The Bar is Loaded (Article Banner)

Howdy folks. If you’ve read my previous articles I think you know by now I don’t take myself too serious. I believe in two tenants: 1. don’t sweat the small stuff; and 2. it’s all small stuff. If you’re reading this column for the first time I would encourage you to ‘start from the bottom up’ and read the four previous entries. They are very quick reads and it will help with perspective. Now that you’ve caught up I’m ready to share my take on the FUTURE OF POWERLIFTING (said in that deep echoing voice that announces tractor pulls on Sunday, Sunday, Sunday…). And please, before anyone gets their panties in a bundle, I do not think I’m an expert on the subject. I don’t believe I have greater insight that anyone else, and I’m not blessed with an overabundance of intelligence. I simply have a take. I do think my take provides perspective that spans over twenty-six years in (and out) of the sport. I don’t make any apologies and my opinions are just that. So, without further adieu……

Webster defines ‘evolution’ as: development. A process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage (especially a more advanced or mature stage). Clearly by this definition the sport of powerlifting has not ‘evolved’. We have splintered. We have become raw, untested, tested, multi-plied, single-plied, classic, 26-organization-supporting lifting groups. People in the sport speak of movements – the west side movement, the metal movement, the raw movement, the unity movement. Enough, enough I say (tongue firmly planted). Rise up! In the words of Susan Powter – Stop the Insanity! It is time for a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking or behaving (Webster definition of ‘revolution’).

I am proposing a revolution. But not at the expense of any powerlifting sub-group. I propose embracing the split. Run with it. Go the distance. What do I mean? Well, let’s take a look at the two most-distinct camps: raw vs. multi-ply. The first thought that should strike the casual powerlifting fan (both of them) is that I don’t define the camps in terms of steroid usage – or lack there of. Why? Because those that use have a certain level of pride that, for the most part, keeps them lifting in their organizations. And, those that abstain from using strength-enhancing drugs stay in their perspective organizations. And, both groups follow the same rule book. Depth is depth, touching the chest is touching the chest, and a lock out is a lock out. However, raw vs. multi-ply literally look at the sport differently. Raw lifters strive for a consistent, firm yet fair application of THE rule book. While multi-ply lifters seek an interpretation of rules that fit the application and limitations of their gear. Additionally, raw lifters enjoy the structure and formality of a consistently-well run meet. In contrast, multi-ply lifters desire a metal rock atmosphere with a forgiving clock. If you have read through my column you will note I’m a big ‘values’ guy. And, that’s what we have here: competing values. Arguably some will say that we have different values within the same sport. I don’t believe that. I think the values defining both groups – raw and multi-ply – are so great that we have become two different sports. We just don’t know it yet.

It reminds me of snow skiing vs. snowboarding. I enjoy skiing two or three times a year. Believe you me it is quite a sight to see. I look like the Michelin tire man on planks (note to self: I should stop skiing). Anywho, when snowboarding gained in popularity (circa early 90’s) all of us two plankers sounded off. We bitched about their gear, complained about the music they brought to the slopes, and constantly moaned about their tricks and stunts. We even tried to run them off the mountain. Get your own runs. That’s what we said. And, by golly, that’s what they did. Boarders got their own runs. They got their half-pipes. They got their own rules. And, with the help of the events like the X-games, they got television’s attention. Today there is peace on the mountain. All skiers and boarders – casual and competitive – recognize that there are two distinct and different sports. The only things they have in common are snow and gravity.

We are so there. We are so different we are two distinct sports. I don’t think multi-ply should even be called powerlifting. I throw out Extreme Lifting for your consideration. Multiply lifters tend to value lifting as much weight as their equipment will allow. They have no pride in lifting raw. They call it “going backwards”. I get that. I even respect that. But it ain’t powerlifting. Multi-ply lifters push the envelope of gear as far as possible. They bend the lock-out rule. They bend the pause rule. They break the depth rule (pun intended). And, they bend the bar. For the purist, it’s hard to watch. But, for those that enjoy the extreme, its fun. The music’s blaring. The crowd’s screaming. All is good in their world. If this sub-group embraces Extremely Lifting the next logical step would be to modify their rules to fit the viewing audience. Condense weight classes. Open the clock. Package the lifts and provide an exhibition of, well, Extreme Lifting.

Powerlifting would once again become a ‘pure’ sport – one defined by its rules. The raw lifters would compete in a format along with single-ply users. Single-ply would be strictly regulated to meet stringent –dare I say it- “classic” standards. Uniformity and consistency in powerlifting would be restored. Depth would be depth. Lock out would be lock out. Pauses would be pauses (I’m wiping the tears from my eyes as I write).

I believe Extreme Lifting could establish a following and a venue right next to the X-games. Organizers of Extreme Lifting would be free to create guidelines that would be television friendly. Extreme lifters would have their platform to lift their way. Equipment vendors would be elated. And order would be restored to our beloved powerlifting community. It would be a beautiful thing.

Now, if they would only listen to my take on global warming….