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I like to believe that the powerlifters who take the time to scroll through the TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEM site are a “step above” the typical lifter, with at least some appreciation of the sport’s history. I have been consistent, strident, and unwavering in my belief that knowing the history of the activity enhances all aspects of it. If there was a “Number One, Number Two, and Number Three” order to the lifting sports inclusive of Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, and Bodybuilding, the application to athletics would have been in the above stated order through the 1960s and ‘70s with the understanding that weight training in any form should not be done at all, prior to the early 1960s. By the early 1980s, the order would have changed with powerlifting nudging its way to the top of the heap, primarily because a greater number of powerlifters were involved as strength coaches. Bodybuilding was always seen by coaches and most athletes as not providing the benefits as applied to athletics, that the two “real lifting sports” would. Of course if one were to examine the lifting portions of any major university or professional sports team’s preparation program, one would be hard pressed in most cases to figure out where the emphasis was or which of the lifting sports held more of an influence.
I understand the possibility of reader confusion regarding the intent of this month’s article, based on the title. In part, that comes from the purposeful wording of the title and in larger part because the overwhelming majority of powerlifting participants refuse to understand the importance of knowing the history of the sport. As some reach “older age” many also reach “elder” status and I know that I have been granted far more credit for everything for no other reason than my age and length of involvement in strength training. However, being an elder does allow me the advantage of understanding that there is a lot more enjoyment, potential for success as a lifter, and application to other areas if one knows and understands the origins and utilization of powerlifting through the course of the decades of its existence. I would frequently sit and talk with the lifters I was charged with improving, either in small groups, just “gals and guys hanging out and talking lifting,” or individually in order to impart specific instruction or advice. Invariably, those that heard and could relate to at least some of the sport’s history and legendary past performers did better relative to their own potential, than those that would more or less roll their eyes and say or think, “I just want to know this bench specialization program.”
For those who have taken the time to read Parts 1 and 2 of “There’s No Escaping Politics!” as well as any of the materials related to this topic in the more than eight years I have contributed to the TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS blog/series of articles, the obvious question becomes, “Okay, what is your personal feeling regarding the politics of the sport?” It’s not as if my feelings or opinions matter, they don’t, probably not to the overwhelming majority of our readers and certainly not to those who hold the reins of powerlifting in their hands. Many of the older or more experienced lifters know me, have read my articles and training materials since the late-1960s, and some have followed my articles in Strength And Health, Muscular Development, the Weider magazines, Iron Man, Bob Hise’s International Olympic Lifter, and the more than two decades of monthly features in POWERLIFTING USA. The most obvious disadvantages I have in making any comment about the politics of the sport of powerlifting revolve around being present when the sport began, being an unabashed fan of “sport for the sake of sport and enjoyment” as opposed to sport for profit, and being exceptionally cynical about human nature, reflected in my father’s dictum that “If someone is being nice to you, they probably want to blow you up and fuck your mama.”
It would be rather difficult to believe that this is my 100th column for the TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS site unless the new and/or younger readers had perspective on my lifting and writing experience. I began to lift weights as a young adolescent in 1959, long before it was accepted as a mainstream activity. I fell in with older men who were involved in legal and illegal endeavors that were quite a bit beyond what normal teens did in that era, and of course, this included weight training. I saw all of it as “the usual.” It took the lengthy perspective of a few decades to realize that perhaps it was a big deal to train in a storefront gym frequented by a number of Mr. America and Mr. Universe competitors, class winners, and overall title holders. That if five men on Long Island could bench press 500 pounds in the early 1960s, I had access or trained next to four of them. It was “the usual” to train with a group of men ten and twenty years older than I was who loaded the bar to 400 – 600 pounds for squats and deadlifts in every workout and where I was literally dragged to various odd lift contests in order to hopefully pick up one or two team points with the lowest of placings, years before powerlifting became an official sport. To be clear and to repeat what I have written numerous times, I was not a particularly good lifter, the boxing parlance would have been “tomato can” as a descriptive phrase of my abilities, but I was enthusiastic and could at least demonstrate reasonable strength lifting and moving heavy objects in the course of a number of demanding manual labor jobs. Most importantly, I understood and accepted the sacrifices that were necessary to train to one’s limit and understood and accepted the many beneficial results that have led to a literal lifetime of lifting enjoyment.
I am not a nostalgic individual. When something is done, it’s done and it’s time to move on. As an example, I had two long separated bouts of coaching high school football. The first began even before I had my college degree in hand, serving as an assistant at a ritzy private school where parents were less than slick in trying to bribe me in order to give their sons more playing time. When the owner and CEO of a major appliance company offers a new washer and dryer in order to procure some guaranteed time in the backfield for his fourth string running back son, a very well-mannered and nice youngster who just was not a very talented athlete, it was rather easy to turn the offer down. The head coach, smiling the entire time, indicated that I should “get used to” these types of inducements but with washers and dryers larger than our living room and the prospect of tossing our 18” black and white television in exchange for a real color set, it was an introduction to a world quite different than the one I was used to. The first of two coaching stints at Malverne High School followed, a diametrically opposite environment from my first job as more than thirty percent of our students were classified as New York State ADC, or Aid To Dependent Children, those receiving some manner of government financial aid, in foster homes, or wards of the court. After leaving Malverne after serving as a teacher, coach, and an administrator, I was involved in other pursuits and professions but returned to coach on a part-time (though daily during the season), unpaid basis from 1984 through ’91, nursing the Malverne squad to a number one ranking in the state during our best, award winning season. In February of 1992 Kathy and I opened the Iron Island Gym and it would have taken a lengthy, late night, and far-ranging conversation to reveal that I had been a high school football and track and field coach.
HISTORY OF POWERLIFTING, WEIGHTLIFTING, AND STRENGTH TRAINING PART 98: WORTHY OF A FIGHT? THE GOOD OLD DAYS, PART THREE
By Dr. Ken
When you’ve been around a “smaller” sport like powerlifting for many decades and you’re an “older person,” two things generally become true: you “know everyone” involved in the sport through those many decades, and in the minds of most, you become a better lifter than you actually were. I’ve been publicly credited of late with the latter when in truth, I was the equivalent of a boxing “ham-and egger” (as an amateur boxer, I was already a “ham-and-egger!”). I can say however that my many travels and involvement in powerlifting in
Some of our readers weren’t certain where the December 2016, Part One of this article was headed, at least not relative to its title. Simply stated, Powerlifting as a sport, had its origins in Odd Lift Contests and Olympic Weightlifting, the former for the actual lifts that were eventually chosen, and the latter which was used as a template to first formulate the actual competitive standards of the new sport. What came with that template for determining weight classes, record keeping, contest performance, and administrative structure, was an established lifting hierarchy that firmly sat upon the new sport of powerlifting and was attempting to utilize it for its own purposes. Since the growth of powerlifting as an organized sport was consistent from its initial organization, there has been a ton of revisionist history written, some meant to excuse those in control of the lifting sports during the 1960s and ‘70s for their mean spirited and dubious behavior and other chapters designed to glorify and elevate the status and so-called record setting ability of those actually writing that jaundiced view of actual events.
There is no generation that appreciates the work, effort, sacrifice, and consideration given by the generation that preceded it. My generation, the so-called Baby Boomers although I just made it since the years seem to “officially” span 1946 – 1964 and I was conceived while World War II veterans were still being mustered out of the military service, weren’t appreciative of what truly was “The Greatest Generation” until we were well into our forties. “That generation” survived the Great Depression which makes any following economic calamity seem like grade school stuff, fought in World War II and in the Korean War, many men in both. As a historical footnote, allow me to add that Congress has not officially declared war since 1941. However, whether whatever occurred in
One of the beliefs I have albeit an old fashioned and out dated one, is that all lifters who compete should give something back to the sport of powerlifting. If you lift in a competition, large or small, you should at some point spot, load, judge, or do something at a contest to make it run more efficiently. Some men and women are obviously not capable of spotting safely due to their physical stature but anyone can load a bar either on the platform or in the warm-up room. For reasons I do not understand, this task, especially in the warm-up room, is often seen as “peon work” on the list of meet day tasks, yet it is vital. While most lifters have a coach, there are not enough bodies around to load, or load quickly in the warm-up area, leaving some lifters rushed or short on their warm-up attempts. Some meet directors are experienced enough to know that having a few “attendees” in the warm-up area available to assist loading if asked or if needed, makes for a much more efficient meet. I believe it is assumed that “there are plenty of guys with each lifter or team who could be doing this” but that just isn’t true. Especially in smaller contests that host primarily inexperienced lifters, many competitors might arrive by themselves or with a training partner serving as their coach or handler. A handful of lifters like this are the antagonist to the slick, fully staffed teams that show up with designated loaders and spotters of their own, lifters who will not be in competition on this specific day who are present to do no more than serve the needs of their teammates whose every warm-up attempt is carefully scripted and scrutinized.
Having noted the various “seasons” or training periods that comprise a yearly calendar for the sport of football as we did in Part One of this blog/article, I want to now relate that information to the sport of powerlifting.
Harking back to the 1940s and ‘50s, long before powerlifting became an official sport, both Olympic weightlifting and bodybuilding comprised the “lifting sports” for those who publicly admitted they did either. In an era when hard work, dedication to supporting one’s family, and rising above the socioeconomic level imposed by immigration and starting anew in one’s adopted country were qualities that were prized and expected from every male, a leisure time activity like “lifting weights” was seen as frivolous, wasteful, and selfish.
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