If you have been reading my blog or following me you probably know that I love coaching people for strength training. It doesn’t have to be competitive powerlifting, just helping people to be strong in general and feeling good about themselves.
If I want to keep improving my knowledge and coaching in the world of strength and powerlifting, spending some time with world number one seemed like a great idea.
A quick background about the family of Lilibridge, Ernie SR, aka the coach/dad, has been competing for over 27 years with 100+ meets under his belt. Ernie JR, who has been powerlifting for over 12 years and competing for the past 10 years, holds many national records in various federations. Eric, did his first powerlifting meet at the age of 14, and now holds numerous world records; Eric has one of the strongest squats in the world in unequipped lifting.
Spending one day with the Lilibridge family is not enough to make me a better coach but after speaking to them and watching them train it made me reflect about my own training and coaching. I have made some notes in my head and I’d like to share them with you.
1. Support. As soon as I walked into their training facility you can see and feel the support they have for each other, one person is lifting a PR (personal best) everyone is watching and cheering him/her on. Lifting heavy weights like these guys do, can be intimidating, but knowing there are 20 other people who are there for your success is an amazing feeling. It is priceless. Surround yourself with lifters with similar goals and progress together.
2. Limitless. Sometimes being in the sport of strength is more mental than physical. It is easier said than done. I was training side by side with team Lilibridge, and when I failed one of my deadlift attempts, Ernie SR got up and said to me “oh no no no, let’s do it again.” From his experience he knew I had it in me. Ernie keeps saying these two things during the session to his other team members. “Whatever you want, I’ll load it for you” and “Yeah, sure why not” it sounds very simple, but I believe positive reinforcement of the coach will definitely help athletic performance by stretching the athlete’s mental limitation.
3. Technique. Ernie said to me “there are many strong people out there who can not lift to their maximum potential, that is because they have flaws in their technique.” Ernie SR also said to me “training to be strong is one thing, being an elite competitive powerlifter is a complete different story.” Technique is crucial in Ernie SR’s coaching, every single repetition must be perfectly executed, and he has a simple rule, “if you want to up the weight, you must do the previous weight with perfect technique.” “In competitive powerlifting you only get one chance, therefore we must be technically perfect in everything we do” says Ernie SR. After all it makes sense, you can only progress so far with raw strength, that’s why Sebastian Oreb, aka @australianstrengthcoach has a seminar called “the art of powerlifting”.
4. Personalisation. Textbook technique is not for everyone, since we all have different body structure, it is not a one size fits all scenario when it comes to lifting technique. Someone with longer arms is going to have a very different deadlift technique compared to someone with shorter arms. Someone with longer legs will squat a slightly wider stance than someone with short legs, generally speaking. “Perfect” technique must be individualised, “it must feel comfortable” says Ernie SR, because when you are pushing your limit the last thing you want to do is think about what it should be like. Hopefully you have done enough technique drills during training that the technique comes naturally.
5. Train your weakness. Ernie SR told me they are constantly trying to fix their weaknesses. At an elite level you are only as strong as your weakness and the key to flush out one’s weakness is to train above a 90% intensity, because lifting sub maximal intensity one can easily mask a weaknesses.
6. Do technique drills. Often Ernie will get his athletes to do technique drills after maxing out on heavy sets. Low repetitions, 1-2 reps, the idea is to practice perfect technique. Therefore any attempt less than perfect is a waste of time. 1-2 repetition is ideal for learning the technique.
7. Improvise. Often lifters gets caught up with what their program tells them, and program are often based on percentages which are true only for about 70% of the population and with the assumption the lifter is always having a relatively good day in the gym. Ernie SR says “I don’t care what the program says, if their technique looks subpar on that day or on that lift, we stick to a load they can handle with “perfect” technique, otherwise it will un-do all the hard work we have been doing previously.” That’s is individual coaching, Ernie watches all his athletes lift and critiques them on the spot and adjust them accordingly.
8. Attitude. Wanting to improve, work within your own ability and strive to be better.
9. The Warm up. Warm up with minimal repetitions and sets. It is competitive powerlifting. Only the first one counts. Save yourself the energy for the big lift. (This is a very personalised process, it takes time to understand your body, and everyone is different.)
10. The devil is in the details. Often people in the gym copy other’s lifting “habit” or “technique” without understand the details, they think they are improving but in actual fact they are doing themselves a dis-service because they have no idea why and what exactly they are trying to copy.
I would like to thank my coach Sebastian Oreb and team Lilibridge for giving me the amazing opportunity to watch and train with some of the best power lifters in the world. It is truly a privilege to be around these guys.