The Path to the Platform

TAGS: what I learned, Marshall Johnson, competition, confidence, Programs, powerlifting

 The Path to the Platform

More often then not, I have been my own worst enemy in preparing for the platform. There are many ways to sabotage yourself in preparing for a meet. I have only been a power lifter for about three years, but I made enough stupid mistakes along the way to be a 20-year veteran. I would like to share with you some of the mistakes I made during my journey through powerlifting to help you leapfrog these mistakes and avoid unnecessary grief.

There are three speed bumps on the road to the platform that I would like to discuss. First, find a training method that works for you. We are different and unique, find a way to train that suits you and never deviate if it proves effective. Second, don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing. There isn't one thing that anyone else is doing that will physically alter your performance. And finally, NEVER be afraid to fail. YPush yourself to the limits because you believe. You believe that what you're doing will take you to where you want to go. Failure will happen to everyone. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t pushing yourself to the brink.


Powerlifting can be a long troubleshooting experience. This ranges from the most intermediate competitors, to the lifters at an elite level. We are all constantly looking for a way to train that will make us stronger with the least amount of negative side effects. What a lot of people, including myself, fail to realize is that finding your stride is trial-and-error. The only possible way for anyone to know if a training method will work for them is to do it.

Too often we ignore something that is clearly working for us to train like someone at the top.

“He squats 1200 pounds, so I have to approach squat training like him.”

There's no universal template to training. I tried all of the famous training methods and ignored what works for me. For no other reason, other than a well-known powerlifting celebrity training a particular way. For all you know, that person might not even train using that particular method. They just say they do because they don’t want to contradict their gym’s reputation.

Scared of Change

A large majority of the population is scared to death of change, scared of new methods, and definitely afraid of training through pain. You don’t get an extra white light on the platform because you trained using the latest hyped-up training method. You get white lights from executing. You need to sample multiple training methods and find what works for you specifically. Don’t be afraid to combine methods. You aren't going to get shunned in the training community because you made a hybrid training method.

Once you find a method, no matter how obscure to the outside eye, stick with it and never look back. You'll always have people telling you your methods won't work if you dare to be different. People are intimidated by change, by ingenuity, by creativity, so stand strong and stay committed to yourself. I could have saved myself a lot of time in the gym by staying true to myself and not feeling stupid for trying new things. I built a strong foundation off multiple training methods. Never walk the beaten trail, instead create you own path and let others follow.

Focus on Yourself

Avoid getting caught up in what everyone else is doing. I often found myself watching the training videos of my upcoming competition and planning my training according to their numbers. I would want to figure out their sets and reps, their diet, the supplements they were taking, the equipment they were wearing. All of that is crap. If you sit back and think about it, what someone else is doing will not have one shred of physical influence on what you do in the gym, and most importantly, on the platform. Just because so-and-so who is in my weight class hit a 1000-pound squat in training five weeks out from the meet, doesn’t mean that is what he will hit in a meet. Some of the best advice I received was from Shawn Frankl. He told me to forget about the competition, forget about what numbers you're going to hit. It is pointless to put all of that pressure on yourself. None of it is useful as far as prepping for a competition is concerned. Train as hard as you possibly can with the time that you're given to prepare. Go into the meet and lift to the best of your ability. Be happy with five-pound and 10-pound PRs. Powerlifting is about longevity. The only lift that matters is the one on the platform. Come in prepared and hit your lifts. I went into meets as an underdog by hundreds of pounds, but because I came in prepared, I hit my attempts and won. What you hit in training doesn’t matter if you don’t come in prepared and perform on meet day.

Don't Fear Failure

Do not let the fear of failure affect your training or performance. Failure will happen, it does to everyone, no one is immune. The people who achieve great things know this and they use failure as fuel, as a tool to improve. If you aren't failing, then you aren’t pushing yourself to the absolute limits. Failure is there to show us how bad we really want something. If you get hit and failure knocks you over, fall face up. Because if you can look up, you can get up. All successful people fail, they usually fail more than they succeed. It is their drive and unresting perseverance that picks them up every time they fall. Every time you fall and get back up you get smarter, you get wiser and you get better. Do not be afraid to fail. There's always light at the end of darkness. Some of my biggest failures in competition have opened the biggest doors for me in my power lifting career. People can see if you have heart, if you're driven, if you're giving your absolute all. People respect that more than success. It took me a long time to learn that.


When you are preparing for competition, remember that the only lift that matters is on the platform. Do not live up to other people’s expectations. As long as you're training as hard as you can, and giving it everything you have, you will be successful. The road to success is full of failure so remember to accept failure as a lesson. Come into a meet as prepared as humanly possible, and be the best lifter you can be on that particular day.

Prepare, Perform and Prevail!

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