About Cloud

I'm a coach, lifter, and writer based out of Austin, TX. Contact me at Vintage Strong.

To train or not to train…is it even a question?

Today’s article is a submission by my lady friend, Jessica, who you’ve read about before on here. Remember that thing I wrote about talking to people stronger than you? She used that as motivation to reach out to several of her gal-friends in the powerlifting community and spoke with them on the phone for some time about what motivates them, what goals they have, and then put together this summary for everyone to read and consider. I probably should have put this up yesterday for “Ladies’ Monday,” but I was busy bench pressing all day. – Jacob 


arnoldcurlMany of us gym rats have a routine, schedule, program, and social circles that our lives revolve around, but it hasn’t always been that way for most of us. Successful lifters have taken control of their schedule, responsibilities, and nutrition as they strive for improvement. Others are still struggling to figure out what works for them. Believing “I’m not as strong anymore,” “I’m getting too old,” and “I can’t win” are lies told to you by failing mindsets. What do most professional athletes have in common? Self-confidence. Some would say egos. Tap into your inner ego and know you can accomplish your goals.

This article will discuss different kinds of motivation and reasons why you should train hard. First, we will talk about extrinsic or “brotagonistic” motivation. Unfortunately, most people in the gym pumping iron have a perception from society of being meat heads or douche bags yelling obscenities at each other. “Don’t be a pussy!” might actually work for some. If being embarrassed of missing a rep in public motivates you to push past your normal threshold then, by all means, partner up with someone who can provide you with that Brotagonistic motivation.

If that doesn’t work for you, then maybe you are intrinsically driven. This type of person usually is successfully inside and outside of the gym because they are Type-A and goal-driven. These lifters usually follow a rigid program, strict diet, and are good at time management. But, the best characteristic of this type of person is their ability to apply importance to everyday activities to meet their goals. For instance, a good example of this is Carissa Stith, who I met last year at Raw Nationals. She is a very competitive powerlifter, crossfitter, strong woman competitor, and almost superwoman. She is a Product Manager by day, Crossfit Strength coach for Crossfit 1525 before and after work, and an editor for Horns Unlimited. Being competitive at the national level is a big driver for Carissa. This kind of motivation also applies to me. I don’t want to be mediocre. I want to be at the top level at everything. Qualifying for the Arnolds and being a US Powerlifting team member are some of her most recent goals that she will accomplish this year. To compete at this high level, she maintains a strict diet, rigid sleep schedule, and doesn’t miss workouts.


This example spills over into my next point: Is there a correlation between your training and your life choices? DUH! Everyone knows if you eat like crap, you feel like crap, and therefore, you train like crap. Nutrition can play a very important role in your body’s performance. At a certain age, you will come to decision points on what is important. When you are motivated to train hard, then you stay true to your nutrition plan, sleep schedule, and other lifestyles choices that affect your lifting. This can also work vice-versa. If you are making your lifestyle a priority, then you have more energy and therefore, train more often and can train harder. Another good example of life choices is Candice Hodges. She is a full-time dental student, wife, blogger, and petite powerhouse! Her motivation comes from her own competitiveness. She wants to be the strongest girl in the gym….period. She recently wrote an article about her paleo lifestyle that fuels her body.

Candice Squats deep

Set yourself up to succeed! As a dedicated lifter, it will be important to create achievable goals while maintaining your life responsibilities (Editor’s Note: I teach my lifters to use SMART goals). Set manageable expectations. Improving your meet total 200 lbs in 6 months might be unreasonable. Increasing your total 10-15% in a year is more manageable and will compile over time to produce big numbers. Once you have set your goals, you can commit to a training plan to achieve those goals. Hopping between programs will put you in situation where you are constantly chasing your tail. Always resetting or dealing with injuries can stunt your improvement. Find a program that works for you and stick with it. Being consistent will set you up for success more than some magic program. Sometimes, that even means paying for a consultation to have a trainer tailor a program to your specific needs and body movements. If you don’t chose to do that, you can leverage virtual communities that support your interests in weightlifting, powerlifting, crossfitting, curling, running, etc.

In my closing points, I will give you some takeaway thoughts. Haters gonna hate! Let if fuel you. Find whatever works for you and tap into your motivation “fountain.” Take control of your training and get ALL THE GAINZ!


PR Friday, 17 May 2013

Did you have a good week? I hope you had a good week. I hope you hit a couple nice PRs, and I hope you tell us about them below.

This week, I put up an article about coaching the sumo deadlift. I also pulled the short-shorts article out of the archives, because dammit, it is Time. Gotta love the summer. I already have weird tank-top tan lines, which is like a badge of honor. The teardrops are slowly crisping up to a nice golden brown, too. Tanning PRs count as long as you’re in the process of getting more jacked.

Mike answered all the questions he could find in another Q&A video that also features his dog. Hit him up on our facebook page if you have more questions. If the person with the labrum tear wants more info, they can hit me up – both mine are shredded and even when I had my left AC joint scoped, they didn’t repair that one. Have fun with that.

Additionally, the USAPL Women’s Nationals (single-ply equipped lifting) is this weekend. Check out http://www.usapowerlifting.com/ for a schedule and livestream, and to see 150lb females out-squatting you, by a lot, if you need that kind of brotagonistic motivation, or just enjoy watching awesomely strong ladies compete.

Our friendly neighborhood giant Ryan Carrillo is headed to Lithuania for IPF Bench Worlds next week. Give him a good-luck shout-out on our facebook page as he goes to collect some hardware for Muricuh’.

That’s all I got today. Say something entertaining in the comments. I ran out of face submissions, but here’s something topical, sorta:

2/10 - One point for the tank top, one point for the  shorts...no points for the 70sBig face attempt. Needs practice.

2/10 – One point for the tank top, one point for the shorts…no points for the 70sBig face attempt. Needs practice, or possibly a heavy Magnesium dose. 

Coaching the Sumo Deadlift

We’ve had some talk lately about sumo deadlifts. Some of you are still of the mindset that “only conventional deads are ‘real’!” That’s fine. When you finally come around and try these, the rest of us will already be well-versed with them.

Our model today is one of my Vintage Strong lifters, RoryT. He’s a 181-198 powerlifter who is built to squat and bench, but not to pull. Before I took over his training, he had frustratingly beat his dead against the 450lb brick wall for about a year or so. We transitioned him to sumo pulling about a year ago (along with a wide-stanced squat to compliment it) and he ended up pulling 500lbs for the first time as my birthday present – along with recently getting his squat to 520×2. At our gym Push/Pull meet June 1st, I expect him to pull around 525 or so, which will be a nice PR for him. He should get 550 by November, his next meet.

The first thing most people screw up on any kind of deadlifts is the width of their grip. Your arms need to hang straight down from your shoulders. Any angle in, or more likely, out, makes you do more work – it sets you up in a more awkward starting position and makes the distance you have to pull longer. This is true for conventional pullers, and a very common mistake, but is even more troublesome with sumo deads, because if you grip the bar too wide, your hands get even more in the way of the movement than normal.

This is what we call "pulling into your dick." Avoid that, if possible. And if you do it...smile.

This is what we call “pulling into your dick.” Avoid that, if possible. And if you do it…smile.

The second thing everyone needs to pay attention to is stance-width. When you first transition to sumo pulls, work your feet out to a wider stance SLOWLY, over several sessions, and stretch – a lot. Your hips will thank you. At first, getting your feet just outside of your hands will be fine. As you become mobile enough, going wider will mean a shorter stroke and a stronger lockout, at the expense of increasing the difficulty of breaking the bar off the floor. We’ll call this the “Narrow Sumo.” Don’t expect to be dramatically stronger at narrow sumo than conventional – it’s essentially going to put your levers in the same position, as you can see in the pic.

Conventional on the left, Narrow Sumo on the right. Note the similar back angle.

Conventional on the left, Narrow Sumo on the right. Note the similar back angle.

Eventually, you’ll be able to comfortably slide your feet out several more inches per side, which will allow you to shorten the ROM of the movement. We’ll call this the “Wide Sumo” because we’re brilliantly original. Wide sumo does not have to mean your feet are touching the plates, OK? It does mean that you’ll be able to have a slightly more vertical back-angle, which is a great benefit for those of you like Rory who have a relatively long torso for your height, and/or shorter arms – which is basically the perfect build to go ahead and run with sumo.

On the right is Rory's slighty wider sumo stance. Note the more advantageous back angle (admittedly, he's more arched and set up to pull, too). It's not a drastic-wide stance.

On the right is Rory’s slighty wider sumo stance (see the increased distance between his hands and shins?) Note the more advantageous back angle (admittedly, he’s more arched and set up to pull, too). It’s not a drastic-wide stance.

Your grip and stance width are the most basic parts of learning sumo, so once you have them correct, it’s time to set up for a pull. I’m going to tell you to get your feet UNDER the bar as Rory has done in the pics above. You are literally going to have the bar touching your shins. Most people set up too far away from the bar, and as a result, have a forward-angled-shin. The coaching cue here is “straight shins,” which is silly, because your shin can’t not be straight. It’s short for straight up and down, or vertical. Think STRAIGHT SHINS, and make them as vertical as possible.

The left is how it SHOULD look. The right is how it probably looks when you first try sumo.

The left is how it SHOULD look. The right is how it probably looks when you first try sumo. Note the angles of the shins and arms.

Get your feet under the bar and grab the bar at the appropriate width. Chances are it feels awkward as hell if you’re doing it correctly. Good. You want to get your center of mass as far behind the bar as you can without falling over. The cue here is STRAIGHT ARMS. You want to try and get your arms much more vertical than you’re probably used to. You could probably condense both of these cues and just yell “BE STRAIGHT” to your lifter, but that might raise some eyebrows at your gym and make you look like a jackass.

When you’re in the correct starting position, and you feel like you’re about to fall on your ass, it’s time to start the pull. As with the regular dead, you must set your lower back, flex your posterior chain, and get to work. It’s even more important on sumo, so get it right. Getting your lumbar flexed and solid before the pull is KEY. If you have problems locking out a sumo, you’re probably not setting your back well enough. You’ll also think “chest up,” though again, that’s not a literal cue – it simple means to get your upper back tensed as well. If your nipples are pointed at the bar, you’re gonna have a bad time.

SET YOUR BACK! Or you will die.

SET YOUR BACK! Or you will die. The left might feel easier when getting the bar off the floor, but it won’t go anywhere after that. The right will mean a smooth 3-white-light PR. Do it. 

Initiate the pull by squeezing the bar off the floor using your glutes and hams, which should be tensed as soon as you touch the bar. Carry this momentum as hard and as quickly as you can all the way to lockout. Think about shoving your hips FORWARD into the bar all the way until lockout, and don’t re-bend your knees at the top. Yes, we use the “hips!” cue. Yes, it makes us sound douchey, like a multiply gorilla. No, we don’t care. Always yell “OH YEAH!” when the hips are truly engaged. Trust me.

Another way to look at this is to think about “pulling back” on the bar. Both cues basically accomplish the same thing, but see which resonates best for you, and stick with it. Your weight should always be concentrated on your heels for a sumo pull. If you’re coming up on your toes, fix it.

A note on footwear: You should sumo pull in a flat-soled shoe. For what I hope are obvious reasons, don’t use your heeled Olympic shoes. Wrestling shoes are the best bet, but IPF-approved slippers are a $10 option if you’re cheap. I prefer to pull in socks at my gym, because it’s easy. Chucks are OK, but still have a bit of a platform and that could cost you a PR. Rory squats and pulls in the shoes pictured in the gym, but uses Titan slippers at meets.

Hopefully this helps you figure out how to sumo. Ask any questions you have below. Once you get your sumo form figured out, you should really be impressing the opposite sex. If not, I suggest you take up juggling. Of course, Rory’s probably better at that than you, too, but everyone’s gotta have an idol, right?

LAX balls are very useful to have around the gym.

LAX balls are very useful to have around the gym.

PR Friday, 10 May 2013

Earlier this week, I issued you a challenge, and said “Go talk to someone bigger and stronger than you.” So did you? I know at least a few guys have, and have already reported back to be with some pretty rad tales. I’m looking forward to hearing your stories. Hell, if you can write real, real good, have a compelling tale, and you feel like you can get 500-1000 words together about it and a picture or three, shoot me a full submission. Cya.

Mark Marotta submitted an excellent and comprehensive overview of the various big (raw) powerlifting feds. It’s a work in progress, but something we can refer to in the future as more of you guys enter meets and represent the community whilst destroying PRs. He’s already given me some more info today, so I’ll be updating that shortly.

When he’s not building an entire family of atlas stones, Mike B has been absolutely on point about answering all the questions you guys post on our facebook page, so I hope you’re thanking him properly (you can find his email address on here if you need to send nudes). This week he covers some Texas Method stuff, some conditioning, some pressing tips, and a few other things. Check it out.

I still have a few more emails full of your beautiful (?) 70sBig faces, so I’ll get to it.




Victor sent in a whole damn gallery, but I hand selected my favorites. 70sBig photobombs are ALWAYS good. That’s a dece birthday glass, too.





For some reason, I’m particularly enjoying this picture from Nick. Maybe it’s because, like me, I can tell this guy’s goals at least in some way include the words “scare everyone when I walk into a room.” I feel ya, brother. “The Face” is all about contorting your stare and confusing the weak. This guy gets it. Now stop looking at me, bro.



This is my boy Dave. He lives in Australia, has a sweet home gym, keeps a log over on my LiftHeavyShit forums, benches 3 hunge on the reg, and eats MULTIPLE racks of ribs at the same time. He should be famous, right? Well, now he is. You’re welcome, Dave. Also, you look pretty skinny. Might want to order a third rack next time.



Charlie’s the guy on the left. This picture might not seem like anything special at first, but then you realize – HOLY SHIT, Charlie isn’t even LOOKING at the camera, and he’s still dropping the 70sBig face bomb all over the place. That’s a glass of straight whiskey in his hand. Not a fuck was given. Believe it.

And with that, I’m officially out of pics. If I missed yours, don’t get butthurt, just resend it, or realize it was really terrible, or over 1MB in size. I really did try and post them all and not miss any, but hey – I’m just a man, I’m not perfect. Just a big, beautiful, bearded man. That’s perfect.

Post up your PR’s and have a great weekend. And for the love of all that is holy, if you don’t at least call your Mother this Sunday and thank her excessively for all that she has put up with in your life, I will find you and burn down your freaking house.


Powerlifting Federations

I asked Mark Marotta to write a post that we could use as a reference for lifters interested in getting involved in their first powerlifting competition. I’m extremely pleased with what he put together. Ask any relevant questions below. – Jacob


One characteristic (read: problem) that distinguishes powerlifting, as a sport, from most other sports, is that there is no individual federation that is the one recognizable organization for the sport (think IWF for weightlifting, NFL for football, etc). In powerlifting there are multiple organizations that are all of comparable size and name recognition. For those interested in competing, I’m going to use this article to outline the differences between some of them so when you do decide to compete, you can pick which federation is right for you.

The most recognizable/largest federations in powerlifting, in no particular order, are the International Powerlifting Federation, The World Powerlifting Congress, and 100% RAW Powerlifting. Of course there are other, smaller federations, but they won’t be as likely to have meets in your area, and if, by chance they are the closest meet, this article will tell you all the things you need to look for in the rule book (you should read the whole thing anyways, but there are certain things to make sure you look for).

This article will, of course, only cover the raw sections of the aforementioned federations, as this site has never claimed to have enough knowledge of equipped lifting to write any advice on the subject.


Seeing as it’s the first thing you’ll do, it’s the first thing I’ll cover. Different federations have different “weigh in” periods, as well as different classes to weigh into. If it’s your first meet, this does not matter. Weigh yourself when you fill out your registration, pick the weight class you fit into at this time, then whatever class you weigh into at the meet, it doesn’t matter. For any meets after this, though, The weight classes are as follows:


Men: 58kg, 66kg, 74kg, 83kg, 93kg, 105kg, 120kg, 120+kg

Women: 47kg, 52kg, 57kg, 63kg, 72kg, 84kg, 84+kg

(Editor’s Note: The USAPL, the US arm of the IPF, uses slightly different classes, which I will update here)


100% RAW:

Men: 48kg, 52kg, 56kg, 60kg, 67.5kg, 75kg, 82.5kg, 90kg, 100kg, 110kg, 125kg, 140kg, 140+kg

Women:44kg, 48kg, 52kg, 56kg, 60kg, 67.5kg, 75kg, 82.5kg, 90kg, 90+kg


Men: 52kg, 56kg, 60kg, 67.5kg, 75kg, 82.5kg, 90kg, 100kg, 110kg, 125kg, 140kg, 140+kg

Women:44kg, 48kg, 52kg, 56kg, 60kg, 67.5kg, 75kg, 82.5kg, 90kg, 90+kg

As for weigh-in periods, the IPF has a 2 hour weigh in time, meaning no one can weigh in any more than 2 hours before the meet (or your section of it) commences (Note: Some USAPL meets will choose to hold a longer weigh-in period for NON record-setting lifters). WPC has a 24 hour weigh in, which typically means there will be multiple weigh in periods scattered across the 24 hours preceding the section (for example, 3 separate 2 hour periods to weigh in – one starting 24 hours out, one 12 hours out, and one 2 hours out). 100% RAW meets have 18 hour weigh ins with one period the evening preceding meet day and one period the morning of. There are plenty of arguments of whether or not 24 hour weigh ins are cool, but for your first meet it doesn’t really matter as long as you know when and where your weigh in is. If you don’t weigh in, you don’t lift, so just make sure you get that information and write it down on your check list for the meet (Make a checklist of things you need to have and places you need to be well in advance).



Pretty much any federation you lift in, you’re going to need a one piece, one ply singlet with either the manufacturer’s logo or without one at all, a one piece, one ply t-shirt with the sleeves ending above your elbows and below your delts that is either plain or has a design that is “not offensive.” Allowance on designs isn’t going to vary federation to federation so much as it will meet to meet, so just bring a plain t-shirt. You’ll also need socks that go up to your knees for deadlifts, to the same specs as your shirt. You also can’t wear assistive underwear, they don’t usually check, but just wear normal underwear. (Note: For the love of Glob, wear whitey-tighties or a jock strap. Anything else is asking for trouble from bored judges. Females should avoid underwire bras or panties with an inseam).


2.1 Knee Sleeves:

IPF: Commercial knee sleeves as designed for medical/surgical or sports use and constructed of neoprene (no other form of rubber or similar material is acceptable) with an optional covering of cotton, polyester or medical crepe may be worn. Alternatively an elasticised traditional kneecap supporter may be worn. A combination of the two is forbidden.(Note: The IPF has a list of approved knee sleeves, will update soon)

(a) Knee sleeves must be “slip on” and not contain any form of tightening e.g. straps/draw strings/velcro tabs and the likes. Read: No Inzer Wraps.

(b) Maximum length 30 cm’s, maximum thickness 7 mm’s.

(c) Must not extend more than 15 cm’s above or 15 cm’s below the center of the knee joint.

(d) Shall not be in contact with socks or lifting suit.

100% RAW, WPC: No knee sleeves are allowed in the raw division.

2.2 Wrist Wraps:

IPF: Select from the list of approved wraps on the IPF site. Once worn, the wrap cannot be more than 10cm above, or 2cm below the center of the wrist joint, with the total wrap not exceeding 12cm.

WPC: Up to 1m in length, 8cm in width – if they have a thumb loop you cannot use it. The wrap cannot be more than 10cm above, or 2.5cm below the center of the wrist joint, with the total wrap not exceeding 12cm.

100% RAW: Up to 61cm in length, 8cm in width, if they have a thumb loop you cannot use it, with the total wrap not exceeding 12cm.

2.3 Shoes

IPF: Sports shoes, sports boots, Weightlifting shoes, Power lifting boots, or Dead lift slippers must be worn. The bottom must be flat (no projections, irregularities, or a doctoring from the standard design and no part of the underside higher than 5 cm’s). If there are loose inner soles they may not be thicker than 1cm.

WPC: Footwear more substantial than basic socks must be worn. The only restrictions to such footwear is that no metal cleats or spikes are permitted.

100% RAW: Same regulations as the IPF, with the limitation that the bottom of the shoe cannot be taller than 5cm at any point.

2.4 Belt

All of the federations have long winded explanations that are different hashings of the same thing. If you have a regular prong/lever belt, less than 10cm tall, and less than 13mm thick, with no logo or text on it other than your name, or a lifting club you’re affiliated with. With the additional limitations from IPF of:

Inside width of buckle: maximum 11 cm’s.

Outside width of buckle: maximum 13 cm’s.

Tongue loop: maximum width 5 cm’s.

Distance between end of belt and far end of tongue loop: maximum 25 cm’s.




All three of the federations follow the same set of standards for the squat, with the same commands. The crease of the hip must go below the top of the knee, the feet cannot move once the lift has commenced, you cannot double bounce, etc. The rule books of the federations are nearly word-for-word identical. The only difference is that the WPC allows lifters to squat out of a monolift (you can walk it out if you want) whereas IPF and 100% Raw use squat stands or racks.


IPF: Commands for beginning the descent of the bar, pressing once the bar has touched the chest and become motionless, and one to rack when the bar is locked out. Suicide grip and underhand grip are not allowed. During the lift the feet must be flat on the ground.

WPC: Commands for pressing once the bar is motionless on the chest, and for racking when the bar is locked out. Suicide grip and underhand grip are both allowed. At minimum the toes must be in contact with the ground, but the feet can be placed flat on the ground if desired.

100% RAW: Commands for pressing once the bar is motionless on the chest, and for racking when the bar is locked out. Suicide grip is allowed, underhand grip is not. The feet must be flat on the ground for the duration of the lift.

The rest of the rules for the lift are consistent between the federations. The distance between the lifters hands cannot exceed 81cm, your feet cannot be in contact with the bench or it’s supports, and the bar can not be raised with an excessive tilt, or an oscillation.


The rules for the deadlift are entirely consistent between the three federations. Your feet can’t move once you start lifting, you can’t hitch, you have to control the descent of the bar, and all the standard rules for doing a deadlift. The only command is for descent, once the bar is locked out.


4. MISC.

Another difference between the federations that should be taken note of is the attempt protocol. When the attempts are put in for IPF and WPC competitions, the lifter or the handler/coach needs to sign for it. In 100% RAW, you just need to tell the officials the weight. Having competed in both WPC and IPF meets I’m gonna go ahead and say that for a beginner WPC is a lot friendlier of an environment. It’s a lot more of a relaxed setting (which has it’s pros and cons) from what I’ve seen 100% RAW is a lot more similar to WPC in that respect.

For further reference, read the rule books linked below (before you do a meet in a new fed read the entire rule book. Just fucking do it.) The record books for the feds are linked below as well.




(The American records are linked because the formatting of the world record’s on IPF’s site is completely abhorrent)



(Word document download link)


100% RAW:




Now get out there and compete, dammit!