Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mind and Matter by Sheena Hunter

I have received some criticism lately for my choice to compete in powerlifting. And, when it hasn't been criticism, it's been a giant question mark. People want to know why I've chosen powerlifting, if I've given up on bodybuilding, and what effect powerlifting could have on my physique. Good questions, and all very relevant. Let me explain my choice.

Some time ago, as I neared my first show, I noticed a really ironic trend—the leaner I got, the more people would assume I possessed some sort of super-human strength. The reality was that the more weight I lost, the more strength I lost. In fact, that's how I ended up in bodybuilding in the first place—I thought eating better would make me stronger for powerlifting. Instead, I got really weak but started to look pretty damn good. I confused the two sports completely, and my concept of eating correctly actually put me on a bodybuilding diet! At that time, I felt that I needed to choose one or the other—and honestly, who doesn't want to look good? The choice was easy. my first contest, I looked good but wasn't as strong as I wanted to be. It became a kick in the ego every time someone said something about my strength or ass-kicking ability. I was thinking “ just look strong...” And perhaps I was stronger than the average chick. But, this year, after I got my weight class for the second time, I decided to go back and finish something I started several years ago. After all, why look strong but not make an active attempt to BE strong? And who wants to be strong if you can't prove it? I decided it was time to put some numbers on the books.

On September 11, I competed in my very first powerlifting meet—the Georgia State APF meet—in the raw 123lb weight class. I can honestly say that it was one of the the best things I've ever done, and I sincerely plan to do it again. I'm hooked. The rush that I got after a lift in the meet (even though I shot low on all of them...) was similar to the rush you get onstage when you hear strangers shouting your number after the pose down. Now, to address what I know some of you are thinking—no, I have no intention of letting my hard work go down the drain! I am aware that many people feel that they have to choose between bodybuilding and powerlifting. I understand—I've been there. But for some reason, it seems to work out for me. My physique has not gone to total shit, I didn't suddenly fall down an ugly tree, and my nutrition hasn't gone to hell. For most of us, the fascination with bodybuilding is in the manipulation of our bodies—and in powerlifting, it is still a manipulation if you do it right. I am still asking my body to respond to my choices.

Training for powerlifting has been a totally new and amazing experience. I train at a hardcore powerlifting gym by choice—and it has been a good one. The owner, Jon Grove, is a genius with a love of the sport that is unmatched by anyone I've ever met. Anyone (myself included) who trains with Jon can profess that he has helped them to add significant weight to their powerlifting totals. Not only has training with Jon helped me get stronger, but it has made me more confident in my training, because I now understand the role of bands, chains, and altered variations of an exercise, and I have access to a better knowledge of how my body will respond to the stress under which I ask it to function. And isn't that ultimately what bodybuilding is about?

After a short period of downtime, I will begin training for the Raw Unity meet, which will be held in Florida this winter. I still have several months before my next bodybuilding show, and I am itching to get back to my lean, hard, and vascular stage—but now, I understand that this runs in cycles, and powerlifting gives me a reason to enjoy this phase of the cycle. For the time being, I am focused on earning my real status as a bad-ass, and not just being mistaken for one.

Stay tuned for more news about my fledgling powerlifting career, and feel free to ask me questions about how you can get started! I am currently accepting new clients at NGBB, so if you are curious about North Georgia Barbell, you can check it out here:

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