Stay In Your Own Lane: Powerlifting

John Norcott

Wayne State University

Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach


First time contributor here and I’m sure none of you reading know who I am. I’m a 28-year-old powerlifter. I’ve been competing since the age of 16 in the USAPL/IPF. That is the only federation I have ever competed in and the only one I personally believe in. My first meet was the 2006 Massachusetts High School Championships. I had no clue what I was doing besides how to perform the lifts. Back then I competed using lifting gear. At the time it was common and not some taboo form of powerlifting that it seems to of become today with the growth of raw powerlifting.


By the time 2008 rolled around the very first Raw Nationals was hosted by the USAPL. Already having won two National Championships as a Teen I decided to compete at Raw Nationals because it was how I trained most of the time during the year anyways. I wasn’t “all in” about powerlifting as much as I was with football at the time. Powerlifting definitely helped me become a better football player. But, football was my pride and joy until 2013 when I decided to hang up my cleats after playing some Arena football.


When 2013 came along I already accumulated five National Titles as a Teen/Junior in three different weight classes. Two were equipped and three were raw. A lot has happened in the sport of powerlifting since the very first Raw Nationals. In the course of eight years I went from competing against three lifters in my age/weight class to over fifty lifters in my age bracket alone. Raw Nationals went from a two-day weekend event in a gymnasium to a four-day event in a giant convention hall. All of the weight classes changed over to International. It seems like everyone and everything has turned raw.


Why do I tell you all of this? I tell you this because I have always stayed in my own lane. I’ve always competed where my hip crease has to go below the top of my knee, where I have to have my five points of contact never move when benching even with good or bad press calls, and where even the slighted stall in the bar on the thigh is considered a hitch. I’ve always competed and believed in those standards. Those standards are how I train year round. Those standards are the ones I try to preach when teaching others about powerlifting.


Powerlifting has become much like everything else in the fitness industry. Powerlifting has officially become watered down. Is this a bad thing? Depends on what type of person you are. You can look at it from one end where there are more people competing in the sport and bringing it to a level of exposure it’s never seen. Or you can view it from the other end where just because someone competed in ONE meet ONE time using the term “raw with wraps” and broke the new “All-Time World Record” for their weight class where their hip crease has the same depth as someone who is standing up tall, they are now an elite lifter and officially know everything.


I’m not sitting here claiming to know everything about powerlifting. But I listen and learn from the best. I’ve heard Joe Kenn (Strength and Conditioning Coach – Carolina Panthers) say many times,

“I know what I know, I know what I don’t know, I know what I don’t care to know, and I know what I need to know.”

Personally, I don’t care to know about some “All-Time World Record” for a lifter who squats in a federation that isn’t drug tested federation with the same lifting standards. I stay in my lane.


Now look, don’t get all sensitive and start to think I’m trolling everything that isn’t the USAPL/IPF just because I don’t lift in other federations. You’re missing the point. The point is to stay in your lane. If you compete in a non-drug tested federation where triple ply suits are allowed, touch and go benches are allowed, and a good squat is where the quad gets parallel to the floor then that’s fine! Be good at WHAT YOU DO! Have at it, I personally don’t care at all. Great for you! But, don’t compare yourself to others who compete in different federations. Most certainly don’t compare your “All-Time World Records” to other federations either. Don’t think you are better than anyone who is not held to the same standard you are. Don’t say you are stronger than anyone else unless you do exactly what that other person does with the exact same standards they have to deal with. It would almost be like a modern day rap artist comparing themselves to Tupac or Biggie. That modern day rap artist would say they are better than Pac or Biggie because they have more downloads. Get out of here with that crap.

While powerlifting is officially watered down with federations starting up “Sling-Shot only” bench meets, and “deadlift with wrist straps.” I won’t be surprised we see “Powerlifting” meets where people compete in the Safety Squat Bar Squat, 4 Board Bench Press, and Rack Pull. Whatever path you have chosen make sure you only judge, only compare, and only compete against others who hold themselves to the same standards you hold yourself to. Stay in your lane. Leave the rest for the birds.


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