If I was to say the word powerlifting to you then its likely that you immediately imagine colossal guys who look like atlas stones with arms and legs. Their neck veins jumping blue and bulbous from their efforts and a dominating presence as intimidating as an angry grizzly. You would picture a well loved gym that hasn’t seen a duster or a coat of paint since it was built, with a primal cloud of testosterone hanging in its air and guttural grunts and shouts emanating from within it.
The stereotype may seem unfair. But when my two friends and I entered our first ever Powerlifting competition we discovered it was perfect.
And in its perfection we also found a few welcome surprises. The guys were warm and welcoming and respectful. They never once treated us like the latest airborne virus just because we originate from CrossFit. Instead they regarded us with interest and encouragement.
Like true novices we wandered around blindly wondering if it was time to warm up or if we had time for a pee. We spoke to people and had no idea who they were; chatting to the main attraction of the day Andy Cairny oblivious to his greatness.
The order of the day was Squatting first, then Bench Press and finally Deadlift.
Admittedly my knowledge of Powerlifting was the most limited out of the three of us and I watched with intense interest as the competitors doned tiny skin tight suits with the help of their fellow lifters. In particular I enjoyed the bench pressing outfits which made it impossible for those sporting them to look in any way tough or manly. I felt decidedly underdressed in my shorts and t-shirt.
My friends from CrossFit Glasgow are Kirk James-Williams and Steph Dekker. And are both incredibly accomplished lifters within the CrossFit gym. It was going to be very revealing to see how they would stack up against people who train specifically for these three lifts. Our training combines many other elements and powerlifting, although an essential part, is only a fraction of our training week.
The squat rack was a new experience and threw us all off a little. I found it hard to get the correct set up and balance but tried my best and was happy enough with the first two lifts at 80kg and then 85kg but failing on the third at 90kg. A little disappointing as I have lifted more in the gym. But such is the nature of competition and every time I take part in one I learn a little more.
My friends were outstanding with impressive weights at 200kg for Kirk and Steph at 122.5kg.
Bench press was the highlight of the day and after a great deal of hanging about, drinking tea and eating it finally arrived. I went in at a very achievable 45kg just to make certain that I got a score down. I followed it with 50kg and was amazed by how light it felt under the rush of adrenalin and expectation. I wanted to try for a personal best and asked if I could go with 56kg (in the gym I have managed 55kg). They never had small enough increments available though so that meant a big jump up to 57.5kg. As I had nothing to lose I went for it. Unfortunately the gamble did not pay off and I failed the lift. I was still glad I tried.
Kirk and Steph finished on 115kg and 85kg respectively.
We had been at the venue for hours by the time the Deadlift finally came up. I was tired and cold and was struggling to get my head back on the competition. Consequently I was also worried about injuring myself; there was little chance to get a proper warm up and even if there had been I was losing the motivation to do it. I had chosen an achievable weight to start on at 95kg so at least I knew I could do it with little chance of mishap or failure. I was tempted to just leave it at that knowing I had taken part, that I would have a total for the three lifts and that I had completed the day with no misadventure.
The 95kg went up like it was made of helium and my confidence was again set in motion. I went back in at 100kg and wondered at how light it could feel as it came off the ground. My wonderful friends who had came through to support us also thought it looked a little too easy, and compelled by their collective enthusiasm I went in for my final lift of the day at 120kg.
A rather ambitious leap but if I got it it would be a true personal best. As I waited for my chance I tried not to think about it. This would mean the difference between a good day and an awesome day. All I had to do was stay focused and use the adrenalin that was charging through me.
I stepped up, peripherally I could hear the support of the crowd as I put my hands on the bar.
It was an incredible end to an incredible day. And was made all the better by my friends lifting an astounding 275kg at the hands of Kirk and 150kg being pulled by Steph. And with the support of the CrossFit Glasgow crew who brought with them much needed encouragement and some very loud cheering.
Kirk, Steph and I are now all the proud owners of our first powerlifting trophies. Having all finished first in our weight categories.