Sport360°’s Alex Rea has teamed up with the guys at Desert Barbell to embark on a six-week powerlifting challenge, working alongside industry experts ahead of his first ever competition. Track his progress each week and see everything from training to technical analysis and see his development from novice lifter to stage competitor.
Earlier this summer I effectively starved myself for two months. During an eight-week physique challenge, my body morphed from your average bodybuilder into a leaned-out stage-ready competitor.
Physically, the tailored nutrition programme – a politer way to say ‘unfed’ – sucked a lot out of me, but the real damage was mental because it was just so incredibly draining.
It would be some weeks until mind and body recovered from the brutal cut down to six per cent body fat and it was even longer still before I felt anywhere near comfortable with hitting heavy compound lifts again.
But as soon as I did, the impulse to embark on a new challenge bolted in my brain like the thought of donuts during my weight cut.
I’ve always had a taste for powerlifting because it’s such a crucial cornerstone of weight training, stretching across all forms from bodybuilding to CrossFit and beyond.
Most people will enter a gym and perform at least one of the three lifts in their lives – squat, bench and deadlift.
Granted, the vast majority will be like me in their primitive understanding of these movements, yet the primal rush you get from lifting heavy metal can’t be beaten.
When it comes to training, my outlook has been so utterly clear in its narrow-mindedness, lift heavy at every opportunity, which to me is effectively every day.
To a point, it has worked because I’ve developed some natural core strength, but predictably bad habits have also emerged.
In other words my form is largely horrifying and to any watching eye with half a mind for powerlifting, the sight of my hunched back during deadlifts must have them, much like my spine, at a snapping point.
At 26, I very much conform to the ‘bro-lifting’ stereotype of chasing big numbers regardless of how it’s achieved.
Genuinely, though, there is nothing more frustrating than knowing you are doing something wrong and not understanding how to fix it. That above everything else is what I hope to take away from the next six weeks.
Yes, this is ultimately a numbers game because when I step onto the podium to perform the three lifts at Powermeet 5.0, the tangible reward will be the digits on my scorecard.
But it would be embarrassing to do so in front of a packed house full of experts with horrible form. Where the physique challenge was about what my body looked like, this is the polar opposite as it’s about how my body works.
From the battle with the mirror, I now get set for a battle against the powerlifting bars.
Wish me luck, and probably save a little more of that good fortune for my coach from Desert Barbell, Patrik Hedqvist, because he has a job on his hands.
COACH CORNER WITH PATRIK HEDQVIST (@borjetheswede)
Welcome to the first installment of Coach Corner with Desert Barbell co-founder Patrik Hedqvist. Over the next six weeks, Patrik will be whipping our reporter Alex Rea into shape ahead of his first ever powerlifting competition at Desert Barbell’s Powermeet 5.0. The Swede, 42, is one of the leading lights as powerlifting begins to illuminate the sporting landscape in the region and here’s all you need to know about the expert physio and strength coach.
My love of sport has manifested across various disciplines from football and hockey to motorcross and tennis.
However, at the turn of the century I discovered my true vocation – powerlifting.
I started training with weights in the early ’90s and from the very beginning I took it very seriously because I was fascinated with the body’s response to exercise and nutrition.
So, in 1997 I took my PT degree, followed that up with the advanced degree and then in 2001 entered university to become a physio. It was during this time my connection with powerlifting was formed and after graduating, I continued my studies delving into sports nutrition and orthopedic manual techniques.
#tbt Just a few months ago, can still recall the feeling unracking that bar at @theipf worlds in Belarus. Come a long way since shaky benchpresses with @bean_1975 at Ormbergets Gym 😁 An awsome comp for me and hope to do even better in the future. Trying to better myself every day, every week, every month. Got to lift side by side with some amazing M1 lifters and share this with @lifecoachdxb Proud to represent @styrkelyftforbundet and the Swedish National Team.
From 2005 I’ve been working as a physio and living in Dubai for the last three years as a physio and strength coach at Scandinavian Health & Performance.
In 2018, me and my business Marco Cipolat launched Desert Barbell and from September I’ll taking on a full-time coaching role with the business.
From a competitive standpoint, I’ve completed more than 50 comps since my first in 2002.
Medals have been achieved on both the local and national stages, but undoubtedly the proudest moments have arrived in recent years with bronze medals for bench press at both the IPF Worlds in 2017 and the IPF Europeans 2018 in the -105 kg class M1 category (age 40-50).
In terms of coaching, I’ve been training lifters for well over a decade and have worked in the Swedish Powerlifting Federation, both as a coach and in the anti-doping committee.
In 2013, I was assistant coach for the national team at Europeans and then head coach the following year.
Allied with that, I was also the head of regional development for five years, competing with Northern Finland and Norway.
Technique and high specificity when it comes to powerlifting movements are the two pillars of my training style.
A fairly high frequency means being able to keep the loads a bit lower than on high intensity regimes and I usually train my lifters in blocks of four-six weeks, but also with a longer term plan of three-six months.
Are you competing in any fitness events in August and September?
Here’s our top six to get involved in!
ADSC INDOOR RUN FERRARI WORLD
Friday, August 17 and Friday, September 14
The Abu Dhabi Sports Council Indoor Run is hosted by Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Mall.
The run will start and finish in Ferrari World with the run taking in the ground floor of the mall.
Runners will have options to take part in either the 2.5k, 5k or 10k.
TIME: From 8.15am*
MORE INFO: ADSC Indoor Run Ferrari World
URBAN-ULTRA NIGHT REBEL
Friday, September 21
If you are ready for a serious challenge then this may well be the event for you.
Described as one of the toughest solo night footraces in the UAE, the Urban-Ultra Night Rebel has three distances available for competitors – 10km, 20km and 30km.
Wanting to test your fitness before the season kicks into gear – then this is a must.
START TIME: 7PM
MORE INFO: Urban-Ultra Night Rebel
RUSH-A-WAY SUMMER CHALLENGE
September, September 22
Another new adventure is headed to Dubai with the Rush-A-Way Summer Challenge, set to physically and mentally test participating teams in a variety of ways.
Each challenge will offer a different test, with aspects like teamwork, stamina, strategy, communication skills, quick thinking and speed required.
With it being summer and the heat ratcheted up, this edition will take place at indoor locations, meaning there’s nothing to sweat as you zoom through the challenge.
Teams will earn points based on how fast they complete each challenge, and those that don’t finish in the given time will receive a penalty.
TIME: From 8am*
MORE INFO: Rush-A-Way Summer Challenge
WADI ADVENTURE RACE
Saturday, September 29
The popular Wadi Adventure Race returns this month where athletes will be pushed to the limits in a gruelling obstacle course.
Since its debut in 2012, the race has gone from strength to strength, and organisers are expecting another strong turnout this month for what will be the seventh edition overall.
Competitors will have to overcome a 5k, 10k and 15k obstacle course where they will crawl, run, carry, swim, swing and climb their way to the finish line.
TIME: From 6am
MORE INFO: Wadi Adventure Race
Produced using unique technology and extensive research, Melt Water is the result of years of development. The production process mimics the natural formation and melting of glaciers and involves a complex multi-stage freezing, extracting and melting process.
Melt Water is a result of freezing, extracting and melting. As ice crystals start to form during freezing, they naturally push away all impurities and admixtures. The water that doesn’t freeze, due to impurities, is removed using special technology. At the final stage of production, the final layer of ice is melted back into water giving it the unique icy taste.
Melt Water benefits
During exercise, it’s vital to stay hydrated and ice cool Melt Water is a favourite of personal trainer Jennifer Chalouhi who has teamed up with Melt Water to talk us through core strength exercises.
Core strength exercises
This builds your upper body strength and core. Get yourself in the press-up position and with a dumbbell in either hand, do regular press-ups but also row the weight. This works several muscles in your upper body; your traps, rhomboids, lats, biceps and shoulders.
Russian twists with a kettle bell
In a sitting position, if you’re a beginner, keep your legs on the floor, hold the kettle bell in front of your chest with both hands and twist side-to-side. For a more advanced workout keep your legs raised. This is a great exercise for engaging the whole abdomen area.
You can use these for both arm strength and core strength. Beginners, take a deep breath in, lock in your elbows and lift at the knees. For an advanced exercise you can go into a L-Sit position – tuck in your core and keep your legs straight as you lift them. An L-Sit requires more strength from your abdominal muscles, oblique muscles and hip flexors. Try and hold your legs up for a few seconds to really engage your abs.