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.

USAPL Northeast Regionals Recap

Written by: Kevin Cann


This past weekend was the first USAPL Northeast Regionals that we attended as Precision Powerlifting Systems.  Crazy to think that it has only been 7 months since we changed training facilities and have been our own entity.  Feels like it has been much longer than that.


With that said, this past weekend we had 6 lifters compete and they all did very well.  Danielle Garcia, Kelly Gamache, Ryan Valentine, Maytal Oskar, Laurie Labassiere, and new member Mike Damico, who did his own programming leading up to this, but we took care of him on meet day.


Things did not start so well for Danielle Garcia.  She drove up on Friday, and around 1:30pm, I received a phone call from her telling me she had forgotten all of her stuff to lift.  The good news is she had baby powder and chicken.


Luckily for her, Tom saved the day.  He got her all of her stuff before warmups and she was able to use Laurie’s stuff for equipment check and rack heights.  I was a little worried about her at this point because this is very unlike Danielle.  I wasn’t really sure where her head was at.


Danielle also had a pretty rough test a few weeks before.  The stars were aligning for a tough day on the platform.  She had competed at the end of April.  She had a very good meet on this day, but we dropped all of her 3rdattempts and her butt came up on the bench twice. The goal coming into this competition was to hit all of the previously planned 3rdattempts from that meet.


The 3rdattempts at the previous meet were dropped because her second attempts looked more difficult than normal.  This was not the case on Saturday.  Danielle went 8/9 (lost balance on second deadlift, but weight was easy, so we went up) hitting a 275lb squat, 155lb bench press, and a 331lb deadlift at 132lbs bodyweight.


This was a 22lb total PR and good enough for 2ndplace out of 12 lifters in the 63kg class. Even though Danielle did not have her best test before this she had her best meet.  We are looking to improve our performances on the platform.  Danielle’s gym lifts did not get much better by absolute numbers, but the improvements were there to hit bigger weights in all of the lifts.  She could have hit a bigger deadlift, but we put weight on the bar to lock up second place. A 10kg total PR in less than 4 months is great.  She had much stricter judges this time around as well.


Kelly was competing at her second meet ever.  She did her first meet the beginning of April.  Kelly started lifting with me less than a year ago.  When she started she struggled to keep balance on the squat. We put her in a position to be more stable and to gain confidence.


In doing so, Kelly was walking the line of depth.  I knew she could get away with it at a local meet, but in the long run this wouldn’t work. She went 3/3 on squats in April but getting 1 red light every time for depth.  There was also more horizontal movement in the squat than I would like.


We tore down her squat after this.  We turned her toes out, practiced staying upright, and squatting deeper.  She missed 80% in training, there was yelling, and tears, but through it all lots of hard work.


Kelly hit a 2.5kg PR on squats on the platform while receiving all white lights (one judge was a very strict IPF level judge too) and maintaining an up and down bar path. This is a much larger PR than 2.5kg.


Kelly ended the day going 7/9.  She missed her bench opener because she didn’t listen to the head judge’s commands and the 3rddeadlift was just too heavy.  However, her back did not round under the heavy weight of deadlifts and this is a great improvement as well.  She hit PRs on every lift with some room for more.


Ryan had competed in June and this meet was a very fast turnaround from then.  He is also competing at Nationals.  I wanted to gain some momentum heading into Nationals but didn’t want him to strain too hard on the platform.


Ryan went 8/9 with a huge 17.5kg total PR from June.  This was with a conservative 3rdsquat and a very conservative 3rddeadlift.  Ryan competed much better this time around as well.  Attacked the weights with confidence and seemed far less nervous.  Competing is a skill and improvements here are huge.


Maytal began working with me after her first meet on April 8th.  She was strong but needed a lot of work with her lifts.  Maytal hit a 363lb squat (60lb PR), 210lb bench press (23lb PR), and a 352lb deadlift (21lb PR) for an added 104lbs to her total since April.  Maytal finished 3rdin a very tough 84kg class. With enough discipline and hard work Maytal can be extremely competitive in this sport over time.


Laurie was competing in her first ever USAPL meet and for the first time in 3 years.  She took a very long break from powerlifting and came back to the sport in January.  She has been juggling an advancing career and grad school with training.


Many lifters in this sport are younger.  They may work full time, and this is not taking away from their hard work. However, when you move up the professional ladder responsibilities and work stress increase.  Throw grad school on top of that and training becomes much more difficult.


Dealing with this adversity and excelling in all of those areas is true strength.  I get to coach many lifters like this and it is an honor to coach strong people.  Your total is not necessarily your measurement of strength.  There are quite a few elite lifters that are weak people.


Laurie hit some all-time PRs and competed extremely well.  Her platform had 2 IPF level judges that were very strict.  She went 8/9, missing her bench opener because she couldn’t hear the commands with all of the sound.  I chose to repeat the weight because it was her first meet in so long, but it was very easy.  She hit a 281lb squat, 154lb bench press that looked like an opener, and a 314lb deadlift.


I do not count numbers obtained in other federations because the judging is more relaxed and the equipment aids in the lifter’s total.  With that said these were all lifetime PRs.


Lastly, new addition Mike Damico competed.  He did his own programming leading into this meet and did very well.  Went 9/9 hitting a 496lb squat, 286lb bench press, and 628lb deadlift in the 83kg class.  Mike is very strong, his technique is solid, and he works hard.  That is a recipe for success.  I am looking forward to working with you Mike.


Next up for PPS is Raw Nationals.  9 of us will be making the journey across the country to lift with the best in the world.