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The New World of Powerlifting
Today Greg Panora made a post about the new age of powerlifting. He made some powerful points that really hit home, and it took me back to a time where things were different. I was different. Powerlifting has become more mainstream with the help of CrossFit and Social Media.
Mainstream isn’t always better. Yah the growth means that people can actually make a living with programming, products, coaching, and seminars. However all of that can be a distraction if athletes aren’t careful. Your training will quickly become about making the best instagram post if you’re not careful. That’s a slippery slope! You will quickly become more about your business long before you have accomplished all that you could’ve in the sport.
The key is remembering why you started the sport in the first place. I can’t answer that for you, but I will tell my story. By the time I was 12-years-old, I was fascinated with the barbell. I quickly realized that more time spent with the barbell equaled more muscle, strength, and athleticism. That realization put control into a young boy’s hands that otherwise seemed to escape him. What I mean is that life wasn’t always gumdrops and lollipops growing up in the mountains of North Carolina. My mother was married and divorced three times, and we moved around a lot. Life was chaotic at best.
There was a lot of arguing and fighting in the home. I am not going into detail about the home life at this point, but let’s just say that it was far from perfect. My mother did the best that she could, but things were rough at times. That’s ok because I had the barbell. I was in control of how hard I worked. I was in control of the food that I ate.
Is this healthy? No way man, but it was better than the alternative. I have a brother in prison right now. That was the alternative. I chose a slightly better path. When you start powerlifting for these reasons, you are destined to look at it a little different than some college yuppie starting a new hobby. I was riding a wave to the top at all cost. Failure wasn’t an option. Failure meant death as far as I was concerned.
Greg Panora and Brandon Lilly were talking about the hardcore outlook of the pioneers in powerlifting. Guys like Chuck Vogulpuhl approaching the bar as if he were a Knight from the Dark Ages attacking his enemy are the images that I remember from powerlifting.
Kirk Karwoski talked to me in 2003 after I had received my first injury. I slightly tore my quadriceps, and I asked him if I should retire. He glared at me for what seemed like hours and growled, “You are being a pu#*y! You haven’t powerlifted until you get injured.”
He went on to tell me a story about the way he chose to compete in his last world championships. He was battling injuries during the training cycle, and for the first time training wasn’t going well. At the time powerlifting was his whole life. Depression set in, and he wasn’t sure of the next step to take. He placed a bullet in his .357 Revolver, spun the chamber, put the barrel to his head, and pulled the trigger.
“Oh well time to train,” he told himself.
Early on in my career, I was determined to be the best powerlifter in the world. I started climbing the ladder and knocking down one lifter at a time. I was interviewed early in my career, and I will never forget one of the questions that I was asked. The interviewer asked me if I would trade 20 years of my life for a World Record Total. I looked at him with a confused look on my face and said, “Yes, of course!”
All I could think about was what a dumb question. I remember another time when I was benching 785lb in training. When the bar reached my chest, blood exploded from my eyes, nose, and ears. The pressure was too much I guess. I completed the lift, stood up, scraped the blood from my face, and flung it into the camera.
Powerlifting wasn’t about followers or posting the coolest video. It was about becoming the strongest man on this planet, and that is exactly what I did. That is what my comrades did as well like Steve Goggins, Ed Coan, and Jason Coker. It was a way of life that others didn’t understand, and that is the way that we liked it.
We were competitors, but we were also brothers. We respected each other. We didn’t bash each other on social media. We fed off each other. We pushed each other, but we loved each other as well.
There is a lot lacking in today’s strength world. This goes for weightlifting and powerlifting. Let me tell you this, you might have 100,000 followers, but if you don’t accomplish something great in your sport while you can, people will quickly forget you. People respect me in the strength world because I accomplished feats of strength that had never been seen before me. They don’t respect me because I was crushing the social media.
Remember why you started the sport. Hopefully you started the sport with the intent on maximizing your body’s genetic potential. Hopefully you started to become as strong as humanly possible. I recommend that you keep that focus until you maximize your potential, and then social media is much easier. Ed Coan started his instagram about two months ago, and now he has 52,000 followers. He posts once per week.
Achieve something first! At least that is what I recommend. You will not be able to get your youth back, so take advantage of it. Respect your fellow competitors and the ones that came before you. Respect given will earn respect in return. This one quality has helped me now that strength is more of my career. No one wants to listen to a hotheaded person that spouts off about his peers on the daily. People respect and trust people that respect others, and that is the pure truth.
I have given you extreme examples of powerlifters committed to the very essence of greatness within their chosen sport. You don’t have to be suicidal to be great. I have lost a lot of friends within powerlifting because of this extreme viewpoint, and I don’t want to lose anymore. I was just making the point that we were more focused back in the day without the distractions of social media.
Early on define why that you are in the sport, and then stay true to that definition. This will help you stay focused down the path of your own journey.