CrossFitters want you to compete every day. Newbie powerlifters think they should be able to qualify for Nationals within their first few months of training. Strongmen won’t lift anything not shaped like something from a deserted junkyard because it’s not event specific. Then there’s everybody else, training year after year and too afraid to compete. All of them are wrong.
I’m not putting down powerlifting or bodybuilding or whatever your sport of choice is. I’m just saying that for the vast majority of us; men and women who won’t be making a living from strength sport competition, we don’t need to identify ourselves by our chosen sport to the point where we put our lives on hold because we’re training for a competition. Because competition isn’t the point.
I say that because there’s always someone stronger, in powerlifting there are so many federations that you could recruit them all to fill your own world champion choir. There’s always someone bigger, more defined, better at posing. What to me is important is the continual reinvention and self-improvement. Competition is a way to measure whether that is happening. That’s it.
Having this mentality frees you from the notion that you have to train for just one thing year after year. I interviewed former Powerlifting USA correspondent Paul Kelso and he pointed out that in the old days of physical culture, guys who lifted would compete in whatever was put in front of them. Be it bodybuilding show or weightlifting competition. I remember watching the early World’s Strongest Man competitions and seeing bodybuilders competing.
Today we find a sport and stick to it, name ourselves after it and compete in it as often as our health and finances will allow. This is bad. Not only do you become one dimensional leading to all sorts of potential injuries, but you also miss out on being able to actually enjoy life in the new body you developed with all of that training! Mike Guadango, owner of Freak Strength and former protégé of the famous strength coach Joe DeFranco has said, “My primary goal for right after the season is to restore movement function. Typically what I see, is every athlete that walks in my doors – old or young – and has played a full season is loaded with dysfunctional movement & their general work capacity is in the shitter”. This guy works with top level athletes who have access to the best of physical therapy and preventative care in season. What do you think is happening to your cash strapped physique if you hammer it with year round training for just one sport?
I remember at this year’s Arnold Classic, I tried my hand at mace training. I sucked.
The guy leading it challenged me to do the competition and I agreed if he’d deadlift with me afterwards. He refused. As far as I’m concerned; advantage me. Later that day, I entered a 225 Bench for reps competition against three guys who each outweighed me by at least fifteen pounds. Because I wanted to know how many times I could rep 225, I wanted to know how my strength was affected by losing twenty pounds. The rest of the day, I enjoyed time with my wife and kids.
One way I keep powerlifting in its proper place is by not allowing myself to compete in more than three meets a year. This gives me a long enough offseason to be able to enjoy holiday dinners, my kids’ athletic events and flat out relaxing with the family. Yes, I train year round. No, I’m not constantly in meet prep, yes I try new and unfamiliar challenges from time to time just to see if I can do them.
What about you? Are you limiting yourself? If you are, why not try something new? Your choices are myriad. Kettlebell competitions, calisthenics, Highland Games, adventure races, bar athletics, figure competition, bodybuilding shows, strongman competitions, arm wrestling, grip sport, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, mace competitions. There are grip challenges on the Internet and YouTube like the coin deadlift.
I’m not saying train for all that in one year but definitely over the course of a five-year period, I think a strength hobbyist should try his hand at least two different strength sports. If you can’t bring yourself to try something different just for fun, remember that training for a different sport can be considered GPP for your primary sport. How would your powerlifting total improve if you became very good at grip sport? Think of the impact on your ability to fill out a weight class and display muscle maturity if you competed in bodybuilding and powerlifting? Assuming that you’re not Franco Columbu I will admit that it’s difficult to become proficient in one sport if you do multiple sports at once. That’s important if you’re not Franco Columbu but ARE in the top twenty ranking of your sport. The other some odd billion of us need to diversify. Sixty-eight year old grip strength legend Chris Rice has been training since he was 11 years old. In a recent interview on The Super Strength Show he talks about how training variety is the secret to his longevity and avoiding injury. Because competition isn’t the point. Self-improvement is. And so is not being a jerk to your family because you’re always preparing for a competition.
Like I said in the last post, nothing I’ve said here is revolutionary. What’s different is I just paid attention to the patterns I’ve noticed from talking to great lifters and observing posts on the message boards I’ve frequented in the last twenty two years. To put it another way, I applied common sense to a frequent problem.
John Greaves III writes everywhere that will return his nagging emails. He is the founder of http://garagegymlife.net/ and has authored two fiction books involving powerlifting which aren’t boring but are available on Amazon.com. John earned a Combat Action Ribbon the old-fashioned way in Operation Iraqi Freedom II and taught hundreds of motivated Devil Dogs how to punch, kick, stab and strangle as a Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor and flew home from the 2001 International Kickboxing Federation National Championships angry because he only got a silver medal. Now he’s learning the way of squat, bench and deadlift as a competitor in the Masters Division on the Gogginsforce team. John is constantly seeking out interesting people who have rejected an average life in favor of building an extraordinary legacy. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .