I love powerlifting, but powerlifters drive me absolutely insane sometimes… or, rather, a lot of the time. Most of the time, this insanity is driven by powerlifters horribly, HORRIBLY misunderstanding things like volume, fatigue, periodization, biomechanics, their implications for training/programming, and so forth. But lately, I’ve taken a serious dislike to powerlifters complaining about why every session doesn’t go perfectly according to their hopes and dreams. This isn't just about powerlifters though, and I’ll keep this article as generally relateable as possible for any lifter.
Too often (in my opinion) I see posts like this on Instagram:
Was supposed to work up to a heavy single on deadlifts but my left ring finger was really bothering me so I took things a bit light. As long as it’s a 9 RPE, I’m good to go though.
And then the video shows the lifter hitting a super easy lift rather than doing something actually productive.
Listen: strength training is hard. It always has been hard, and it always will be hard. And that’s okay. No, it’s not just okay… it’s awesome. The fact we as humans are even presented with the ability to not just re-equalize after experiencing stress, but actually come back objectively more prepared for that stress than before, is amazing. So much so that it is insulting to the human condition to have anything less than utter appreciation for everything that sets us back in our pursuits. Work, friendships, relationships, aspirations, hobbies, health, physical strength, everything. Love the things that make what’s worth achieving or obtaining so hard in the first place, or stop complaining about why you aren’t getting what you want out of life. Or out of powerlifting. Either one works here.
What does this have to do with powerlifting? Powerlifting is all about being as physically strong as possible. It is about constantly subjecting yourself to physical stress so you can be more resilient to that physical stress in the future… so that you can subject yourself to even MORE physical stress in the future, so you can… alright, you get the point. Here’s the catch: physical stress is not meant to feel good. It is totally up to the individual to appreciate what that pain and exhaustion can and will do for him/her in the future, as both a competitor and a general human being. But if the individual cannot fully appreciate the toll that strength training takes on their body, then without some serious genetic lotto numbers, that individual is a lost cause. It’s as simple as that.
The “negative” effects of strength training come in many forms. Some of the more obvious ones include soreness and tiredness. You’ll hear people complain about those all the time, but believe me, those are the easiest ones to deal with.
Like I said, physical stress is not meant to feel good. Your body will ache, sting, bruise, stiffen, and slow down all the time in no particular or predictable order. Sometimes you’ll feel great driving to the gym, the caffeine hits just in time and then every set feels like you’re trying to pull Thor’s hammer out of quicksand. You’ll have some annoying cramps one day, then the next you’ll have some slight lower back pain, then the next you’ll suddenly have a hard time focusing on the workout, then your wrist will hurt, then your shoulder will bug you when you reach overhead, and before you know it, you decide to skip your accessories because you’re CLEARLY too tired and beat up to finish the workout. Boo hoo. Then you start adding more warm up drills, you try to root your feet harder, you start focusing really hard on your contraintraparietolateravisceranasopharangeal coordination patterns, but alas, nothing really changes, despite how much you try to convince yourself that things are improving. Meanwhile, you’re still fully capable of getting out of bed, moving around like a normal human being, going about your day, eating food, you can sneeze without herniating an organ, and then at night you sleep like a tired baby. I mean, you’re STILL TRAINING, AREN’T YOU? So what’s the problem?! Why spend so much time trying to circumvent the difficult stuff when you can instead appreciate the fact that:
These things are just as meant to be dealt with and overcame as the other, more typical negative side effects (soreness and tiredness) you feel from training so hard and so frequently
Being able to deal with and push through all of these annoyances will make you a better lifter and person in the future (since complaining about them definitely won’t)
Every time you change up your training, or your daily routine, to accommodate your lack of willingness to deal with a setback, you don’t just cheat yourself. You insult yourself. You insult everyone around you. Not only did you voluntarily pass up on yet another valuable learning/growth opportunity, but you inspired others to do so too. And I’m sorry, but there is absolutely no excuse for that. You don’t have to be a champion, but if you’re gonna do something and set goals for yourself, then suck it up and actually work toward those goals. Otherwise, stop complaining about your constant regressions. Nobody cares, nobody ever will care, and nobody should care. So suck it up buttercup, and hit that next set.