How the New Qualifying Totals Changes Things

Written by: Kevin Cann


If you compete in the USAPL, I am sure you were made aware this week that the qualifying totals for nationals went up by quite a bit.  Nationals has always been this enormous event.  Each year has been larger than the year before.


So many parts of me hates how big it is.  However, I liked it because it got the sport in front of so many people that have not seen it before.  Every lifter shares the live stream with friends and family.  Many view this sport for the first time.


My lifters would see the live stream and want to compete at Nationals.  This was the goal of the majority of the team when they started.  The old totals were not very hard to achieve.  Anyone can qualify for Nationals as long as they work hard.


With lower qualifying totals you don’t have to pay attention to technique as much, and those that are naturally strong can qualify pretty easily.  We have a bunch that qualified with less than 2 years of lifting experience. One started with the empty bar.


Due to the totals being a little lower, and the goals of the team being to qualify, we were able to mess around in the gym with more things.  We could try things out, see if they worked well, and implement them or throw them away.  I could talk about those things, and the internet trolls could come out and have some fun.


At the end of the day, it was a great learning experience.  I learned a ton about fatigue, strength development, technique, and so many other factors like the importance of psychology.  I learned what happens when you just follow a program and also when you allow the lifter to be more in charge.  Big surprise, the sweet spot is in the middle, dependent on the level of lifter.  Training skill matters.


With the new totals, we can’t fuck around so much if our goals will remain the same.  We went from having 17 on our roster qualified to 4.  Some of those that are no longer qualified are very close and will get there.  Some will be sitting out in 2020.  2 out of those 4 have goals of winning a National Championship.  The other 2, 1 has a top 10 total, and the other will be competing at the Pro-Am.  This is the level of lifter that will be at Nationals now.


For the record, I absolutely love this increase.  I got so many texts from lifters telling me what they are going to hit now to qualify, and then they went into the gym and absolutely got after it.  We definitely have the right attitude for this.  This team absolutely competes and loves a challenge.  It shows their long term commitment to the sport too.


It does have to change how we do things quite a bit.  If we are going to mess around and try something it needs to be well within reason now.  It needs to follow the rules a bit more, but the rules that I learned over these last 5 years from messing around with lifters.


With so much contradictory information out there, I had to figure it out for myself.  Now, we have our own way of doing things based off of what we learned over that time.  There will be less flexibility compared to times before, but more than where we started.


The exercises will be selected based off of individual weaknesses, and the rotation of max effort days will be individualized as well.  However, if a lifter feels great and it is a lighter day, they will still do the lighter day.  We put time limits on it, so they can just move faster.  In the past, I would let them go up in weight here.


I have learned over time, that lifters can get after it on these days, but that light day is going to come no matter what.  In some cases it ends up being forced by pain later on because the lifter would just continue to go hard.  That whole complex theory of biological systems is true.


There will be peaks and valleys.  I always assumed I could guide the process to allow the lifter to self-organize into their peaks and valleys.  In theory I still think this is true.  However, the self-organizing part might include the organism experiencing pain or burnout.


We were reacting to how everyone was feeling instead of just being pro-active with our high, medium, and low stress days.  If you feel good today, but go lighter, you will feel even better tomorrow.  Then you can crush something big on the max effort day, the day that is there to build 1RM strength.  All of the other stuff can be adjusted over time.


Technique is going to matter more as well.  I have always held technique as being important.  However, there are times where I allow certain things to slide because I feel that getting after it is more important than that minor flaw for the lifter to achieve a goal.


With the totals going up, the minor flaws have now become major ones.  There is far less room for error.  This is going to require more coaching from me.  Accessories, which I go back and forth on, have now become more important again because every little bit matters.


Coming from the Sheiko background, I am still a firm believer in spending time doing the things we know work.  We actually do backdown work after our max effort.  This are very Sheiko-esque in design of intensity and volume and exercise selection.


Later in the week we do dynamic effort and/or repetition work.  Again, this is very Sheiko-esque, but may be organized a little more like Westside with sets and reps, but a higher intensity.  Some blocks these will be lighter, others heavier.


I stole the circa max idea from Louie but do it in a more Sheiko-esque way.  We may do a bunch of sets at 80-85% of 1RM, or maybe even a bit heavier.  A 3 week wave of this will be tolerable for everyone.  We learned this leading into Nationals.  However, after that point there is a decrease in the benefits.  These days are there to practice that technique by hammering technical and muscle weaknesses.


Accessories will fall into place after this.  I do not think they are necessary to get stronger.  We use heavy singles for that.  Where they become important is for conditioning.  This has become more important now, because we will have to push it a little harder at times.


The accessories are going to build tolerance to load for muscle groups trained.  If your low back is a limiting factor in a lift, we got to build up its tolerance to load, so that we can continue to push hard in the competition lifts.  If your triceps tire out on bench, and it limits your performance, we got to condition them to handle more load.


We got to condition our bodies to handle more work than before so that we can achieve the same goals, because it is going to require more work now than it did before to get there.  We need to be prepared for that.


The training environment needs to continue to grow as well.  We need each other to push one another and keep stretching what we are capable of.  Powerlifting is for everyone, but PPS will not be.  We need lifters to add to the training environment with their attention to detail and their drive.


This has nothing to do with total, but everything with attitude.  Lifters that are inconsistent, don’t compete, don’t fill out their sheets, will no longer be members of PPS.  This culture will be one that allows those goals to be achieved.


I love these totals going up.  It will push the top lifters of each weight class even more and America will continue to dominate the IPF.  It will also push PPS to be even stronger because we are now reaching for much larger totals.  The timing was perfect as well because it was time to step up the training environment to help push those National competitors towards a podium spots.


This will make the local meets and Regionals even more competitive than before as well.  I think this is great for the sport and I am fired up to get after it with everyone.  LFG.

Why the USAPL is the Only Federation That Matters

Written by: Kevin Cann


I am writing this article as a person who makes a full time living as a powerlifting coach.  I do not own a gym, I am not a personal trainer, all I coach are competitive powerlifters.  With that said, many will get upset with the words written in this article.  I am not writing this to upset anyone but stating my opinions on this matter as it pertains to the growth and recognition of the sport in which I make a living coaching.


My first argument is that the USAPL is internationally recognized as the USA affiliated member of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF).  The IPF is widely recognized as the most respected federation in the world.


The IPF is the largest powerlifting organization in the world.  This is where the best of the best compete.  The IPF is viewed as the best in the world because of their standards of competition.  In the IPF you must squat to depth, you have a pause on the chest in the bench press, and the rules of the deadlift are strictly enforced.


The same cannot be said of other federations.  I have been witness to many high squats, fast press commands, and deadlifts not fully locked out in other federations.  I have had a judge tell me from another federation that he gave a lifter white lights because “He was trying hard and he didn’t want to discourage him.”


I have witnessed friends and co-workers judging each other’s lifts and allowing questionable lifts to pass.  This is unacceptable in the sport if we want to be taken seriously.  There must be standards that are uniform and upheld.


The USAPL/IPF is where the more competitive lifters compete.  The reason being is that you can qualify for national and world level meets.  You get to see where your total stands amongst the best lifters in the world when the standards of the sport are taken into consideration.




Yes, your total will most likely be less in the USAPL than it will be in other federations.  This is due to the more relaxed judging in other federations, as well as the use of monolifts so you do not need to walkout squats, the use of deadlift bars, and other federations do not use strict drug testing, if any.


To further add insult to injury, these other federations have their own “world records.”  For example, Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate (RPS) recognizes “world records” in multi-ply, single-ply, raw modern, and raw classic for age divisions that follow: 14-15, 16-17, 18-19, junior 20-23, submaster 33-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, 85-89, 90-94, 95-99, 100+.


Yes, they split up raw lifting into modern and classic.  Modern allows the use of knee sleeves or knee wraps.  Somehow these 2 things are classified together?  With far fewer lifters in their organization and far fewer competitive lifters, it is fairly easy to get a world record.  In my opinion this cheapens the sport and makes it difficult for people to take it seriously.  There are very few multi-ply lifters around the sport, think of how many there are in each age division when you break it down.  Every one of them could get a world record.


Let us look at it another way.  If I go out in a summer league baseball game and throw 21 strikeouts in 9 innings do I break Roger Clemens’ record of 20 strikeouts?  No, because I did not do it in Major League Baseball.  Same goes for powerlifting.  The time of everyone being a world record holding powerlifter/coach needs to end, or again we will not be taken seriously.


A world record in this current age is equal to a personal training certificate.  Anyone can get one and it cheapens the field.  Not being taken seriously has been a big problem in the fitness industry and if this doesn’t change it will be a problem in the powerlifting world as well.


This doesn’t mean that federations like the RPS do not have their place.  They are perfect for the lifter that isn’t looking to be too competitive and just wants to have some fun and not to break “world records”.  I choose to have all of my lifters compete in the USAPL because I want them to support a federation with strict standards and a federation that is committed to the growth of competitive powerlifting.


I know this article is going to ruffle a lot of feathers.  However, my feathers are ruffled.  I have a lot invested in the growth of the sport of powerlifting.  This is how I make my living.  In order for growth to occur we need to be taken seriously as a sport.  A start is recognizing 1 competitive federation that upholds the strict standards of the sport.  That is the USAPL/IPF.