Are you a powerlifter? Or someone who just enjoys powerlifting?

June 15, 2017

Are you a powerlifter? Or someone who just enjoys powerlifting?

One of the first questions I ask a new online client in our orientation call is, “Are you a powerlifter? Or someone who just enjoys powerlifting?”

On the surface, it’s pretty simple - and to some, it may seem like a ridiculous question to ask. After an initial blank stare, I’m often met with some variation of “What the fuck does that mean?” 


The truth is, not everyone falls precisely into one of these categories - instead it’s more of a spectrum. One may sit a little closer to one side than the other, and by no means is anyone’s position permanent. Life changes, goals change, and you may move back and forth between the two.

Neither are right or wrong. Neither is better than the other. Both just simply exist.

However, it is important to recognize which you are. From a coaching standpoint, it helps us manage your training, stress, and results much more efficiently. And from a lifting standpoint, you will have a clearer focus of your goals.


Let’s take a look at two examples, and their goals, and more importantly, their 'whys':

(from left to right: Myself, a dude who enjoys powerlifting. And Matt, a powerlifter)

Matt is a powerlifter. His goal is to beat his competition and put up the biggest total he is capable of. Why? According to him, it is his ‘selfish desire’ to come out on top. Accomplishing that is what will bring him satisfaction.

Matt’s routines are consistent. I could count on one hand how many times I recall Matt missing a training session (and not making it up somewhere else in the week). When grabbing food, he usually requests we get it from somewhere he can track from. He takes his recovery very seriously - making sure he gets in his daily water needs and hours of sleep. He may not always enjoy his training, or the aches that come from it, but he doesn’t care. Matt will do what is necessary to keep himself progressing.

If Matt was going for a run, it would be in a race in which he cares most about being at that finish line first.

I, on the other hand, am somebody who enjoys powerlifting. If you told me that I could no longer compete in powerlifting, ultimately, I would not care. I'd continue lifting heavy shit and find another outlet to compete in. My goal is to enjoy my personal journey in getting stronger.

I appreciate the standardization of competition, the jitters of lifting in front of a crowd, and the community at meets and in the gym. I often change my routine simply because I get bored. My nutrition tends to involve more junk food and alcohol. I will prioritize things like going out with friends, or finishing work, over sleep more often. If I’m having fun, feeling good, and progressing in even the slightest amount, I’m happy.

If I was on a run it would be more like jogging in the park - often taking some time to chill on the bench and feed the birds.


So what does any of this have to do with actual training? Well, that all comes down to recognizing, and more importantly, remembering your ‘why’. Why are you actually training? Is it because you’re like Matt and want to be the best? Or is it because you’re like me and have found simple enjoyment out of lifting heavy shit. Are you in a race to reach the finish line, or jogging in the park?


We all start with our why pretty clearly defined, but during our journey we can forget it quite easily. Social media (and for powerlifting, mainly Instagram) let’s us see what others are doing in almost real time. However, as it’s been discussed, it is not a true representation of what is happening. It is a highlight reel where people get to choose what you see.

Head over to someone’s page who may be more like Matt and you’ll see them crushing PR’s, hitting volume with heavy ass weight, and the occasional podium pic with a bright, shiny medal. But what you may not see is all the aforementioned work - the dedication to his recovery, his diet, and everything else he may be sacrificing (late nights out, socializing over alcohol, etc.).

Now let’s imagine for a second you’re more like myself. You see all these other lifters killing the game and hitting sets of 8 with your one rep max. You may start thinking, “What am I doing wrong?,” “Why aren’t I progressing like they are?” You start pushing the weight a little harder during your sets only because you see other people doing it - not because you’ve earned that weight with your training. Not because you’re doing all the behind the scenes work. But simply because you see others making progress that they’ve earned.

You become frustrated, beat up, and you’re increasing your chance of injury. What once may have been a source of stress-relief is now stressing the ever living shit outta you. Your goal may have changed slightly due to the glamour of seeing everyone make crazy gains, but your 'why' has not. And it is this that creates an internal conflict.


So you've found yourself becoming lost about your goals. What do you do? Well first, you need to take a sec to think about why you’re training in the first place.

Do you have a big (possibly nerve-wracking) total in mind that you want to hit? Do you feel the urge to beat everyone else? Are you willing to make some sacrifices in you life in order to do so? The more you answered ‘yes’ to any of those, the closer to the Powerlifter side you’re on.

Do you just enjoy lifting heavy shit? Are you okay not being on the podium at a meet? Do you find yourself prioritizing things like going out instead of lifting fairly often? The more you just answered ‘yes’, the more likely you’re someone who just simply enjoys powerlifting.

Now that we have a better idea of why you’re lifting, we can structure your program to reflect that. A few factors that need to be addressed are the exercises you choose to do, how often you may change your routine, and how aggressive your intensity and volume may get. Tweaking these to coincide with your ‘why’ will ultimately leave you happier, less stressed, and less likely to get injured.

So next time you find yourself frustrated at your lifts, reflect. Does this frustration help you positively to work harder towards that end goal of winning and being on the podium? Or is it meaningless stress that can be dropped by reducing your frequency and swapping in some movements for shits and gigs?

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this. If you dig it, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get more like it, and follow us on the gram.

Me: @thestokedbrogi
Matt: @croninstrength
Stoked: @stokedathletics

Much love, and we’ll talk to you soon.

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