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What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Your First Weightlifting Meet


Written by John Pate, TSS Barbell Intern

If your first weightlifting meet is quickly approaching and you have no idea what to do, don’t panic: I’m here to offer some advice to make your experience as enjoyable as possible. All of these pointers can be applied at any skill level:


  1. Do nothing.

Approach competition day as any other training day: Do not spend an additional hour warming up if you never do that in training; Do not try a new pre-workout if all you eat before training is a banana and a handful of gummy bears. Definitely do not change your form to mimic a Hookgrip video you watched the night before. By keeping your environment on meet day as familiar as possible, you will set yourself up to have a relaxed and enjoyable meet day.


  1. Embrace your feelings.

Are you nervous? Afraid? Excited? Good! Feelings are what separate humans from animals, from toaster ovens, and from the barbell. Feelings are what make life worth living and you should embrace the unique and amazing opportunity that you have to compete. Your ultimate goal on meet day should be to have fun and to enjoy the moment–hitting PR’s, making new friends, or qualifying for national meets are all experiences that can make competing in weightlifting special. Competition is a performance, and all the training sessions leading up to the meet are dress rehearsals. Trust in the skills you have developed in the time you have dedicated to this beautiful sport.


  1. Be prepared

You should know how to snatch, how to clean and jerk, and the numbers (in kilograms) that you are capable of lifting. If you are attending a USAW sanctioned meet, you should have a singlet to wear and your ID and USAW number handy at registration. Additionally, you should have your opening attempts handy for weigh-ins (with your opening total equaling at least 20kg of your entry total). Check the meet schedule to determine when you weigh-in and compete, and show up on time.


  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

If the previous sections left you feeling confused, don’t hesitate to reach out and learn from those around you. Learning from seasoned USAW athletes and coaches will help you understand the flow of future meets. Ideally, you should ask questions far in advance.


  1. Be Proud

You should be proud to be partaking in this next step in your weightlifting journey. Being on the competition platform is the culmination of your hard work and sacrifice spent in training. The lessons you learn can be applied both on and off the platform. You decided to make yourself and this moment a priority and that is admirable—regardless of your game-day performance, you will grow from the experience of competing.

I can’t wait to cheer you on.

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How to Build a Weightlifting Platform

In recent months, we have received a multitude of emails requesting a guide on how to build platforms: I have condensed our years of experience building platforms into a simple, how-to format anyone can reference and follow. Over the years, our ten platforms have been able to sustain the vigorous training schedule of over 50 in-house athletes. There are many ways to build platforms, but this is how we build ours:

Step 1: Gather Materials

Disclaimer: Due to Texas weather being 50 degrees one day and 105 degrees the next, we used a triple layer method which is not necessary, but highly suggested for longevity.

4 – 3/4 inch 4 feet x 8 feet plywood

1 3/4 inch 4 feet x 8 feet Sande Plywood (or Birch)

2 4 feet x 6 feet horse stall mats (Tractor Supply)

X-Acto Cutting Knife

1 Box Grip Rite 1-1/4 in Construction Screw

Compact Drill with appropriate bit


Step 2: Where Do I Build It?

Find a level and appropriate space. You need exactly 8×8 for your platform and I would suggest at LEAST 2 feet of space around each side of your platform for bouncing barbells, walking space, etc. You also want a dry surface that is AS LEVEL AS POSSIBLE. Indoors is ideal, but a covered location is a must.


Step 3: Assemble Your Platform

Place two of your pieces of plywood side-by-side. Ensure that they are exactly where you want your platform because moving a fully built platform is not an easy task.

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Place two more pieces of plywood side-by-side on-top of the existing pieces, perpendicular to the boards underneath. Place screws matching the locations shown on diagram with X’s.

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Next, cut one stall mat length wise using the X-Acto knife into two, 2’x6′ pieces. Then, cut the other stall mat into one, 2’x4′ piece, and then into two, 2’x2′ pieces.

Stack one 2’x6′ and one 2’x2′ piece along the side of the platform to create one side of the platform where the plates on a loaded barbell will land. Then, place the piece of Sande Plywood (or Birch) next to it. Finally place the remaining 2’x6′ and 2’x2′ stacked on the other side of the topper.

Secure both rubber and wood as shown below:


We suggest NOT placing screws on the inside of the rubber where the barbell could land. We have found that when you do, the plates will hit them, as the rubber is forgiving and this will place small nicks into your plates. The rubber stays put with the outer screws and your plates stay unscathed.


In order to keep your platform clean, functional, and aesthetic as long as possible, we suggest cleaning both your rubber and wood once a week. This can be done by mopping the rubber sections and using wood cleaner to take up any blemishes. We also suggest sweeping your platform after each training session so that dirt does not becoming ingrained into the wood.

If you have any additional questions regarding this article or setting up your gym, please email Brittany at

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USAW Youth Combine

USA Weightlifting launched its combine series as its latest recruitment project aiming to find weightlifting’s next Olympic hopeful. Combines are open to athletes ages between the ages of 12 and 24. Each combine will include the following events:

– 30m sprint
– Vertical jump
– Triple hop
– Power clean
– Back squat

All athletes are welcome to attend, but please be aware that the combine is meant to find new athletes to participate in the sport of weightlifting. The target athlete will not already be a member of USA Weightlifting. The combine series is free to attend, and members of USA Weightlifting are encouraged to invite friends, family, and classmates!

The final two hours of the combine will consist of a Weightlifting Fundamentals session to go over the basics of the snatch and the clean and jerk for athletes with little or no experience with the Olympic lifts.

Top athletes will be contacted at the end of the combine series with an invitation to attend a USA Weightlifting camp in the summer of 2019. Collegiate opportunities are available. 

Follow this link to register for a combine near you:


– 9:00 AM-1:00 PM: Test Events
– 2:00 PM-4:00 PM: Weightlifting Fundamentals

Event date and Location:

Date Location Gym
03/30/2019 San Antonio, TX TSS Barbell

If you or any of your athletes are interested in participating in this Combine, please email us at to set up a tour of the gym and a time to speak with one of our coaches.

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Grim Reaper Qualifier

TSS Barbell presents our second annual Grim Reaper Qualifier on October 20th, 2018:

Youth, Junior, Masters, and Open divisions offered! Medals will be awarded to the winners of each weight class (first through third place) for each division. Sinclair winners for the Open Women division and Open Men division will be awarded prizes from our title sponsors: Our past sponsors include United Lifters, Snortlife Singlets, Lifting Genie, Healthy Changes, and Gym Gypsy. Registration closes on October 15th!


This is a USAW sanctioned meet: USAW membership is required prior to entering and singlets are required to be worn during the competition.


Early Registration (through September 30th): $65.
Event Shirt: $25 (available in crop top, t-shirt, or women’s muscle tank styles)


PLEASE email us at TSSBARBELL@GMAIL.COM with the following information after you register:

Full Name:

USAW Number:

Birth Date (MM/DD/YY):


USAW Club Affiliation:

Weight Class:

Entry Total (Projected Snatch + Clean and Jerk):

Event T-Shirt Size and Style (if purchased):

Location & Contact Information
Facility: Tenacious Strength Society
10415 Perrin Beitel Road
Suite 202
San Antonio, TX  78217
Coordinator: Jilly Jaworske
Phone: (941)330-5147
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Chop One: Start List & Athlete Info

Athletes: We will do our best to provide cold water for competing athletes but please plan on bringing refreshments / snacks. We will have water, gatorade and other beverages for sale and we do have a water fountain on site. Our facility does have four large ceiling fans and four floor fans which will help with air flow but it will be very hot. Please plan appropriately.


Parking info is below.


See y’all on Saturday!

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Parking: Please Park in Designated Red Area and Blue. If you park in the Blue please walk around the building. There is a small alley with a 3-4 foot drop you can go through at your own risk. Parking

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It’s Not Your Program, It’s You(r Technique, Mental Game, and Consistency in Training)


“When am I maxing out next?”

“Why am do I have so many programmed reps and sets?”

“What are the point of complexes if I compete in a sport of one-rep maxes?”

“I don’t feel like I’m training heavy enough.”

“I’m going to lose my legs if I don’t keep squatting.”


Sound familiar?


Volume and intensity are two words sometimes used interchangeably that mean very different things in regards to a weightlifting training protocol. Simply put, volume is how much work you do (sets and reps) and intensity is how hard it is (the load lifted, or the load lifted relative to your maximum capability). As we near the final block of training and begin to peak for a meet (the last four to five weeks of programming), the programs we write reflect a decrease in overall volume and a steady increase in intensity, building up to two to three weeks of maximal snatch and clean and jerk work. For our athletes training for the Arnold, the max out sessions these past two weeks were as intense as the athlete wanted them to be: Volume was minimized on Max Day and the amount of missed lifts was limited to two misses per lift so that theoretically, the athlete could hit personal bests or at the very least establish new maximums for the training block without taking a dozen attempts and killing themselves and their confidence in the process.


One common statement I heard from athletes training this block was that their squats did not feel as strong one week out as they did four weeks and five weeks out: Good! I do not peak an athlete’s squats at the same time I peak their competition lifts because I have found it leads both to injury and fatigue related to over-training. Squats peak three weeks to a month before the competition lifts. If your squats aren’t going down slightly as you head into a meet, it indicates to me that the athlete has either been sandbagging their maxes or they’re on some sort of drug to aid in recovery, the exception to this being athletes who are coming back from an injury that limited prior progress or a newer athlete who made huge increases in strength and technique that we refer to as “newbie gains.”


Banned substance use in competitive CrossFit had allowed many individuals to train high volume and maximal intensity simultaneously over the course of long training blocks. These pharmacological practices, in combination with a hard work ethic, a good diet, recovery practices such as massage, and good coaching will create the “invincible” athlete. The sales of anabolic agents, SARMS, and other legal and illegal substances, some that are even prescribed by physicians, are common practice in some fitness communities. The IWF and USAW have done a tremendous job cleaning up banned substance use over the past few years, but the weightlifting community also has a long history riddled with drug use. As a former competitive CrossFitter, I can attest that while many athletes are drug-tested in CrossFit at the Regionals and Games level, many local competitors and coaches take banned substances not only to enhance their aesthetics and drive performance, but to sell their training protocols. Again, this is not every CrossFit athlete or every CrossFit coach: There are some very reputable programs out there, to be sure, that forbid drug use and have athletes tested out of competition.

Weightlifting is a sport of maximal intensity under strict time constraints. To create a successful environment for a drug-free athlete to perform at this intensity for a period of two to three weeks, the athlete has to lift with 100% consistency at 80 to 90% of their competition maxes prior to entering the final training block. Consistency means zero misses or nearly zero misses in this range in order to lift 95%+ consistently in the next training block. In my experience, athletes who miss more lifts than they make teaches these athletes how to miss, not how to make lifts. There are a couple of reasons as to why an athlete will miss routine weights and then will go on to make their next attempt at the same weight; Often, this is related to lack of mental focus and a lack of consistency in technique.


Multiple triples at 75 to 80% are great to refine technique and build a base while your squat and pull volume is high in he first block of training; However, this volume alone will not get you to snatch 90% to 95% of your max consistently. It is a common myth that you will forget how to “max out” if you do not max your competition lifts every week. As a coach, I plan at least two opportunities leading up to the meet we are preparing for to lift maximally. Since I believe in periodization and I believe in the window of super-compensation, I limit the testing of maxes to a “dipstick” meet halfway through our block to measure progress and the two sessions prior to our meet. Our athletes do not have unlimited opportunities to max out because it is understood and agreed upon that the athlete only has so much energy to lift those weights well if I’m peaking and tapering them properly within a 16 week period. If any athlete, barring beginners, is consistently hitting 95% to 100% of their max competition lifts for months at a time with no misses, again, I would either say that they sandbagged their tested max or they are on drugs to aid in recovery between sessions.


So, what do you do if you have an athlete who consistently fails to perform in the final weeks leading up to the meet? When I watch an athlete train during our team practices, I pay attention particularly to the lifters who miss weights every session- This is not normal if they are past the early beginner phases of learning. It is often these same athletes who repeat training days, repeat sets, add in extra volume and do not report all of the misses they made in training, simply stating they got all the work in. By doing this, the athlete is adding in way more volume than they should be doing, especially in the final block of training. A work horse is a wonderful athlete to have, but this athlete needs the extra support and guidance from their coach to feel comfortable stepping back and addressing the issues contributing to their inconsistencies in training in order to move forward in the next training block.


Maybe the athlete isn’t completing extra work or missing routinely: If this isn’t this issue and the athlete is making all warm ups and working sets, it may be that the athlete’s maxes are not their maxes anymore and they are working well above their current capacity. Working off smaller numbers so the athlete has limited misses in training will help you to build their consistency on the platform and their confidence to get them to a place where they can PR again.  Allowing an athlete to take many attempts, or repeating missed attempts will only get them in the mindset that they have unlimited chances to perform: They don’t. They don’t get to take as many reps on a platform as they want, nor do they have the luxury of warming up at their own pace in the backroom at national events, unlike many local meets where they can take as many warm ups as they’d like.

The last few weeks of any pre-competition cycle mimic the meet warm up. Some athletes are convinced that they do better with higher volume and lower intensity leading into a meet, never touching a heavy weight until the day of the event (like we do for our “dipstick” meet, to test where the athlete is mid-cycle). The athletes who perform better at the dipstick meet than the actual meet we are preparing for are the ones who have inefficient or poor technique, change their technique when thinking about lifting heavy, and/or experience mental distress when there is pressure to perform and lift heavy- A combination of these factors is likely the primary contributor to a poor performance, not the training program itself.


If you, the athlete, find yourself in a position where you fail to perform on a platform after many hours spent in the gym, it may be time to evaluate the quality of your technique, your mental game, and at the end of the day, your willingness to take weight off the bar or time away from competing in order to achieve the results you sought out your coach for. The best program for the athlete is the one they believe in the most. As you enter meet week, trust that the work you have done reflects your best efforts and let the results from the meet be the platform from which you and your coach build your next block of training.

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Cold Weather Training Tips

TSSBB9This week in San Antonio, we can expect below freezing temperatures to ring in the New Year. Since many of our athletes are not familiar with training in the cold, I have complied a quick list of tips in order to survive this week as our Heartbreaker and Arnold prep continues:


Sleep at least six hours per night before training.

The need for sleep and recovery varies from athlete to athlete, but sleep deprivation can cause a significant loss in one’s ability to regulate body temperature. As a general rule, if you have slept less than five hours, I advise athletes to stay home and go to bed early (just don’t make missing training a habit). In the cold, we tack on an extra hour to that rule. The extra energy required to maintain your internal body temperature in the below freezing temperatures requires more recovery time. Aim to go to sleep an extra hour more than you normally would this week!


Bundle up

Before you leave your house, make sure you are wearing a base layer, sweatpants, a sweatshirt, an outer layer (coat) and some form of headgear and gloves, even it’s just to run outside and into your car. Once you get to the gym, slowly remove layers as you begin to warm up.


Turn the heat on high in your car.

With all of your layers on, turn up the heat as high as possible in your car. You should be sweating in your layers by the time you get to the gym in order to reduce warm-up time. This is a suggestion that is valid year-round, by the way (I stole it from Sean Waxman).


Drink plenty of room temperature water.

Even though it’s cold outside, it’s important to stay hydrated for training. Though you may not feel the urge to drink as much water as normal, aim to consume as much as you would on a normal training day if not slightly more (though excessive hydration is unnecessary). If room temperature water isn’t your thing, hot tea is great, too.


Plan to warm-up an extra five to ten minutes.

A dynamic warm-up is necessary to raise the internal temperature of your body in freezing cold weather: Think high knees, butt kicks, arms circles, air squats, leg swings, etc. Save the static stretching and mobilizing for after your workout.


Keep moving.

Rest should be as limited as possible between your working sets in order to stay warm. Set a timer on you phone or watch (permitted this week for this purpose) and limit your rest to two to three minutes between sets, max.


Bring you space heater, heating pad, and blankets.

If you have a personal space heater, I would highly recommend plugging it in next to your things so you can rest by the heat in between sets. If you normally train in an unheated gym or garage, this is especially important. Even in a “heated” warehouse gym (many which lack insulation) plan to bring a large fleece blanket to wrap yourself in between sets. Bring a heating pad to sit on or keep on your shoulders, knees, hips, etc. warm if you have old injuries. If your feet are cold, place your shoes by the space heater or in your heating pad before you put them on or in between sets. Avoid sitting as much as possible in between sets.


Do not train outside.

Absolutely forget weightlifting outside if the temperature is below freezing. No space heater, heating pad, or fleece blanket is enough to make up for the windchill or icy conditions. Plan to get a weekly pass at a globo gym or a CrossFit gym for the week. Please let your coach know which equipment you have available to you if it is different than the equipment you normally train on.


For TSS Barbell members this week, we will have twelve black fleece blankets folded in the cubbies in the gym as well as two extra large heating pads in case you forget your own. Please fold them back up and place them back in the cubbies when you complete your training.