Biggest Mistake in Powerlifting

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Biggest Mistake in Powerlifting

As a powerlifter, I made all the mistakes an athlete can make. That’s why it was hard to narrow it down to just one. I was the typical bull-headed powerlifter that had watched way too many videos. It was very hard to coach me, or to give me a piece of advice. It’s funny how I chose coaching as a profession. I guess that’s why I am ok with people not listening to everything that I say. Sometimes people need to make a few mistakes before they are able to move forward. I totally get that because I was the same way.

After weeding through all the mistakes that I could remember, the one that stood out was “getting too jacked too often”. When I first started powerlifting, I would stay intense all the time. I mean Kirk Karwoski was getting jacked in the videos, so I will get jacked in training. My perception wasn’t reality. Kirk was getting jacked for world record attempts not training numbers.

Here’s the thing. Every time that you get all jacked up, you are activating the fight or flight response in the sympathetic nervous system. This leads to adrenal fatigue, extra stress, and overall loss of energy in the long run. People talk about tapping into the adrenal system that is activated when a car is turned upside down on a child. People have been known to lift the car during these tragic moments to save the child.

That system is reserved for moments like that. If used on a daily basis, this will lead to muscle breakdown, a weakened immune system, and low energy levels. I recommend saving those moments for the platform or for PR attempts during training.

Experienced lifters will eventually get in touch with their nervous system, and they will be able to excite themselves a little at a time or in a controlled amount. For example, when I was at the peak of my career, I would be smiling during my openers, totally focused and under control. I would get a little more excited for my second attempt. Third attempts in the squat and deadlift would be somewhere between jacked and all-out depending on the competition or the attempt (world record, for the win, etc).


When I learned this system for energy exertion, I was able to be a much more consistent lifter. The other big thing that I learned that you could apply to your own system is staying chill in the warm-up room. Most of my competitors would be raging in the back during the initial warm-ups. Do you really need to get jacked for a 135lb squat? Probably not!

Here’s the big secret to chilling out in the back room. The key is to pretend that it is your gym, and you are simply training with a bunch of your friends that love powerlifting as much as you do. When I started doing that, I started breaking world records.

The guys that get jacked too soon in the back will always run out of energy. You have to learn to control your emotions to ever be a great athlete at anything. If you are out of control, so is your lifting. That’s fact. Watch the greats like Ed Coan or Dan Green. They are in total control of their emotions. Their emotions are at an excited level, but they are still very in control. All the greats will perform like this. You might see them get jacked on world record attempts, but they will still be under control.

You might notice that I didn’t talk a lot about the bench press. The bench is a very technical lift. If you will stay under control, you will think your way to a successful lift. I recommend getting excited, but you will definitely want to stay focused and in control. You might find that you can think your way through this lift.

Don’t be the dummy going crazy in the back room with 135 pounds. That’s an obvious sign of a rookie. You are a professional, so act like that you’ve been there before. This will not only give you respect from your peers, but it will equal more kilos/pounds on your total.

Don’t forget about the Mash Elite Weightlifting Team Camp:

We are hosting a three-day camp July 8-10 at the Mash Compound. It’s going to look like this:

• Day 1 Max Out Friday with the team and social afterwards
• Day 2 Clinic with Coach McCauley, Coach Wilkes, me and the team
• Day 3 Clinic about meet day prep and strategy, and then a sanctioned meet

We’ve decided to limit the camp to only 20 people, so don’t wait if you’re interested. Here’s the link to find out more:

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