I wasn’t planning to go to a Part Three in this series of articles that specifically questioned whether consistently performing the three competitive powerlifts made one a “powerlifter” or if actually competing in what can only be termed a legitimate contest made one a
“powerlifter.” Quoting from last month’s installment, I raised the question (and many might state, I “begged the question” utilizing its formal meaning), “While utilizing the three competitive lifts to become muscularly larger and stronger can be and usually is beneficial, performing these on a regular basis does not mean that one is ‘powerlifting.’ It is only when one trains to specifically compete against others doing the three lifts under the circumstances of a judged standard do they earn the right to be called a powerlifter…”
I had laid this to rest but on July 15, 2017 Kathy and I hosted our third annual driveway powerlifting contest. Under the purposely fanciful though descriptive title, 2017 Annual Titex-East Rockaway Powerlifting Classic, we again utilized our large driveway to allow area novice lifters to gain the experience of a well run, well equipped, well judged, well expedited, and exceptionally safe contest. Kathy
and I have an extensive amount of meet direction experience, my wife quite a bit more than mine because she was instrumental in making the long-ago contests hosted by the Purdue Powerlifting team highly successful. From local to regional to state and to one world championship contest we have been fortunate to have had the assistance of all of “the right people” necessary when they were needed. This year was no different and while serving as organizer, head judge, announcer, coach, and roustabout I literally marveled at the intensity, fortitude, focus, and commitment shown by every one of our contestants. Thus a return to this month’s topic.
As a youngster in the 1950s most of my peers began playing football or other sports on the streets and we played as often as possible. Long before adult and parental involvement in absolutely all levels of youth activity became the norm, we were more or less set loose and out of the house by 7 or 8 AM on a Saturday morning and did not return until dinner time. There was no great fear of leaving children alone to their own devices and wanderings despite being in a neighborhood that was considered “sort of middle class but a bit dangerous” and certainly the neighborhoods around us were in fact dangerous
with the 1950’s version of knife-and-chains gang activity, heroin-as-the-favorite-choice drug activity, and what was perhaps relative to today, an underreported incidence but no doubt just as prevalent rate of child molestation and abuse. We were for the most part, a street smart bunch that knew the parameters of good judgement relative to our age and we stayed out all day and developed groups of games that kept us busy and happy. On-our-own games developed into Pop Warner League football, junior high school football, and high school football with obvious adult intervention and involvement although we often augmented these more formal activities with street games of a very intense though intermittent nature. While in junior high school, I recall one of the high school coaches talking to me and explaining not only the potential risk of injury faced in the kid-organized street games but the level of organization, long range planning, and goals of player development that made “organized” or formal junior high school and high school football what it was. I have made mention in my HELMET HUT monthly columns that appear at http://www.helmethut.com/
and occasionally within TITAN blogs that almost every one of my coaches from high school, college, and Atlantic Coast Football League teams were military veterans and most had seen combat. Thus there was always a strong emphasis on not only team oriented play but knowing the rules and adhering to the rules at all times. We learned that in order to compete at the highest levels and at the highest levels of our own capacity, everything had to be done correctly. Unlike street games, there was, despite the fun in actually playing (and for me, practicing), a seriousness in the approach that required a level of mental preparation and emotional control lacking when the game “wasn’t official.”
It is the same in powerlifting and this is what our contest reinforced. One of our lifters, Will Martorana is going to be a high school senior. Two and a half years ago he was 110 pounds of withdrawn aspiring musician, and not particularly motivated to excel in any specific area of endeavor. Of course much of his ennui was age related but his present commitment to maintaining his A average in academics, his stout 185 pound physique, his broad ranged confidence, and the concentration and effort he pulled together to complete his first ever 400+ (407) deadlift emphasized what “real powerlifting” is about.
The difference in “powerlifting for real,” meaning in a contest, and doing the powerlifts, even doing them regularly in the gym, is that all of the small details count when it’s for real. Bill Starr’s classic book Defying Gravity presents every bit of information one needs to properly prepare for competition. A seemingly unimportant detail is attire and Bill wrote, “If you are typical, you train in sweats or shorts and a t-shirt, day after day, week after week. Should you never wear your actual lifting uniform until the day of the meet, it will feel strange. The straps on the lifting suit are bothersome. You suddenly feel drafts that weren’t there before. You feel quite naked.” One also feels “quite naked” having been given no more than one minute to begin an official attempt after hearing one’s name called and the bar as “loaded,” walking up to the bar with a cheering, screaming audience of primarily strangers staring at you, expecting you to make a successful attempt. Yikes, this is quite a bit different from the “usual” which no doubt includes as much psyche-up time as one wishes, the well-wishing claps on the back by a training partner or two, the familiar spot on the wall to stare at as it is in every squat workout, and no more than the judgement of oneself relative to judging the lift as good, bad, legal, satisfying, or disappointing. Our judges, as they were with our Iron Island Gym contests and Kathy’s contests in Indiana, have international card holding level judges in the chairs, our loaders/spotters, annually led by Tom O’Riordan, have experience at national and world level meets and for numerous organizations. Our crew was frequently requested to man the platform in different parts of the country because of their abilities. The TITEX BARBELLS AND PLATES and ER RACKS in both the warm-up area inside the garage and on the platform in the driveway of course are the best, official anywhere and everywhere, exacting, and safe. We introduce our lifters as they would be introduced at an international contest, their hard work and willingness to perform publicly has earned them that honor, even if it is before but 150 spectators.
The lifters experience and enjoy a “real contest” and in turn have to show up and compete “for real.” Powerlifting is not a gym activity, it is a sport. Everyone should squat, deadlift, and bench press as productive exercise and as a means to become bigger and stronger but to state it as clearly as possible, “No” this does not make one a powerlifter, walking onto the platform in front of the judges gives one that important distinction.