My Journey to Powerlifting
By Kristine Rae Olmsted
My journey to powerlifting started with CrossFit boot camps about 9 years ago. Having been a nationally-ranked distance swimmer in earlier years, and after many years of being sedentary, I decided I wanted something active to do. A friend was starting boot camps at a CrossFit gym that wasn’t too far away, so I joined her. I fell in love with the community, the camaraderie, and the supportive yet competitive atmosphere.
After about 6 months of boot camps, I felt like I was ready to tackle CrossFit. I had been particularly intrigued by the barbell movements, primarily the squat. Squatting under a barbell just looked so primal to me- just about anybody can do it, from toddlers up through big, burly dudes.
I had a health condition related to environmental allergies that prevented me from breathing effectively for about 5 months out of the year- so CrossFit and its metcons weren’t going to work for me. I called the gym owner in tears, thinking he would kick me out of the gym as a liability. What he said astounded me- “Well, what CAN you do- can you lift?” I replied that lifting was my favorite part of CrossFit anyway, and a lifter was born. I signed up for the gym’s barbell club and began learning the basics of the squat, bench press, deadlift, snatch, and clean-and-jerk.
I’ve always been strong. I can recall being a kid and helping my mom move furniture, and people commenting on how physically capable I was. Turns out being strong in general translates pretty well to being strong with a barbell. I began, like many newbies, to excel in the deadlift (which I will argue is the least technical lift of the 3 powerlifts), and to a lesser extent in the squat (second most technical), but bench (most technical) took some doing. I wasn’t particularly interested in the Olympic lifts- it was brute strength I was seeking. After about a year of barbell club, I felt like I had exhausted my ability to progress in that environment.
Like many new lifters, I would read everything I could about lifting, the science of strength development, and programming. My favorite author, Coach Rick Scarpulla, was coming to the gym to give a seminar, and I excitedly volunteered to pick him up and ferry him around for the weekend. I could see from Coach Scarpulla how much technique I had to learn, so I focused mightily on technique for a year, until he came back for another seminar- the weekend of my 40th birthday. I told him I wanted to feel 400 pounds on my back in celebration of my big day. Not only did I feel 405 on my back, I squatted it (albeit with bands up) and was hooked on big weight. That weekend I signed on with Rick as my new coach. (This was challenging since he was in New York and I was in North Carolina, but we made it work.)
I had been intrigued by equipped lifting for some time, and Rick and his crew lifted equipped. I started dipping my proverbial toes into that water and felt like a newbie all over again- as many new equipped lifters experienced. I got stronger and technically better, and ended up winning two Nationals and one World Championship in single-ply before venturing into multi-ply- which is where my heart resides. To date my best lifts are a 565 squat, a 365 bench, and a 425 dead.
Nine years of awesome experiences, new friends, and character-building challenges…all thanks to simple beginnings in a CrossFit boot camp. I am profoundly grateful.
The Goals of the USPC & WPUSA
The primary goal of beginning the USPC was to enable meet directors to develop the best meet experience for lifters. The USPC is a positive, encouraging federation from the top down. By providing local support to new and upcoming meet directors, we are automating and developing processes that benefit the lifters.
One of the ways we accomplish this is by having the best equipment on the market for lifter and spotter safety - the DynaBody Monolift. A monolift provides more safety for a squatter. Imagine the energy you expend by having to step back with a few hundred pounds of weight on your back or, for elite lifters, think of walking out 800+ pounds. The monolift makes squatting heavy weight much safer and also provides an extra layer of safety by having straps/chains that aid in preventing the bar from hitting the ground if something goes awry. Do you want to walk out your squat? You can do that, also. The USPC is giving you the option to do a "stand and go" squat or walk it out. How much better does it get than that?
We also utilize a DynaBody Competition Bench at our meets. This bench is sturdy and unshakeable. The pad is much thicker and considerably wider than the typical combo-rack insert benches.
Our online testing procedure for becoming a judge is revolutionary. The test is not a "gimme" and is not just a True/False test. No two tests are alike since the system randomizes the questions. If you have judged with another federation, you should not take this test lightly. Once you pass the test, however, you are not automatically placed into a judge's chair. There are other criteria which need to be met in order to acquire your judge's shirt (which of course is free to you)! Before you attempt to take the test (or lift in a meet) be sure to read the USPC Rulebook, which link is here.
These are just a few ways in which we are changing the face of powerlifting --come to a meet to see more!
What a Whirlwind!
When the seeds of creating a new powerlifting federation were first planted in 2018, I could never have envisioned how the world would change within the next few years: the victories, heartbreaks, losses and struggles that we have all encountered over the past year, specifically. But if life is a teacher, the biggest lessons to learn are that nothing lasts forever, life always gives us opportunities to grow and learn, and at the end of the day we are all in this thing called "life" together.
The sport of powerlifting is a great way to bring us together to support each other in our struggles, whether those struggles are mental, emotional or physical. It's hard to think of other sports that are capable of having an 11 year-old just starting their strength journey, an internationally competitive 30 year-old, and a life-experienced 82 year-old lifter sharing the same equipment and platform on the same day. If we intend to learn and grow as people as well as lifters, the first step is coming together to support each other regardless of our backgrounds, genders, ethnicities or sexualities.
Isn't the sport of powerlifting amazing? Message us if you would like to share the story of your powerlifting journey with others in our next newsletter/blog.
Presented to you by the USPC & WPUSA:
The United States Powerlifting Coalition was created to provide powerlifters an atmosphere where they can be comfortable in a safe, lifting environment. We utilize a monolift on the platform in order to provide the best experience for both lifters and spotters and to promote safety and confidence when squatting; a fat pad bench with face savers and Texas squat, power and deadlift bars on the platform.