If there is one thing I dislike most about the sport of powerlifting, it is the shift in competition that is happening. There was once a time where you showed up to a meet and were ready to compete against other lifters to take 1st place. You weren’t necessarily shooting for PR’s or record totals, you were just there to win 1st place in your weight class. Now there is a much different feel to the sport. You no longer see lifters keeping tabs on what other lifters are doing on meet day. Lifters are mostly concerned with doing better than they have previously. Things have taken a turn from you vs others, to you vs yourself
There is nothing wrong with having the goal of setting new personal records and having a better total, but there is just a lack of a competitive vibes at a meet. I personally got involved in lifting because I get very competitive and was looking for an outlet after baseball. Powerlifting has filled that void for me however I always feel I would have fit in better during the early years. A simpler time when lifters were just divided by a weight class regardless of gear and the goal was to always kick everyone else's ass and set new all time records.
The problem today is that powerlifting has grown exponentially and everyone needs to feel good about themselves to stick with it so there are 50,000 different divisions and everyone wins 1st place. You have separate categories for body weight, raw w/ wraps, raw without wraps, single ply, multiply, ages in 5 year ranges, novice, pro, etc. There are literally so many dividing factors now that if you enter a meet there is a very good chance you’ll win first place. Not to mention there are probably another 50 separate federations at that in which to compete in. This extreme dividing makes it nearly impossible to be competitive with other lifters
I admire a sport like strongman for the competitive aspect. Strongman is how powerlifting should be. There is one governing body, a solid system of progressing into higher competition, and much fewer dividing factors (weight classes, age groups, etc) which always leaves you with multiple people to compete with no matter what show you do. I have been to a couple strongman events now and I am continuously impressed with the level of heated competition. It is exciting. It reminds me of a comeback inning in baseball when you and your competition come down to the last event for the win. This is the enticing levels of competition we are now missing in powerlifting. Competition used to come down to the final deadlifts and it would be you and your competition trying to pull out a win against each other. Those days have now passed us by
I wanted to write about this topic because I have recently been reading a lot of Brian Carroll’s posts on powerrackstrength.com. Brian recently competed in the XPC Pro Powerlifting meet at the Arnold Classic in Ohio. Reading about his recap of the meet it was refreshing to see an athlete that actually showed up to take first place and not just hit PR’s. Granted it is a pro meet after all and that is the goal at the higher levels but refreshing nonetheless. He even went as far as to sacrifice attempts to play mind tricks in order to place higher. On his 2nd attempt deadlift he faked going down with a hammy pull so that everyone thought he'd be finished in the meet and his competition would take a bigger jump instead of playing the win. The other guy also fighting for 2nd place at the time took a big 3rd attempt jump like Brian thought he might and ended up missing. Brian then came back to pull the weight he needed to seal 2nd place, no hamstring injury at all. Crafty work in order to get a good placing. This was awesome to me to read about. He could have tried to pull something big like most people, but he played the placings and took home 2nd place in the 220’s through very smart lifting
This is the competitive factor we are missing in powerlifting. We are missing the rivalries and the meet day tactics as demonstrated by Brian Carroll. It is more about showing up trying to improve your rankings and hit new PR’s than it is to win the actual meet! A new day is upon us, I may not personally like it but it is what it is. It is great to see more people get involved with the sport but not everyone can win. That is a right reserved for the best lifter in the weight class on that day. The lifter who not only shows up strong but plays their attempts wisely. I believe we can return to this competitive nature if we cut out all the extra divisions and use winning 1st place at a meet as a qualification for bigger meets instead of using totals. Strongman uses this system and it works out great. You have lifters competing, not just totaling
I just wanted to share my thoughts on the topic, I’m interested in hearing your opinions. Drop a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org