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Forums Nastiness/ Powerlifting Writing Qualifications
By Gary F. Zeolla
This article will look at what it can be like participating in powerlifting Internet forums, and it will address my qualifications for writing about powerlifting, fitness, and related matters, as such were brought into question in a forum.
Nastiness in Powerlifting Forums
When I began lifting weights and competing in powerlifting again in the early ‘00s, I subscribed to Powerlifting USA magazine for the first time in many years. In it was often mention about “nastiness” being found in powerlifting Internet forums. I wasn’t sure what it was talking about as the forums I was participating in at that time were very congenial, with lifters helping and encouraging other lifters, not tearing them down or berating them as was described in the magazine.
But when I ceased to be able to lift at a high intensity let alone compete in 2010 due to health problems, I stopped participating in powerlifting forums. But then in the spring of 2014, when I was once again able to lift at a high intensity, I wanted to participate in a powerlifting forum again, I did so for three reasons: first and foremost for fellowship with other powerlifters and weightlifters as I do not have such in real life. Second, in hopes of learning something. Third, in hopes of helping others with my many years of experience in powerlifting, fitness, nutrition, and related matters.
So I found a forum that looked good and started to participate in it, but the very first week I began running into problems. Along with the welcomed fellowship, what I got was a lot of stress from people wanting to start inane debates, people not believing me when I said something about myself, and people who knew nothing about me making unfounded attacks against me.
All of this was especially frustrating as usually I had already addressed their concerns in my writings elsewhere. But when I referred people to such they rarely bothered to read what I had written, and I did not have the time or energy to repeat in the forum what I had already written about in depth elsewhere. And I have found it futile to respond to personal attacks.
I know I should have just shrugged all of this off, but I just could not. And it irked me to leave such comments unaddressed, but trying to respond to all of it was just too much for me. It got to the point that I stressed out over every word I wrote, lest I said something slightly “wrong” and got jumped on for it. As such, as I lay awake one night too stressed over all of this to sleep, I came to the difficult decision that I could not participate in that forum anymore. I enjoyed the fellowship, but the stress was just too much for my weak constitution.
So less than four months after I first joined the forum, I posted a “good-bye” message to thank those I had had congenial discussions with, to let them know why I would not participating in the forum anymore, and to recommend they read my writings if they cared to know my thoughts on powerlifting, nutrition, and other matters (with a link to my personal Web site, which links to all of my writings). Then I left the forum for good.
I wasn’t even going to check back to see if there were any responses to that message, but about a month later curiosity got the best of me, so I did so. But I had a hard time finding the message as the administrators had changed the subject line to a snide comment and had terminated my account. As such, I didn’t read the many responses to that message, as I figured they would just be people saying “good riddance” or calling me a “wimp” for not being able to put up with all of it. But it was obvious I had made the right decision to stop participating in the forum.
I mention this as given the frequent mention of such nastiness in Powerlifting USA, I know I am not the only one who has been subject to such abuse in powerlifting or other Internet forums, so I wanted to let others who have been so abused to know you are not alone, and it is not you. You did not do anything wrong; it is the nature of the forums.
Questioning my Qualifications
One of powerlifters posting responses in a thread I had started especially irked me, as he attacked my qualifications for writing about powerlifting and fitness in general. His were not the only such comments, but they were the ones that stuck with me after I left the forum. So to get over my frustration with what was said about me, I used an old tip for dealing with someone you are upset with: write a letter to the person, but then rip it up; do not mail it.
Pen and paper letter writing is of course an “old-fashioned” method of communicating, so instead I typed out a detailed response on my PC, but I never posted it. But I didn’t delete it either. And looking back over it, I thought it might be good to publish it in this newsletter and on my fitness Web site in case any of my readers are wondering what my qualifications are for such writings. And in the future, if anyone questions my qualifications, I can refer them to the page on my Web site. I mention all of the following information in various places elsewhere in my writings, but it would be good to have it all in one place.
In the following, I have not included any information that would enable the reader to identify the powerlifter I am responding to, including changing his indicted bodyweight, deadlift, and total. But I kept the numbers proportionally the same, so my comments thereupon are still accurate. I have paraphrased several of his comments into one short message and modified what I originally wrote for better understanding here.
For any non-powerlifters reading this, a “total” is the sum of what a person lifts in the squat + bench press + deadlift at a powerlifting contest.
Response to Rebuke
_____, you’re not the only one who was making snide comments towards me, but your comments were particularly off-the-wall. So I will respond specifically to you and hope the others are reading this.
You wrote about me in one of my threads:
>Using reverse bands during meet preparation is typical. Your admission that you never heard of it reveals your lack of knowledge of meet prep, and your training methods are completely wrong!
You fit the definition of an Internet guru to a T. You have not accomplished anything as a powerlifter; you have not trained anyone that has accomplished anything. You sell a book and have a Web site about training? You have no business teaching people how to train!<
Before I start, let me quote the Apostle Paul, “To be boasting surely is not profitable for me … I have become a fool by boasting; you* compelled me!” (1Corinthians 12:1,11; ALT3). Admittedly, this is a bit out of context, but it makes my point. I don’t like to brag about myself and be so bold in my statements, but you forced me into it.
FIRST, one reason I began participating in this forum was to learn, as I know I do not know everything. But you turned my admission of not knowing one specific use of one specific piece of powerlifting equipment into fodder for a personal attack.
The reason I did not know that one specific detail was because unlike you, I have not had the benefit of training in a powerlifting gym with other powerlifters, at least since I started lifting weights again in the early ‘00s. As such, what I know about modern-day training methods come from the Internet, and I just never read about that one specific use of bands, a more recent training tool. But if you want to talk about old-school training methods, that would be another story. Those I learned when I was training with other powerlifters back in my high school and college lifting days.
You don’t give your age in your profile or interview on the Web site for this forum or on your Facebook page, but from your pictures I am guessing you are in your early 30s. If that is the case, it was probably before you were even born or at least long before you started lifting weights that I was learning those training methods back in the ‘70s to early ‘80s, so you probably are not that familiar with them. But if I were to mention some training method you are not knowledgeable of, I would explain it to you in a congenial manner, not berate you for your lack of knowledge.
SECOND, you state in your profile that your best total is 2186 pounds @ 275 pounds bodyweight. That is very impressive, but it is only 7.95 times bodyweight. My best total in college was 1095 @ 123 and in my 40s, 1030 @ 114. That is 8.9 and 9.03 x bwt, respectively.
So my training methods might be “completely wrong,” and I might have a “lack of knowledge of meet prep,” but somehow I managed to make better progress in my training and to perform better at contests on a pound for pound basis than you ever have, and not just once but at two different time periods of my life, when I was much younger than you are now and when I was much older. Only the LORD knows what I might have been able to do if I had been able to train and compete in my prime years. But don’t fret, as you are now in your prime years. So if you train hard enough, maybe you’ll be able to reach the 2475 total you need to equal my 9 x bwt totals.
The best way to do that would be to bring up your lagging deadlift, which you state is 652, a mere 2.37 x bwt. My best DLs in college were 410 @ 114 (3.6 x bwt) and 435 @ 123 (3.53 x bwt). In my 40s, I again pulled 410 @ 114. To match my best DL, you would need to pull 990. I doubt very much you could ever do that, but you can improve your weak DL.
I would suggest doing platform DLs, the exact opposite of your practice of pulling from the safety bars in a power rack with the weight at various heights above the floor. That practice makes no sense to me as the hardest part of a sumo DL is getting the weight off of the floor (at least it is for me), but PDLs help overcome that difficulty. If you do not know what I mean by PDLs, then I will explain it to you in a congenial manner, without attacking you for not knowing something I know.
THIRD, you dogmatically state that I “have not accomplished anything as a powerlifter.” I can only assume you think I am lying when in my signature at the end of every one of my posts I include the line “Former top-ranked and multi-record holding powerlifter.” I have no need to prove to you or anyone else that those claims are true, but they can easily be verified by checking the appropriate sources. But for those who do believe what I say about myself and actually click on the links I post to my Web sites, see the following page of my personal Web site, where I give a detailed list of My Powerlifting Accomplishments. These lists are for what I accomplished in my late teens to early twenties and again in my 40s. I am now training hard once again with hopes of competing again. If I do, God-willing, I will be able to add to those lists.
FOURTH, I will let those who actually read my writings decide if I have any “business teaching people how to train.” But I will say I regularly receive many positive responses about my fitness writings. Those are in regards to not just my writings about powerlifting, but also about nutrition, general fitness, and other health related issues.
Moreover, for the most part in my writings, I relate my experiences as to what works for me and what does not work for me and the reasoning behind what I do or don’t do. I leave it to my readers to decide for themselves if my experiences and reasoning have any applicability to their lives. In other words, I have no need or desire to convince others to eat, train, or do anything else in regards to their health the same as I do. And I never proclaim that my methods are correct while others people’s methods are wrong, like you did with me.
FIFTH, in regards to your calling me an “Internet guru,” my life plans back in high school were to become a powerlifting coach and personal trainer, and that was at a time long before “personal trainer” even became a term, let alone a profession. That is why I majored in Nutrition Science in college (Penn State; ’83). Granted in retrospect I should have double-majored in both Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, but no matter as health problems derailed those plans. But then in the early ‘00s, when my health seemed to be improving, I was certified as a personal trainer through the International Fitness Professionals Association. But once again health problems kept me from actually practicing as a personal trainer.
So you are correct in that I have not trained anyone in real life, but I do have the skills to do so, just not the physical capability. But the Internet allows me to help people in some capacity in this regard, for which I am thankful. So if by “Internet guru” you mean I am someone who has the skills to be a trainer but only does so via the Internet, then you would be correct.
SIXTH, whether I “have not trained anyone that has accomplished anything” is irrelevant. I consider it just as important to help beginners get started in the sport of powerlifting as it is to help elite powerlifters reach the pinnacles of the sport. That is why the title to my powerlifting book is, Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting. It is geared towards the beginner to intermediate powerlifter, as are most of my writings. I leave training elite lifters to others.
SEVENTH, it was in the early ‘80s that I was first winning championships and breaking records, and thus was having my picture published in muscle mags and in newspapers and writing about powerlifting and nutrition for said magazines. You were probably still in your diapers at that time, so I cannot fault you too much for not knowing who I am. But I took the time to find out something about you before writing this message, and that is what you should have done in regards to me before so arrogantly rebuking me. A simple glance over my Web sites and the titles of my books would have informed you of all of the above. A Proverb addresses such brashness, “Who[ever] answers a word before [he] hears [it], it is folly and disgrace to him” (Proverbs 18:13; ALT).
EIGHTH, please carefully consider the words of Jesus:
But He was saying, “That [which] comes out from the person, that defiles the person. For from within, out of the heart of people, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetous desires, wicked deeds, deceit, flagrant sexual immorality, envy, blasphemy, ARROGANCE, foolishness. All these evils come out from within and defile the person.” (Mark 7:20-23; ALTD, capitalization added).
AND FINALLY, my apologies to anyone reading this who did not make snide comments to me, as I know I am coming off as being arrogant myself. But I can assure you this is not my normal way of writing or talking. But I felt like it was the only way I could get through to _____ and the others. But that’s it; no more arrogance on my part. I’m going back to my normal relatively humble self, while only boasting in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who “stood by me and gave me strength” in my times of difficulties (2Tim 4:17; see 1Cor 1:31).
Personal Web Site of Gary F. Zeolla
Author of Christian and of fitness books, Web sites, and newsletters
Former top-ranked and multi-record holding powerlifter
New Forum/ Same Problems
A few months after leaving the above forum, I started participating in a different powerlifting forum. It initially seemed more congenial. But for the first few weeks I only participated on a limited basis, as I was still stressing out over everything I wrote not knowing what kind of responses I might get. And sure enough, I eventually got nasty responses to what I thought were a couple of innocuous posts. And it is not just me; I have read many nasty responses to posts by others. That is why I said in the above article that if you have been the subject of such nastiness, it is not you, but the nature of such forums. And it makes me leery to post anything, as it seems that people will use most any statement as a reason to lash out at the writer.
It also concerns me how much swearing there is in the forum. Such was also the case in the forum discussed in the article. But for this forum the rules state foul language is not allowed, with an automatic censor preventing the posting of such words. But people get around that rule by purposely misspelling swear words, such as omitting the “c” in a certain four-letter word. But the word still reads the same, and even when such misspelled words do not, my mind fills in the details, and as a Christian, I’d rather not even think such words. But that seems to be par for the course on the Internet nowadays. I will never figure out why people cannot express themselves without being nasty or using foul language.
Given these issues, I doubt I will participate in the new forum any more. But I will continue to post my workout logs in the training logs area
for the forum for the rare person who reads them and finds them helpful or at least
interesting. Plus, with working out alone in my home gym, posting my logs online
helps me, as knowing someone might be reviewing my logs gives me an incentive to
work harder. I am already posting my
on my fitness Web site, so it only takes a minute to post them in the
forum as well. And I will try to read and comment on the logs of others, if such
does not bring on the nastiness. But it is sad that I cannot find a place online where I
can fellowship with other powerlifters without being concerned about such
The above article first appeared in the free FitTips for One and
It was posted on this site December 3, 2014.
The update was added January 4, 2015.
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