This past weekend I took my son, daughter, and one of my weightlifters to the 100% RAW Mid-Atlantic Powerlifting championships. And it was awesome. Before I get into the events of the day, let me explain a little bit about this competition. Powerlifting is a strength sport that focuses on a small selection of strength lifts. The squat, bench press, and deadlift are the most typical lifts seen, but some federations include some others such as the strict curl. There are over 40 different federations in powerlifting that have their own sets of rules, competition schedules, and records. When I was looking for a federation to have my children compete under, my friend Ryan Hale, coach for the Wolverine Powerlifting club in Iowa, recommended 100% RAW. This federation bans the use of specialized gear and drugs to assist competitors. The only equipment allowed are belts and wrist wraps. Additionally, this federation has an “11 and under” age group and allows competitors to compete in a single lift. I am really only interested in having my children deadlift at this age so this was a huge bonus. I took my daughter to a 100% RAW meet last January and was very impressed not only with how smoothly the meet was run, but how welcoming, friendly, and supportive the other lifters and coaches were to us and each other.
When I train my kids, we focus mainly on full body strength using mainly bodyweight and light resistance. However, they are capable of lifting a lot of weight. They routinely try and pick up and carry each other and their friends and they are always trying to lift up heavy objects in the yard. I feel that when coached correctly, the deadlift can be a great loaded exercise for kids. I also like to have my children work towards a goal because when they know that they are coming to train for a purpose, they are much more motivated.
|Megan pulling 236.5 lbs.|
My 16 year old weightlifter, Megan, and I had an unofficial deadlift competition going on last summer where we would periodically text one another with something like this, “215, in your face!” and then “224, HA!”. So, now that she’s decided to focus mostly on pole vaulting, I thought she could benefit from maintaining some full body strength and encouraged her to put her money where her mouth is and enter the meet as well.
And so, I worked with them all over the summer and finally got a chance to test their progress this past weekend.
Coaching is a lot of fun, but can be really nerve racking. It took me a few years as a weightlifting coach to be able to have a good sense of what my lifters were capable of at a competition. Competition makes everything seem lighter and so a lot of PRs are set. However, if you are too ambitious and your lifters can’t make their lifts, they may be very unsatisfied with what they did manage to make. For example, if you know you can pull 225 and pulled that on your first attempt, its a hard decision to move on to the unknown. What if you pull 235 and it was really easy and wished you’d tried for more? What if you tried 245 and didn’t make it and were stuck with 225 as your pull for that day? Mix in the fragile egos of children and the wanting-to-please-your-children instinct of a parent and you’ve got a pretty tough job. And like I said, I’m pretty good at telling my weightlifters what they can do, but powerlifting is a different sport altogether and I’m not confident in making guesses here just yet.
|Elizabeth with 88 lbs.|
To complicate matters, my daughter Elizabeth, who pulled 82.5 lbs last January at a bodyweight of 60, had a growth spurt this Spring and grew 3 inches without gaining any weight. So, now she has these ridiculously long legs, tight hamstrings, and no mass advantage. Getting her to lift was like starting from the drawing board. Up until the meet, I wasn’t sure if she would even be able to pull her last meet PR. I suspected this was mostly mental, but wasn’t sure. Watching her little brother pull as much weight as she did not help matters either. My son Francis, who throws his whole self into any athletic pursuit he tries, was over the moon with excitement and kept talking about how he was going to pull 100 lbs.
|Francis with 121 lbs.|
So, on to the meet. I set Megan’s opener at 97.5 kg (214.5 lbs). It was her first PL meet and she needed to have an easy pull on her first attempt. And it was, so I set her next one for 102.5 kg (225.5 lbs). I struggled with Elizabeth’s opener, but went ahead and set hers and Francis’s at 35 kg (77 lbs). They both made it with relative ease so I set their next attempts as 37.5 kg (82.5 lbs) for Elizabeth and 40 kg (88 lbs) for Francis. They all made their second attempt. Elizabeth’s was slow, but with good form, Francis’ flew up like he was going to clean it, and Megan’s was smooth and relatively fast. So, final attempts, I set Elizabeth’s at 40 kg (88 lbs), Francis’ at 45 kg (99 lbs), and Megan’s at 107.5 (136.5 lbs). Elizabeth struggled with this last one, but the crowd was on their feet cheering for her. Her form was solid, but it took her a good 2-3 seconds to complete the pull. At the top, she looked confused and later told me it felt really light once she stood up. Francis’ flew up again and I have to admit, I was really surprised. This was 10 lbs more than he had ever attempted at home and he made it look light as a feather. Megan pulled hers with ease and is already planning on taking the state record.
|Happy kids, proud coach.|
So, after Francis lifted, an interesting thing happened. The announcer asked me if Francis would like to go for a fourth attempt. This is usually allowed for record attempts, but no records are kept in the weight classes under 105 lbs for men. However, the meet director said he could and so Francis went out to attempt a 55 kg (121 lbs) deadlift. The reason we chose this weight is because the plates are bigger and so he would be pulling from less of a deficit, ie the bar would be higher up.
When Francis went to pull, it was apparent that he was fighting the bar and that he was going to win. Again, the crowd was on their feet cheering for him and I don’t think I’ve seen that kid happier in a long time.
So, all in all, a great day, everyone did better than they ever have and set some new PRs. Best part, everyone lifted with good form and did the best they could that day. My youngest son Patrick is very excited for the day when he gets to go to his first meet, but he’s going to have to wait a while.