What Makes a Good Powerlifter?

Carbs. The end.

Just kidding. Recently, Ed Coan did an interview with Chris Duffin that had so much good information in it that I had to go back and listen again, because so much of what he said resonated with me. Ed Coan is a legend in powerlifting, with nothing to prove. However, he sought out Chris Duffin to work with him on some movement dysfunction and ongoing issues he had, proving that you’re never too experienced to learn more. So much of what he said exemplifies what a powerlifter should be, so I had to summarize it and pass it along.

Be Nice

You’re probably thinking, “Seriously?” Hear me out. Spend some time with a lot of the top lifters and you will find that for one, they’re nice guys and want to help each other. You can choose to be a dick, but you’ll just be a dick that lifts a lot of weight. If you’re a nice guy, you will get a lot more support and go a lot further. Another thing you will notice about top lifters is that they don’t spend time bitching about different federations or judging. They let their own lifting do the talking, and many of them like to help others. It’s gratifying to help others and to develop friendships with people around the world who share your passion. Ed said that this has been more rewarding than any record he ever broke. Everyone can get better. Sure, we are all trying to beat the guy in front of us, but we can all learn from each other.

Take Your Time

This isn’t NASCAR. This sport does not happen at 200 miles per hour. It’s better to stay the course, and get stronger over a longer period of time with no mistakes or injuries. If you are reckless and you injure yourself, you won’t be able to lift and it could cost you several months. What good is that? You will be successful if you can throw your ego out the window and just say to yourself, “I want to get better.” Ed did not set out to squat 1000 pounds. He just focused on getting better every training cycle. Your main competition should be yourself—not the guys at your gym, and certainly not the guys on social media. Take your training one day at a time and enjoy the small wins along the way. At your first meet, chances are you aren’t going to set any records. Have fun, try to learn the flow of a meet, take it one attempt at a time, and go 9 for 9. Also, have fun.


Don’t Put All Your Business Out There

Don’t set yourself up for failure by putting too many self-imposed expectations out there. Be honest with yourself. Have an idea of where you want to go with training but understand you may not get there. Remember, you’re just constantly trying to get better. If you want to hit an 1800 total but you only have 1750 in you on the day of the meet, consider it a success if you hit 1750, and live to fight another day.

Surround Yourself With Authentic People

How many times a week do you see a guy claiming “PR” in the gym with a squat 3 inches high, or a deadlift hitched all the way up, and the comments section is full of “beast mode!”, “great job! You got 100 more pounds in you for sure!”? How is that helping the lifter? You need people who can step up and say, “you looked strong; maybe drop it a little lower if you want it to pass in a meet”. Seek people to learn from and collaborate with. This is how you get better.

One interesting question that Ed answered was what motivates him through the hard times—the injuries, training plateaus and bad meets. And the answer was simple. Motivation comes from wanting to get better at something you love. When it gets hard, will you quit? Or will you figure out a way to overcome adversity? If you choose the former, you will be like so many other lifters who have a few big years and disappear. Chris Duffin added that this is also a way to prove to yourself that you have what it takes. We all have strengths, and for powerlifters, it’s lifting heavy weight. This is our way of striving for excellence and doing something big. If you are physically capable of squatting 400 and you actually do it, you were successful. Last thing that Ed mentioned several times—have fun. That’s why we do this.



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Danny Vega

Danny Vega is a 220lb raw powerlifter with meet bests of 640 squat in wraps (610 raw), 400 bench, and 700 deadlift. A native of Miami, Florida, Vega received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in 2004, where he was a member of the football team and a three-time Dean’s List recipient. Vega earned his masters of science in human performance from the University of Florida, where he worked with the national championship men’s basketball team along with women’s basketball, tennis, and golf programs. He then went on to become the Strength & Conditioning coordinator for VCU basketball. The Rams were 2007 conference champions and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
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