Attempt: 200Kg (440lbs)

A little more challenging.

3rd Attempt: 220Kg (484lbs)

Weeks earlier I wanted to squat 227.5Kg (500.5lbs). My previous PR was 477.5lbs. As the meet came closer, a 500+lbs squat (23lbs heavier than my personal best) seemed a little too much, so I opted for a doable 484lbs, which is only 6.5lbs above my personal best.

It was a bit of a fight coming out from the bottom, making the squat feel like a good morning. I had to use my lumbar powers and flex my face muscles to squat the barbell up.

Thank you mysterious stranger(s) for yelling at me and cheering me on!

Bench Press

Opener: 140Kg (308lbs)

So, this is where I should have paid attention at the 8:45AM technical meeting.

Anyways, for some reason, I was expecting the command “Start” from the referee before lowering the bar to my chest.

So for my first attempt, I unracked the bar and WAITED for someone to tell me to start. After about 2-3 seconds of holding the bar, I heard someone say “whenever you’re ready” so I lowered the bar.

Turns out holding the bar sapped my strength. Yeah I missed that first bench. Dammit.

2nd Attempt: 140Kg (308lbs)

Got it the second time around. Felt more difficult than I expected however.

3rd Attempt: 145Kg (319lbs)

Missed the last one at 145Kg. I had a pretty good feeling I would not make this weight.


Opener: 182.5Kg (401.5lbs)

I had to leave early because I had to be on a Greyhound bus bound for Kitchener at 7PM.

At this point it was already past 5PM, and I would need to change, wait for a bus to the subway station, and take a subway to the Greyhound bus terminal.

I wanted to make sure that I did not miss my opener, so I lowered it from 210Kg (462lbs) to something I normally warm up with.

On top of that, my lower back hasn't been feeling great for the past few weeks. It felt fine during and after squat, but after a few warmup sets of deadlifts I could feel my lower back start to ache.

Anyways, to make sure I did not miss my bus home, I passed on the 2nd and 3rd attempts at the deadlift.

A Few Things I Learned

  • My rack height is 11 for the squat, and 12 for the bench press (they didn’t have my rack height at first, so they initially set it at some higher number. I remember one of the spotters gradually lowering the height of the rack during my attempts)
  • Listen during the technical meeting!
  • Those Eleiko plates are deceptively heavy. They look to be almost half as thin as my York Olympic plates, but weigh much more.

For My Next Meet

  • Better preparation
  • Bring more food
  • Bring ear plugs and my CPAP machine
  • Bring a scale to weigh myself at the hotel
  • Take more pictures
  • Lose body fat and get leaner
  • Repair my lower back and bring up my deadlift numbers
  • Know my warmup numbers in kilograms
  • Plan to leave the next day, rather than the night of the meet

For those of you thinking about competing...get out of your comfort zone and do something epic. At the very least, you'll gain some real life experience points.

Big thanks to Barry McEvoy for organizing this event, and all the volunteers who helped make this happen.

Looking forward to suiting up and lifting on the platform again.

John Phung

Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

Ever since I started taking strength training seriously, I was bitten by the Iron Bug. Then it burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and I... the feeling is indescribable.

Quick Stats
Height: 5'4" on non-squat days
Weight: 200 lb 210 lb ~220 lb (FOREVER BULK BRAH)


  • Texas Method: March 4, 2011 - April 28, 2013
  • Smolov Jr for Bench Press: June 4 - 22, 2012
  • Starting Strength: Nov 29, 2010 - March 4, 2011