The State of Powerlifting – A Rant

The State of Powerlifting – A Rant

May 11, 2015

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“If you aren’t the best, top lifter, you don’t belong on the platform;”

“Geared lifting is cheating;”

“How can it be raw with knee wraps:”

“If it weren’t for Ernie Frantz powerlifting would be in the Olympics;”

“What’s the point if there are too many medals;”

“There needs to be only one federation;”

Etc. etc.

I don’t know what’s happened lately, but there sure seem to be a lot of social media trolls out there pushing their opinions on our sport. While social discourse can be positive and bring about change, a lot of it is a lot of hot wind without any substance behind it. These days it’s not just the guy who has never entered a gym or the gym rat powerlifting wanna-be, but also experienced powerlifters, usually struggling to get a little attention.

My favorites are the ones where known, relatively new (flash-in-pans) and even long-term successful powerlifters seem to think they own the stage and go out of their way to discourage potential lifters. Congrats guys, you probably succeed in a lot of cases. But, just so you know, there are many of us who realize that you are scared that some newbie will come along and win your records from you.

The cool thing about Freedom of Speech, is that you get to say whatever you want. At the same time, it does not mean I, or anyone else, actually has to listen to you. Most social media now allows you to block certain types of messages, and I actively pursue that course now when I see a lot of negative stuff. That means that when you do have an opinion that could make a difference, or something impressive… well, sorry, you are not getting the play you think you are.

One of the great attractions to powerlifting is that there is very little money in it, even if you own a gym (sometimes, especially if you own a gym). Supplement and equipment companies do make money, but there are enough of them out there that they have to keep competing and improving. I mean, can you imagine if there was only one supplement or equipment company? For instance, look at one of the best-known equipment companies, Overkill, where lifters will complain, but will still wait 3-12 months for their custom lifting equipment. Rudy introduced the new Red Overkill, a seemingly literal response to new and existing shirts, such as the SDP (Super-Duper-Phenom). The Red Overkill already seems to be in high demand even when the other companies come through in a week or two.

The reason? A response to the lifters – the lifters’ voices are heard.

Few of us remember what the sport was like before Ernie Frantz, in defending several of his female lifters in court against unfair practices by a monopoly organization, created an environment for multiple federations. These days if you disagree with how an organization is run, you have the ability to join another or even to create your own. In effect, it is free enterprise and competition that keeps the sport firmly in the hands of the lifters. When you restrict this with only one federation, then you change the landscape back to what it was – a federation that dictates whether or not you can lift (even when qualified), heavy politics, no recourse, and still the lifter is paying.

There has never been a documented attempt where the Olympic Committee was looking at powerlifting as an addition.

Like many belief systems, there are far too many that want to force others to believe what they believe as the only way – I suppose to provide some kind of personal acknowledgement or to support their personal insecurities – to restrict freedoms of choice.

Too bad. There ARE choices which explains the explosive growth of powerlifting today. I like to think that these choices have been bringing new lifters in and not just the tattood monsters, but also the average person to participate in the sport (personally, I like both). Some will disappear, some will stay, some will jump in and make a difference, some may introduce new ideas, who knows…

What I do know is that those who are so protective of their self-imposed kingdoms, that feel the need to scare away new lifters or tout their zealous belief systems about what is and what is not lifting, will continue to find themselves in their own little world. Perhaps even with a few other like-minded. If you feel so strongly, then DO something. Support the federation that you feel strongest about, start your own and make it the dominating federation, but words – that is all they are. Wind.

In my own opinion, and belief systems, I believe in freedom of choice. I believe in encouraging new blood into the sport, regardless of organization, and organizations that continue to support the lifters. I hold a strong loyalty to one organization, APF/AAPF and WPC/AWPC, but have not been afraid to cross lines in order to participate in Relentless, a UPA organization, because it is a cause I believe in. The point is, I can do this and not have injunctions placed upon me because that is the type of organization I chose to be part of, to the point where I volunteer, have become a referee, run the computers, do videos and any number of other things to support it. I would do the same elsewhere, so long as they support my belief system. At the same time, I respect the efforts by other lifters and other organizations that thrive because they have enough members to support them.

There are many lifters that I do not like, at all, but that I respect because they encourage and support new lifters, their belief systems and do something about them, that work to convince, not dictate, that do all of this because of a sense of self, not ego or a lack of ethics. Equally, there are far more lifters that I do personally like that also follow these principles.

We have members of Team Stone that can barely lift the bar and those that squat in the 900s, it does not matter, the environment at 2XL Powerlifting LLC was created to encourage personal growth and improvement, not to belittle or scream or ego lift, so all lifters get equal attention. The result is that we have a roughly equal sized men’s and women’s team. There are gyms that are built around the concepts of ‘biggest lifter’ and there are members who like that type of environment. Have at! Whatever it takes for you to participate and enjoy.

It is quickly seen in any powerlifting meet that whether someone is attempting, and struggling, to lift 1000 lbs or the same struggle at 100lbs, the cheering and celebrating of success and the agony of defeat is the same.

It is about passion.

It is about struggle.

It is about self-improvement.

And, yeah, there is a little ego in there.

How powerlifting is viewed by the general public is not based upon the federation, or whether it is part of the Olympics, or on television. It is viewed based upon the actions of our participants. A fist fight breaking out amongst a group of big guys does not impress a stand full of husbands, wives, boy/girl-friends, sons, daughters nor the lifters they are there to support. It is a turn-off and black eye to powerlifting. The huge well know lifter handing off the bar to a new lifter or teenager and shouting encouragement does impress and send a positive message.

If you are participating in the sport of powerlifting you are an ambassador. When you go out proudly wearing your gym t-shirt, posting on social media with your gym or team name, bring up the sport in casual conversation, and yes, even include it in your vows (no kidding), you represent the sport and everyone in it, your team, your gym and even your sponsor.

In a sport like powerlifting, it is not about how many federations, geared or raw, wrapped or not, it is about how the sport is viewed through YOUR actions. The average person could care less, but there may be one, or more, that you impress that could be the next Ernie Frantz, or the next audience member, or the next great powerlifter, or your best cheerleader.

Think about it.

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