Paul Schlütter is a powerlifting coach and sport psychology expert based in Leipzig, Germany. Among his athletes are nationally-ranked competitors and clubs in various sports. Additionally, he researches the influence of social media on body image perception, especially in strength sport athletes.
He recently joined us on The Lion’s Mane Podcast to talk about psychological skills, health, research, and powerlifting. More specifically, he broke down the most important factors related to increasing longevity in a competitive powerlifting career.
Longevity in powerlifting can be defined as a duration of one's competitive or, at least, active career in the sport. In strength sport, this is an especially serious topic, as most powerlifters actually need more time in the "peak" of their performance to continue to improve. A lifter may not be putting up competitive numbers until 5-10 years in.
While the 10,000 Hour Rule and 10-Year Rule are themes in other performance sports as well, powerlifters tend to start later and need to lift longer. This can mean having to avoid burnout and injury and continue improving performance into the mid-30s, 40s, or even longer.
Paul describes longevity as multi-faceted, and highlights the prominent themes in powerlifting.
As improvement is important, having a good, knowledgable coach and a serious, applicable training program are vital to progress in this sport. Consistency, intensity, competitive scheduling (planning meets appropriately - not too often but not so far that one "forgets" how to compete), and the ability to recover appropriately are also important.
Additionally, diet is a vital aspect of physical longevity. Powerlifting is a weight-class sport; thus, an appropriate nutritional approach and intake is important, as the risk of burning out, causing unnecessary metabolic issues, or muscle loss and injury could result from poor diet or an inappropriate approach to tapering.
Lastly, and Paul notes this as the most important point, genetics play a major role in longevity. Some people are "made" for powerlifting, with the body type for the sport. Some have to work harder and longer to achieve what those with "PL Genetic" achieve relatively quickly, and some simply will not achieve that. However, that doesn't mean the other contributing factors should be neglected; rather, they need to be maximised if the genetics aren't there!
Preparation is not only a meet-day necessity; it should be a part of daily training in strength sports. Athletes need to seriously approach training as well. The use of imagery, or visualising successful lifts, can also be a benefit.
Body image, athlete confidence, focus, and their ability to adapt and be resilient are also serious factors. Because powerlifting is based on three lifts for a total of nine attempts at a meet, athletes need to be prepared for situations to not be optimal, therefore being able to shrug off what is not important on a moment's notice to focus on what is - making the lift!
However, Paul ended by noting that love and respect for the sport is perhaps the most vital psychological factor of them all. After all, an athlete who is truly dedicated to powerlifting is not going to leave after one bad meet, a series of bad training sessions, or a slump in progress.
As we know from all performance sports, hard work beats talent AND genetics any day of the week!