To Be or Not To Be...Your Own Coach

by Ryan Stinn

by Ryan Stinn

I first started powerlifting in 2004; this was when powerlifting was basically so underground that information was not readily available. The most easily found information on the internet was about multi-ply lifting in the USA, from gyms like Westside Barbell and Metal Militia. We took their programs and ran them and because we were rank novices, we made decent gains, probably in spite of the programs.

Amazingly there was a group of lifters in the gym, led by Jeff Butt. I would describe Jeff as my first and, until recently, only official powerlifting coach. I learned a lot about programming and training from Jeff and quickly decided that I really enjoyed experimenting with programs and seeing what worked and what didn’t. I started by taking Jeff’s program structure and changing the movements around to what I wanted to try, and started to see success. Slowly others in the group started to try my programs as well. However I was always building the programs for myself and my own interest.

That was around 2006 or 2007 and that basically continued for the next 10 years until 2017. It all started when I fired Rhaea as a client and told her to get coached by Blaine Sumner (she may tell this differently…see her blog about it here). After seeing the incredible progress she had made over the course of 6 months with Blaine I decided for the first time to hire myself a coach.

It wasn’t that I was unhappy with the progress I had made, heck I had just squatted a lifetime goal of 400kg. It was an idea I had played with a few times in the past and had reached out to the likes of Chris Duffin, and Mike Tuchscherer, however I had never pulled the trigger. People would tell me “you know yourself the best” and so I would shy away. The other major reason is I feel like I’m always fighting back injuries and with my low back history I’m nervous to change things in a drastic way for fear of reaggravating it.

So why did I do it? In short I had an upcoming surgery on my elbow which was no longer extending, I knew it would be in the spring but did not have an exact date (it was March 26, 2018 which I found out right before Nationals). Everyone was telling me it’s a minor surgery and recovery shouldn’t be too bad, but in the back of my head I know there is a chance that things might go sideways and Nationals might be my last chance to put up a lifetime best total, if not just my last chance to compete at all. So I wanted someone to help push me forward.

Inner Strength Owners Posing for Photograph

The choice was simple, seeing the progress that Rhaea had made I had no doubt that Blaine was the right person for the job.

The training itself was great, I have a history of, let’s say, avoiding a lot of accessory work, but I told myself at the beginning of this that I would follow the programming as closely as possible. I can honestly say I missed less than a handful of movements through the entire 12 weeks. I did more work in that training cycle then probably the entire year before it. At the time where I was dropping bodyweight, going from 145kg at the beginning of working with Blaine to around 136kg when Nationals came, I was able to keep my squat near where it had been. I squatted 380kg in training fairly easily and was looking to open near that area and push for a 395-405kg squat at Nationals. My bench actually got significantly stronger than it’s been, I opened at 305kg which was a 5kg PR, or would have been more on that in a second. My deadlift I’ve struggled with due to some hip pain pulling sumo, but I was confident that I would hit 325kg+ and if everything lined up I was looking at a really solid PR total.

That being said a whippy old bar ended up aggravating my right hip about 3 weeks out, which threw a monkey wrench into my squatting and I only ended up hitting 377.5kg on my second and passing on my third. Then bench came around and my “I don’t extend” right elbow decided to end my day; the refs all felt that bone spurs be damned that should have locked out more, I can’t argue with them, it doesn’t look good in the videos.

Inner Strength Owners Posing for Photo

I’m finally taking some much needed time off of “powerlifting” training and allowing some things to hopefully heal up and feel better. I had elbow surgery five days ago as of writing this. The surgery seems to have gone well and my elbow is feeling fairly good all things considered. However I know that I won’t be benching for quite a while still. That said the week before my surgery we took a spontaneous trip to Gillette, Wyoming to train with Blaine and while it took 3 tries, I’m happy to say I locked out my planned third attempt from Nationals, 325kg. If someone had told me before I started working with Blaine that I would hit a 25kg PR at the end of it I would have laughed at them. My first meet ever I benched 200kg, 11 years later in 2016 I benched 300kg. Then in the matter of 15 weeks I put 25 more kilos on.


What have I taken away from being coached? Well a lot actually, there is something very cathartic about removing my own thought process from training, I’m not second guessing and wondering if I should be doing something else, I can just go in and put the work in that I’m told to. I did movements and accessories that I never would have done otherwise and in the end that made me stronger and healthier. I also learned that doing bulgarian split squats for 15’s is both humanly possible and possibly inhumane.

When I return to lifting after surgery will I hire a coach again? That is the question...