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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.
If there is one individual who truly knows the inner workings of the York Barbell Company when those of us of “an older age” were at our frenzied peak of interest in the lifting game, it is Jan Dellinger.
Working at a number of different employment positions at “The Barbell,” Jan was privy to inside information and all of the scandalous stuff that the typical lifter would never know. Acquainted with a few of the big time York lifters and having the motivation to either hitchhike or drive the 440 mile round trip on a Saturday perhaps gave me a bit more insight than those who had to rely on Strength And Health or Muscular Development magazines for their York Team information, but Jan “knew,” he was part of the inner circle. Thus whenever I reference York in my lifting related commentary, I rely on his terrific memory to confirm facts, or to fill in the blanks. Relative to the Polish lifting shoes noted in the last blog/column, Jan wrote:
As a teenager who worked multiple after-school and weekend jobs, especially between football and track seasons, I had enough of “my own money” to purchase extra food and an occasional pair of large 50 or 100 pound plates to augment my axle, sewer covers, and fly wheels type of equipment. I also bought a pair of Polish weightlifting boots from the York Barbell Company when they made them available in perhaps 1962 or ’63.
In my mind, this made me “official,” a real lifter. Although I was not a competitive Olympic weightlifter, I had been in a few Odd Lift contests as a relatively young trainee and the red and white shoes gave me a feeling of authenticity.
Everyone from my generation understands and accepts the fact that life is much different now than it was through the 1950’s, ‘60’s, and ‘70’s. The prevailing culture, economics, and all aspects of our social system are different. I wish to refrain from stating that any or all of it is “better,” “worse,” or “more or less the same as it was” because these judgments are subjective and linked to personal perspective. The above being true in my strongly held opinion, there can be little argument that as pre-teens and teenagers, “play” and athletics in an earlier era were a by-product of participant generated planning and energy. Typically, we were cut loose after an early breakfast on a Saturday morning and left to our own devices until we returned home for dinner perhaps eight or more hours later. This allowed “the adults” to tend to their own business in the only time they had from their work week (unless they also worked on Saturdays) and none of the adults were too concerned where the children were or what they were doing. It was assumed and the assumption was correct ninety-nine percent of the time that “the kids” were roaming the neighborhood and engaged in some sort of athletic game.
Hand in hand with making New Year’s Resolutions come other questions. Certainly, if not an “official” resolution, most individuals view January 1st of any year as a new beginning, a new start to specific endeavors or goals, and an opportunity to re-focus organization and effort. For those interested in powerlifting, and I purposely chose that description, deciding to improve one’s lifts or a specific lift, is a commonly held resolution or goal. Whether agreeing or not with the premise put forth in last month’s article as per the late Reverend Robert Zuver’s quote, everyone can improve and every lift can be improved. The related question is, “Should I compete?” For those who are already competitive powerlifters, this is a no-brainer. The logical and obvious New Year’s Resolution is to “increase my total” since that is the point of ultimate judgment in our sport. There have always been and continue to be those competitive lifters who look down upon those that “lift” but don’t compete. Even if they begrudgingly give some respect to the hard and consistent work put into the gym activity of a non-competitive trainee, many competitive lifters hold themselves above those that train but do not compete.
Most individuals make some sort of resolution, or self-promise for the New Year and powerlifters expectedly make resolutions related to training and contest performances. This is not surprising but the expectations for improvement certainly have wide ranging and at times, wild parameters. For some, it is difficult to predict what is reasonable and what is patently ridiculous. Enthusiasm, passion, and dedication are necessary ingredients for a recipe of improvement and success but it has to be tempered by reality. As a high school football and track and field coach, I respected the young men and women who were competitive and motivated to consistently train and perform to their maximal abilities. Those who refused to squander whatever talent they had with a commitment to improve, were predictably a pleasure to devote time to. I had some whose competitive nature and passion far exceeded their actual ability and it was difficult to convey to them what I believed to be realistic expectations.
The two part article/blog regarding certification of powerlifting products generated more e mail than expected, and has led me to believe that many in the sport do not understand how the real world operates. For those of a past generation, think about the movie Back To School, starring comedian Rodney Dangerfield. As Thornton Melon, a very successful, businessman with a limited education but plenty of street smarts, Rodney decides to attend college in order to be in proximity to and support his struggling son. One of the classic comedies of the 1980’s, the relevant scene for this discussion is one in which the business class professor is shocked by the business start-up comments made by the experienced and wealthy Melon. In his role, Dangerfield notes that money will be needed to pay off building inspectors, union leaders, and others in order to actually get buildings erected or renovated, and any business off the ground floor. He notes these and other “hidden costs” such as kick-backs to those who operate the typical supply and service industries. The professor has never been in business and has no doubt never left the campus or protective walls of academia, and just doesn’t get it. However, having had more than one successful business in the New York City area, I can attest that Dangerfield’s vision of “how things are” is the absolute truth, not the cloistered professor’s.
I should have been prepared for the obvious after the word got out locally and our TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS column of last month was published but was still surprised at the number of inquiries asking, “When are you holding another contest?” For some of those in attendance, their first thought was “This is just great! I should have been a part of it.” Forgetting that we held the meet only to accommodate six of our young, completely novice athletes, there was no meet for them to enter but I am gratified that a number of lifters were motivated to resume their competitive careers. If I had been an outsider or an observer not sure what to expect, I too would have been inspired to either train harder or compete. That our TITEX and ER equipment was so enthusiastically received by those who had not had previous exposure to it, was a bonus.
The Alaniz family are true American pioneers in the field of innovating and manufacturing Powerlifting and Strength products.Since 1981, they have played a leading role in the development of equipment and the growth of the sport through sponsorships and contributions. Pete Alaniz was awarded the prestigious Brother Bennett award from the USAPL in 2006. ×
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