What do baseball, football and basketball have in common? There are many similarities but the most important, in my opinion, is that they are all team sports. These sports require several like-minded people working together to accomplish a goal. A team lives and dies by its ability to work together rather than being a group of individuals.
So what does this have to do with powerlifting? Powerlifting is an individual sport isn’t it? In my opinion, it is and it isn’t. How’s that for an answer? Yes, when you are at a meet and your name is called, you are the only one that can lift the weight. No one can bare any of the strain for you. The work is there for you to do by yourself. However, if meet day is all that you think powerlifting is about then I believe you are missing out on something. I personally consider powerlifting to be just as much a team sport as any of the others I have mentioned.
The majority of the lifting that we do is not on the platform, but in the gym. This is where we sweat, bleed and struggle together. The nine attempts during a powerlifting meet are just a fraction of the sport. What about all the months, weeks, days and hours we spent preparing? The lifters that you train with, your teammates, are the ones that spent those hours with you. They strained with you, coached you and learned from you. Whether you succeeded or failed they were there to pick you up or congratulate you. While there are those that train alone, rarely are these lifters as successful as they could be. I believe that we all would benefit from considering our sport a team sport.
A training partner isn’t someone that just gives you a spot or holds the boards on your chest. A person that does not share the same level of enthusiasm is an obstacle. Either they are helping you get stronger or they are in your way. It would be better to train alone in a power rack then train with someone that has little intensity, desire or commitment. These are the kind of people that will bring you down. Once you find a quality training partner be sure to stick by each other and help each other out.
I trained alone for many years. I had a difficult time finding someone that had the same goals as I did. Over the years, I met many people that said they wanted to get stronger, but few that were actually willing to work for it. During the time that I trained alone, I did get stronger, but I also learned a valuable lesson. When training with someone that has a competitive spirit, I reached a much higher level. This lesson holds true today. In those first few years I was missing something; teammates. Now that I have found them I would never go back to my previous training. Good teammates will always push you harder than you can ever push yourself. I have two partners that I would not trade for the world. They push and teach me and I hope I do the same for them. While coaching my teammates, I have learned much about my own training.
Because of the Internet I find myself having a wide variety of training partners as well. These are the people that I travel to train with, or who travel to train with me. We constantly push each other to be better, smarter and stronger. Whether it is in person or over the Internet my team makes me a better lifter.
So what does it take to be a good teammate? That could make for a very long list of attributes. However, in my opinion, it all boils down to the three C’s. Commitment, Communication and Competition.
Commitment: This covers the basic things that should never be overlooked such as never missing a workout, being on time, being prepared to lift and having the correct intensity level. You would think that this would be obvious. However, for some reason it is not. It takes a lot of work to get your elite. If your goal is the top, you are going to have to make sacrifices. Your partners had better be willing to do the same.
Communication: Whether it be how you want your bench handed off to you or how you want to be spotted, communication is very important. This can be a dangerous sport. When you get under a weight you are putting your life in someone else’s hands. Make sure that you are all on the same page. Much of this comes from training together on a regular basis. That is why these are the people that help you at the meet, because they know you.
Competition: If you don’t have the drive to be the best you can, then you are probably holding your teammate(s) back. You have to want it and thrive on it as it is the lifeblood of the sport. Without it we are all just moving a bunch of heavy stuff around. Might as well rent a van and get paid.
If you have a weak body part, and you make it stronger, you get stronger. If you have a weak teammate, and you help them get stronger, you get stronger. If you have no teammates to help you who will pick you up when you are down? How will you find your way? I think it is time to start realizing that powerlifting is a team sport. We may stand on that platform alone, but we did not get there that way.