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Let’s try to improve whatever lift or powerlifting issue you have in mind in a few easy steps. Not that I believe this, but I’m at the waiting room at my physician’s office, nothing to do except wait, so I decided to test a hypothesis: people like lists. As in “how to repair your tooth brush in 6 easy steps” or “how to lose weight with these incredible 10 foods”.

Since I’m a powerlifter, I teach and write about powerlifting, I might as well start with that. How can I fit my perspective on the sport as something complex and dynamic into a recipe? Big challenge! Let’s try.

  1. Choose a category:
    1. Beginner, meaning you hardly have a clue.
    2. Lifter: you actually know that squatting, benching and deadlifting are superior forms of motor existence and you have committed (more or less) to improve your lifts. You have a clue, you lift regularly and you already verified the surprising phenomenon of strength gain through training
    3. High performance athlete: you’re not reading this. No, you are! Gotcha: you’re procrastinating! Since you’re not lifting, you are bored at work!
  2. If you chose “a”, reading about powerlifting, watching a lot of videos and ANY, I repeat, ANY training program will improve your lifting. That’s because in “a”, you are still learning skills and that’s a stage in which what is called for are your cognitive abilities. If you are not a complete moron, you will learn, and you will learn fast. Eventually you will become “b” and you will need to improve what you have learned, plus learn it again.
  3. Let’s consider “2” a step in my list towards improving anything. In strictly logical terms, it is: after all, even if you are Ed Coan, one day you were a kid and you learned the basics. So now you’re not “a” anymore and you’re not Ed Coan (will probably never be). You have a clue. Now: sit down, open your text editor and make a list of the deficiencies you are aware of. Write down what you just feel is not really working, feels weird or you think might be a problem.
  4. Compare your list of known weak points with the guidelines kindly provided by knowledgeable coaches and lifters. For example: “for the bench press, you must a. keep your scapulae isometrically adducted; b. intention on your lats; c. glutes firm, contracted and glued to the bench; d. feet back, pressing the floor, hamstring contracted; etc.” Did any of these items appear on your list? If so, start working on them.
  5. Videotape yourself and analyze your lift as if the lifter on the video were someone else. What did you see? Shoulder blades ok? Hips ok? Spine ? Settup ok? Write it down, now watching, not remembering. Are the two lists the same? If not, you found something important by watching the video. Keep doing this for the rest of your life.
  6. You might have identified things that may not be in the obvious guidelines provided by experienced coaches and lifters (although I doubt it). If so, it’s time to do some research. Don’t just write the next good lifter you know with a two page e-mail and three videos. That’s not polite at all. Do your job and search, find material and read.
  7. After you did all this, if you haven’t done so already, it’s time for some presential interaction with some experienced coach or lifter. See, there’s a trick here: there is something called “tacit knowledge” in epistemology that means knowledge that may not be codified (written, spoken or even videotaped). This type of knowledge may only be transmitted from one practitioner to another, in the act of practicing it. This applies to practically everything from DNA sequencing to benching. So, buddy, this is where this list ends. Go find someone.

Not as bad as I thought it would be. Not sure if it will be of any use, but it looks like a list to me. I think I’ll move on to squatting, benching and deadlifting lists.