A Glimpse Into the Rebirth of Powerlifting

TAGS: rebirth of powerlifting, geared lifter, female powerlifter, elite level athletes, social media, Eric Maroscher, elitefts.com, iron game, meet prep, raw, strength, squat, powerlifting, strength training

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As the roman numerals continue to pile up following the words 'master's division,' the perspective I have obtained since my first powerlifting competition back in 1989 continues to build as well. Since that first meet, I have competed in virtually every federation, and I have competed RAW, single-ply and multi-ply. I've had the opportunity to meet, and the good fortune to train with, some of the best powerlifters during this span of time.

Over the years, I've been in meets with three platforms going at once and meets with five minutes added in between the last lifter in the flight and the first lifter of the next flight, just enough time to rest and roll up your knee wraps again. I can look in my own locker at the Monster Garage Gym and witness the strata of time illustrated by my closed back Frantz canvas shirts buried underneath my denim bench shirts buried underneath layers and layers of what were at the time the latest and greatest but are now antiquated next generation bench shirts.

Over this 26-year span of time, I've seen powerlifting federations come and go and powerlifting magazines come and go. I've seen instructional powerlifting video tapes fall to the DVD and the DVD fall to the YouTube footage. I've been witness to the latest thing replaced by the latest thing replaced by the latest thing. I've seen the names at the top of the powerlifting heap replaced again and again and again. And like clockwork, I've seen old powerlifting methods renamed, repackaged and touted as the newest cutting edge program. And as these happenings come and go, every so often one hears that powerlifting is on its last leg.

The author Mark Twain famously quoted after reading accounts of his own passing, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” With regard to the life-pulse of our amazing sport of powerlifting, I find this quote remarkably apropos.

Looking at the sport of powerlifting by view of its weight classes, each weight class is basically like a pyramid. The very top of the pyramid is occupied by the elite few, the wider middle is occupied by the 'newer to the sport' lifters competing in their first few meets, and the foundation, the wide base of the pyramid, is comprised by those ever steadfast faces you see year after year at the state and national meets. Reports of the death of powerlifting have in actuality not been greatly exaggerated but rather greatly fabricated. Statistically, never before have there been more competitive powerlifters hitting the platform than there are now. The top of the powerlifting pyramid will always be comprised of the smallest group, as that is the nature of being the best. But with this influx of the 'new to the sport' individuals, the pyramid now looks more like a curvilinear triangle because the middle portion of the pyramid is comprised of a larger than ever group of newer powerlifters.

curvilinear triangle pyramid

Within the dynamics of either of these two geometric shapes, their composition has also seen its ebbs and flows. The pyramidion of the powerlifting pyramid is comprised of the best of the best in both RAW and equipped powerlifting. Where the composition is changing currently is the middle portion, as this is comprised of the ever growing RAW population. This is the population that is causing so much angst in the world of equipped lifting. The reality of that trepidation is that with time, the allure of the “dark side” will take its share of RAW lifters. That is nothing more than the plain old human nature of “now I want to lift bigger weights.” A weak but fitting analogy would be that the MMA is all the rage, but boxing will always be there as well.

As is far too often the case in powerlifting, women are overlooked. Adding to the steady increase of the RAW lifters is the exponential growth of women powerlifters and the vast majority are all coming from one place. Powerlifters can express their disdain of the so called “un-sport” all day and all night long (you know of the burpee-laden activity of which I speak), but that unmentionable activity has, and to powerlifting’s benefit, successfully introduced a mass of women to the sport of powerlifting through their inclusion of the (back) squat and deadlift.

Through the lens of that unmentionable sport versus the lens of a powerlifting meet or highlight video, a woman being powerful is somehow seen less testosterone laden and more so empowering. So although being strong and having musculature have always been positive traits for women, the un-sport has served to illustrate what we in the powerlifting community have always known. In a way, the un-sport is the gateway drug to the sport of powerlifting and that is being reflected in the exponential growth of the women’s division in powerlifting, thus one factor in the resurgence of our sport.

Not too long ago, I caught a glimpse (one of many) of the rebirth and/or the resurgence of powerlifting. The glimpse in this case was the 2015 APF Chicagoland Summer Bash. This is an annual APF meet run by APF IL State Chair Eric Stone, Jackie Stone and their team from 2XL Powerlifting. Amid the state, national and world meets and pro meets that are typically host to the more seasoned powerlifter, the APF Chicago Summer Bash is a meet that the experienced lifters utilize to chase PRs, tune up their meet skills and break records. It is also a great meet where the newer lifters can dip the toe of their Chuck Taylors into the waters of competitive powerlifting via an impeccably well run powerlifting meet.

chicagoland Summer  bash

Photo: 2015 APF Chicagoland Summer Bash (two days, two platforms per day, 165 powerlifters). Photo courtesy of Eric Stone.

APF IL State Meet

Photo: 2015 APF IL state meet. Another 100 plus competitor meet. Photo by MGG.

This meet, as with many other meets, has grown into a two-day, two-platform per day meet. This year’s APF Chicagoland Summer Bash competitors numbered 165, approximately 80 competitors per day. Of those competitors, the curvilinear triangle was comprised of 165 total lifters, 45 of which were women (the majority were novice and nearly all coming from the un-sport), all of whom were RAW. There were also 21 bench-only lifters with one flight of the two days being equipped lifters. (The pendulum has currently swung toward RAW powerlifting, but having said that, we all know that a pendulum swings both ways and that too will self-correct to a degree.) This meet is one of dozens seeing a large influx of RAW, male, first-time powerlifters and a huge influx of RAW, female, first-time powerlifters.

The perceived demise of the sport isn't based on the reality of the numbers, which are ever increasing, but on the loudness of the keyboard cowards and social media “Debbie Downers” who find wrong with all. Behind the safety of the keyboard and posted by the almighty never beens, powerlifting, like the vast content of social media, is dissected and seemly kicked around by the folks WHO PREFER TO POST IN ALL CAPS. But it is the silent majority of lifters who are the fillers of the competitive base of the pyramid of powerlifting. The true sport of powerlifting, whose numbers are undisputedly growing, is the sport of the silent majority who spend their time when done with their workday training at a gym, training in a warehouse or training in their garage or basement. All are training for a meet, all are covered in the glorious dust of chalk-filled hands and all are writing their copious training notes in their training logs as they comprise the bulk of the sport of powerlifting. These powerful fillers of the pyramid are lifters like yourself who take the time to read articles about this sport that they love and this sport that is etched in their DNA.


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As much as social media gives a voice to those who prefer to tear down rather than build up, social media is also one of the factors resulting in the increase, the rebirth, the resurgence in powerlifting numbers because it's easier now to locate meets, read about the better meets to lift in, locate obscure powerlifting gyms, find training partners, correspond with and follow so many talented powerlifters, obtain the best free powerlifting education like at elitefts™, see results as they happen in meets via live stream and watch practically in real time the development of a lifter through his or her training posts.

The reality is powerlifting meets take place each weekend and every weekend all over the world, and the number of meets and the size of the rosters are larger than at any time in the history of the sport. One doesn't need to look that hard to see glimpses of this rebirth of powerlifting because they are all around us. Keep in mind, with regards to the social media peddlers of doom and those who would sell you the snake oil of powerlifting’s demise, it is the silent three wheels that are diligently doing the work even though the squeaky wheel might get the grease. The true workers of the sport, the true powerlifters, are the ones who continue to not only comprise our sport but thrive in our sport.

You, like every serious powerlifter, take up an area within the powerlifting pyramid. Be that powerlifter a newbie in the middle of the pyramid, a veteran and pillar of the sport at the bottom of the pyramid or an elite of the elite at the top of the pyramid, you are part of this sport at a time in history when keyboard cowards spend their evenings attempting to wax poetic the demise of powerlifting. In contrast, your evening is spent banging out set after set, rep after rep in this most body violent, powerful, glorious, resurging and growing sport, the sport of powerlifting!

class up the place

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