Written by Blaine Sumner
As I sat down and thought about what I wanted to write for my next article, I had an idea but didn’t know how to go forward with it. I don’t like negative articles but the topic is negative; so I wanted to put a positive spin on it. It is a discussion that has been beaten into the ground by the powerlifting community; that is the division in our sport.
In absolutely no way is this article meant to jab any lifter, federation, gym, equipment choice, etc., but if your feelings get hurt because the shoe fits, go ahead and wear it. The past month I have made a huge change to stay off social media because I was wasting so much energy worrying about what everyone ELSE was doing. Putting all that effort and energy into my own training has made a world of difference. Let’s face it – our sport is divided, and incredibly divided. We missed the boat that Crossfit took and gained major sponsors and TV deals, and every person under 30 at my work has been to a Crossfit gym. I have very little hope that Powerlifting can be united anytime soon. Maybe one day the IPF will get into the Olympics but at times that even seems far-fetched. So I presume the division will continue, but instead of griping about all the problems – I present 3 major issues AND solutions.
Feds, Gear, & “Gear”
This is the main split in our sport. There are probably more “World Records” than there are Powerlifting Gyms. That is silly. Instead of bashing feds, gear, and drugs, worry about your own damn roof. There are PLENTY of places to lift depending on your choice of how to compete. The SPF, APF, & XPC offer big Multi-Ply meets, USAPL/IPF offers big Raw & Single Ply meets, RUM offers big Raw meets, and USPA offers everything. No, the judging isn’t consistent across federations, but it is relatively consistent in the federations themselves. So choose where you want to compete, and quit worrying about what lifters are doing across the fed border. YOUR competition is who else is on the same platform as you that day. It doesn’t make sense to compare numbers across federations anymore than it does to compare an NFL score to an AFL score and determine who has the better offense based on the points on the board. If you break it down, minor differences in equipment lead to huge differences on the total. Just rattling off differences that occur from fed to fed – stiff bars vs. whippy bars in the squat and deadlift, mono’s vs. walked out, different knee & wrist wrap length, judging standards, different commands in the bench…… I feel like I could go on all day.
SOLUTION: Pick where you want to lift, get after it, and don’t compare numbers across feds. Your competition isn’t guys on the internet, it’s the lifters stepping on the same platform as you that day.
Seems like most serious lifters can agree the internet has started to ruin powerlifting; and I couldn’t agree more. Sure it is easier to follow the sport, but the junk shows also reach the masses. It is ridiculous how some guy will post a training video and it will shake the powerlifting world and we automatically have the next Ed Coan on our hands. The Powerlifting sheep will try to ask these people questions thinking they have the magical shortcut formula to become so strong and look to them as strength gurus. Yet over half these people probably don’t know who Brad Gillingham is. And if you don’t know – Brad has deadlifted over 800 pounds in legitimate, sanctioned USAPL/IPF competitions 99 times – and that number will go over 100 in Alaska later this month. Although you won’t find this in any record books, this is probably one of the most incredible strength feats of all time and may remain unsurpassed longer than any All-Time World Record. Brad has also written books, DVD’s, training programs, and articles on his incredibly long and successful strength career – but you probably didn’t know that either. Freakishly strong lifters who reach internet fame but don’t match it on the platform are like an NFL team going 4-0 in the pre-season and blowing everybody out, only to miss the playoffs.
SOLUTION: Pay attention to the guys who have been at the top for a long time. They know what it takes to get strong and stay strong and have invested thousands of hours in their pursuit. They have figured out what things work and why. They have overcome injuries and adversity and continue to do the things needed to keep them at the top.
It’s About Winning, Not Numbers
I am as guilty as anybody about this – but we, as powerlifters get so enamored over numbers. And that is what seems to define us as lifters. But we have it backwards. Powerlifting is a sport, and every sport is about WINNING. Ask Dan Marino if he would trade all his passing records that won’t last forever for one Super Bowl ring, and I’m sure he wouldn’t think twice about saying yes. Somewhere we lost sight of this but success in this sport should be based on the number of major meets won instead of purely numbers. Obviously the highest total number wins meets and people are fascinated by records. But that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about comparing Lifter A in Fed B to Lifter C in Fed D. I came to this realization when I started competing on the IPF platform. At local and national meets, it was always about trying to hit PR’s or certain goals in mind. But you can’t play those games when you are on the world stage against Russians, Ukrainians, and Norwegians. Attempt selection is critical and whoever wins on the platform that day is the best Powerlifter, even if another lifter had posted a bigger total at a different meet. He who wins the day of the meet, is the best Powerlifter, hands down. With all the division, there are less big meets with high caliper lifters competing in the same weight class and same division. There are few things as exciting as watching lifters strategically pick and change 3rd attempt deadlifts and watching them pull with all their might to try and win a national or world title. I remember playing college football, it seemed when we played the bad teams, we would absolutely wallop them and put up 50+ points and 600+ yards of offense. When some of the top teams in the country would only win by 10-20 points against those same teams. Yet when it came time for us to play the other best schools in the country, we would always end up losing by a touchdown or less. The same holds true for powerlifting. Just because you can put up huge numbers in the gym, nothing matters until meet day when the playing field is level.
SOLUTION: If you want to be the best Powerlifter, then step on the same platform on the same day as other great Powerlifters and win. That is what defines a winner and an athlete.
At the end of the day, we all got into this sport for the same reason – to get stronger. Every niche of our niche sport has pro’s and con’s. Raw is true strength, Single Ply takes an immense about of skill and pain management, and Multi Ply lifters handle weights that make you shake your head. Life is too short and strength careers can end in the flash of an eye. So get off your keyboard because there is an empty squat rack somewhere that commands your attention.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