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Old 03-26-2013, 09:15 AM   #1
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Default Is Powerlifting Undergoing a Resurrection?

Starting Strength: Article

Powerlifting rose quickly and fell even quicker. There was a time in the 1970s when powerlifting had a TV contract with ABC and was in the regular rotation on ABC’s number one ranked Saturday afternoon sport show, ABC’s Wide World of Sports. For a glorious decade, before the implosion, scattering and fragmentation, powerlifting championships filled halls and venues to capacity. Powerlifting was on TV and promoters fought one another to put on championship events. Having a lone national federation and a lone international federation ensured control, ensured uniformity on the rules and ensured judging strictness at the regional and national level competitions. We had a lot of charismatic athletes back then, men such as Larry Pacifico, John Kuc, Kaz, and Doug Young. All were at their awesome respective peaks and all were featured in long, extended slots on TV.

Audiences liked powerlifting. Our apogee was a long WWS feature on world 242 pound champion Doug Young. At the 1978 world powerlifting championships Doug broke three ribs on a 722 squat. He pushed through and with great drama, finished the competition in excruciating pain – all documented in a 30 minute feature segment. With three broken ribs the Mighty Texan benched 544 and deadlifted 704. His Wide World of Sports segment was narrated by a young Bryan Gumball and indeed, powerlifting seemed destined to hold down a regular TV spot, much as Lumberjack competition, or arm wrestling, or strongman. Instead, powerlifting was kicked off TV after being branded as an unrepentant drug sport.
In 2012 Mike Lambert threw in the towel. As it turns out, he may have just missed what appears to be a potential powerlifting rebirth, a resurrection that is occurring on a grass-roots level. For some strange and apparently inexplicable reason, powerlifting of a certain type, the so-called “raw” powerlifting – powerlifting that disallows supportive lifting gear (other than a weightlifting belt) – is experiencing an unexpected explosion in participatory popularity. Events that two years ago might have attracted 25 lifters are now attracting 150+ lifters; regional and national level events are cutting off raw entries at 350 to 400 lifters. This explosion appears to be nationwide and worldwide. USAPL competitions in every region are packed to capacity. Why this completely unexpected explosion in powerlifting popularity? The surge in lifters has nothing to do with any genius promotional ideas arising from within the powerlifting establishment; they are left scratching their heads, as clueless and surprised by this recent turn of events as the rest of us.

There is a veritable stampede of new lifters looking to compete in the classical three-lift power format. And they want to do it raw, i.e. without knee wraps, without a squat suit or a bench shirt – and no need for the expensive Monolift device that eliminates the walkout phase required of a classically-performed squat. It is as if some mysterious fitness oracle whispered into the ears of tens of thousands of trainees, “Hey! You people should train for and then enter a powerlifting competition!” And the mind-numbed robots then did exactly what they were told by the oracle. One illustrative example: at a recent power competition in my neighborhood, Columbia, Maryland, an upscale community and hardly a strength hotbed, the local promoter cut entries off at 100. He filled up his quota within 30 days. He then turned away another 100 lifters that had waited too long to sign up.

This particular competition catered to both raw (no gear) and geared divisions. Of the 100 entrants, 83 were raw and 17 were geared. This disproportional imbalance appears consistent on a nationwide basis. On the national level, big raw meets are routinely drawing upwards of 400 lifters. Because of this new influx of interest in raw lifting, organizations are rethinking their approach towards the sport. The rumor mill has it that the IPF, the International Powerlifting Federation, is seriously considering dropping geared lifting all together and jumping on the raw bandwagon. If the popularity trend continues it will spell the rebirth, the revitalization of a fabulous sport: fabulous when practiced in its purest, most pristine and precise way. Strict judging and no gear means we will once again be able to compare lifts, one to another, federation to federation. With an infusion of participants, powerlifting could become viable again: in our era of cable TV there is no reason why a well-run national or world championship of raw lifters could not draw excellent ratings. Seeing gigantic musclemen handling gigantic poundage in pristine fashion is always exciting. It is a fantastic turn of events when national organizations conducting national championships are cutting off entrants at 400.

If the powers-that-be are smart, they will take the time and trouble to trace this newfound popularity back to its source. Is there a lone endorser so powerful and influential that tens of thousands heed their advice? Perhaps power’s popularity is traceable to a combination of unrelated events. It would be wise to find out and if possible, bottle it.
Let us not fumble this opportunity.

Destroy That Which Destroys You

"Let bravery be thy choice, but not bravado."

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