Random Powerlifting Observations

I thought I would share some random observations and thoughts from my past 30+ years of participation in this sport. It is meant to be light-hearted and enjoyable to read. None of these observations should be considered as training advice (fair warning).

So let’s start with the question that every beginning lifter always asks their coach. “What is that guy sniffing?” I know I asked this question when I was starting out. The answer is ammonia. Then the next question, “What does it do?” My favorite answer has always been, “It kills brain cells.” When you think about it this really does make sense and in a warped way improves most lifters. How you might ask? Well, I have always stated that powerlifting is not a thinking man’s sport. I mean really, imagine if you are walking down the street one day and someone says to you, “Hey, let’s put on really tight one-piece spandex suits then put a ridiculous amount of weight on our back and then see if we can squat down with it and come back up.”  “There is a good chance you will throw your back out, bust some blood vessels and perhaps pull a muscle.” “If you do really well, you can get a small piece of metal to commemorate your achievement that no one really cares about.” My point is that any reasonable person will be able to talk themselves out of doing this much easier than talking themselves into it. Enter the ammonia capsule. Crack it open and inhale deeply. The burning sensation in your nose, mouth and lungs will immediately cause you stop thinking. Then you will be able to walk onto the platform not quite realizing where you are and complete the lift before you really have time to think about it. Over time, the continued use of the ammonia capsule will gradually kill more and more brain cells until eventually you revert to some form of Darwin’s missing link only able to grunt and lift heavy things. After all, this is the real goal of any powerlifter. The various teams and shirts I have seen over the years bear out this fact: “Apeman Strong,” “The Pit,” “The Den,” “The Missing Link,” “Monsters of the Gateway,” “Big Bastard Powerlifting,” “Beast Mode,” “Monsta Power,” “Squat is a gateway drug,” “American Iron,” “Black Iron,” “The Iron Pit,” “Iron Arena Power Team,” “Tyson’s Gym,” “Murder of Crows Barbell Club,” and the list goes on. Over the years I have determined that powerlifters really want to be viewed as some sort of semi-literate Neanderthal.

I personally am a raw lifter. I often ask equipped lifters why they wear equipment. There are a variety of answers that make little sense. My favorite, “I have bad knees and need wraps.” Ummm….yeah. You have bad knees so you will wrap your knees, wear the most uncomfortable suit possible so you can place an extra 150lbs on your back to…..get this…..protect your knees! In a similar way, the answers for wearing a bench shirt are just as misleading, “I have a pec tear” or “To protect my shoulders” and my personal favorite, “It gives me confidence.” Since a good bench shirt can add 100 lbs. to your lift I suspect any “protection” benefits are lost when adding an amount of weight that you could never handle otherwise. Why can’t lifters just be honest and say, “I am an egomaniac and I will do anything within the rules that will add any amount of poundage to my lift.”

Now that we are talking about lifting, the most entertaining things I hear are after a missed lift. In fact, Jim Bell told me this past weekend that my squat (which buried me btw…) had really good depth. I looked at him rather incredulously and responded, “I could have gone even deeper if the spotters had not taken it.” Another great quote I heard, “That weight felt really light until it didn’t.”   Quotes are just as funny when a lifter completes a lift. He comes off the platform after a gut busting lift where you are thinking that some extra chalk would have been the difference between a good and bad lift and says, “I have another 20 lbs. in me.” Many lifters after missing an attempt will stare at the bar and question if it is loaded correctly. That is a fair question though since most loaders are lifters also and may have sniffed one too many ammonia capsules.

Finally, there are two additional characteristics one must possess to be a full-fledged powerlifter. A true powerlifter is always convinced that anyone who ever outlifts him (or her) must be on steroids. They will even speculate on how the competitor has managed to beat the last four in competition tests and two out of competition tests. The last characteristic found in powerlifters is that more chalk equals more weight. In fact, chalking the front of your hands, back of your hands, back, shoulders and any other part you can reason has anything to do with your lift will help. Years ago, I even witnessed a lifter lick a block of chalk (after his buddy slapped him around). He ran onto the platform screaming with chalk all over his body and face. He promptly unracked the weight claiming how light it was. He received the squat command, bent his knees and cried, “Take it,” as he accelerated to the ground.

In truth, I love the powerlifting culture. We are all a little crazy and incredibly supportive of each other. I laugh about the odd things lifters do while enjoying every single minute of it. So sniff your ammonia, wrap your knees, eat the chalk but please lift drug-free and healthy.

Mike Stagg