Sunday, April 1, 2012

What I Learned from Listening to Captain Kirk Karwoski Talk Powerlifting for an Hour

Having clientele that covers a broad spectrum of fitness levels requires knowledge of a broad spectrum of training methods. When I research & educate myself on these methods I read & listen to the people who have been there before. When I want to know more about the Olympic lifts, I look for someone who has been a high level Olympic lifter. When I want to know how to be a better coach I listen to coaches/trainers who have been training people for a long time and have had a lot of success doing it. When I want to know about injuries and preventing them, I read stuff by people who have assessed lot of injuries and rehabbed those people back to health .

So when I want to know how to get strong, I listen to strong people. I stumbled across this video this morning and had to share. Kirk Karwoski was one of the strongest men the world has seen in powerlifting. In his last meet ever Kirk lifted raw (using just a belt), and weighed in at 240lbs @ 38 years old. He lifted a cool 826lb in the Squat, a 463lb bench press, and a 771lb deadlift. Not bad, not bad at all.

Starting Strength Series -- Kirk Karwoski (Disclaimer: explicit language every so often)

Kirk was a master of his craft and a great example of what it takes to be the best. If you want to know how & what makes someone brutally strong its guys like Kirk who have been “under the bar” that you want to seek out (also read & research Jim Wendler, Dave Tate, Marty Gallagher, Rippetoe, Bill Kazmaier, Ed Cohen, Westside, ect…) .

Note: I am NOT talking about training athletes like a powerlifter!But getting brutally strong is part of being an athlete and injury prevention. To learn about warming up, the Olympic lifts, injuries, speed training, conditioning & coaching, seek out people who have mastered those methods and have a proven track record.

What I learned about Strength Kirk Karwoski’s interview :

1. Genetics: His freshman year of high school @ 140 lbs Kirk deadlifted & squatted 300, bench pressed 200. In his first powerifting meet @ 14 years old and a light 165 lbs, he totaled 1120. Then in a contest, in his later high school days, weighing 202lbs, he clean & jerked 325, military pressed 245, benched 400, and snatched 245 with terrible form and no coaching. That same week he deadlifted and squatted 600.

Being strong as hell is genetic. Some dudes just have all the luck! Kirk was born to lift heavy things, while the rest of us have to work incredibly hard for it (And please don’t mention drugs because even if we all did take drugs we would still never come close to what Kirk did). He is certainly the minority but there is something we can definitely learn from him to help us all reach our own personal genetic ceiling. Like…..

2. Visualization: "I had visualized the lift 60 to 70 before I even got on the platform". Clearly there is something about visualization that works. If you’ve read anything by the Soviets or heard any interviews with the best athletes in the world, visualization is a huge part of their success.

Here is the 1000 X 2 squat they talk about throughout the video. You think he visualized this lift a few time before he did it?

3. The X factor: A lot of guys got really f’ing strong and really f’ing good at powerlifiting because they were all shooting for one common goal. Back then, these weren't people traveling from all over the world or 100’s of miles away like people do now to westside, eliteFTS, ect... This is a group of a dozen people, from one area, who came together to do one thing… Lift HEAVY weights. And they did it together at an elite level. Strength can be infectious if you cultivate the right environment & atmosphere. This is why Crossfit is so successful.

4. Coaching: "Tell me what I did wrong. Don't tell me that it was "good" or "you look strong today", that doesn't help me get better. If you aren't criticizing me, you are useless to me. Every single rep can be improved in some way” Your job as a coach is to do one thing, COACH! Every single rep. I think we get caught up in things sometimes and forget this part. We are to busy trying to think of the next best exercise when the best thing to do is coach they exercise their actually doing. I know I do and I need to do a better job after every set to give my client or athlete feedback they can use to get better.

The Purposeful Primitive 300

Check out “The Purposeful Primitive” for a bunch of Kirk’s workouts & stories along with multiple other workouts from some very strong dudes

5. Video: Kirk video taped every single workout from 1992 on. Video taping yourself can be a powerful tool to understanding what you need to change & too also understand what your coach is talking about. With todays technologies we don't have excuses not to do this. if you don’t have a camera on your phone by now shame on you. Obviously it would be ridiculous to video tape everything in your training session, but every once in a while using video to check your form or to show your client or athlete what your talking about, can be very helpful.

6. “The Goal is to Keep the Goal, the Goal”: Kirk wanted to win 10 straight championship. He had other options to do other things like body building, wrestling, sports, ect., but that would not have been conducive to winning 10 straight IPF titles. He ended up winning 6, but had he done those other things he may have only won 2, 3, or maybe none.


It think Kirk may have done OK as a body builder wouldn’t you say?

7. If you want to be the best at what you do, you have to be willing to sacrifice what others won't… and you have to be a little tapped upstairs. This is true for powerlifting, for being a strength coach, flipping burgers or selling cars. If you want to be the best at what you do you have to be a different breed. Different is good, “different” puts you ahead the rest.

History shows that the people who end up changing the world – the great political, social, scientific, technological, artistic, even sports revolutionaries – are always nuts... until they're right... and then they're geniuses.”

John Eliot, PH.D.
Author of Overachievement

8. “Leave a rep on the bar”: Always be working on technique, your set up, and form. Getting a little bit angrier, squeezing a bit harder, or grinding out a rep doesn't make you better. There is such things as too much "psych". Getting psyched up can get you to your 100% MAX, but if you have so much psych you cannot use the 100%, you FAIL. I think this is good advice for everyone that tries to motivate others and themselves. There is such thing as “too much”. Always leave a rep in the tank in training, competition is when you reach for 100%.


online_personal_training StrengthCoach


  1. Nice article..One thing about genetics, not all great lifters were born to be strong. Stan Efferding started lifting for the first time as a college soccer player and got pinned by a 135 bench weighing 145. From 1996 to 2010 he gained just 12 pounds on his deadlift. While genetics certainly play a role, they are not as limiting as people make them out to be and most people just aren't willing to work hard enough to maximize what they have

    1. He also discovered the amazing benny's of Riods ... just saying


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