“The death of Powerlifting” – a comment on Swede Burns

Marilia Coutinho, Ph.D. shared a post.
Published by Marilia Coutinho · 22 hrs · 

The Death of Powerlifting

Everything is wrong. I get it. I do. There’s this “coach,” or talking-head on your Instagram, telling you what’s wrong with everyone else, but he doesn’t know a lot, himself. That’s why he’s talking so much.

I read the whole text, carefully. Here are my comments, Swede Burns and David Tate (or Elitefts):

1. There is a problem with imprecise diagnosis and even worse, prognosis. Here’s a good analogy: when my daughter was about 5 or 6, an infectious disease physician diagnosed her with a severe case of sinusitis that, he predicted, would lead to a dangerously disabling condition after puberty if we didn’t treat it with 11 (eleven) drugs in a sequence. I was a young mother with just one child. When I heard the alarm words, the scientist in me was quickly put to sleep and I made two unforgivable mistakes. First, I failed to hear the obvious: his diagnosis lacked factual basis. No test or image supported his description. Second, I failed to check how the situation he diagnosed could be causally connected to the horrific outcome he predicted. As a result, she was subjected to a brutal and wrong therapeutic procedure, her immunity was damaged, she caught a serious intestinal infection and two days later she was at the ER with a bad sinusitis. He was wrong in his diagnostic and now it was time for me to wake up and step in: I analyzed everything and chose the best course of action. She grew up as a healthy girl and today, as an adult, she has no respiratory issues. How does that relate to the alarmist or catastrophic diagnostics about powerlifting? The same way: there are no facts supporting any claim concerning the demise of the sport.

2. Your diagnosis is precise:
– the numeric increase in world records always reflects the critical mass growth in any given sport. That means the screening pool from which talents emerge is growing, not shrinking. This is a quantitative by-proxy measure of growth and a quantitative appraisal of the sport’s absolute quality (meaning the quality of performing the “game” of lifting weights)
– in several countries, diversity is expanding in certain aspects. Of course, it would be unfair to pick a country where PL has never been a tradition and analyze sexual representation, gender minority representation or whatever criterion is chosen.
– choosing a parameter to measure is more important than anything.
– arguing in favor of that parameter being a relevant measure is another

3. You didn’t make a prognosis – that’s golden to me. We are living a historical moment when professional analysts in many fields have failed in their predictions. We should ask ourselves, then, what predictions matter and how far they must look. Not very far, really.

4. You didn’t minimize the bad things. They exist. They have nothing to do and do not influence the diagnosis, though. That’s where maturity should kick in for those interested in this matter: whether you like aspects of the internal dynamics or not, *this* is the truth.

5. You pointed out an important side-effect of the sport’s growth: growth of knowledge about its issues. I have a few preliminary scientometric curves on “squat”, “bench press”, “deadlift” and other related title search terms and, indeed, they have been growing for some time. More recent ones now include words such as “log lift”, “yoke” and other terms related to Strongman, now an interesting research topic.

6. More high quality technical information is reflected on:
– safety (injury and long term adverse effects prevention, execution safety, etc)
– general technical improvement
– application to health issues and special populations
– significant prospective contributions for public health by a better understanding of the role of strength in health
– individual autonomy and improved decision-making quality (some would call that “empowerment”, but the word became too polysemic)

5. For most people, that should be enough for them to feel comfortable in the sport. How do we prevent the “bad shit” from being a countering influence? By doing what David has repeatedly recommended: DO NOT LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN.

6. For some people, me included, it is not enough – at least not for now. You would probably ask me why, if I so clearly agree with you. Two things: first, I was behind the curtain and what happens there is not something I want to experience anymore (okay: I can always step out of that place). Second, it stopped being fun. That’s totally subjective. It stopped being fun for me, and me alone. It means absolutely nothing to the sport. It means nothing even for my athletes. But that also means that I pay less attention to athletes and more to “getting strong”. At the same time, all the sub-items of #6 became relevant not only intellectually (they are a lot of fun to me) but also professionally. Is this forever? Will I ever go back to PL? I have no idea and I’m not worried. Maybe, maybe not. I like Olympic Weightlifting and I’m a good W-lifter. Maybe I want something else. Maybe I want to chase a Glossbrenner Supertotal, who knows? What matters is that what I, Marilia or you, Swede, choose to do has absolutely zero effect on an objective evaluation of the sport. Or of society. Or of the state of the art in ketone body supplement production. Or ANYTHING.

That, I think, is the problem for some people. They have a hard time separating their subjective experience, that, I don’t question, may be horrible for all horrible reasons, with the facts.

Facts and science matter. Very little else does in this subject.

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