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Dwarf among Giants Pt. 2
By: Jeremy Smith
In the sport of powerlifting my goal will always remain the same:
To be the strongest dwarf ever.
Before coming to Westside, I competed raw. For those who don’t know what this means, I only wore a belt and either knee sleeves or wraps...no gear (i.e., squat briefs, squat suits, & bench shirts). Coming to Westside I not only got exposed to different training methods, but also lifting in gear. Geared powerlifting today has seemingly fallen to the side, I’m not entirely certain why. We see raw powerlifting habitually, but not a lot of geared competing is seen now when compared to the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s. Perhaps people are simply afraid of the gear and the heavy risk of injury it brings. I certainly find equipped lifting is a different type of beast and not for the faint of heart. With my introduction to briefs, suits, and shirts, it is obvious modifications are necessary to articulate the positioning, hence lowering the risk while raising the benefit ratio.
At this juncture some may be asking, “What’s this dwarf talking about ‘faint of heart’ I’m tougher than anyone I know”. It’s quite possible my experience is something which is shared by others. Consider this, some may wrap their own knees or another does it for them, either way is all good. What I’m stating is for the latter, how many can take a wrapping by a 300lb+ man? Yeah, it’s tight as hell and the knee wraps are simple and the least of your worries. Next comes someone pulling your squat suit straps over the shoulders, velcroing them down tight, which forces harsh downward pressure through the clavicles. Then hopefully nothing got left on the floor (i.e., belt) as help is required to even get it on and buckled. After getting the gear in line if the legs do not resemble the purple of Barney the Friendly Dinosaur, it is time to get under the bar. On the bright side, one perk in this game is the non-existent need to walk out the weight due to the j-hook release of the mono-lift. However, if one attempts to squat in gear akin to raw technique, they are in for a world of hurt. Simply dropping down to bounce up will result in falling over or blowing out a knee. Once the bar clears the j-hooks, now, and ONLY now, the true suffering begins. Finding a rhythm between the body and suit is paramount. Understanding how to remain tight for the entirety of the lift while simultaneously flexing the hips is necessary in order for the gear do its’ job. This whole extravaganza can take upwards of 45 secs from start to finish, which sometimes feels a hell of a lot longer. My first several attempts nearly ended in frustration as I struggled to comprehend this procedure’s timing. The take home message is to not allow the aforementioned frustration to win, rather look to it as a learning process.
My constant yet primary struggle is understanding the bench shirt. For my limb length additional factors go into the bench unlike other lifters. Firstly bench blocks go under both feet creating the illusion of contact with the floor, giving leg drive. Warming up it is not a problem, however as the weights increase, the instability factor ascends as well. During Max Effort training, it usually takes three people to hand the bar out to me. This is due to my inability to touch the bar even when in the j-cups, thus the fully loaded bar is placed into my hands. Once in my hands, it is again about comprehending the execution of the shirt (not much unlike the suit).
In learning this technique, below are my 2 biggest mistakes:
In a shirt I find it comes down to absorbing the weight while finding the correct arm angle for balance, without these 2 factors it will collapse. This talk of ‘balance’ may sound like an ancient Chinese proverb but it’s true. The countless times the weight dumped (thankfully forward) because balance did not exist is unbelievable. I am finding continuously this powerlifting discipline is far removed from raw where one can muscle the weight up with little-to-no technique. Conversely in gear, the lifter requires technique or everything goes out the window.