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

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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.
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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.
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Old 03-26-2013, 09:16 AM   #2
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I applaud all at MAB who have a passion for iron. It's growing here, that's all I know.
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Old 03-26-2013, 09:16 AM   #3
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interesting take on it. Gear bashing for sure. Not really sure its gears fault for crappy judges though.
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Old 03-26-2013, 09:20 AM   #4
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PLUSA death was mostly due to the fact that they didn't port properly to the net. MAB's growth, despite zero publicity in the powerlifting world, is a testament to just how popular strength training still is.
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Old 03-26-2013, 09:41 AM   #5
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My views, but remember, I'm not a powerlifter. . .

Powerlifting is catching on as a sport because of several reasons.

The biggest reasons are it's acceptance level at the meets. It is one sport where a new guy squatting 300 lbs is applauded almost as much as the veterans squatting 600 lbs. There is a sense of belonging when you enter the sport. Compare that to other sports where you have to ride the bench or get cut from the team because you don't have the experience to start.

It is pushed heavily on public forums. Think about the routines that are suggested to new lifters, heavy on basic compound lifts. And not just any compounds lifts, but they have to be the bench, squat, and deadlift. Ask for form advice and you will get standards based in powerlifting because that's how you increase your numbers. Finally, how many times have we read, "Your lifts don't count until they've been performed for a judge."

In the public eye, gear is looked at the same way steroids are; it's cheating. So it seems pretty natural that raw events are becoming more popular. Also, gear is something that more experienced lifters get into, so it stands to reason that raw events are becoming more popular since the growth is coming from new competitors.
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Old 03-26-2013, 09:57 AM   #6
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Raw lifting will always be a bigger part of powerlifting. You need zero equipment and it is something you can do on your own. Gear is the polar opposite of that.

I think if powerlifting will ever be "mainstream" it will be raw lifting.
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Old 03-26-2013, 10:02 AM   #7
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No idea if this applies elsewhere, but around here, there's been pretty much an explosion of gyms opening up over the last few years or so. Most of them the 24 hour kind, sure, but even most (maybe all?) of those actually do have weights, benches and so on. Seems to be a more popular pastime in general, IOW.

Also, I would say Crossfit has made barbells in particular more "acceptable", and just more well-known to the public, in ways other than in the Olympics every 4 years - assuming any given viewer is even going to see the weightlifting then...

I know, Crossfit cops a lot of flack, but credit where it's due, I reckon.

And I might be wrong, but it looks a lot like more and more people in general (not just those competing in sports) being aware of the benefits of resistance training, every year. Could make them more likely to appreciate powerlifting? Maybe start training themselves - even have a go in a local comp...!


edit: Also, I agree that powerlifting-style training gets pushed on forums a lot.
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Old 03-26-2013, 10:11 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Dray View Post
No idea if this applies elsewhere, but around here, there's been pretty much an explosion of gyms opening up over the last few years or so. Most of them the 24 hour kind, sure, but even most (maybe all?) of those actually do have weights, benches and so on. Seems to be a more popular pastime in general, IOW.

Also, I would say Crossfit has made barbells in particular more "acceptable", and just more well-known to the public, in ways other than in the Olympics every 4 years - assuming any given viewer is even going to see the weightlifting then...

I know, Crossfit cops a lot of flack, but credit where it's due, I reckon.

And I might be wrong, but it looks a lot like more and more people in general (not just those competing in sports) being aware of the benefits of resistance training, every year. Could make them more likely to appreciate powerlifting? Maybe start training themselves - even have a go in a local comp...!


edit: Also, I agree that powerlifting-style training gets pushed on forums a lot.
I have to agree with you. I as a powerlifter actually have no beef with cross fit. Its not my style of training, but nothing wrong with it. I think the issue most run into is the lack of proper form.
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Old 03-26-2013, 10:19 AM   #9
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I didn't know Marty Gallagher was from my neighborhood! I lifted in that exact meet in Columbia, Md. last year. Weird.

I don't like his tone on the gear bashing either, btw. One reason that meet had so many raw competitiors was that it is at a crossfit place and was advertised in the crossfit community first, so most of the registrants were raw crossfitters. Other local crossfit gyms enetered to challenge the home crossfit "team".

My experience in Virginia Championships was a lot different than that! I'd say 70% of the lifters in that meet were equipped. And the Virginia record book is has massive geared totals, but pretty small raw records by comparison. I could set VA records in my age and weight group with just a 405 squat, 300 bench and 425 deadlift! I won my age group in that meet too mainly because there was only 4 raw guys I was competing against. That tells me raw lifting is not that popular here, or at least the fed I am in it isn't maybe.

Gear and drugs aren't the problem, because let's face it Kaz was as juiced as it gets and he was highlighted in the article about being a popular force in the golden age of powerlifting.

No, it's the lack of continuity. There should be ONE national championships that you get invited to because you were a top lifter in your region for raw and geared, and everybody should be eligible to be drug tested. There should be ONE regional championships that you get into with a qualifying total from a local meet. Local meets should be open to anyone.

All under one set of rules. One standard of judging.

I agree with OR, but one other thing that is driving new people right now is that there are so many feds now, you can be a national champion and set records, etc. Everybody wants that orange slice. I have a state champion raw masters I plaque on my wall right now. Woo Hoo!

It would mean a lot more if it was done under a unified system comparing like individuals to like individuals.

Just my .02
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Old 03-26-2013, 10:24 AM   #10
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interesting take on it. Gear bashing for sure. Not really sure its gears fault for crappy judges though.
it's gears fault you gear whore
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