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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.
HISTORY OF POWERLIFTING, WEIGHTLIFTING, AND STRENGTH TRAINING PART 92: ’TIS THE SEASON? Part One
By Dr. Ken
The title of this blog, or article as I continue my slow and agonizing journey into the jargon of the modern computer era, does not refer to “Deck the Halls,” the mid-1800s song about Christmas nor to the few months preceding the actual Christmas holiday. Once again dating myself and clearly attaching the label of “older guy” to my lifting singlet, I would like to inform the younger generations of lifters that there used to be an actual “Powerlifting Season.”
Both major and minor sports, athletic activities at all levels from Pop Warner and Little Leagues through collegiate programs, and the relatively obscure amateur activities like the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (Roller Derby) has “a season.” A competitive season in any sport allows one to build their strength and skill to the point that they can compete for and hopefully win a specific championship. An off-season then allows for rest, recovery, the healing of injuries, and the opportunity to plan a program of preparation that will allow for the obviation of weak or negative aspects of one’s performance. With the advantage of a playing and coaching background in football and having sons who played college football and now coach at the highest levels of college and professional football with the added perspective of my family’s participation spanning a number of decades, allow me to explain how “the seasons” actually were and remain structured and then apply the concept to powerlifting.
My wife and I have had the pleasure, agony, elation, disappointment, amazement, and disbelief in what we have experienced in the hundreds of meets we have competed in, directed, worked at, and observed. In brief, I can safely state that from the positive to negative, we have seen it all.
My perspective goes back before the organization of powerlifting as an official Amateur Athletic Union sport. In the early 1960s it was no more than a group of guys that decided to get together on a Saturday morning at a storefront gym or the local YMCA and take on those from another group of trainees in a specific list of lifts that everyone agreed to attempt.
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