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09 April 2014

Powerlifting Is Not A Fucking Fun Run, Part 2- The Elite Chime In

Following the massive shitstorm the last Fun Run article stirred up, I thought it prudent to see if in fact, I was the only elite lifter who felt this way.  As it turns out I'm not, and not only am I not the only one who feels this way, everyone seems to think powerlifting in sliding into the shitter.  Before you guys go and get your panties wadded, you might want to read through this carefully, as I am about to hit you motherfuckers with a twist M Night Shyamalan couldn't have conceived.  No, we're not all secretly reptilian aliens hell bent on world domination like Kris Kristofferson undoubtedly is- this twist is much, much more surprising.

Before we delve into the possibility that I was not entirely correct in asserting that millenials are treating powerlifting like the world's laziest gangland "jump in" and beating the sport to death with their flaccid dicks, let us peruse the thoughts of other elite level lifters, as I am quite certain the majority of the audience thinks I'm simply some psychotic elitist with a penchant for mocking everyone unfortunate enough to not be born me.



Ed Coan, powerlifting god.
"The sport is very fractured with too many federations with too many different rules. The rules have to be more the same than different. Judging is horrible to say the least in most places."



Paul Nguyen, 1588lb AAU and Raw Unity Elite total at 165, World Record Holder Deadlift (717), #8 on Michael Soong's Historical Rankings at 123.
"In my opinion the problem is that the talent pool in the sport of powerlifting is depleted from interest in other sports. I think that more often then not, a person with the talent to excel and possibly dominate in powerlifting wind up taking it elsewhere such as a sport that offers them more than powerlifting could ever offer, such as scholarships or notoriety. Powerlifting offers little to no compensation for success and the trend looks to continue that way.  The fix would be to continue to try and unify powerlifting as a sport and garner more interest in hope that it could one day be as popular as the other sports that rob it of its talent. I believe that the records that stand now are nowhere near where they could be if the sport were as popular as even skiing. I own a single lift world record and there is no doubt in my mind that there are many people out there that are capable of smashing it but have no idea of or have in interest in powerlifting."
"Shitty cookie cutter programs are to blame for a lot of things. I never gave the idea of an amateur division a thought, but I don't think that would fix the stagnation of competition. People avoid competition as I'm sure you've mentioned before, rather then seek it. The idea of powerlifting programs being more widespread in high schools was brought up in the comments somewhere, pretty sure it was you, that would be a huge step forward in my opinion."

Bob Benedix, 1608lb AAU Elite total at 181, Master's 50-59 World Record Holder Squat (580), Deadlift (560), and Total (1480lb).

Bob's answer came by way of Facebook chat, so it's a bit choppy.  As the conversation was immensely interesting and he has been in the sport since its inception, however, I will recount all of its highlights.

In re why we're not seeing a lot of guys who can crack an AAU Elite total from 40 years ago:
"Nobody really likes to train hard! I believe you have to walk out the weight! And I know if I can walk it I can squat it! I was at the High School Nationals and they do no raw work! Gear comes on right Away! You need muscle (and if you are going to do RAW meets you better train RAW!" 
In re how Bob got started powerlifting:
"I started benching in 1973 at 13!  I benched 265 at age 15 at 132lbs and 365 148lbs when I was 17!  I was just a bencher, and a boxer.  The Marines talked me into taking the ASVAB when I was 17 and I aced it, so the Navy offered me Nuclear Power School and to lift for the Navy!  I had no Dad to ask about it, so I just went for it, and I'm glad I did."
In re the deplorable state of benches in early meets:
"Ours never [collapsed], but I was lucky and got to use good stuff.  We used the old rules, though- head on bench and feet flat!  I benched 500 lbs many times like that in the gym at under 190lbs- it's always harder to bring down then up for me.  I started doing hammer curls heavy and it helped [Ed: also a fave of Bill Kazmeier]."
In re how Bob trains:
"I just love to train heavy!! I used to train with Rick Weil [Ed: raw world record bench presser at 165 and 181] and Mike Roy [Ed: 70s powerlifting badass who should be #20 on Soong's all time list at 165] and Gary Drigo [Ed: Fifth person to ever total 2,100 at 220], so never thought my bench was big- they were all stronger.  Because Rick benched more than me, I started squatting heavier.  I train with people who are stronger than me, and I always go heavy!!!  Go heavy then do downsets!  
Ted Arcidi [Ed: first man to officially bench press 700lbs] told me if warm ups make you weak, you are not strong!  We trained!!  We would warm up, then work with bigger weights and make small weight jumps down, then do [death] sets!  3 days on, 1 off, unless we were underwater, out to sea! [Bob was a nuclear engineer in the Navy.]"
"People do like to talk sooo much, and do so little."
"I don't know how [other people train], but I have to bench twice a week and do legs twice a week... and I am 54!  I love doing heavy leg presses, then back off set after set, and then squat.  8 weeks out I just go to 800 on leg press, 7 weeks to 700! My squat goes through the roof.  I broke my back in 1984 and could not squat to depth, so started leg pressing and then squatting and not worrying about the weight . It puts less stress on my back when I'm not trying to squat 800 every week."
In re Bob's sons, who are both badass teen powerlifters:
"They love [powerlifting] and respect it! They have met Arnold and John Cena and Hulk Hogan who are friends of mine and were treated as equals! Real lifters are family!  Real lifters respect the work!"
In re the idea that it's ok to be fat if you powerlift:
"Real top lifters look like bodybuilders!  They don't have to wear shirts that say "Powerlifter"- people can tell by looking at them."
In re the original knee wraps, which were just ace bandages:
"Yes , lots of guys [wrapped tennis balls behind their knees, but the wraps were shit!"
In re the inception of geared lifting:
"Everyone wore gear back [in the 1980s], but the new singlets are better.  I saw guys cutting suits and wearing 3 of them.  Anything to cheat- one was as underwear, then another half way up, then a t-shirt covering that, then another suit on top.  Bill Kasmier pointed it out to me at the Senior Nationals in 1983 and my mouth dropped."
"I trained with Bob Gaynor [Masters 60+ World Record Holder in Deadlift at 198 (680) and 220 (672)] yesterday, who is 67- he pulled 650 yesterday at 200lbs and still wears the same $5 leather belt he used years ago.  He is RIPPED." 

Ryan Celli, Chaos and Pain athlete, 1840lb AAU and Raw Unity Elite total, former world record holder, #3 on Michael Soong's Historical Rankings at 198.
"When you first asked me this question, “What do you think is wrong with powerlifting? And how can it be fixed?” My first instinct was to say,
  1. Everything is wrong with powerlifting.
  2. Everyone is a big baby.
  3. Powerlifting can't be fixed.
Powerlifting is so far gone in my opinion it’s hard to be positive. With the one million different divisions now, and the two million different federations it does seem hopeless.  But honestly, I really think it can be fixed!  I think if we start with these few simple steps, everything else will fix itself over time. The bogus feds will fall by the way side, the best ones with thrive.  Ideally in the end, will would only have a few federations. 
I feel there are two groups of people to blame for the current state of powerlifting.
I think the meet directors are a big part of the problem.  Let’s be honest, they are out to make money. I understand this, and think they should make money, as it not an easy job.  Unfortunately, they feel the only way to get repeat lifters is to make sure the lifters get all of  their lifts passed, win first place, and maybe take home a few World Records.  This is the worst thing you can do! 
The second group to blame are the lifters themselves.  They continually support this nonsense. They often complain about the bogus lifts being passed, yet enter those meets anyway, and they enter every division they qualify for. They also brag about how they broke 3 world records at some backyard meet. 
The only way I see things getting better are if the meet directors start only offering a few divisions. OPEN, MASTERS (over 50), WOMEN, TEEN. They also need to start adhering to the rule book. We need to teach these new lifters its okay to place 8th out of 15. Yes, 8th sucks so you know what? Work on getting stronger!  Stop babying these lifters. Red light the lifts that are not to the required specifications. The lifters will learn from this and become better lifters in the end."



Jay Nera, 1907lb AAU and Raw Unity Elite total, #14  on Michael Soong's Historical Rankings at 220.
"The 44 minute stat you cited in your article is nuts to me….  But really, who gives a fuck about the median or the average?  I mean the average American is, in my opinion, an overweight, illiterate, lazy, entitled, TV-parroting, malignantly narcissistic douche (Canadian brothers and sisters off the high horse, the only difference is we can all read a little bit better).   But WE are not the median nor the average.
I’m going to have to be honest with you regarding my knowledge about the history of powerlifting, prior to my own participation, in that it is minimal.  I know what I’ve read in books such as Purposeful Primitive and then what I’ve heard from friends Willie Albert and Sam Byrd, both of whom have a plethora of knowledge on many of the great lifters from back in the day.  But really, I know very little history of the sport.
When I think about it, I can’t say that powerlifting is getting worse.  I mean, as far as I know, raw powerlifting is fairly new, or at least the re-emergence of it is.   When I competed in Russia in 2010, it was the WPC’s 1st Raw World Powerlifting Championships and the WPC is the second largest powerlifting federation in the world.  The largest powerlifting federation in the world, the IPF, only recently added a raw division within the last few years.  So raw powerlifting, in my opinion, is only now making it into the maintstream of the powerlifting world.  For a while, especially in the US, geared lifting was dominating the powerlifting scene.  I mean, how many Westside Barbell T-shirts are circulating and how many westsiders lift raw?
I would also have to argue that the competition, or at least my competition has become fierce…and keeps getting stronger.  I was once at the top of the Powerliftingwatch lifter rankings in 2011, 1st in the squat(716), 3rd in the deadlift(744) and 1st in the total(1901).  Now, even with a greater squat and total in the books,  I am 5th, 9th, and 3rd respectively.  So it is safe to say that even if the average powerlifters are getting weaker.  The best of the best are still continuing to push the limits….records are being increased.  For example, I know you are pissed about Puccio taking down your record by 5 fucking pounds.
I do know what you are saying though.  Yes, the average participant is getting worse.  But “why?” is the question.  I would put my money on the growing popularity of the sport and increased participation of course(as would you I’m sure).  But fuck, man, this is a good thing!  I want more and more people participating.  I want more people to participate in powerlifting so that when I say I squat well over 700 and am close to deadlifting 800, people will actually comprehend what kind of weight that is.  I mean, I just got back from the Arnold’s where I deadlifted 700 lbs for 5 reps without training my deadlift for months due to a strained oblique and no one understands that that is a pretty good deadlift feat.  It makes me hate answering friends and family who try to show interest in my life by asking how my competition went.  I appreciate the interest, but really, its worse than small talk when there is zero comprehension.
I mean only people who powerlift can truly appreciate and understand how difficult some feats of strength are.  
Back to it, more people participating = more awareness of the sport and more appreciation / comprehension…more money into the sport.
Let’s be clear about something.  Years ago I lived in Japan.  Before I moved to Japan, one of the things I wanted to do was to climb Mount Fuji.  People would climb it at night and reach the summit in time to watch the sunset.  When I got to Japan I heard that it would take about 8 hours to reach the top, that there were vending machines on the way up, and that an 86 year old woman had recently done it.  I didn’t climb the mountain.  What a fucking waste of time that would have been.  To share a sunset on a crowded mountain with numerous people because any fucking person including an 86 year old woman can get there.  I’d rather climb a mountain that scares the fuck out of people and enjoy the sunset by myself.
So just because participation is increasing, doesn’t mean we, the guys who actually do have elite totals, true elite totals, ie above 500 wilks totals, have to share platforms with them.  I stopped competing in at the CPF nationals because the last two times I did, I had to share warm up racks with people who couldn’t squat more than 455lbs.  I’m warming up for a 694 opener, currently with 6 plates on the bar, and some stupid idiot wants to drop the weight to 3 plates, and wants help doing it, and wants a spot…..I’ll have to stop at that because I do want newbies in the sport…just not when I’m about to lift.  But that’s the point.
Let the better lifters lift in the better meets.
I mean, we get get into the discussion of why Crossfit has grown so fast and now in the mainstream and why powerlifting in a relatively niche still.  But we can’t ignore that Crossfit welcomes everyone and anyone can do it.  There are competitions all of the time and all over the place.  A newbie crossfitter has competitions as do the vets.  There’s a powerlifting meet being held in my area this August held by the RPS.  They created an entire division just for newbies and crossfitters.  I think that this is a great idea.
In the end, good powerlifters need to support the bigger meets.  Men who can climb mountains need to stop wasting their time climbing little hills getting trophies against newbies.


Sin Leung, Chaos and Pain athlete, 749 Raw Unity Master total, #11 on Powerliftingwatch All-Time list 

(who has only been lifting for two years, by the way)
"The problem with powerlifting is with the media- you're not a powerlifter unless you're "GOOD", which is stupid because everyone starts somewhere.  Then, you have everyone talking tons of shit, and using social media to voice it.  Also, everyone forgets they start from somewhere and subsequently forget they shouldn't spew every fucking thought that ever passed through their head.  On top of that, you have the problem of "PROS"- everyone is like "ohh, I want to get sponsored by so and so."  What the fuck is the point of that?  Everyone wants to get SPONSORED.  Those phaggots should shut the fuck up, keep their heads down, and just do the work and get good.  Everyone's so desperate for a sponsor, but no one is willing to do the work- they just post internet videos and wait for their free sponsor tshirt to arrive in the mail.  You're a fucking idiot if you're in this sport if your goal is to get sponsored, like this is CrossFit.  And yeah, I get the irony, given that I am sponsored by Chaos and Pain, but that was never my intention- I just wanted to do graphic design.  You guys were the assholes who chased me down with a sponsorship- it wasn't like I said "wow, I lift weights so someone SHOULD GIVE ME FREE SHIT.
You also have the problem that America is the Land of the Impatient.  No one thinks about it as life long dedication.  Instead, they think about it as something that should come quickly and easily and for free.  Look at other countries- they train because otherwise they starve.  Their families starve.  For us, this is "fun."  And even powerlifters that are "professionals" don't make money powerlifting- they make it by training people or making products, like Mark Bell.  You know, for these kids that wanna know how to not suck, they should think about it this way- say someone kidnapped the person you loved the most and said you are going to lift this or we're going to kill this person.  It's guaranteed you will get stronger.  So quit bitching about being weak and either train like your life depends on it or gtfo." 

Ben Puccio, 1710 AAU and Raw Unity Elite total at 181, current world record holder total at 181, #3 on Michael Soong's Historical Rankings at 181.

"People should have an attitude of always working to be stronger, as that's what powerlifting is all about.  On the flip side, if someone starts out weak they should not think that starting out inferior precludes the possibility of eventually becoming superior.   When I first started competing, I was a 15 year old, 114lber, and I was weak as shit. Now, I'm a savage.  So, it comes down to mindset: if they are doing it without a care in the world as to where they stack up against the masses, I have no idea why they are powerlifting in the first place.  If they suck now and intend to eventually become elite, however, they should get on the platform and go nuts, no matter how weak they are at present."


Becky Rich, 882lb Raw Unity Elite total, former world record holder, #3 on Michael Soong's Historical Rankings at 123.
"It would be interesting to see a detailed statistical analysis of numbers across federations across the years. Although you've presented at lest some evidence that there aren't as many elite-level lifters in powerliting, and that presumably the mean and the median is going down, still the all-time record totals and individual lifts continue to climb. So, the issue doesn't really seem to be to be that there aren't as many good lifters (because the good lifters are getting better), but that there are more average to downright bad lifters, and that they're muddying the waters when it comes to elite-level competition.
To me, the issue isn't so much the "fun run" mentality. Plenty of people participate in sports and athletics just for enjoyment and to better themselves, and which is awesome. Some people have jobs and families and priorities that aren't athletics, and again, no problem there. Also, this is powerlifting - nobody's getting rich from competing, so you'd better enjoy it if you're going to do it. Last but not least, some people (myself included) aren't willing to supplement in a way that will allow them to get to and stay at the very top. However, in most sports, there is an (admittedly) for-fun segment, and there is a competitive segment. Powerlifting really has no such distinction. Generally speaking, it's kind of hard to find meets that you *couldn't* qualify to compete in.
I see the main problem (as with most things in powerlifting) as the variety of federations available. Since lifters are so split among a number of federations, it is nearly impossible to create a meet with only elite-level lifters. Pulling from only one federation, you'd end up with one or two flights, and some weight classes totally vacant. So, in order to fill out flights and get some entry fees, meet directors are forced to lower or even eliminate qualifying totals just to make a full meet.
For instance, the USPA national meet only requires a class II total to go to the national meet. USAPL single-ply nationals qualifying totals are similarly low, and they don't even require a qualifying total for raw nationals. The vast majority of other federations don't even have a qualifying total for their national meets, so in effect, the national meet is no different than any local competition except you have to pay more to travel. Even more competitive invitational and "pro" meets, such as Raw Unity, Pro-Ams, the Arnold, the Olympia, XPC meets, etc., typically have a handful of elite-level lifters and a number of lifters that barely made the cut, or didn't make the cut but were allowed to compete anyway. At best, qualifying totals for these meets are 60-70% of the totals that are going to win the meet (much closer to the 60% end for women).
So, to go back to the "fun run" comparison. The best men's marathon time ever (let's call that an all-time WR total) is slightly over 2 hours. The average man finishes in approximately 4 hours 15 minutes. The qualifying time for the Boston Marathon is just over 3 hours (let's call that the qualifying total for nationals or even the Pro Am). Assuming all marathoners are distributed on a standard normal bell curve, the qualifying total is at least 1.5 standard deviations above the average, probably closer to 2. This also means that less than 5% of male marathoners (possibly closer to 2.5%) should qualify for the Boston Marathon. Now, I've made quite a few assumptions in my math here, but hopefully you get the point.
Is powerlifting willing to cut qualifying totals off so high that only the top 5% of lifters would qualify for any given meet? I doubt it. And therein lies the problem. When your national meet isn't any different than your local meet, you end up with paint-covered runners in tutus at the Boston marathon, just happy that the Kenyans had to go around them at the starting line."
And that, my friends, is what the best of the best have to say on the subject- apparently I'm not the elitist, flaming cockface the commentators on the interwebz suggest I am.  According to people so fucking good at powerlifting that they make most people seem weaker than babies, the state of powerlifting is piss poor... or is it?  Coming up on Friday, I'll post a statistical analysis of raw powerlifters' performance over the last seven years, and see if I can get to the bottom of whether there is a problem with powerlifting, that problem's root, and how we can solve it.

I promised all of the respondents no porn... but I never promised no booty.

25 comments:

  1. As bad as the whining was the "I know I'm a pussy and I'll always be a pussy so I'll never compete" comments were worse.

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  2. Bob Benedix seems like a really likeable guy.
    Through a lot of history and for many cultures, and you'll know this from all the stone lifting stuff, testing and demonstrating strength was something every (young) man was expected to do. Maybe it's just that powerlifting is a really shitty sport.

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    Replies
    1. He's an awesome guy. I don't think it's a shitty sport- I think that whereas stone lifting was a method by which boys could prove they were men, there's no pride aspect to powerlifting- it's just a sport where boys show they're weak and weak men demonstrate exactly how weak.

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    2. Powerlifting is definitely a shit sport. It's only component is strength whereas other sports combine strength, speed, technique and teamwork.

      Delete
    3. Powerlifting is good, as supplemental training for real sports

      Delete
  3. Raw lifting is just being reborn with people coming from crossfit and similar exposures to barbell training. So right now raw liftings has a younger mean training age than previously, but as with anything else many will quit, some will become good, and a few will become great. I see this as a good thing since the more people in the sport that become great the better the athletes become as a whole. Once those that are bound to quit are gone the mentality will improve and powerlifting will be back to having fewer newbs at meets. I feel alot of "millennials" that do meets are just there to say they did it because its in vogue to be a "lifter" now.

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  4. I like that even though you may be pissed at Puccio you still quote him on your blog! Its great to hear the opinions of proper men on powerlifting, I hadn't heard of Bob Benedix before now but I think I may of developed a bit of man love he seems like quite a beast!

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    Replies
    1. Bob's fucking awesome. I'm going to try to interview Bob Gaynor at some point as well. As for Puccio, he and I have recently started chatting quite a bit. We'll have a nice little rivalry for ourselves this year.

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  5. ...None of them agreed with you. If your article said 'powerlifting is in a woeful state' noone would have disagreed but it didn't, it said 'you shouldn't come to meets unless you're an elite powerlifter, this is all the fault of the generation after mine'.

    This guy literally says the opposite of your article: "The problem with powerlifting is with the media- you're not a powerlifter unless you're "GOOD", which is stupid because everyone starts somewhere.' Can you actually read?

    These lines of his seem particularly pertinent:
    'Also, everyone forgets they start from somewhere and subsequently forget they shouldn't spew every fucking thought that ever passed through their head.'

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    Replies
    1. Whether you think they agreed or not, the point was to show that he's not the only one who knows powerlifting is in trouble for bullshit reasons and everyone has their own version of why.

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    2. That's a chick, for one, she's only been training for two years and has already posted a master total, for another, and the initial article actually was about how powerlifting of today sucks compared to powerlifting of the 1970s. Clearly I would not have stated that only the elite should compete, because there have only been 70 elite totals posted over the last 7 years. You're confusing the problem with my guess at the source.

      Brent got it.

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  6. What are your thoughts on winner take all shows to increase competition and lose the problem of gimme winners ( people who show up and medal because they were the only one in their weight class)? Im a low level competitor but im all for stuff like this because if im not the best I should not get a damn medal.

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    Replies
    1. The bigger meets are sort of winner take all- there are no second place cash prizes, and the cash prizes are typically reserved for superclass winners (light/middle/heavy).

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  7. Maybe your experience is just shit because you've mainly done US meets?
    Raw PL is alive and kicking ass in Aus, our 2yr old fed has over 500 members. Last year we had the first guy crack 2200lbs raw and he was an outlier, this year there's 5 guys that will crack 2000 and two of them will be 20/21.
    We've got maybe 10 people total that qualify as 'elite' (and one who has a good chance of taking the all time 148lb world record), we have an elite-only meet that will have 20-30 internationals PLUS a 'legends' division.
    No passing shit lifts, yelling/metal is mandatory, everybody is welcomed to compete (apart from Nats that has an entry requirement) provides you take it seriously and don't fuck around and everybody gets invited out to eat at the end. Age groups are only there for records purposes, meets are won on total and gloss is only to work out the overall beat male/female lifter - exactly how it should be.

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    Replies
    1. australia generally sounds fucking amazing. Sucks it's to cost-prohibitve to get there.

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  8. But how's your Fran time? Seriously though, your posts certainly generate a lot of butt hurt. I like your writing style, and your point of view, but I can't imagine getting bent out of shape because you said something with which I don't agree. Internet arguments are like the Special Olympics ; even if you win, you're still retarded.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Apologies, off topic, has anyone see. The Raid 2 yet, is it good?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I forgot it released this weekend! Shitballs!

      Delete
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