by Mark Wasson
Humility is defined as a modest or low view of one's own importance. To me, I personally define humility as an understanding there is always room for improvement and to never think something is good enough. #neversatisfiedteam
Personally, I enjoy training more than competing. This is evident by my usual 4 for 9 or 5 for 9, if I'm lucky, attempt days at a meet. I often leave my best attempts in the gym rather than on the platform, and I've come to accept that, aiming for around 95% of my best gym lifts on meet day. However, it has been almost 2 years now since I have achieved a PR total in a competition, which has led to discouragement and a desire to push off competitions. Reluctant to change my approach in any meaningful way during the last two years, I relied on increasing the nose tork, grit and determination to push through. Combined with some luck, this enabled me to hit a squat-morning PR in training, 20kg above my best squat in a meet.
I am a daily lifter and I find enjoyment in training squat and bench press every day. My longest run was 147 squat days and 96 consecutive without missing a day. All of the training was at a daily minimum of 90% of my 1RM. This is something I have no desire to change, for reasons that are not really important to this discussion. This approach has engrained poor technique over the years and improvement would likely require a different approach to my training. The squat-morning is only one example of my poor technical approach to the big three lifts and in reality, I sucked at all three lifts.
When referring to my squat as a squat-morning, it's in reference to my lack of technique and brute force approach to the lift. Friends and I often joked, “knees in and head down” were my squatting cues. In the bench press I dive-bombed the last 4 inches of the eccentric, often resulted in shoulder injuries. And when deadlifting, my approach was simply just keep pulling. Excessive upper back rounding would be a nice way to describe the technique. To be honest, for my first 2 years of competition this approach worked for me. I was hitting meet PRs and made consistent improvements on my numbers.
Leading into arguably one of my worst meets ever, I decided to swallow some pride and ask a friend of help. The first time ever, I decided to release my training and hire a coach. It took a lot for me to actually ask for help and even more to actually follow their advice, putting aside my approach to training. I decided on hiring my good friend Connor Lutz, a previous rival and technical powerlifting guru. Likely the only person I will ever have program my training. Too hesitant and dumb-witted to hand over compete training control at the time, I hired Connor to program and fix my bench press. This was the first step in the right direction. He was brutally honest and picked apart every aspect of my loosely defined bench technique. Over 15 weeks leading into 2017 CPU Nationals, he built up my bench into the strongest it has ever been. He drastically reduced the average bar weight and forced me to diversify exercise selection, continuously identifying flaws while making recommendations for adjustment.
I am truly proud of what I have done to fix my bench technique but unfortunately one lift doesn’t make a total, just ask Connor. Having only been successful with 1 squat and 1 deadlift attempt at the meet, it was a sobering realization that my approach to training as a whole needed to change. Day 1 after the meet back into the gym I can say I actually tried to use my legs to squat. A perhaps odd thing to say, but an honest evaluation of reality. It has taken probably 6 meets, 2 years, and some honest feedback from trusted friends in order for me to accept the fact I needed to change my approach. Humility is something that can be hard to accept but conducting a hard self-evaluation can perhaps be the best thing in the long run for a lifter and in life in general.
I believe every person can benefit from a little more humility and self-reflection. Regardless how good you are or think you are, you can always be better. Being open to new ideas and criticism, although perhaps not always wanted or easy to take in, is exactly what will benefit you the most in the long run in lifting and life. The advice I now give someone is to be humble and strive to continually improve. Easier said than done, it is something that will truly pay dividends in particular to one’s longevity in the sport.
Mark Wasson is a 3-time National Champion 83kg open class powerlifter and 4th place finished at 2015 Classic Worlds. He is an advocate of daily Squatting and Benching and can be found on instagram @wassonmark.