Be a Sponge

By Dain Soppelsa/Friends of PRS

In this game called powerlifting, knowledge comes in all forms, from many different sources. If you want to give yourself every chance of continued improvement and the best opportunity to make it through hardships that are nearly guaranteed to come your way, you have to be open-minded and willing to listen. You have to understand that even if you don’t agree with all of a person’s methods of training you can still learn from them when it comes to many other aspects of powerlifting, such as technique or avoiding injury. You can’t close your mind just because you’ve seen somebody’s YouTube videos and they don’t use the same principles as you do. You never know where a valuable piece of information could come from.   


Information is more readily available than ever before, due to the internet and social media. Articles, training videos and podcasts are just a few examples of ways you can learn about strength training, without even having to leave your home. You can communicate with other people via e-mail and messaging, that you may not have had the chance to talk with in person. For these reasons, it’s a great time to be an up and comer in this sport. It’s pretty amazing when you stop and think about it. Information is so much more accessible than when I started powerlifting 15 years ago. The only real place to read articles was Powerlifting USA magazine. There was pretty much nothing available online, with the exception of maybe message boards.

As far as knowledge you actually have to leave your home to get, a good place to get loads of information is from your training partners. It has been my experience that most people in this sport are very open and willing to share the knowledge they have acquired during their time spent powerlifting. Whenever you have the opportunity to pick the brains of the people you train with, you should do so. Even if you don’t have a specific question, sometimes a casual conversation can turn into a valuable piece of information. When you open your ears and close your mouth, you may just be surprised at what you pick up. You may get some valuable information about getting through a plateau in one of your lifts or even gain knowledge on newer subjects we used to ignore – like preventing injuries.


Seminars are another great way to get loads of information in just a few hours. Both from the person or persons leading the seminar and the lifters attending it. If you have a chance to go to a seminar, you should do so, even if you’ve been around a while and feel like you have a good grasp on what you’re doing. I’ll admit I haven’t been a huge advocate of seminars in the past. However, a few months ago I attended a 10/20/Life seminar lead by Brian Carroll and I was very pleased with what I picked up during the course of the day. You just have to be willing to go and accept that there are things that you may not know. Even if you only get one or two small tips out of it, it’ll be worth it in the long run. This is especially true considering the longer you train and the more experienced you get, the harder it is to find helpful tips. If there’s a chance of picking up the smallest nugget of information that you can apply to yourself or someone you know, I promise you it’s worth your time.


Powerlifting competitions are one of the best places to soak up information because there are so many people from so many different backgrounds, especially if it’s in a place that’s out of your home state and there are people you don’t see often. The lifters, the handlers, the spectators and even the people running the table announcing can all have the potential to give you good advice. You may meet someone new that could say something that just clicks with you. You never know what could happen on a given day. Most people at meets are willing to talk to anyone who wants to listen. Don’t be afraid to approach someone and pick their brain. Especially those that are more experienced and/or have a bigger total than you do. You do need to make sure to let the people who are competing that day have their space. Everybody behaves differently when they compete. Some people will talk your ear off and some people want to be left alone to get their mind right. The competitors may also be more willing to talk after the competition is done. Use some common sense and you’ll do fine.

Now there is a catch to there being so much readily available information. The catch is that not all the information you receive will be applicable to you. Something you have to be able to do with all the information from different sources, is to be able to sort through the information you receive and pick and choose what applies to you and what does not. Don’t just try everything you see or hear because it won’t always work for you. You have to be open to people’s opinions, but you should still analyze everything. You have to think long and hard about what will actually be useful to you. Sometimes there won’t be anything for you to use for yourself, but some things could still be put in your mental file and used for one of your training partners or to pass on to someone in the future. The other stuff, if it doesn’t apply, just listen or read with an open mind, but know that it’s not for you.

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If you aren’t always open to listening or reading all available information you could miss out. You just have to be willing to seek out good, intelligent people and listen when the time comes.  Don’t underestimate another person’s knowledge or experience in a given area. You never know when they could say something helpful. Experience and strength should be the main factors you use in who you seek out for advice. If someone has been around a long time and/or is very strong, more than likely, they have a handle on what they’re doing and they could probably teach you something.

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