Sport Specific Technique: It’s Not a Beauty Contest

By: Derek Wilcox

Since our species has been in existence, there has always been competition and sport. The nature of competition and sport is always the same. At least two people or more people commit to doing the same or a similar task under an agreed set of rules (or lack thereof) and standards with an end goal in mind to be achieved. That goal can be performing the task faster, longer, farther, heavier or in any other way of showing superiority. With this superiority comes a separation of winners and losers by the most basic of definitions within the competition. Typically there is something to gain at the end of the competition that is seen as valuable to all who are competing and on top of this all of the effort and time of training puts more value and emotional investment into these results.


With these basics being understood, when competitions evolve over time so do the methods of achieving the goal that is set in the respective sport. When an athlete wins competitions using technique that is a standard practice no one thinks twice about it. However, with the evolution of sport comes innovation across every single facet of that competition. Athletes are competitors who want to win one way or another and if they can’t do it with the methods they are using, they try their hardest to develop new methods to gain advantage. These are people like Dick Fosbury who invented the revolutionary technique of jumping over the bar in the high jump back first, The Fosbury Flop. This was instead of jumping over it with a straight on technique, scissors-kick, the straddle and the belly-roll techniques that were standard practice at the time. Fosbury wasn’t able to defeat many of his competitors with the standard techniques but as true competitive athletes do, he worked hard and found a way to do it.


There was nothing about his technique that broke any rules of competition, but with this new technique he was able to “cheat” physics in a way. His center of gravity never actually cleared the bar on maximal heights when the other techniques would require this. He was literally jumping higher over a bar than others when his force production and jumping velocity could actually be lower than his closer competitors who were using other less efficient techniques. Fosbury is now viewed as one of the most innovative athletes of the 21st century, possibly even the history of sports and he did it by figuring out how to be the most efficient with what he had to work with.

 Now that we have context on the nature of evolution in sport, let’s apply this to strength sports. In strongman we often see a few different variations of technique on different events like pressing medleys or loading events where the rules are relatively open ended. In weightlifting there are many different grip widths, stances and catching techniques that have been developed and evolved over time as well. These things are all very commonplace now and relatively accepted. This begs the question, why is there still such archaic criticism of different techniques in powerlifting? The rules of procedure in completing a lift in competition are understood and known all over the world but when someone has developed a way to complete these lifts more efficiently than their competitors in some form or fashion, criticism rains down like a plague of locusts all over the inter-webs.


There are many lifting purists that are quick to discredit things like sumo deadlifts (especially super wide), high arches on bench press or squats with a wider stance than normal. Of course, the equipped versus minimally equipped (referred to as “raw” by some) debates fall into this to some degree as well. We see it all over public forums where lifting is being shared or discussed. A recent example of this was the 242 all-time deadlift record being broken by Yuriy Belkin lifting 420kg@103kg. One of the first comments on this incredible feat was discrediting it for not being conventional.

Another terrific example is a record-setting bench press by Shao Chu in the IPF. Just listen to how even the announcers are appalled by this completely legal lift for no reasonable explanation.  Jealousy perhaps?

 The primary theme that I have observed in my close to two decades of experience in lifting weights is that people are always quick to be discredited by those who cannot perform as well as they do or cannot perform in the advantageous way that they do. Never in my life have I been in a competition and seen someone deadlifting conventional who could lift more by pulling sumo. I’ve never seen someone who refused arch on bench press if they could lift more and I have never seen anyone choose to squat in a way that was more appealing to public opinion instead of lifting with their optimal technique so they could lift as much as possible. If you have someone clearly lifting with sub optimal techniques at a meet, you can be assured they are not there to compete or win, but are simply there for an exhibition of some sort. Competitive powerlifters go to meets and attempt to total as much in the three lifts as they possibly can by any means that they can do it within the rules of performance. It does not matter if it looks different from other lifters or if other people criticize how they do it. They are there to do absolutely everything they can to win, bottom line. True competitors across all sports recognize this desire in others as well and while they may not always like their peers, they respect them for it. This is the true nature of competitive athletes in sport verses others with hobbies in sport.

 It’s cold out there. Time to get your 10/20/Life Hoodies!


The following two tabs change content below.
Avatar photo

Derek Wilcox

Derek Wilcox is a multi-faceted strength athlete currently living in Tennessee with his wife, Emily. He is studying at East TN State for Sport Physiology and Performance. He works through Renaissance Periodization as a Nutrition and Training Consultant and has an impressive personal list of strength accomplishments. Strongman since 2009, National Meet Qualifier in Weightlifting in 2009 at 94kg and 105kg. Class A Highland Games Athlete since 2009. Elite PL Totals at 165, 181, 198, and 220. Pro Totals in 181, 198, 220. All time WR Squat at 181 with a 935. Lightest to ever squat 1000 pounds doing it at 194 pounds. His best meet lifts are 1000 squat at 198, 565 bench at 220 and 725 deadlift at 220.
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Contact Brian Carroll

Schedule A Consult Below

Take 25% OFF
Your first purchase
Subscribe Now!