I woke up today and experienced an epiphany. It was a thought seemingly so simple, yet ultimately so impactful. As my eyes opened and my mindset switched, this is what I discovered.
Powerlifting, at its core, has only one goal:
To move the weight from point A to point B.
I used to think there was something more to powerlifting, something grander about it. Perhaps it was powerlifting’s ability to change one’s physique, to slap on slabs of sheer muscle. Maybe it was the brute strength it developed in a person? Or possibly it was the way the big 3 could dramatically increase sports performance across a broad array of sports? I doubt it was the increased bone density, or improved tendon strength, or the boost to one’s metabolism from added lean mass, or simply the ability to run faster, jump higher, and hit harder.
That is what used to excite me about the sport, but I was misguided. The allure of powerlifting is to move a 28mm barbell from one point to another, and the goal of the lifter should be to reduce the distance between those 2 points as much as physically possible.
In no lift is it easier to see the appeal of this philosophy than the bench press. In keeping with my change of heart, I realize the form standards I used to preach are way off. I used to think this was a great example of a really good bench press:
And here is another good one (both crazy strong individuals):
If you are into more ‘normal’ humans lifting weights this is a solid example as well of what I used to think good form was:
But now I know instead of those lifts here are much better examples of technical perfection that lifters should seek. Check out this bench that is clearly quintessentially perfect form:
Eddie Berglund from Sweden not just Bench pressed a Junior World record but an Open World record in the 66kg class with 188.5kg!! #WCPC16
Posted by International Powerlifting Federation – IPF on Thursday, June 23, 2016
or this one:
To be clear, I am not interested in praising or bashing any specific individual lifter, lifters will always do what the rules allow them to do. You don’t blame the field goal kickers for kicking an extra point from the 2-yard line for taking the ‘easy way’ out, you can change the rules. What I am talking about is promoting and modifying the rules to encourage this new form. It is the very definition of ideal form that I am challenging.
Imagine how awesome it would be if everyone adopted this new attitude – that powerlifting is just point A to B and of course anything we can do to make A & B closer together is a good thing.
Think of walking into any high school in America, heck even across the world, and seeing legions of teens diligently perfecting their form to look like these lifts?
Think of the technical mastery we could instill if we start early enough with these new form templates.
Imagine going to a meet and seeing every lifter performing like this. Of course, powerlifters don’t like change, so there would be a few hard-headed naysayers still clinging fiercely to their old and misguided beliefs, but we can shake our head at those poor SOBs as we usher in the new golden age of powerlifting. And think of the how the jaws will drop on the spectators (family members really, who else shows up a powerlifting competition?) when they see this new form unveiled for the first time at a meet. They will be so envious to go out and give it a try for themselves, I think the sport will grow by leaps and bounds as a result.
To help realize this dream and fully maximize this most fundamental point of the sport, that is all about lifting that weight from A-B using the most weight possible; and covering the shortest distance available, I suggest we change some outdated rules that attempt to restrict our attainment of this most mightiest of goals.
First, all feds need to get on the same page and eliminate the feet flat on the floor rule for bench. This is just dumb. If the feet are flat on the floor you can’t arch as well, and a huge arch is the ultimate dream and aspiration of every true powerlifter.
Secondly, we need to eliminate the old, dated, and misguided rule of having to cover at least one of the rings during a bench press. Who the hell came up with this rule and what was its original purpose? 81 cm maximum grip width – it seems totally arbitrary to me? It is almost like the founding fathers of the sport had some sort of mental image of how they wanted the lifts to look and they put in this rule and others in to help enforce that standard. But that is dumb, this rule has the potential to increase the necessary range of motion to complete the lift and that is exactly opposite to the number one goal in powerlifting, which is to always reduce the range of motion. We need to get rid of this rule altogether. If a lifter wants to move their hands out the sleeves, so be it. The crowds are there for the big weights lifted with technical mastery, and this is the best way to see that happen.
While we are at it, all feds should allow a reverse grip as that tends to shorten the range of motion during the lift. In addition, the idea that the bar should descend to some point on the sternum is also silly when a great lifter has a maximal arch the sternum isn’t the highest point, the belly is, so of course we should encourage bringing the bar down to the belly.
As I think about it, there is really no reason to even have the butt on the rule anyway. What is the point of that? That is limiting what a lifter can lift. We just want three points of contact instead of the classic five. The upper back and lower neck are one; the balls of the feet (or toes if you can manage it) should be the other two.
The bench isn’t the only lift I have suggestions for. Some of my more flexible lifters find that when they do their sumo deads, their feet can only go out as far as the plates and they are limited by that. What foolishness is this? For deadlifts we should increase the length of the bar, I think 10” on either side should be adequate. This will allow the best lifters to put their feet even wider and that can really shorten the ROM, bring point B even closer to point A. What a joyous day it would be if we could somehow make the two only an inch or two apart? That is a goal I think everyone can get behind.
As I sit here this first day of April and put my thoughts to paper, I am so excited for the future of the sport!
My god, why didn’t I realize this sooner?
There is but one goal in all of lifting, one guide to rule them all (I am in the middle of reading Lord of the Rings – pardon the reference). Move the bar from A to B. Do it as efficiently as possible. Minimize the distance from A to B by whatever means necessary that are within the rules. Support current rules that allow that minimal range of motion and push for new rules that can take the sport to entirely new levels.
The idea that powerlifting consists of something more, something deeper, something grander than just lifting a bar through the air is sheer folly. Powerlifting is about A to B, nothing more and hopefully even less, and may the best man (or woman) win.