The Importance of Skill Acquisition in Powerlifting

Written by Kevin Cann

 

USAPL Northeast Regionals just wrapped up this past weekend.  We had 18 lifters compete.  This meet was run very well with some very strict judging.  I loved this.  This was a great opportunity for some of the newer lifters to get a taste of what it is like to be on a bigger stage.

 

It was also a good opportunity for those that have never competed at Nationals, but will be, to get a feel for what it will be like.  This Regional meet has come a long way in just a few short years.  I am going to encourage my lifters to do it every year.

 

We did very well.  We had 2 open winners and 6 total top 5 finishes. We hit a lot of PRS in spite of missing quite a few lifts.  I was far more aggressive with my attempt selection than I was in the past.  Big events are for big weights and big opportunities.

 

A few of the lifters had HUGE days.  Jess Ward won the 72kg weight class and finished 5thoverall with 703 IPF points (and she missed a lift).  Kerry won her weight class, but there are some things we need to work on.  Good to know on a bad day she can still hit her best ever total which was good for 10that Nationals, just wait for a good day.

 

Alyssa competed the weekend before.  In the past Alyssa has always fizzled by the time deadlifts rolled around.  The weekend before she hit a 20kg total PR. She missed her 3rdsquat and 3rdbench at Regionals.  She was definitely tired by this point.  She then went out and hit a lifetime deadlift PR on her 3rd. That is a competition skill PR right there and very important to see.

 

Kelly is still a newer lifter.  She has done a few local meets and has been able to get away with a few things.  When we saw the judging assignments for Regionals, we knew we had to tighten up a few things.  Her squat on that platform would not get whites where it has gotten whites in the past.  She had to put it a bit lower.

 

Each week we handled singles and just practiced putting them deeper.  Kelly then went out onto the platform and put a weight on her back that she hadn’t touched since March, and when she did it would not have been a passing squat at this competition.  She put it right where she needed to and hit a good strong 3rdattempt. She went 9/9 and had a big total PR on a very tough stage.

 

Daniel is another one I want to highlight.  Daniel missed all of his singles leading up to the competition.  He had a very tough training block.  Daniel saw a decline in his sumo deadlift performance, but we were able to switch to conventional to hit an all-time PR.  However, all other things just seemed to be trending in the wrong direction leading to the meet.

 

We had a good talk and Daniel is not scared to miss.  This is why missing reps is important.  It is a skill to learn to miss reps.  You learn how to handle them.  Daniel ended up going 9/9 and hitting PRs on all 3 of his lifts.  He turned what seemed like a down training block into one really good day on the platform.

 

These were not the only ones that did well, but ones I wanted to highlight for the purpose of this article.  They all showed a high level of skill within the sport.  These were numbers they have hit under all circumstances; this strength is stable.

 

By all circumstances I am referring to, different foot placements, grips, and stances, as well as under high levels of pressure.  The ones that saw previous bests end up as missed lifts all had something in common, they couldn’t do that.

 

Strength, as well as skill, are non-linear processes.  There will be progressions, but also regressions at times.  When one skill regresses there needs to be another skill that comes up and takes its place.

 

We need to develop a strong skillset so that the lifter can solve all problems within the lifts.  For example, Mike D missed his 3rddeadlift at his knees.  Mike pulls sumo and has a best ever gym pull of 670lbs.  Mike can’t pull 600 conventional.  If Mike had a similar conventional pull as his sumo deadlift, he would have the skillset, or strength at those angles, to overcome a slow -moving sumo deadlift off of the floor and to be able to lock it out.  The angles between this deadlift and the conventional deadlift are very similar.

 

Daniel showed that when his sumo deadlift went backwards, he was able to switch to conventional to hit a PR. Sarah was another PPS lifter that had a monster day.  She went 9/9 with a 22.5kg total PR and qualified for Raw Nationals.

 

All of the increases in total came from the squat and deadlift.  Sarah was hitting between 285-300lbs on her squat at all angles, with pauses, and on days she didn’t feel great.  She hit 281lbs in April, but 308lbs at Regionals.  Sarah going into her April meet struggled to pull 300lbs sumo but pulled 330lbs conventional.  This is about a 10% difference.

 

We hammered her sumo deadlift until she was able to pull 330lbs plus.  330lbs was her second and moved like an opener.  She ended up hitting 353lbs for an all-time PR and a bid to Nationals.

 

I am not saying that if a lifter has a huge difference between lifts that they can’t succeed on the platform.  They most certainly can, but from what I am seeing those probabilities decrease.  Mike D had similar numbers under these conditions with squat and bench and those remained stable for the platform.  250kg on the 3rdsquat moved better than it has in the past even.

 

This is not an all or nothing thing either.  Lifters with big differences at different angles may be better or worse at handling platform pressure.  There are a number of things that can explain these differences and play a role in performance.

 

Every weakness will come to the surface at some point.  To quote a video I saw “Momentum is a cruel mistress, always searching for that one thing that you have not prepared for.”  Time for us to take what we learned and begin to prepare for Raw Nationals.

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