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.
5/9/2023 11:16:24 am
What inspired the author to start powerlifting and how did they get into it?
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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.