Taylor Atwood’s Success Story
Told By Jason Tremblay
Words will never truly express the gratitude I have for these two in my life.
I want to thank Jason who has been my coach since day one in powerlifting. He has helped me reach a level I never thought I was capable of and continues to push my limits beyond what I think I can do.
I want to thank Ben who came in & assisted with my training & preparation for Nationals. He was truly the X factor and I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am to have him on my side.
The energy that these two brought yesterday to help handle me during the competition was something special.
– Taylor after winning his 4th National Championship
First Powerlifting Meet: 02.01.2014
Started with TSG: 2014
The Full Story
Taylor Atwood Became a TSG Athlete
Taylor Atwood’s Success Story began in 2014 when he was looking for a new competitive outlet after finishing a training camp stint with the BC Lions. He brought the explosive ability that he was known for as a running back into the weight room but needed polish and precision to realize his potential. So we began working toward winning Raw Nationals and setting the National Record on Bench Press. His starting numbers were SQ: 215 kg, BP: 170 kg, DL: 260 kg.
Unknowing of the experiences they’d have together in years to come, Taylor, his father Scott, and Jason would meet for the first time at that meet. Taylor won his first national championship and showed significant progress. In his first meet with TSG, he had increased his squat by 20 kg (235 kg), his Bench Press by 15 kg (185 kg, and his deadlift by 12.5 kg (272.5 kg), for an improvement of 42.5 kg to his total (687.5 kg). Following the meet, we decided not to compete at the 2014 World Championship. Instead, our focus was to set world records at the 2015 Arnold Classic.
Bombing at the 2015 Arnold Classic
At a tune-up meet two months before the Arnold Classic, Taylor had again shown significant progress. He had increased his total by 12.5 kg (700 kg) without any 3rd attempts. Unfortunately, our big ambitions for the 2015 Arnold Classic fell short on the day. Taylor missed his opener at 257.5 kg due to a technical error, the 2nd attempt on a misstep before the “rack” command, and the 3rd attempt on depth. Nevertheless, he finished the meet, making an unofficial World Record Bench Press at 185 kg and a Deadlift of 290 kg. This setback taught us that the strongest person doesn’t win competitions; the best powerlifter does.
After the 2015 Arnold Classic, we contacted the US National Team to register as an alternate competitor for the World Championship we initially decided to forgo.
The Championship that came at a cost
Overcoming a Back Injury
A back injury compounded the setback of bombing out at the 2015 Arnold Classic. Taylor sustained this injury in training shortly after, likely due to “popping” his hips forward before initiating the descent in his squat. As a result, Taylor could not perform lower body lifts, so we trained bench press and maintained a high lower body isolation exercises workload. Dr. Quinn Henoch provided guidance that helped Taylor complete a few squat & deadlift sessions with less discomfort before the 2015 Raw Nationals.
Neither of us had an idea of what to expect, but he wanted to defend his national championship, so we decided to compete. The only certainty going into Nationals was that we’d all be there, and Taylor would be lifting for Team De Novo Nutrition to help them on team scoring. We met the Owner & Head Coach Ben Esgro, who agreed to join our game day team.
Although Taylor warmed up pain-free, he re-aggravated his back injury when a loud “crack” occurred out of the hole on his 3rd attempt. He made the lift. Once the adrenaline wore off a few minutes later, Taylor couldn’t stand up without significant pain. We contemplated removing him from the competition until he found that lowering his belt helped manage the pain. He stayed in the meet with an easy 185 kg 3rd attempt on the bench press.
However, things got complicated once again when it came time to warm up for the deadlift. Taylor fainted and fell face-first onto the platform on his first warm-up set with 70 kg. Now bleeding from the cheek, he got up and confirmed that he had held his breath for too long the rep. Half an hour later, he made a 272.5 kg deadlift to win his second national championship.
This win came at a cost, and we had to maintain our focus on Taylor’s bench press from November to April. Then, we began to train effectively again with the World Championship less than three months away.
Competing at our first World Championship in 2016
We did not leave a stone unturned in the lead-up to our debut at the World Championship in 2016. His goal was to become a World Champion, and it was my lifelong dream to be the best at something when I was young. Taylor did everything in his power to get back to full health, and I created TSG’s first Athlete Management System to add a more data-driven element to our training. So, although we had less than three months of preparation for the event, we arrived confident in the preparation that we did have.
Taylor was on fire from the start of the competition, making a 255 kg squat (5 kg PR) and a 190 kg bench press (5 kg PR). Moving into the final deadlift, Taylor was 8/8, and all signs indicated that a 290 kg deadlift would force the reigning World Champion beyond his limits. With what was likely to be the winning deadlift in his hands, Taylor stood up with the weight, but his knees were soft at lockout, and the lift was no good. It was a cruel way to take 2nd place, but we were proud of the effort that we had both put in.
Another Letdown at the 2017 IPF World Championships
After winning his third national championship, we began preparing for the 2017 World Championship in Belarus. During 2016 and 2017, my quest to develop as a coach led me into sports science. I thought that if we could train consistently, Taylor would win in Belarus. But unfortunately, he sustained a strain less than two months before the World Championship.
Although Taylor had progressed his total to 733 kg, we had again placed 2nd. Only this time, the result was far more disappointing than the previous year. In hindsight, Taylor’s training that year was too conservative, and when the training load did pick up, he couldn’t tolerate it. Little did we know that this realization about training volume, work capacity, and how they relate to injury prevention and performance improvement would later become fundamental to our training system.
At a Crossroads
We each took this loss hard. We had fallen short of our goals due to strategy at the 2015 Arnold Classic, technique at the 2016 IPF World Championship, and programming at the 2017 IPF World Championship. At the time, it felt like I had run out of inspiration. After, I journaled the pros and cons of remaining a powerlifting coach or moving into professional sports science. It became clear that I’d carry a deep regret if I didn’t give my best for the next competition, and I needed to find answers.
I called my friend Ben Esgro a few weeks after the disappointment of placing 2nd at the 2017 World Championship. We learned that we were both in situations where we could be better as a collective than as individuals. So, after being challenged by numerous people close to me and most importantly, after challenging myself, Ben and I agreed to form our coaching team, “The Collective,” and help Taylor for the 2017 Nationals.
2017 – 2018
Finding Our Inflection Point in Late 2017-Early 2018
Taylor sustained another injury during his first week of training with Ben and I. Once again, it was likely due to having a low work capacity at that time. However, he bounced back within a few weeks, and we had a strong end to 2017 Nationals preparation. Taylor won his fourth national championship with a 750 kg total and qualified for the 2018 World Championship in my hometown Calgary, Alberta.
We immediately set our sights on redemption at the Arnold Classic. Now healthy and with more time to build his chronic training load, Taylor progressed by leaps and bounds, heading into this competition. Competing at 75.2 kg bodyweight, Taylor smashed his previous personal best of 750 kg with a 782.5 kg total. This performance showed us the power of the data-based training system that Ben and I were building each week, and it changed our entire outlook towards the World Championship that was to take place four months later.
Worlds in Calgary | TSG’s Hometown
Taylor, Ben, and our entire team arrived in Calgary with confidence levels sky-high. Despite sustaining another muscular strain during the final weeks of preparation, we knew that Taylor had a strong chance of winning his first World Championship. Taylor posted a World Record-setting Total of 758 kg, and we finally had our first World Championship.
We had the best time celebrating it with the entire team and my family, and we agreed that even if he had won in Killeen or Minsk during previous years, the feeling wouldn’t have been as great as it was.
The Belarus Re-Match
Taylor won his 5th National Championship at the 2018 Raw Nationals in Spokane. We set our sights on a rematch against Kjell Bakkelund, the record-setting Norwegian lifter who beat us at the 2017 World Championship in Belarus. Now a World Champion, Taylor was completely healthy for the entire year. He had a strong training cycle, and the injuries he had sustained in the past were a far-gone memory. So, we arrived in Helsingborg, Sweden, with confidence levels as high as they’ve ever been.
Taylor set the pace for the meet with a 276.5 kg world record on his 2nd attempt and furthered his world record with 283 kg on his 3rd attempt. He set a new PR on the bench press at 195 kg and finished the day 9/9 with a PR of 312.5 kg on the deadlift. Taylor won his second world championship with a 790.5 kg total, shattering his previous world record of 758 kg. This performance earned him the prestigious Best Men’s Open Lifter of the 2019 World Championship award.
The 2019 USAPL National Championship
Following a well-deserved break after a challenging eight-month training period preparing for his win and Best Lifter winning performance at the World Championship, we began training for 2019 Raw Nationals on short notice. Coming off of a dominant win just a few months earlier, we pushed Taylor hard on a new three-day-per-week training split due to his time restrictions. Unfortunately, he ended up sustaining the second major injury of his career, this time a groin issue, less than a month before the meet. He was hurt, but he was stronger than we’d ever seen him too.
At the 2019 Raw Nationals in Lombard, Illinois, we decided on a conservative game plan for squat. In part, this was a tactic to avoid an injury flare-up during the competition, and it was also a glaring oversight by me. I didn’t scout the competition before that meet, and it took me off guard when the competition matched or exceeded Taylor’s lifts on each lift. Although Taylor won the meet and Best Lifter with margin, it was clear that the new wave of competitors was closing in.
With the inaugural 2020 SBD Sheffield Invitational coming up five months later, we knew that we had to overcome this injury and continue to make progress to retain Taylor’s status as the Best Lifter from the 2019 World Championship.
Preparing for the 2020 SBD Sheffield Invitational
We had a frustrating prep for the 2020 SBD Sheffield Invitational. The groin issue ended up being worse than we initially thought, and it hindered Squat training throughout the entire prep. However, the world was changing fast during the early months of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic beginning to spiral out of control. We didn’t know what to make of this at the time, so we kept preparing, and then two weeks before we were going to fly to Sheffield to compete at this prestigious event, we learned that the meet was canceled. The cancellation of the Sheffield gave us the extra time that we needed to fully overcome the groin issue that plagued our preparations as we focused on our next goal: becoming the first 74 kg lifter to total 800 kg.
812 kg at the 2020 Florida State Championships
Taylor next took the platform in October of 2020. With a healthy three-month period of preparations under his belt, he felt stronger than ever on each of his lifts heading into the meet. He started the meet by hitting a 293 kg squat to take the national record with ease on his third attempt and then made a limit lift at 199 kg on bench press to take the national record as well. Heading into the meet, we knew that Taylor was strong on the deadlift, but we didn’t have a true idea of how much strength gains he had made. He secured the first-ever 800 kg total by a 74 kg lifter by lifting 310 kg on his second attempt, and then he easily lifted 320 kg on his third attempt, a weight that we thought would represent the limit of his strength. Something about the training set-up had produced another inflection point for Taylor, and this time it was the deadlift that was rapidly increasing.
After this competition, we were amazed at what we had achieved. The sight of Taylor totaling more than 800 kg reminded me of an old IPF Magazine issue with Brett Gibbs on the cover, and the title was “The Quest for 800” [as an 83 kg competitor]. In four years, this total had gone from an 83 kg milestone to a 74 kg milestone, and what’s more, Taylor’s chief competitor Austin Perkins became the second 74 kg lifter to total 800 kg one month later.
How far the competition standards had risen since we started was quite unbelievable, and we knew that we’d be in for a battle at the next USAPL Raw Nationals.
Achieving the #1 All-Time Points Ranking at 2021 Raw Nationals
We prepared harder than ever before, leading into 2021 Raw Nationals. The venue was the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, the same venue as where Taylor had won his first Weightlifting meet a decade ago. With his family in attendance and fatherhood around the corner, we knew that we had a great opportunity to achieve a personal best performance. Acknowledging the growing strength of the competition, we thought we’d need a personal best performance to win his 7th national championship as well.
The condition that Taylor was in during the final month of competition prep was something we’d never seen before. Each session, he was like a rubber band stretched to its limit, lots of potential energy that was ready to become kinetic, but also ready to snap. We were training on the razor’s edge of fatigue and fitness, yet he’d exceed previous velocity personal bests during each grueling four-hour training session. His condition in the final month of prep was a testament to the hypothesis we formed after the 2017 World Championship in Belarus, that the best powerlifters are the ones who can adapt to performing more work over time, and we knew that if he could make it to the platform in one piece, we could have a shot at achieving a historical total.
As soon as Taylor weighed in, I calculated what he’d need to total to achieve the #1 points ranking by the GL, DOTS, IPF, and Wilks (old and new). He needed to total 835.5 kg that day as a 74 kg lifter to set the new mark to beat, and it was within our strategy for the day. Our first objective was to win the competition, and if we could secure the win, we planned to push his attempts to the limit to achieve the milestone. With the win secured, Taylor and his meet day coach, Matt Gary, decided to load 340.5 kg/750 lbs on his third attempt. He stood up with the weight, and for a moment in time, he held the all time world record for an 83 kg lifter too.
It was an unbelievable achievement for us. In six years, we had transformed from being a bumbling duo featuring a talented and hard-working athlete and a young and inexperienced coach, to achieving the #1 all-time ranking.
Our story is still in progress. Taylor’s next competition will be Powerlifting America Nationals on April 1st. Stay tuned. #BlueTakeover