If ya’ll remember this column originated after I returned to the sport following a 15 year self-imposed sabbatical. I was discussing with Rich all the changes that have occurred over that period of time and he recommended I put these thoughts on paper. I have given my two cents on a few things that have changed (equipment, organization, internet…). This time I’m going to take a shot at one thing that has remained constant: the opinionated powerlifter.
Powerlifters are an independent lot almost by design. We lift in a sport that is barely recognized outside of our community. Just yesterday I was at a casual business function and a councilman with the city asked if I spent a lot of time in the gym. When I told him about powerlifting he asked if that was the thing on ESPN where they lift all the stones. Like I said, not so well recognized.
Powerlifters approach the sport differently as well – Westside methods; reactive training; progressive; periodization; Peter’s principles and on and on. There are as many approaches as there are organized gyms. And, the approach to the lift itself is different. There are wide stance squatters, wwwwwwider stance squatters, and narrow squatters. Sumo and conventional. Fast pullers and grinder….. You get the picture.
Powerlifters are self-supporting as well. We have a few professional meets were someone can make a few bucks, and, there are a couple sponsors out there that will help differ equipment and supplement costs. But no powerlifting athlete has or is making enough money to support him or herself. There isn’t enough money to simply differ the cost of travel and competition let alone equipment. Only a few equipment manufacturers and one crazy lunatic who travel the heartland putting on meets make enough to support themselves and the family.
As a supportive and productive member of society the vast majority of powerlifters are very hard working. And, a large majority of us are working-class or have our roots in working with our hands. Rail-workers, miners, laborers, accountants, teachers, law enforcement, trash haulers, truck drivers…. you name it – we do it. We are Americana at its best. Therefore we have opinions.
Now mind you – not every powerlifter is as vocal as the few you see that frequent the ‘crazy board’ on a weekly basis. Some lifters keep their opinions to a select few. But they are opinionated none-the-less.
This was the case in the 70’s and it’s the norm today. The primary difference is opinions are communicated at rocket speed today. In yesteryear, you heard the thoughts of lifters at the meet (either first or second hand). And, although the targets have shifted over the last 40 years – the sentiment is still the same: bomb Iran, bomb Iraq, bomb N. Korea, and bomb Afghanistan. Screw Carter, screw Bush, screw, Clinton, screw Bush, screw Obama (note: it is impossible for me to even utter those words in reference to President Reagan). We stand fiercely behind our opinions and our convictions.
It shouldn’t have surprised anyone – or at the very least any powerlifter – that there was such an explosion of powerlifting organizations. Through the 80s and early 90s powerlifting splintered in America from: the USPF to….. The USPF, the ADFPA, the APF and NASA. Each with its own niche – each with it’s own following. Today with the advent of instant communication and broadcast it has splintered beyond the niche and into the sublime. Oh, there are always dreamers who wish the sport was united. If you are one of those please realize: it ain’t gonna happen. Powerlifters won’t let it happen. Think about it: this sport was born out of misfit lifts in the fifties and sixties (odd lifts) that didn’t quite fit anywhere else. The AAU under-represented the sport. The USPF over regulated the sport. And the rest, as they say, is history. If unity occurs, powerlifters would just create their own brand of lifting. Most folks think unity is about competition. I beg to differ. When asking a powerlifters about his/her goals, seldom will you hear: to beat Joe; to out lift Carl; to humiliate John on the platform. As a matter of fact, I’ve never heard this type of goal uttered by anyone that has been in the sport for more than 15 minutes.
I’ve heard young lifters emphatically tell a seasoned lifter that he will one day break all his records. I’ve heard lifters stating they will: bench five, squat seven, pull six ……. And what I always hear in summary is: I will lift more. That’s it in a nutshell. The game of powerlifting, the sport if you will was created to do one thing: create a system to measure one’s ability to lift more. That is how we measure ourselves. And if we don’t like the method, venue, organization – we will create our own just to allow us to pursue the quest of, yes, lifting more. This hasn’t changed. Don’t see it changing anytime soon. Powerlifters are a unique breed. And it is very rare for those not ‘in’ the sport to comprehend our quest.
Powerlifting is a lot like riding a Harley: if you understand why – no explanation is needed. If you don’t – no explanation is possible.