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The Most Important Factor in Powerlifting

Many times I sit and ponder all the factors it takes to be a good powerlifter. Well we know that it takes strong muscles and lots of training. But beyond that what is the most important factor. Periodization, education, good equipment, all of these factors could be argued. But in my experiences as a lifter and as a coach is ATTITUDE. Attitude is what sets us apart from being part time mediocre lifters, to any level of respected champion (state, national, international). Trust me when I say as I'm sure other coaches no matter what sport would agree with me in stating that they would rather have a hard working, motivated person on their team, than a genetically gifted athlete that was lazy, any day of the year. Because in the long run, the driven athlete, at least in my eyes, will get further than the genetically gifted person. A lifter with a good attitude will find out good ways to train, will educate themselves and others, and will drive 2 hours if need be to get to the proper equipment and atmosphere.

Think of your best lifters in the Game. One that comes to mind is Chuck Vogelpohl. This cat is the very meaning of attitude. He will train like an animal week in and week out and will push to the very limits and ask for more. Training with him gave me an idea of what it takes to move heavy weight and start my climb to the top.

Powerlifting, no matter what federation or age group, is one of the greatest sports in existence. One of the main reasons is that NO ONE can give you a 600lb squat or a 500lb bench; you must earn it every step of the way. It teaches you that anything good in life takes time and hard work, much of what's missing with many of the people in my generation, and the younger folks. Powerlifting can be an attitude builder in this way. It also seems to transfer into other aspects of life, by consuming you, and making you push everything to the limits, including your job, education, and your life.

I hold educational seminars here at the university I attend with my powerlifting team. Many of them listen, and some of them would rather just lift. Some bring great attitudes to train and some look like they just came from the bars. The point is this: my best lifters could always be spotted quite easily. They come into the gym ready for war. Their attitudes were to lift to their potential that day in practice, whether they just got finished taking a test, or need to go home and study doesn't matter, it's now time to train. Their attitudes will not let the workout itself, the teammates, or the external factors affect their lifting on a consistent basis. This is really what it takes to be a champion, a student of the game, and for us to constantly get better. If I throw in a max day, they usually will PR due to pride and competition, and not let the weight psych them out. If the holidays are close, they will stay to train that extra day to make sure the environment and competition is there. They will drive 2.5 hours away to train with people stronger than themselves.

Many people tell me that my attitude is what sets me apart from most people, and that is one statement I would have to agree with. If there were a couple of words that I hope would come up when people speak my name, one of them would have to be DRIVEN. When people ask me how to get as strong as I have (and I'm not done), I say, "You have to be willing to go in when your not feeling good, or when you have other things to do, and above all must be willing to leave your ego at the door." Many times that's enough to scare most average people away. Ego can come in the form of changing workouts, or driving someplace where you're not the strongest lifter, anything it takes to get the job done. Some top lifters have problems with this and that is why you see lifters that haven't got any stronger in 10 or more years. Attitude also deals with education, and experimentation. A strong attitude will make you learn how to progress, get stronger, and push your body past what you, your friends, or outsiders think your body could grow or do.

Attitude will also take you places you never imagined. I remember as a teenager I went to the Arnold classic, and saw the Westside crew from a distance. Even at the time I was a 250lb pretty jacked kid, I was intimidated. I knew they were the best, and that's what I wanted to be. My attitude and drive along with a kick in the ass from a friend, made me go talk to Louie Simmons. A few weeks later, I showed up in Columbus and got my ass handed to me. After a year or two of pushing through the workouts, working hard, and wanting to rent a hotel room and crash instead of drive 2.5 hours back home, my attitude was recognized and respected. Now I train there on occasion, getting ready to lift there full time, and they treat me like one of their own. If it weren't for those guys, I wouldn't be where I'm at today.

On the flip side attitude will take you away from places. I used to train at a gym near home. I lifted with the strongest guys in the area, but the intensity, education nor experimentation was present. This atmosphere eventually drove me away, and changed my entire philosophy. As my teachers always used to say "there is no excuse for ignorance". I go back there now, and it's a funny feeling being stronger than everyone else, and answering questions that I learned about 5 years ago. Stagnation is the killer, and if you're staying the same that means you're getting worse. Why waste 2 or more hours a day, 3 or 4 times a week, if your not going to get better? The key is never to be satisfied with your lifts. Learn to enjoy your accomplishments without settling for it being your best.

The whole point to this article is to remember some of the basics. Have a strong attitude to push you, and always try to learn and teach. You may find yourself in a few years doing things you never thought possible. And after lots of hard work has laid a foundation, you may glance in the mirror, and wonder who the hell your looking at.

Matt Wenning

Head Ball State Powerlifting Coach

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