The Importance of Learning for Yourself

Written by: Kevin Cann


We live in a world where everyone just regurgitates the words of their favorite people.  This is not just with powerlifting, but just everything in general.  Earth is just one giant echo chamber.  No one tries to learn for themselves anymore.  They say they do, but they aren’t.


People say that they are open to hear alternative perceptions to their own.  What this really means is that they are open to you saying your alternative perception so that they can convince you that their perception is right.  This is not done through effective dialogue, but instead arguments where “My science is better than your science” is the main argument.


Ignorance should be the starting point of all dialogue and learning.  Instead today, ignorance seems to be the end point of our knowledge.  People latch onto the ideas that they like without understanding where these ideas originated from with the person that initially came up with them.


I will use a powerlifting example here, but you see this all of the time with every subject matter.  Some 25 year old powerlifter will say “Westside sucks.”  This lifter has probably never listened to anything that Louie Simmons has ever said, or even attempted to use his thought process as a guide to their own programming.


Chad Wesley Smith and a few others with big raw followings said why Westside doesn’t work and people followed along.  They really did not even say that, but just gave a critique, that was pretty fair in my opinion.  However, this does not mean that “Westside” doesn’t work.  Also, Westside is a fucking gym and it is not an programming template.  It is a thought process meant to guide lifters to write their own programs based off of principles of strength training.  That is literally what should be guiding every coach’s programs, so it fucking works.


Chances are that this 25 year old know it all just does not really know jack shit about getting people strong.  This 25 year old may be strong themselves even.  Still does not mean they know jack shit about getting people strong.


When you hear the stories of the older powerlifters, they all discuss how they kind of had to figure it out for themselves.  There were magazines with some information in them, but it really was not a lot.  The internet didn’t exist and there were not powerlifting boutique gyms around.  If you were lucky there was a powerlifter or two at your local commercial gym.


This generation of powerlifters learned to get strong themselves.  They were also nice to one another and shared information.  Louie would even answer the phones at Westside to discuss training and answer questions.


I feel the accessibility of information has allowed ignorance to be excused and it disallows genuine conversations where people might actually learn something.  Instead everyone clutches on to some ideology and it becomes a religion they can yell about and argue with everyone on the internet about.


A little less than a year ago I got into equipment for the first time.  I was fortunate enough to have a bunch of friends to help guide me in the right direction and give me some tips.  However, I was forced to train by myself with my group of raw lifters, none of which had any idea about the equipment.


This was a very big learning experience.  I literally had to figure shit out for myself when I was lifting.  Of course it got frustrating at times, but I was able to learn quite a bit in the period of time leading up to my first meet where I ended up going 8 for 9.  8 for 9 in your first equipped meet is quite the accomplishment in and of itself.


I really enjoyed equipped lifting and decided that this is the route I want to continue on.  I went online to see if there were any sources of information out there for programming examples and what not.  There really is not much out there.


There was some stuff.  Most will say to stick with 1 to 3 reps per set, but then there are some that discuss the use of higher rep sets in the equipment, maybe up to 5 to 6 reps.  Seems that most suggest to not do straps down work, but then Ed Coan discusses how he used an oversized suit and did a lot of straps down work.


Seems the argument for not using straps down is that the groove of the suit is different.  In my opinion, different does not mean bad.  Different is just something you need to take into consideration when a competition is drawing near.


I am not new to powerlifting, which is helpful, but where do you start?  I decided to just analyze it like I would any other lifts. You can still identify strengths and weaknesses.  I may not miss a bench press on my chest, but halfway up now.  The program can just reflect that with attacking weaknesses.


No equipped gym in the world lifts more weight than the guy’s at Westside.  Now they just happen to be multi ply which is a completely different sport.  Raw lifting is probably closer to single ply than multi ply, but it does not mean we can’t take pieces from it.


Westside does a lot of their training raw and in minimal equipment.  The problem is that the equipment in single ply tends to already be pretty minimal, but just doing all raw stuff will not really help me improve my technique in the equipment.


Linear periodization seems to be huge in the equipment.  Maybe 10 weeks out from a meet lifters start putting on their equipment and running the linear program.  This seems to be mostly done in full gear.  To be honest, this just seems boring as fuck.


I can hear coaches now saying, “It is not about being bored, but getting a bigger total.”  Yeah, I get it.  However, having fun is important too.  Pretty sure there is a way to have fun and to train more optimally than using an LP model.


However, I can’t learn that if I do not learn for myself.  I decided to start where everyone would have started back then and that is with Westside.  I have oversized equipment I can train in and I have begun using that for a lot of straps down work.  You still feel where the pressure of the suit really kicks in and it helps to teach the lifter to push into that pressure, even without the straps.


I started with box squats in the briefs too.  In order to get down and sit on the box, you need to really push into that pressure.  This is a problem that I had with the equipment; I would slow down.  Learning to control this portion of the lift more should help.  I did 2” deficit deadlifts in suit bottoms as well for the same reason.  This really forces me to push into the pressure to get a good starting position.


The bench will have more raw work with it because the shirt is either on or not.  I do have an oversized shirt too that I may incorporate more.  I got some time to think because I got a new bench shirt to figure out before August.


I will run my program like I do for PPS.  Heavy singles with 5-10lbs in the tank.  If I hit a true max I will do rep work the following week in the 80% range.  I did SSB Box Squats with 120lbs band tension last week and it was a true max.  Today I will do 80% of that for 4 sets of 2 and some light raw squatting after.


The goal is to learn for myself here.  If the argument of “multi ply things do not carryover to single ply” is true, I need to learn that for myself so that I can make better training decisions moving forward.  If I just listen to someone saying that, I never learn that lesson and my understanding of training will be limited.


I need to feel it and experience it to truly understand it.  This is true whether it works or not.  Understanding why it works, or where it may fail to drive success, can help me understand where it fits better in a program, or if I need to scrap it altogether and start over.  If it fails, I will know why it failed and I can make that adjustment to the exercise as well to make it more successful in driving results.


This is a long term process that goes a long way to improving my skills as both a lifter and a coach.  You learn more from being in the trenches and trying shit, than you do from someone’s fucking blog.  The irony of that statement is great, because you just read my fucking blog.

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About precisionpowerlifting 33 Articles
Precision Powerlifting Systems is based out of Boston, Mass. Head Coach Kevin Cann leads the raw and single ply powerlifting team through individualized programming leading up to local, regional, national, and international level USA Powerlifting meets. Coach Kevin has worked as a nutritionist and strength coach for several facilities in the greater Boston area including Harvard University and Total Performance Sports. He holds a master’s degree in kinesiology from A.T. Still University and a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness from Kaplan University. Currently, Coach Kevin competes in the 105kg class in USA Powerlifting as both a raw and equipped open lifter and was under the tutelage of former team Russia powerlifting coach and coaching legend, Boris Sheiko, from 2015-2018. Kevin utilizes many of Sheiko’s legendary methods in his programs. This includes the belief that technique is the most important aspect of training. Not only has Kevin been a long term student of Sheiko’s, he also possesses his Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, the science of human movement. The combination of his Master’s degree and time spent working with the legendary coach has awarded him with the skills to thoroughly analyze your lifts and utilize the right variations, weights, and repetitions to improve your technique and continue to steadily progress over time. Through Kevin’s experiences coaching, he has made many adjustments to the program to allow for the success of his lifters. PPS has had an Arnold qualifier every year in its existence, a top 5 national total, 2 top 10 totals, and many top 20 totals nationally. Kevin combined what he learned from Sheiko with a conjugate trining style. He learned that nothing builds 1RM strength like practicing singles. He uses a constraints-led approach with the singles. The variation allows for the athlete to continually take max singles without seeing a decrease in performance. Kevin will use variations that punish technical inefficiency and only leaves room to complete the task with a more technically efficient strategy. Heavy singles also works the psychological components of the sport. Oftentimes this goes untrained and is the largest weakness in a lifter. Along with the max effort work, PPS lifters perform sub maximal work to continue to increase technical proficiency within the lifts. Some of this technique work utilizes special exercises that Kevin learned from Boris Sheiko himself. PPS supports raw, drug free powerlifting. Kevin has coached numerous athletes that have qualified for USAPL Nationals as well as the USAPL competitions at the Arnold Sports Festival. Cost for coaching is tiered and ranges from $125 to $200 per month depending on the services required. This includes an individualized program based around your needs as an athlete as well as feedback on your lifts from videos. Text support as you are training, weekly voice memos explaining details about the upcoming week, and bi-weekly training meetings with the team to discuss training concepts is part of the tier 1 service. For more information email Kevin directly at