Hench Bench Wench – How my strategy is changing.

At the weekend I competed at the Irish Pro Invitational in the Bench Bash. I was originally down to compete full power in what was a superb line up of women. Unfortunately, due to ‘hipgate’ I had to pull out of that. After speaking to the promoter he agreed that I could jump in the with boy’s raw bench bash.  This gave me the opportunity to play a much higher risk strategy than I usually would when I lift.

My usual game plan is to gain every 2.5kg that I can as this is the difference between first and second or as was the case at GPC Worlds in Vegas 2015, between Silver & Bronze when I pipped it by that precise amount. I plan carefully what jumps I am going to take from first to second attempt and then from second to third. I also know what increments I am able to take on each lift. This varies with each lift. I can confidently take bigger jumps on deadlift than I can on squats and the smallest increments are on bench. I practice these jumps in training so that my body knows what to expect.

My usual increase on bench press has been 5kg. I will also have an idea of what I optimally would like on the bar for my third attempt. So if I want 115kg on the bar for an ideal third attempt then I will open at 105kg with the plan of 110kg and then depending on how that moves I have two options of 112.5kg if the 110kg was a struggle or 115kg if the bar moved well.  My third attempt will be a weight that I have never lifted in training. To note I have never hit the numbers I hit on platform in training, the most I have ever benched in training is 112.5kg.


This quote from Swede Burns is one that many lifters should take on board and one that I have added to my coaching artillery.

I am of the opinion that increments must be practiced, that your second attempt is just the stepping stone between first and third to get you where you need to be for your final total. This means I usually take a bigger jump from first to second attempt and then a smaller one from second to third. This has worked very well for me and everyone I train to get on platform.  I always have in mind where I want to finish and work out the steps in between.

As powerlifters we are restricted to the 2.5kg minimal increase on the bar and often for women bench is more restrictive because it is commonly the ‘weaker’ lift. This means that for many the only options available will be 5kg and 2.5kg increments because this is what their current strength capabilities dictate. So for example if you are a novice and you want to finish on 40kg then your lifts would look like this 32.5/37.5/40kg. If this was the plan for one of my novice lifters then they would have hit the 40kg in training and their goal would be to get these lifts passed on platform. First you must achieve before you can over achieve (Thanks Swede Burns for that gem.)

As I have progressed as a lifter I have been able to change my strategies and this year one of the strategic changes I wanted to make was 7.5kg jumps on my bench as this is the only way I would now be able to push the numbers without having to risk a stupidly high opener. At Tattooed & Strong 2016 at the beginning of March I entered bench only last minute as training had been going well as basically due to injury bench was all I could do. As the event organiser I was pretty rushed off my feet for the days prior to the comp so I expected it to be pretty hit and miss depending on how tired I was.

As we were able to set international records I checked what they were and in the 90kg Open class the record was 118kg and in 82.5kg it was 120kg (in M2 I would break it on openers in both cases very easily). I knew 120kg wasn’t happening just yet but thought I could have a bash at 118.5kg on a 4th attempt and weighed in at 82.9kg. My then standing PB was 115.5kg. I thought the 118.5kg was going to be a long shot but what the hell I had nothing to lose and I could use this opportunity to practice the bigger jumps on platform. So, plan was 105/112.5/115 or 117.5 (BIG jump, SMALL jump) and then look at fourth 118.5kg. The third attempt would be dictated by the tempo of the bar on the second attempt. I even had a back up ‘shit day at the office plan’ of 105/110/112.5.(BIG Jump SMALL jump) I believe one of my strengths is adaptation and knowing there is a plan B and even a plan C gives me confidence, I function well on a good back up plan.

Yet as life has it non of the above is what actually happened. On the day opener of 105kg was as an opener should be, confident and to the letter. Bar tempo was excellent and we chose 112.5kg for the second. As mentioned I have done this in the gym but it has never been an ‘easy’ lift however on this attempt it literally flew up. By the time my handler had passed out, removed himself to the back of the platform, turned around I was literally locking out with it. With that I thought fuck taking the 118.5kg on 4th, why waste a lift? 118.5kg went on the bar for third attempt and I got it. NOW it was not ‘easy’ but it was a strong lift, my left shoulder lagged slightly but at no point did I think it wasn’t going.  This was a 3kg PB and that little step closer to cracking 120kg AND I had successfully taken bigger jumps on both attempts.

This is actually 112.5kg NOT 118.5kg as stated on the video by your truly!

THIS is 118.5kg for the 90kg Open GPC Women’s Bench Only WR/ER/BR

Fast forward to last Sunday. As the only woman in the bench bash I literally had nothing to lose. It was actually really nice to go into a competition with no self induced or externally perceived pressures.  So the game plan was simple. Get 120kg on the bar for third attempt, start higher and take 7.5kg jumps to get there. So we opened at 107.5kg which is the highest I have opened at, 115kg was on the bar on the second attempt, it was again a good solid lift, at this point I was pretty confident I could nail a 117.5kg but I had nothing to gain and so stuck to the plan and put 120kg on (see Big jump to SMALL…you get the idea). Unfortunately that was just a gnat’s fart too much on the bar that day, the bar came down solid and controlled and I fired it off the chest after the press command but it stalled around a third of the way up. It just wasn’t there, but I had it on the bar and it didn’t bury me, nor did I technically unravel at any point, it was simply too heavy that day.

115kg  solid second attempt.

120kg so close and yet soooooo far! 

The month of March has been super for me for making progress in terms of implementing different strategies that I can now use. For most people competitions are just about hitting PBs and I get that but I like to pick my battles. By setting different measures for judging my performance and how to improve it I feel I can constantly fine tune myself as a lifter. This is something that I drum into all my clients time and time again. Look at different way of measuring your progress, look at what strategies work for you, have a game plan with all options covered, know what increments on the bar you can do and practice them.

For more information on my coaching services and approach to training please email me info@nodumbelles.com.gridhosted.co.uk

When things go to ratshit…adapt!

This past 6 weeks has been a bit of a roller coaster. I somehow managed to injure my hip and what started as a small twinge soon deteriorated into something more serious that left me unable to squat and deadlift. Along with my mentor, Delroy McQueen, we took the decision to pull out of my next planned full power competition in Ireland on Easter weekend. I was pretty gutted as the line up is just superb and it would have been good to be there in the mix. This is where having a mentor like Delroy is invaluable, we both deal with reality and adjust our expectations accordingly and having someone as a feedback system keeps everything in perspective and working on the positives.


Delroy McQueen always in the tick of things even when he is lifting himself.

Keeping the bigger picture in mind, which is the GPC European Championships, a full lower body training ban was imposed. So pretty much all I have been able to do is bench and upper assistance work for the last 3 weeks so that is what I did. Two press days and two back days. First press day is formal bench with tri’s and the second is a secondary bench day and strict press with delts. On the back days it was chins & rows, rows and more rows with retractions and trunk work.

To keep me focused I spoke to the promoter of the competition in Ireland, as I knew that as part of the event the boys were doing a raw bench comp based on Wilks, and I asked if I could be thrown in the mix. He was very much up for that which was awesome. Along with that I put my name down for bench only at Tattooed & Strong which, as many of you know, is a competition I run with GPCGB. Due to that weekend being stupidly busy for me I was under no pressure and I was prepared to pull out at any time if I needed to. Thirdly I entered Ink & Iron which is a push/pull in 3 weeks and a back up option.

I am a firm believer in when you get ‘injured’ you can really optimise that time and often come back a much better lifter because of it. You can only work with the body you have on any given day. I knew what I couldn’t do so instead of bitching about is I turned to what I could do and set goals accordingly.
*Set GPCGB Bench Only Raw British Records in 2 weight cats in Master 2 & Open
*Hit a 120kg Raw bench regardless of BW
*Practice taking 7.5kg jumps on bench
*60kg Strict Press
*Not come last against a flight on men on Wilks.
*Fully rest hip and allow time to heal.

Well so far the plan is going better than expected. On Saturday I not only set the British GPCGB Raw Bench only record in 90kg (weighed in 82.85kg after having to eat steak pie & chocolate milk to get up into the weight class), I also was able to set it a a GPC European and World single lift record. BONUS!!!!!

As always when I lift I have lifting plan with various options depending on how things are on the day. There is always the optimal plan and underlying that there are other strategies depending on what the end goal is. What I do depends on each attempt and the tempo of the bar and how well (or not) the attempt was carried out. One of the goals for this comp was to build confidence in taking bigger 7.5kg jumps which I had been practising in training. So these were my plans:
A:105/112.5/115 – 118.5(OpenWR)?
C:105/112.5/118.5 – Optimal

To say that I had been crazy busy project managing for a straight 36 hours is an understatement. Lifting was to start at 12pm for first flight and I was in 2nd flight so at 11.30 I took of my promoter cap and put on my lifter cap. I told everyone I was off duty for the next hour or so, put on my singlet and in went the earphones. Any dramas would now be dealt with by the rest of the team.

Warm-ups went well with the help of Daz ‘The Walrus’ Sloan. I keep it short and sweet and last warm-up was 97.5kg. I was on about halfway through the flight. Mr. G was then with me on platform to hand out and Del was my bar tempo feedback system. For me the atmosphere at Tattooed & Strong is totally overwhelming if I let it be. After 12 months of organising to finally have up and running one of the most talked about events in the powerlifting calender AND all the very vocal support that came from the crowd as I walked on platform, there is a tsunami of emotion ready to sweep over me at any time.

Putting my wraps on I am shaking like a leaf, the adrenalin is on full pelt and I must now make sure I don’t let it take over and get giddy. There is no need to psyche myself up. I need to focus on getting the job done so I mentally blinker myself and fade everything out and go through my checklist. For the next minute my universe is a single bench between 3 referees. Nothing else is any concern.

Be a dog

Be A Dog!

Whatever happens now I have to deal with it. Stay in the moment. I now go through the checklist like turning the pages of a book, look at one page at a time, do what it says then move on to next page. No skipping pages. No thinking about what happens next. Heads down…no nonsense. Take the bar, wait for the commands and do what you came here to do.

105kg opener really did feel like nothing. A quick confer with Del and we agree 112.5kg is the next attempt. He reminds me to focus on this next attempt and that the decision on third will be made based on the 112.5 and how it moves. Stay in the moment.

I had done a 112.5kg last heavy session and it was a good lift but had moved pretty slow, but I felt good and was pretty confident that I would be able to push it through even if is felt tough. Bar is loaded again, same process, nothing changes, turn the pages and get the job done. 112.5kg FLEW up, looking back at it I think it is one of the sweetest benches I have ever done. As soon as I get up of the bench I look at Del and we both say 118.5kg 3rd attempt to take the GPC Open Single lift record by .5kg.

Now nothing changes. Just stay in that groove and get the job done. Bar is loaded, I can hear EVERYONE and yet I hear no one. Turn the pages, focus and Never EVER Give Up. 118.5kg is my step to 120kg. If I do this I know the 120kg will happen very soon. As Mr G hands off for me and I start taking the bar down I know I’ve got it and think of my cues ‘spread!wrap wrap wrap’ ‘pin’ ‘press’ ‘elbows’. Part way up the left arm lags slightly but I anticipate this and I know not to panic and just keep position and focus on driving my elbows through and it will lockout with the right. RACK!!!!! Job Done!

Right….tick off the first goals hit with added bonus.
*Set GPCGB Bench Only Raw British Records in 90kg+WR & ER
*Set GPCGB Bench Only in 82.5kg
*Hit a 120kg Raw bench regardless of BW
*Practice taking 7.5kg jumps on bench
*60kg Strict Press
*Not come last against a flight on men on Wilks.
*Fully rest hip and allow time to heal.

Singlet and back to making sure everyone has an AWESOME time!

Donna Moore Interview – Europe’s Strongest Woman

I am delighted that I managed to sneak in a quick chat with the crazily nice Donna Moore before she goes off to her next competition. So without further ado here is my first ever ‘Jacked & Classy’ interview, I hope you like it!

TG – So tell me the Donna basics. Age, where do you live? Attached? Kids? Pets? Where do you train?

DM – 35 North Yorkshire 2 kids 2 dogs I’m a single parent And I train in quite a few places to fit in with my job where I work shifts and my kids etc

Powerburn with Gemma Magnusson Spartan Performance Consett with Jenny Todd Absolute Fitness with Darren Sadler The Shed with Gary Gardner Grants Gym Darlington All over!!!

TG – Wow you really do get around. So for those that don’t know tell me what your chosen sport is and why?

DM – I get around in a good way!

My chosen sport is Strongwoman. Strongwoman is a challenge. It’s fun and empowering all at the same time. There are so many different events it’s never boring and it’s accessible to everyone.

TG – How long have you been strong womaning?

DM – I have been strong womaning since 2012. That’s when I did my first strongwoman competition

TG – So this is you 5th year competing. How did you get into Strong Woman?

DM – My first lifting comp was a deadlift only challenge held at my local gym in Inverness where I lived. I had been training there after previously doing regular gym classes at the local leisure centre. I absolutely loved the gym classes but felt like I wanted to lift a bit more. One of my friends Peter, showed me how to deadlift and I fell in love with it. I went to The Forge and trained there. I entered the Deadlift challenge and really enjoyed myself. I was then approached by Louise Blades who was running a strongwoman comp and asked if I wanted to enter. I spoke to the guys at the gym. We did a plan and off I went. I competed in that in April 2012 and loved it, really loved it and I knew it’s what I wanted to do.

Donna 2

Nothing as bad-ass as pulling a truck!

TG – Do you have a sporty back ground?

DM – No not really.

I used to swim on the school team and I was quite good but I never wanted to really take it up at a higher level. I had a horse I was more interested in looking after him and competing with him than swimming.

TG – So what made you go to the gym in the first place? And how has that initial reason changed if at all?

DM – Ok so after I had my kids I was very obese. I was sad and depressed and I just couldn’t seem to shift my mood or my weight. I went to the doctor for help and she suggested that I should go to the gym, that doing more exercise would help me on all those things. I just had to take the initiative to actually go! It helped me no end. I met new friends, I lost weight I felt happy. I really believe that exercise changed my life for the better.

TG –
How has being strong changed the way you feel about yourself? Because you are fucking strong!

DM – That’s hard Can we come back to that?

TG – We can….

From what I can tell from the very little I know about you, your rise in SW has been pretty meteoric. What exactly is you comp history? Hit me with the highlights.

DM – British International (Scotland ) 2012 4th Progressive training systems comp 3rd British International (Scotland. Qualifier for World’s in Finland) 2nd World’s Finland 7th Britain’s Strongest Woman 2014 1st Europe’s Most Powerful Woman 2014 1st Midnight Sun Comp Norway 1st Sweden’s Strongest Woman Open 1st Arnold Strongwoman Championship 5th 2015 Britain’s Strongest Woman 2015 1st Bodypower 2015 1st Norway Invitational 1st Queen of the Vikings Sweden 1st Europe’s Strongest Woman 2015 1st

DM – I think that’s it

TG – Wow that is pretty impressive! And you next big outing is in a week right?

DM – Yesssssssss

DM – And where is that?

DM – I leave for the Arnold on Wednesday 2nd It starts on the 4th

DM – BOOOM!!!!!!! And what will be happening there?

DM – Arnold Strongwoman World Championship

TG- I take it you are pretty excited about this one then?

DM – Yes I am

TG – I know you have been training really hard. How do you run into and prepare for such a big comp?

DM – I was pleased with last year but now I know what to expect it’s not like any other competition I have been to It’s quite overwhelming

Well basically since I got back from last year my goal has been to qualify to go again. Everything i have been doing is with that goal in mind. It’s been a busy year for me competition wise and the last one was only in December. I have been consistent across most events training a variety and of course regular gym work and conditioning it was just a case of tailoring the training to the specific events when the list was published.

TG – How far in advance are the events published & what are they this year?

DM – I think it was about November time. The Europe’s Strongest Woman was December 13th so after that work was started on planning Arnold

This year it’s Log for reps 84kg ish Frame Carry 225kg Loading Medley 2 x keg 1 x Sandbag Deficit 4″ deadlift on an axel 181kg ish (It’s all in lbs)

That’s day 1

You must be in the top 4 to go to day 2

Then it’s a mystery event

And a stone of steel over a yoke for reps 92 kg ish So an atlas stone made from steel No tacky allowed

TG – They all sound really scary to me lol. What is your favourite event and what is your least favourite?

DM – I don’t mind any of them this time. Not crazy about sandbags but thats just 1 implement. I’m curious as to what the mystery event is but I hope that I’m now rounded enough that I can do most events quite well.

I like a deadlift. Deadlifts make me kinda happy

TG – You sound like you feel really well prepared for this competition. How have you mentally prepared?

DM – I have talked A LOT with a few people mainly about controlling my nerves and negative thinking. I have also been to a few competitions alone including overseas ones. This has made me have to get a grip. I had to deal with it all…getting to the comps, preparing, getting all supplies together, paying attention to warm up, listening to rules and watching other competitors so I knew what I had to do. Be self sufficient Visualise all the lifts, all the cues, all the training points. I’ve learned a lot about competing as you can lift all you like in the gym but if you don’t know how to compete then you have already lost.

TG – That is so true. I am getting really excited for you now too lol

How many competitors are there and who are the big players? I am totally clueless as t who is who in SW so talk me through the top 5 in your opinion.

DM – In my weight class I think everyone is a contender. We all had to qualify to get there so must have placed in national comps so I wouldn’t like to say. Top 4 go to the final and I want to be in that this year.

TG – I will be keeping everything crossed for you that is for sure.

Who has been your biggest influence?

DM – Thank you Oooooooo… Well the first Strongwoman I ever saw was on TV and it was Jill Mills. She was squatting some keg loaded rack and I remember thinking that it was so cool and that she was amazing. So firstly her but really all the strong ladies I have come across have influenced me. I train with Gemma Magnusson and she is also a very successful strong woman. Also Jenny Todd and Kikki Berli-Johnsen. I watched Kristen Rhodes in Finland in awe of her total power. So I can’t really say just 1 person.

Donna and Gemma

Donna with one of her coaches & fellow Strong Woman Gemma Magnusson

TG – What about influences outside of the sport/gym? Is there anyone that you really admire or are inspired by?

DM – Iv come across many people I admire, people who have worked hard to overcome adversity and I can’t just pick one. I am daily inspired by my kids. They bring me such joy and make me want to be the best person I can be for them and my Mum. My mum is an amazing lady.

DM – How do you fit training in around family and work commitments? I mean you are training for something at a very high level. How the bloody hell do you do it?

DM – I plan it all around it all. If something is important you make time for it

TG – So like a big wall planner type of thing? My saviour is Google Planner lol

DM – Lol no I just know when I’m working When the kids are doing stuff and I plan it that way

TG – Man you are GOOD! Lo Go on and hit me with your best lifts?

DM – 240kg dead 125kg bench 111kg log 115kg oh press And let’s not talk about squatting it was 175kg last time I checked a 1rm

TG – How have they progressed over the years? I mean where did you start weigh wise?

DM – At the beginning I my first pb deadlift was 125kg Then 137.5kg After that I’m not sure but it just gradually increased. I kept consistently on with it I remember I was stuck at 160 for a while then I went to Finland and pulled a very ugly 190 where I thought I was going to die but that was the Turning point/ plateau break for me. I got the biggest wake-up call in Finland. The other ladies were sooooooo far ahead of me. After that I really knuckled down. Paid attention to nutrition, rest, and conditioning. I saw the bigger picture. What it took to actually compete at that level and I worked towards it with the help of my coaches. I researched stuff I asked questions. I tried different methods till I found what worked for me.

My 125kg bench came as a surprise. I don’t train flat bench often

Il keep on with my oh press and o hope to get nearer to the record log press after Arnold

TG – Your hard work and dedication really are paying off.
Getting back to how you fit everything in, talk me through a typical day?


DM – My training up to Arnold has been hectic as I’m all over the place to fit it in. I do strength and conditioning type training with Gemma usually 3x a week. I deadlift/squat another day, o/press another and then events. Sometimes I have to train twice a day to fit it in with work and family. It’s not ideal but right now it’s the only way.

Donna 1

Deadlift makes Donna Happy

TG – A little bird tells me you have been bullied into trying some powerlifting this year :0) would you care to elaborate?

DM – Yes bullied is a quite an accurate description…Tania!!!!! And basically, I know I will not be left alone until I do get on the platform.

I have thought about having a go at Powerlifting for quite some time but this past year has been so busy with Strongwoman I never really got the chance. I wasn’t even sure how well I’d do with the technicalities of powerlifting but I am going to give it a try and see if I can set a decent total.

TG – Well I for one can’t wait to see you on a powerlifting platform.
Thank you so much for taking the time for a chat and I hope we can catch up with how you did at the Arnolds?

DM – Definitely I’d really like to meet you in real life

TG – Yes let’s definitely make that happen.

If you want to watch Donna at the Arnold’s then there is an FB page link to live stream below.

Stay #JackedAndClassy