Pro vs. Amateur

By Will Kuenzel

A recent conversation with a friend in the music industry had us comparing notes between amateurs and professionals.  There’s a very distinct difference in attitude, preparedness, and adaptability.  One is hectic with exceptional amounts of disarray.  The other is amazing at being able to overcome absolutely any scenario.  Experience, of course, goes a long way in helping an individual develop that professional demeanor.

I’ve been competing in powerlifting for almost 15 years.  I have either competed in, or traveled to help with at least 3-4 meets a year.  All in total, I’ve been to almost 50 meets in my life.  I’ve seen it all.  I’ve done it all.  I’ve made the mistakes.  I’ve coached lifters to stop making those mistakes.  I still see people making the mistakes.  I’ve seen some scenarios transpire that would have some seasoned vets freaking out, only to watch this individual go on to have one of their best meets.

The locale doesn’t matter.  It’s the individuals that are present that make the situation.  At some of the local meets I’ve been to, there have been some of the strongest and most prepared teams there.  The tone of the meet was that of a professional meet.  It was extremely well organized and run like a dream.  Why?  Because experience matters.  Some of the other local meets I’ve been to, I’ve wanted to run screaming.  Watching some of the lifters make horrible warm-up choices, horrible timing of their warm-ups, and the worst are those that don’t have help.

**Now I realize that not everyone has a team to train with, but if you come to a meet alone understand that no one is obligated to help you.  So, don’t get pissed off if you don’t get the same attention as someone who brought multiple people.  I will try to help as many people as I can, but not at the expense of my own lifters whom I’ve promised I’d help, or are compensating me for my time.  **

Amateurs tend to overcomplicate things.  If you are opening over 200lbs, there is no reason why you need to have a 2.5lb plate on the bar.  Stop.  Use plate and quarter jumps like the rest of the warm-up room.  Know what flight you’re in and don’t be upsetting the order.  Know where the bathrooms are.  Know where you are in the flight and when your flight is starting.  These are some of the simple things.  It’s nice to have a handler to be able to take care of these things for you, but if you can’t, be mindful and polite.

At some of the professional meets I’ve been to, you’ll see absolute composure and everything is done with purpose.  Nothing is wasted.  Everybody knows their place and have all the help they need.  The only thing I’ve ever seen that was needed at a professional meet was more weight in the warm up room.  Guys and gals have all their gear.  They have everything planned.  Even if things don’t go as planned, they still have it under control because they’ve been there before, or they’ve anticipated something going wrong.

Adam Driggers has said to “train for chaos.”  Nothing ever goes how you have it planned out.  Be prepared.  I take backups of backups.  I’m not going to be that guy begging for deadlift socks, or a singlet.  I’ve got a screwdriver for a lever belt and I don’t even have a lever belt.  I have extra shoe laces and even wet wipes.  Ever been to a meet where there is only porta-potties?  I’ll never be at meet again without wet wipes.

Dain had a great article recently about competition shenanigans.  I’ve seen all those and more, at local meets.  I’ve never once witnessed anything like that at any of the professional meets I’ve been to.  Pros are pros for a reason.  First, if they did ever make beginner mistakes it wasn’t at a meet.  Second, either they had help, or weren’t afraid to ask for it.  Last, they learn quickly.  I’ve been to meet after meet to watch the same guys make the same mistakes.   At a professional meet you’ll likely never see one single mistake.  There’s things that go wrong, but those are often out of the control of the lifter.

I urge every lifter to do two things:

1)     Go to meets.  If not to compete, but to at least help.

2)     Take the opportunity to go to a professional meet.  Take a stroll through the warm-up room at some point.  Watch.  Don’t touch and don’t ask questions, but just watch.

Every couple months I will lead an in-house training day.  It’s an open day where I try to get all my lifters together to do our heaviest training sessions of the cycle.  I watch them.  I correct bad habits.  I let them know what they can and can’t get away with at meets.  I do my best to prepare them for the best-case scenario.  Sometimes there are just things out of our control, but with at least a proper mind set and small amount of instruction, they can be leaders in a meet.  I would feel very comfortable taking any of my lifters to a professional meet.  How comfortable would you be?

Want to learn how to become a pro and be our own coach? Pick up a copy of the new 2nd Edition 10/20/Life.

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Low Country Strength

Will Kuenzel is the owner of Lowcountry Strength ( in Charleston, SC. Will started his athletic endeavors as a pole vault; finishing up his collegiate career with a best vault of 16’9” at a whopping 160lbs. He the track and field world to pursue bodybuilding, his first show in 2005, he won 1st place in Men’s Novice as a middle weight. One year later he took 2nd as a Men’s Junior heavy weight. Since 2007 he has been a competitive powerlifter and totaling elite as a 220lber. His best lifts in multiply equipment are a 710lbs squat, a 605lbs bench press, a 615lbs deadlift and a 1930 total. In 2008 Will started Lowcountry Strength out of his garage. Since then it has moved into a 16,000 sq/ft facility and shares space with a mixed martial arts studio. With all disciplines of powerlifting, strongman, MMA, jiu jitsu and other sports in the Charleston area getting trained under one roof, Will heads up the strength and conditioning for a wide variety of athletes and clients.

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