Among all the details and minutia that come with the sport of powerlifting, there is simplicity in the sport if you take the time to look with a different perspective.

As a powerlifter, you can get into a training program as deeply as you want. You can even get into the other aspects and readings of the person or people who developed that program. Additionally, you can delve into the gear you wear, tweak and re-tweak the Metal briefs that you have and try out the vast assortment of bench shirts and knee wraps out there. Indeed, the devil is in the details. Sometimes, however, the devil is plain as day in the big picture of your training.

Be it your lifting gear, your program or other areas of your training that are steeped in details, we often tend to miss the big things, the simple things that are impacting our lifting performance more than we realize. Once the lifter has delved into the DNA of his program and really has his lifting gear dialed in, sometimes the performance on the platform is still below expectations. So perhaps with the details honed in tightly, it is time that we look away from the micro and focus more on the macro, the big picture of you as a lifter. Specifically, I'm referring to the state of your wellness as not only a powerlifter but as an organism.

With regards to wellness in general, there are four major pillars involved.


These four wellness variables are large and they permeate every part of your training. These variables, if lacking symmetry, can have a huge positive or negative effect on your powerlifting, regardless of how meticulous your form is, how dialed into your training methodology you are and how perfectly your gear works for you.

Over the past two and a half decades, I have power lifted. I have seen lifters painstakingly toil over variables of their powerlifting, trying to discover the hidden reason why they aren't reaching the numbers they desire and are working for. Their workout program is dissected to the point of nearly being obsessive-compulsive (even more obsessive than the typical powerlifter already is). I have seen lifters tweak and re-tweak the size of their gear or have many different sizes of briefs, suits and shirts just so that they have the suit that fits them perfectly at the body weight they are at in that very moment. Yet after all the disaggregation of every nuance and of every variable, the numbers (your powerlifting total) stay the same or get worse.

This is when it's time to step back and simplify. With social media hitting us with information from every angle, some tend to focus on looking for that detail, “that secret,” that mystical something to reach the bigger numbers that might be found in that supplement, that program, that super amazing bench shirt.

Instead of looking for the microscopic super amino acid formula, simplify and look at the four big wellness pillars because they absolutely and completely are the variables that you need to dominate before looking elsewhere. Without mastering these four essential variables, no amount of hunting for secrets will manifest itself into bigger numbers.

Looking at the big picture variables and not understanding their huge impact on your lifting is a major misstep. Because these variables have been there all along and aren't flashy or mysterious or come in a bottle with a hardcore logo or hail from some eastern European country with a guttural sounding name, we tend to dismiss the obvious as irrelevant. After all, I am on the program. I have the best form, and I'm taking the best supplements, so I should see my numbers go up...right?

The reality is this—even having one of the four wellness pillars out of symmetry can have a catastrophic impact on your powerlifting. If you don’t think so, look at some of the truly great lifters who have stood the test of time and you will see that they had these four wellness pillars intact, symmetrical and always in the forefront.

If you're a powerlifter with the best form, best program, best gear, best team, best everything but your nutrition is lacking, you could very well have big numbers, but big numbers are vastly different than the biggest numbers you could actually obtain. Lacking in magnesium alone will wreak havoc on your mitochondria reproduction and efficiency, and if your body is lacking in ATP production, you can bet the farm that your training is lacking and it is the training that helps produce the numbers at the meet. If your nutritional plan is the “see food diet,” (if I see it, I eat it), science will tell you that lacking in magnesium is merely one of thousands of nutritional areas your body is deficient in when calling on it to lift maximal weights.

If you're a powerlifter with the best form, best program, best gear, best team, best everything but your sleep is lacking, you, too, could very well have big numbers, but big numbers are vastly different that the biggest numbers you could actually obtain. Not convinced? Read the Stanford University sleep study on performance and you will be. Not spending time in deep sleep means that you are never allowing your body to produce the natural growth hormone required to help you ultimately hit the numbers you truly could be reaching.

If you are a powerlifter with the best form, best program, best gear, best team, best everything but your life is full of stress, you could very well have big numbers, but big numbers are vastly different than the biggest numbers you could actually obtain. Stress is the mother of all cortisol producers. Nobody can control what happens to them and stuff does happen, but we can all control how we react to it. Allowing stress to permeate you means that you're producing the hormone cortisol and that means you're suppressing your immune system. That alone is devastating to a powerlifter's performance.


Photo by MGG: MGG owner Eric Maroscher (left) and MGG co-founder Phillip Daniels (right) of the Washington Redskins (ret).

You don’t last 15 years as a defensive end in the NFL without the symmetry of wellness. Phil is not a drinker or smoker, his nutrition is near perfect and he never devalues the role that sleep has played in his NFL success. One of the four pillars is drugs and alcohol. We aren't talking about if these things are right or wrong. We're talking about balance, symmetry, priorities and ultimately PR totals. If a lifter’s routine is to get smashed every Friday night before a squat on Saturday morning, that doesn't make him a bad person, nor is it a window into his morals or ethics. But what it does say is that powerlifting at his highest level is definitely not his highest priority.

The powerlifter’s body is an electrical one, and being dehydrated from the night before will retard the electrical signals to the muscles. In addition, the lack of hydration greatly increases the risk for muscle strains, pulls and tears. After the Friday night binge, the lifter’s liver is working to rid the body of the toxic byproducts of alcohol, so it can't properly clear out the lactic acid that his body is making in the gym. That will cause a submaximal training session, thus directly impacting the end game, which is the total at the meet.

Serious powerlifters are the ones taking the time to read this article and other elitefts™ articles like it because they are looking for information to take them to their next goal. Taking as much time looking at the big picture—in this case, the four wellness pillars—as one does at his programming, technique and lifting gear is that piece of information to heed.

The truly successful powerlifters, the ones who have had long, successful careers, model the four pillars, as these are variables that they can control and did control. One must control the wellness variables because if powerlifting success was only based on the amount of time in the gym, everyone would have a huge total for his weight class.

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