Ok, so two things…Number 1, powerlifting really didn’t save my life. I just loved the title and ran with it because it sounded epic! Number 2, this post will be about my own personal experiences with the sport of powerlifting. This sport has given a lot to me. So I felt it was right to give back to powerlifting by sharing a few genuine thoughts in this blog about the sport that many people do not understand, yet so many people love!
Powerlifting is a sport where you have three attempts at the Squat, Bench, and Deadlift. The highest total of the three lifts for the day is the winner in each weight class/division.
First, let me take you back a few years ago, way before powerlifting began for me. Growing up in Ohio and loving football, football became my life and obsession. In Ohio, powerlifting has had a strong underground following in the lifting scene, but it is nothing like the football culture here. For myself, to be honest, I loved training for football and was familiar with powerlifting growing up, all of the way through college, and even into my early years of coaching. I was familiar with it, I thought it was awesome how strong some of these individuals were, but I never really pictured myself being a powerlifter.
As cool as I always thought it was, and even learning coaching techniques and cues from really good lifters and powerlifting coaches, all I saw in my mind was a bunch of big, strong, fat guys who could lift a lot of weight. I didn’t see them as athletes. This was just was my own ignorance and perception of the sport at the time.
So that’s my background with powerlifting up till about 24 years old of age. I’m currently 29 as I’m writing this blog. The rest of the report I am going to outline 3 reasons of what got me in to powerlifting and why I plan on sticking with it and pursuing my goals over the long haul. And with these reasons you will see why “powerlifting saved my life.”
Reason Number 1
I always believed the main reason I loved playing sports and why I love training in general is the simple fact that I love being competitive. Having a goal and being able to set out to reach that goal is an adrenaline rush in itself for me. While playing college football I suffered a lower back injury which cut my career short by my last two seasons of eligibility. I lettered two years and then boom, one day it all ended not knowing that I could never play again. Up to this day, I can say my back hurts every day. If it’s 90% I can still feel the pain, but that is what I consider a good day for my back!
For a couple years after the injury, I switched my focus to becoming the best coach I could be and put my own training on the back burner. I only trained to train for the sake of training and to help reduce my back pain. This was fine for a while, until I realized I was bored of just being a coach. I love coaching but I also thrive off of competing. There is a thrill there for me that I’m not ready to give up yet in my life. I started looking for hobbies or sports I could get involved with and be good at. But with my coaching schedule, I’m always in the gym and this was a challenge. Thus, the idea powerlifting emerged. When I first thought of competing in powerlifting, I thought it was a far-fetched idea that my back wouldn’t be able to handle it. But then again, I realized that was a competition to me in itself. I hate being told what I can and cannot do. I figured at least I would be strong with a bad back instead of being weak with a bad back…
Reason Number 2
Remember how I said I would look to powerlifting for coaching techniques? And do you also remember me saying I always thought powerlifters were basically all fat dudes who could lift a lot? Well I came across this guy named Dan Green. If you’re familiar with powerlifting already, I’m sure you know exactly who I am talking about. I saw a guy who was lean and jacked and breaking all of these world records. This was 180 degrees from my own personal perception of powerlifting. He looked like a world class athlete and was really good in the sport and he will go down as one of the best lifters ever.
Then I started learning more about the sport and seeing other lifters who looked jacked and were lifting weights most people would seem to be unrealistic or even possible. Now, I’m not saying I only started powerlifting because I wanted to look jacked. If that were the case, I would’ve just done bodybuilding routines instead. But I knew I didn’t want to be a lifter who got sloppy-big just to hit big numbers on the platform.
I had to acknowledge to myself that if I were going to do this (powerlifting), I needed to treat myself like the athlete that I am, and have a solid diet strategy to go with it. So again, this wasn’t about just getting jacked, but coming from an athletic background, gaining weight just to put more weight on the bar wasn’t going to cut it for me and knew I would just be miserable like that. I wanted to add muscle and decrease my body fat levels. I wanted to be and feel like athlete again…
Reason Number 3
Powerlifting is a very black and white sport. Other than controversial judging calls at a meet, you’re either strong enough to lift it or not on that day. I love the fact that you can either set very small goals, maybe 5lbs, or big goals like adding 100lbs to your total. It’s just you under the bar and 45lbs will always be 45lbs.
During these moments of lifting big weights, it’s one of the realest moments personally for you, and especially for myself. Some days you’ll feel untouchable and other days you may be questioning yourself. It’s a very honest and character building sport.
So far I have learned I loved it. It helps regulate me as a person and makes me feel like me. There are times I wished I didn’t love it as much as I do, and two weeks may go by where I’m questioning if I still want to do this or talk myself in to “taking some time off from it”, but that thought process never lasts. Why do I say that to myself? What do I say to myself to refocus? I say it because it’s hard, we’re only human, and I think if you don’t push yourself to question things like that where you need to check yourself, you’re not pushing yourself enough physically and mentally. What do I do to refocus? I think of why I started. Why did powerlifting save my life? It didn’t exactly. Rather it helped shape me as the man I am today.
So yeah, I don’t need powerlifting in my life, nor was I going to die if I didn’t start powerlifting, but I’m sure glad I did! I had many misconceptions about the sport at first and the more I learned the more I realized how awesome it is. I wrote this mainly for the sake of hoping that my personal experiences may help open your eyes to at least give the sport more respect, and maybe even a chance to try it yourself. Like I said, it’s given me a lot by helping elevate my life and me as a person, but I enjoy seeing such a great sport do the same for many others too!
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Physical Prep Coach & Owner of Joel Younkins Training.