Written by Blaine Sumner
In this strange world of Powerlifting, there are freaks who come out every year and set the sport on fire; then disappear as fast as they came in. A major reason many gifted lifters come and go so quickly is because the gains quit coming as easy. Some lifters can become world class in a very short time and no matter what they do, pounds will pile onto their total. But when genetics reach their peak, some lifters don’t know how to continue making gains. Technique and mastery of the lifts are what separate the good lifters from the likes of Brad Gillingham and Brian Siders. In this article I outline what I believe are important skills to acquire to go from good to great.
Ever since I began lifting as a freshman in high school to become a better football player – I thrived on adrenaline. Adrenaline & excitement are what always carried me through my lifting and athletic career. I could always elevate my level of strength and performance by getting amped up attacking whatever was in front of me. And I am 100% sure this is what allowed me to bring my squat to over 900 lbs. raw while having long femurs and poor squatting leverages. However, a torn hip labrum last year set my lifts back and I began having to learn to take a different approach. The injury and comeback process made me take a deeper look at the technical side of my lifts because I couldn’t push the weight as hard.
I had never cared to spend a ton of focus on technique. I could always get angry, listen to music, slap myself, and squat whatever weight was on the bar and have no fear of failing
At some point we all reach a genetic potential where the muscles simply will not get stronger. Or at least the gains will come excruciatingly slow. But this does not mean your total has to slow down too. Every lifter can improve the biomechanics of their lift through analyzing technique. Here is a list of 3 things that will significantly increase your total and take you to the next level as a lifter.
1. Video Every Set
This is so important and underutilized. Film from angles that capture technique and joint angles, not always from somewhere that makes it look like the most weight on the bar. Going through game tape playing college football made me realize how important film review is. Film EVERY SET and review it. You will be surprised how your technique can vary from warm up sets to heavy sets. Warm-ups are practice and heavy sets are the game….. Practice like you play!
2. Review, Review, Review
Filming and posting it on YouTube isn’t good enough. The purpose of film review is to analyze yourself over and over again. Every night after my workouts I will spend 15-20 minutes watching that night’s session. That is a lot of film repetitions for about a minute of actual lifting. I will watch my warm up sets 5+ times and my heavy sets 20+ times. Everything from bar placement, grip width, joint angles, which body positions the bar moves fastest, slowest, etc., And I am a firm believer in mental reps. If you watch your lifts before bed and they are in your head, you can get thousands of mental reps as you sleep.
Compare your lifts to those of your past; both good and bad lifts and see what has changed and what has stayed the same. Another crucial element is finding lifters with similar body types and leverages as you and watching them. If you are a big SHW, don’t spend as much time emulating a smaller lifter even though they may have amazing lifts. Lever lengths and joint angles play an enormous role in powerlifting that many don’t recognize. Even watching lifters weaker than you can help. If you find someone who has a similar body type but they pull the bar faster off the floor and you are slow off the floor – maybe they keep the bar closer to their hips. Find similar lifters, compare your techniques, and never stop learning.
Check out Blaine squatting 805×3 and this interview with him…
Highlighted below are some minor technical changes I have experimented with. Keep in mind, not every lift should look “textbook”. There are so many variables when it comes to technique: flexibility, mobility, lever lengths, proportions, that you should not try to force yourself into a more “ideal” technique that coaches and “experts” preach is the best way. I squatted IPF Raw and Equipped world records with a technique many would say is bad. Low bar and major forward lean. As did Powerlifting legends Ed Coan and Steve Goggins. You can also find great squatters who carry a high bar and squat upright.
Squat: Hand width, bar placement, foot width, foot angle, speed of descent, breaking at knees vs. hips, knee position, head position.
Bench: Speed of descent, grip width, placement on chest, foot placement.
Deadlift: Grip width, foot angle, head position, tricep/latt activation, aggressiveness with pull from floor, belt placement.Blaine Sumner is a drug-free powerlifter who competes in the IPF and USAPL both raw and single ply. He holds the IPF Raw World Record for Squat (881 no wraps) and Total (2,056) in addition to winning the 2012 IPF Raw World Championship. Sumner played Division II football at the Colorado School of Mines where he started at nose tackle for 4 years in addition to scoring 8 touchdowns as a short yardage fullback. He also set NFL testing records for 225 bench reps (52) and Kirwan Explosive Index (95). In addition to having a 33” Vertical Jump and 50” box jump at 350 lbs., Sumner was a 4 sport athlete in high school (Football, Wrestling, Lacrosse, Track). He is originally from Colorado and now lives in Oklahoma City where he trains at HATE Barbell and works as a Petroleum Engineer. Facebook, YouTube