I’ve never really been into powerlifting as a sport. It’s presented as test of strength, but I’ve always felt like strength should imply the ability to perform a variety of physical feats – not just three highly practised movements (squat, bench press and deadlift).
I mean, if a man can bench press three times his bodyweight, but can’t hold a basic planche…to what extent is it meaningful to say that he is ‘strong’? He is just “strong at bench presssing”, like a gymnast is “strong at jumping” and I am “strong at eating cakes”. It’s a practised skill.
I understand that powerlifting is a great test of overall brute strength because the large compound movements work almost every muscle group at once. But does it make any sense to say a man is strong because he can use his whole body to extend his legs through a resistance of 500kg, if he can’t also propel that body off the ground? Not being able to jump over things seems like being weak, which (I believe) is the exact opposite of being strong.
Practise makes you stronger at any movement. Somebody just seems to have decided that powerlifting movements are the best measures of ‘strength’. If we determined strength by kicking a ball, footballers would be deemed stronger than powerlifters. If we determined strength by the force of a punch (a good measure!), a relatively small pro boxer would probably classify as stronger than the vast majority of powerlifters.
So I guess what I’m saying is that powerlifting seems more like a fairly arbitrary test of your strength, but a very good test of your ability to perform three bizarre movement skills that have no other further application. Except that isn’t true…
Powerlifting movements make your body stronger as well as your specific movements. If you kick a football 10,000 times, for example, you’ll get very strong at kicking…but not very strong at anything else (apart from maybe hopping…)
If you deadlift 10,000 times, you’ll get stronger at deadlifting – but your whole body will also get stronger in general in the process and you’ll find that you’re stronger at all kinds of other movements that you haven’t practised.
So while powerlifting movements themselves may be pointless, learning to do them makes you stronger on the whole. It’s a very transferable form of strength.
In short: I prefer powerlifting as a way of developing strength, rather than testing it. That’s going to make my next post seem rather odd…