How I built a World Record deadlift*

*or How to Spot a Strength Fraud

How many of you have read some article posted on a site like T-Nation or Fitocracy or circulated on Facebook by the endless 'fitness guru' marketing circle jerking that lists the author's powerlifting record holder status as if that even means anything anymore?

If the article doesn't start out with "how I trained to break powerlifting records", it usually includes a byline, "Joe Schmoe is the current record holder in ..."

I'll let you in on a not-very-secret secret.  The biggest contributor to their chase for records wasn't their training, their nutrition, or their use of a foam roller, hot yoga, a dynamic warm-up, pushing a prowler or hill sprinting.  It was a computer and an internet connection.  There are upwards of 20-30 powerlifting federations in North America, each one with age group divisions for male and female lifters.  Those federations are further divided into competing groups called raw, classic, raw with wraps, geared, equipped, or multi-ply.   There is a good chance there is a record out there for just about anyone that wants one.

Check out headlines from the past 60 days.  

breaking 'world records' in powerlifting means nothing anymore
Basically there are more record categories than there are competitors and many federation's record books have vacant records or records that were claimed by virtually the first competitor to lift in that particular division.  Ever see a 'fitness guru' write that in their first meet ever they set new Jr., Open, State and National records?  Chances are it wasn't because they were amazingly awesome, they were just first.

A page from the current USAPL California record book
Any male resident of California between the ages 45-49 and weighing over 275 lbs can be a record holder.  The 198 lb weight class records in that same age group are also very attainable by virtually anyone with some training experience.  For the sake of the marketing polluted internet, I'd rather those records are set by honest lifters rather than self-promoting internet fitness gurus looking to pad their resumes.

Now, I'm not saying using a 'record' as motivation for training is necessarily a bad thing.  Far from it, we all need goals.  However, what happens if that low-hanging fruit of a record is broken and re-set to a level more befitting of what one would expect of a 'record'.  Do those record chasers lose motivation or do they just hop on their computer and search for a federation and weight class with cherry-pickable records?  What if they can't find one?  What ever happened to being motivated by setting new personal records and enjoying the experience of competition?

A simple litmus test to apply to any article or byline in which setting a 'record' is mentioned:  if  that article or byline had simply mentioned those weights lifted were the author's personal best, would it have been as impressive?  If not, guess what, you've just been marketed by someone trying to attach more credibility to what they wrote than they actually deserved.  And if there is no weight listed and/or no federation listed, you can be sure the number is less impressive than the title.

Many of us (me included) are 'rank and file' competitors, the ones that make up the majority of entries in any given powerlifting meet.  We don't win National championships, we might not even win our weight class in local meets.  However, we all train as hard as we can and reading about another lifter's chase for personal records is inspirational in its own right.  No need to bullsh*t us with trumped up resumes filled with records of dubious renown.

Here's what total bullcrap looks like.

If  I were writing my byline like many shysters in the online fitness industry, it would start something like this, "XXX is a World Record holding deadlift specialist and enjoys long walks on the beach, blah blah blah"  (no way I'm putting my name in a crap sentence like that and risk having it show up in google searches and people thinking I'm serious).

If I were writing the typical fitness guru article it would start out:

"When I set out on my quest to break the existing World Record in the deadlift, I quickly canvassed my network of experts in the strength and conditioning field and with their help devised what I believe to be the ultimate program for building mountain-moving deadlift strength....yadda yadda yadda (add link at bottom attempting to sell you something)"

Here's how I really set a "World Record".  I entered a local meet because it was being run by a friend and the meet date fit a convenient spot in my yearly training schedule.  I looked up the records in the 100% Raw Federation and noticed that in my age group, the deadlift record was abnormally low.  I filed that away and when the meet came, I simply chose a weight that would exceed that record.  Turns out, due to low historical participation in my age and weight class, I was now the current "World Record" holder in the deadlift in the 100% Raw Powerlifting federation.  Whoop dee doo.  The only reason I cared about the record was because of the absurd novelty in actually holding something called a "world record".  Talk about small ponds, but I was the biggest fish.   If I were dishonest, I'm sure I could've parlayed that false fame into trying to sell something to suckers.

Don't need to be strong to grab low hanging fruit

Notice how the record in 50-54 age group is significantly higher and that the record in the 40-44 age group is much, much higher?  My 'record' is still low hanging fruit for the next guy in the 242 lb weight class and in the 45-49 age group.  Hopefully it's taken by a lifter trying to endlessly push his own PR's higher not a self-promoting internet strength and fitness guru.  Better yet, maybe a genuinely strong lifter will compete and put the record in a place where it actually means something.

And by the way, replace "world champion" with "world record holder" and the same thing applies.  With so many federations, there are legions of "world champions" crowned every year, some of them also parlaying "titles in name only" into marketing copy for their personal training or ebook selling business.

The fitness industry is filled with smoke, mirrors, shysters, bullsh*t artists, and salespeople just like any other business.  But that doesn't mean I can't be pissed off about it.

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