The most important skill in powerlifting you didn’t know you needed to have and the 7 things to get you there.

Part 1 of 2

Setting yourself up for success – in any area of life – can often include several overlooked processes. This is true of success in the development of athletic or physical skills, too. Skill mastery follows similar pathways to success in business, or the skill of learning a language or task. They are learned and subsequently mastered over time. From the inception of a movement pattern to the ultimate mastery of the skill, it’s not disputed that one must practice in order to achieve proficiency. One must “put in the time”.

With practice comes proficiency, and often with competition comes experience, but those two things alone don’t guarantee mastery.

The “10,000 hour” rule specifies that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field. Although commonsensical, it bodes some discrepancies in practical application.

It would be nice to think that “the more time spent on a task, the better you might become”, but if you had all the time in the world to improve then theoretically improvement would never end! Some sports actually lend themselves to this idea. Where physical skills might wane over time and with age, the mental skills can continue to improve and contribute to mastery on the playing field. A great example of this is tennis legend John McEnroe. McEnroe is still playing the game, and although he doesn’t move as fluidly as he once did, his mental capabilities on the court are more acute than ever! But in a sport like powerlifting, the mental game’s impact is ultimately less than the body’s actual physical capability – it is all about how much weight one can physically move with the barbell.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for improvement. And, I do believe that with time there is indeed possibility for improvement (and in particular, rapid improvement especially in the very beginning of skill development). I’d challenge however, that more time doesn’t automatically ensure more improvement. More specifically, I’d contest the learning curve to consider the concept of ‘time spent in learning’ and ‘time spent in practice’ to also include how skills are learned. And let’s not forget the variances in our efficiency of learning, or the individualization of learning, too.

Likewise, you must come to the realization that learning itself will evolve and that skill(s) will take shape, most often, in a non-linear fashion. In fact, the only time that linear progression most co
mmonly takes place is in the beginning stages of skill acquisition – remember your “newbie gains”?

As you might deduce, I’m a fan of optimizing the learning environment to achieve skill mastery in the most efficient way possible.
And time is only one factor in the equation of mastery.

So, first things first.

What good is learning and then doing something if you aren’t learning and then doing it right?

A squat, isn’t a squat, isn’t a squat.

In the traditional gym environment in which many find themselves, this is one of the first and biggest barriers that needs to be overcome.

But, you don’t know what you don’t know. And, it’s not until someone points this out to you that you have the ability to overcome this learning barrier.

Which brings me to my next point – and it gets us closer to the crux of this blog.

Who are you learning from?

Those in our immediate environment are often responsible for our introduction to something new. An older sibling, your first basketball coach, a teacher or your parent.

While the initial exposure to a skill can be credited back to these “firsts”,  most masters of skill move to more experienced or talented coaches over time to continue to build knowledge and technical proficiency.

As such, you are forced to actively seek out these more skilled individuals to help get you better.

Although you may not have the luxury of being coached in person (which really was the only option up until a few years ago), in today’s day and age you can be coached virtually, from anywhere in the world.

With today’s technology, there is little reason to not explore the possibility of working with a coach that can help grow your skill set beyond your current ability.

Which leads us to the final piece of the mastery equation: Before mastering a physical skill, you must master the skill of being coachable.

Coachable is defined as: Capable of being easily taught and trained to do something better. i.e. The player/singer is very coachable.

Being coachable is not innate. It’s not something that you are born with. It’s learned.

Learning the skill however, is not enough. Learning how to learn is also critical!

August Turak writes, “A proverb says that only stupid men learn from experience. Wise men learn from other people’s experience.” In his case for learning how to be coachable, August outlines 5 Steps to Coachability. You can read more about August’s 5 Steps here:

Now here is where things can get a little tricky.

You’ve heard of this little thing called the ego?

There may be pieces of yourself that consciously or unconsciously usurp your desire for mastery. It’s important to actively recognize and reign in the ego – in particular the parts that move you away from your goals. Get rid of the “I can’t,” “I’ll never”, “I’m not able”, “I’ll try”. Catch these moments – in both your mind and in your language or attitudes – when these ideas might permeate and undermine you and your goals.

While you are at it, be aware of others around you that harbour these ego punishing ideals – and get rid of them, too!

Similarly, consider letting go of the ‘win at all costs’ or ‘go big or go home’ mindset. By doing so, you may actually become more capable of achieving realistic outcomes on a more consistent basis and subsequently achieve mastery more efficiently.

You’ll be less likely to wane in motivation or experience injury, because your ego will be in balance and in check. Remember, your skills are relative – and should only be relative to you – your starting point, your current abilities and perhaps even your ‘natural abilities’ (but this is a whole other concept to be explored in a future article/blog).  Sure, in the context of a competition, your skills are being compared to others and your performance outcome determines your placing on the podium.

However, in the context of skill mastery, moving your skill from one level to the next requires not only a progressive approach, but also a regressive one. You have to “suck it up”, sometimes drop the weight or reduce the intensity. You might even have to “re-learn” the skill from the ground up, all for the sake of mastery.

When the ego screams, “I’m too good for this” or, the alter-ego hints, “I’ll never be good enough”, it interferes with your learning process. Subsequently, your progress is invariably stopped or slowed.

But this, in my opinion, should never happen to the person aspiring for mastery.

And one more piece of practical advice:

Stay away from the IG feed!

Our ability to share and to experience what our friends, training partners and competition are doing in the gym or on the platform via social media might seem harmless, or even motivating and inspiring at times. But the possibility of this affecting us negatively rather than positively should be contemplated.

Have you considered the impact of social media on your development as a powerlifter? Is it helping or is it hindering your growth? While I can’t speak for everyone, I do know that it is worth exploring your approach to how you might use social media in the future as it relates to your powerlifting experience.

So, do you want to be more coachable? Do you ultimately want to master your skill set to become the best powerlifter that you can be?

If so, tune in tomorrow for Part 2 and the 7 things to help you become coachable!

In the meantime, if you want to get a jump on becoming coachable, then Iron Sisters™ Strength Camp, or Iron Sisters USA Training Camp might be the very thing to help you begin your journey. Join Bonica Lough, Jennifer Thompson and Kimberly Walford, along with a stellar cast of associate coaches, for some of the best hands-on coaching that you will ever experience. Visit to register today!



Frances Manias, Physique Coach and Iron Sisters founder, has been coaching physique, fitness, powerlifting and performance for nearly 23 years. No one in Canada has won five National Bodybuilding Championships AND two National Powerlifting titles, nor represented Canada in both the IFBB World Bodybuilding Championships (7 times) and IPF Powerlifting Championships (twice). Frances is most proud however, of the efforts and successes of her clients. Although the bodybuilding stage or the powerlifting platform might not be your cup of tea, Frances believes that success in fitness is for all.

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