Being a part of EliteFTS for the past couple of years as well as powerlifting and competitive sports, I have been exposed to a lot of critics telling me what I’m doing is wrong or, in the case of football, what the team is doing wrong. The interesting thing is that after they espouse their wisdom, rarely do they have an answer. They are very good at pointing out what is wrong, but can never tell you what to do to correct it. And if they do attempt to give you advice, you can only shake your head because it is so retarded and back-ass-ward you wonder how they’ve lived as long as they’ve had without falling into a glacier.

For the first ¾ of my training career, I would fight these critics and give examples and answers and try to change their minds. Man, what a waste of time and energy. Or, and I’m not proud of this, I would see someone doing something in the weight room that I thought was wrong, and give them advice even though they didn’t ask for it. I thought I was doing them a favor when in reality I was becoming someone that I hated. These were dark days in my life and I’m not proud. But we all learn and move on.

But I do realize that some of us like to be challenged a bit by the critics and give them a good fight. We all have to go through the phase of being the “Defenders of the Iron” or whatever kind of Marvel-esque name you wish to give yourself. So here are some common things that people seem to want to argue about when discussing powerlifting or weight training in general.

Weight lifting stunts your growth: This belief is usually heard around the Thanksgiving table by Uncle Joe (currently 5’11” 168lbs and somehow has a gut) who’s training experience amounts to stubbing his toe on a 45lbs plate while cutting through his high school weight room to get to track practice. Of course track was the only sport he ever participated in because no one ever gets cut. Anyway, Uncle Joe gives examples such as “the short dude from the Olympics” (Naim Suleymanoglu) or some bodybuilders he saw on T.V. that are 5’ 8” or “the kid down the street”. While improper weight training can hurt a young kid, improper training can hurt an adult. Furthermore, the critics never seem to realize that the ones that succeed in sports are usually genetically gifted towards their given sport. Those that are very successful in weightlifting, powerlifting and bodybuilding (those in the spotlight) are generally shorter people whose bodies are suited for the sport. Using the critics’ argument, one would say that basketball causes people to be taller. For the most part, your body will choose your sport. That’s why you don’t see many 300lbs men with huge ankles and wrists playing soccer.

Powerlifters have awful technique in the squat, bench and deadlift: This one is probably one of the dumbest arguments I have ever heard because all it takes is 5 minutes of thinking to come up with the correct answer. Just so we are all on the same page let me explain powerlifting; the goal is to lift the most you can in the bench, squat and deadlift. You cannot do this if you are hurt. So you must learn how to lift the most weight possible and NOT get hurt. Is everyone following me? So who do you think will know the proper way to squat? Richard Squats-a-Little who squats 135 for a couple easy sets of 5 or Johnny No-Neck who squats a 1000lbs. and knows that if he gets out of the groove by an INCH may hurt, cripple or even kill himself? Who do you think is going to go out of his way to make sure his form is accurate?

Bench shirts are cheating: Cheating at what? Last time I looked is that the bench shirt is legal in every federation unless you compete in the IPTA (International Pec Tear Association). But the local Gold Gym Warrior will always point to something as to why he is so much weaker than powerlifters. Then you’ll have the old school lifters complain about records being broken and how it’s all about the shirt, blah, blah, blah… It’s like listening to a bunch of old women bitching and moaning about the prices at the grocery store. No one cares what you say and times change. But if the shirt is legal, then how is it cheating? Is it cheating if you wear a helmet in football? And to those that say, “Well, how much can you bench without a shirt?” To them I say, “I don’t care. I’m not judged by what I bench without a shirt. Would you ask a kicker who far he could kick without a tee? Or how far a baseball player could hit a ball without a bat?” I don’t know if it was Sebastian Burns who said it, but I’ll give him credit for this statement after being asked what he gets out of his bench shirt, “720lbs.” At the time this was his max.

Powerlifters should get paid like every other athlete: I’ve heard this a million times and still can’t understand the logic behind this argument. You know who pays for the salaries of professional basketball, football and baseball players? The fan does. You know how many people watch these sports? Millions. Now go to a powerlifting meet and see how many people show up. But then I’ve heard this argument, “Powerlifters work just as hard as other athletes.” The last time I heard this gem was when I was in driving past a construction site. I asked him if he thought that the construction workers didn’t work hard, or if teachers didn’t work hard or if a dental hygienist didn’t work hard. What about the salesman that’s on the road 40 weeks out of the year to help feed his family and isn’t home to see his children grow up? What about people that build houses? Isn’t that an important job that deserves better pay? If you want to make some money from powerlifting then by all means, have at it. But don’t complain that you’re not making a million dollars a year; we are not entitled to money because someone else has more than we do.

Squatting with a wide stance is not sport specific: Again, I have no understanding of this statement and just a tiny bit of thought can answer this question. Have any well coached athlete get into his or her stance. For example, have a baseball player get into a stance as if he were playing shortstop; have a volleyball player get into a stance as if to receive an opponent’s serve; have a football player get into a stance as if playing linebacker. They are all pretty much the same. The toes are slightly turned out and the stance is always slightly wider than shoulder width. If they are in a narrow or Olympic squat stance, I would love to see how many grass stains are on the back of their jersey! And what the hell is sport specific really? A basketball player will jump for a rebound with a variety of different stances. He cannot be in the exact same stance every time. The speed of the game won’t allow him to set up perfectly each time. So what is he supposed to do, squat with 10 different kinds of stances? The goal of the weight coach or weight room is to make the athlete stronger in his sport. It’s the job of the field coach to take the strength and apply it. If you really want sport specific, then all football players should lift with all of their equipment on and with people trying to tackle them when they squat.

The SAT is prejudice: Off topic, but as a friend of mine once said, “The SAT is prejudice? Yeah, prejudice against stupid people.”

Box squats are bad for the back: I hear this all of the time but am reminded of a famous quote by Meg Ritchie, former strength and conditioning coach at the University of Arizona. “There are no dangerous lifts, just dangerous coaches.” I’ve seen very bad box squats and I’ve seen very good box squats. I’ve also seen really awful bench pressing but no one is battling that exercise. When people tell you that box squats are bad for the back ask them to show you the evidence. Since THEY attacked box squats, THEY should provide you with the information. Not the other way around. Also, if you are a coach and are using the box squat, please do us all a favor and learn how to do it and learn how to COACH it. You’d be saving everyone a lot of headaches and time if this were followed.

Bodybuilding and bodybuilding magazines have killed strength training in the United States: I call this excuse the “Columbine High School Principle” or simply blaming others rather than taking responsibility. After the tragedies in Columbine, Ted Koppel and the pet mongoose he wears on his head visited the Colorado city and televised a town-hall meeting to discuss what happened, why, etc. During the telecast, one gentleman stands up and states that we should put the blame on who is really responsible for the acts. Of course, for a moment I thought he was going to blame the young men who actually shot the students and teachers. But this man stands up and proudly exclaims, “Marilyn Manson!” I about pissed myself. Mr. Manson didn’t pull any triggers, nor did he tell anyone to do it. Blaming bodybuilding and their print fodder is such a retarded excuse. It’s not the bodybuilders and Flex magazines fault. It’s those that interpret it and apply it. So don’t be one of those bandwagon jumpers that want to blame everything on Ronnie Coleman and Arnold. At least they came up with their own training style and found out what works for them.

Strength is not important: This is something that Dave Tate has brought up time and time again and I’m not afraid to take his idea and run with it. When I first started to lift weights I was a thin and slow kid in 8th grade. I was an above average athlete, but not very fast. After lifting for 6 months (squatting, benching and deadlifting) track season came around and I had now become the fastest kid in the school. I remember thinking that the reason I was so much faster than everyone was because I was stronger. Now I am not a genius, but how the hell could a 13 year kid with no fancy degrees figure this out but it remains a mystery to some of the strength coaches? Of course these coaches will argue that “we are not powerlifters, we are athletes.” No one ever argued that fact, but then why do you test in the bench and squat? They will counter that they have no need for a 600lbs bench press. They’re right! They don’t need one, but it sure would be nice to have every offensive lineman on a college team able to bench press 400lbs and squat 600lbs. Hell, wouldn’t it be nice if they could even all squat 400? Because I KNOW that most schools can’t even say that! And I’m talking about a parallel squat, not a ¼ squat piece of crap. Whenever I hear these kinds of statements it’s from a coach that has weak athletes. Just strive to make them stronger. Make the 200lbs squatter into a 315lbs squatter and you will be surprised at what will happen. Also, to those that believe and preach nothing but stability balls and balance boards. I bet you can teach me how to stand on a stability ball and wave a wand in a few hours. How long do you think it is going to take me to teach you how to squat over 900lbs? You know why no one likes to hear this? Because getting stronger takes hard work and effort.

Ok, now I feel a little bit better. Sometimes I have to get these things off of my chest and I hope I’ve given the “Defenders of the Iron” some good ammo against those that want to battle you in your quest for strength. But do yourself a favor. Save your breath for your heavy lifts; nothing says “FU” like a big lift.