The Handler – A Powerlifter’s Saving Grace

By: Lisa Guggisberg

A key component to being successful at a powerlifting meet is having a good handler. A handler is the guy or gal that helps you get through the day; they help you load the bar in warm-up, wraps your knees for you, squeezes you into your gear, gives commands, sometimes gives a hand off on the bench, acts as a gopher and overall helps take some stress off their lifter and keeps them sane. Having an experienced and reliable handler at a meet is an invaluable tool to a lifter.

What a good handler does and should do for you:

Help you warm-up

Conserve your energy and let the handler load the plates for you during warm-up’s. I see a lot of lifters that get all squirrelly during warm-ups; jumping around and doing way too much. Be it nerves or the need to control the situation, but they waste a lot of energy. A good handler will keep the eye on the clock and give you a countdown on warm up time left. They can set the warm up pace just right so that you make it to the platform in time and ready to go. You don’t want to warm up to early or not get enough time to warm up. Let the handler give you commands and correct any last minute form problems as you warm up. If I’m doing something weird or different than my norm my handler will let me know.

Get you platform ready

The handler will wrap your knees for you. Usually the handler is a training partner or coach so they will know how you like your knees wrapped. If you’re a geared lifter they can help stuff you into the gear and get you out of it. They assist you in getting your belt on, chalking your back and in general an extra set of hands to hold stuff; wrist wraps, water, baby powder, etc.

Lesson learned in the past, my handler always counts the plates as the spotters/loaders load my bar. It will save you from a miss-load and potential energy lost on a miss-loaded attempt.

Your handler will get you pumped up for the lift. Whatever gets you going, a face slap or yelling explicit language at you…whatever does it for you they will get you going.

Have your handler video your attempts.  First thing I do after I step off the platform is review the video so I can see if I need to make any changes as well as help to determine my next attempt.

Help pick your next attempts and number watch

Let your handler help pick your next attempts.  I am usually a horrible at picking my next attempts. I am horrible at math and I am too focused on my lifts. I let my handler know how my last attempt felt, what I have left in the tank and we make the decision on the next attempt. Have your handler watch who’s ahead of you, watch the numbers and do the math to figure out what you need to secure a win.

Let your handler be your gopher

Have them bring you water, food, equipment. Let them do the leg work running around so you can save your energy. Sometimes the warm-up room is a hike to where the platform is, so let them run back and forth checking the order and let you know when you’re in the hole for the platform.

I am lucky that I have a great handler and I attribute all of my successful meets to having such a great handler. Remember, a handler does a lot of work for you, so say thank you; do something nice for them in return or buy them a nice dinner after the meet.


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A self-proclaimed former high school band nerd turned meathead nerd, Lisa has been coached and mentored by Brian Carroll using 10/20/Life principals for 3 years. She started CrossFiting in 2006 but gave that up after realizing all she wanted to do was squat, bench and deadlift heavy. She now competes as a raw and multi-ply powerlifter in the 114 and 123 weight classes. Lisa has All-Time top 10 totals in both raw and multi-ply in her respective weight classes with a raw pro total of 936 lbs at 114 and a pro 1118 lb multi-ply pro total at 123 and 1090 lb multi-ply total at 114. She is currently ranked the #1 female multi-ply lifter at 123, #2 at 114 multi-ply female and #3 raw with wraps. Lisa has a B.A. in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration, but hates politics and political debates. She is a mom of two, a firefighter wife and has worked as a full time litigation paralegal for almost 20 years.
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