Hayden Bowe: Youth Athletes in Powerlifting and Weightlifting

Hayden Bowe is one of the founders and owners of Hybrid Performance Method. Throughout his career, Hayden has worked with thousands of individuals and is accomplished in both the sports of weightlifting and powerlifting. In today’s episode, we chat with Hayden about a variety of training topics, but one in particular that we really enjoyed was training youth athletes and how to do it correctly.

This episode is brought to you in partnership with Ghost Strong Equipment, a leading supplier of strength training and strength sports equipment. 

In this episode of the BarBend Podcast, guest host Jake Boly talks to Hayden Bowe about:

  • What’s going on in the life of Hayden Bowe and at Hybrid Performance Method? (1:30)
  • Hayden’s background and how get got into strength sports (4:25)
  • How important is practicing specificity of a movement to avoid technical breakdown (11:00)
  • Creating a game plan for lifters that are running into technical issues during lifts (13:00)
  • Practicing a movement versus a variation for working around technical issues (15:45)
  • How to structure training to target very specific lagging areas (18:40)
  • A better way to focus on weak points without losing overall focus (19:30)
  • Hayden’s thoughts on youth athletes lifting in supplement to their sport (21:30)
  • How to gauge a coach’s expertise for a youth athlete (25:30)
  • Sport carryover to strength sports and potential commonalities between them (30:10)
  • Are parents limiting their child’s growth by limiting their versatility in sport? (32:40)
  • Can athletes limit themselves at times by only focusing on one style of training versus trying everything? (35:00)
  • How to structure an off-season and in-season for beginners in strength sports (38:00)
  • Advice for a lifter that might be timid with diving into one strength sport and truly immersing into it (41:00)
  • Hayden’s best dad stories that involved lifting and training growing up (44:00)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

…but I’ve also been in the position where I myself have been the strength coach for younger hockey players.

 

For some of those guys, who either don’t have a lot of exposure to training to begin with, or who have mobility issues, or they’re working around injuries, there’s definitely ways you can accomplish training safely without having to incorporate those high-risk movements like “snatch” and “clean and jerk.”

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your guest host, Jake Boly, and this podcast is presented by barbend.com, in partnership with Ghost Strong Equipment.

Hayden Bowe is one of the founders and owners of Hybrid Performance Method. Throughout his career, Hayden has worked with thousands of individuals, and is an accomplished weightlifter and powerlifter. In today’s episode, I chat with Hayden about a variety of training topics. One in particular that I really enjoyed, and I hope you do too, was training youth athletes and how to do it correctly.

As always, we’re incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast so if you haven’t already be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend Podcast in your app of choice. Every month we give away a box full of BarBend swag to one of our listeners who leaves a rating and review.

 

We are here on the BarBend podcast with Hayden Bowe in Miami, Florida. Hayden, last time I was in Miami, you were stuck in Canada. Happy you’re here. What’s going on? What’s new in the life? What’s new at Hybrid?

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Hey, thanks for having me. Yeah, last time you were here I was stuck in Canada waiting on a visa. I was actually there waiting for I think it was about seven months. Felt like the longest seven months of my life, but luckily that’s where my family’s from. I got to hang out with them. There’s a little bit of silver lining there.

 

Once I got back from that, we were all moving pretty quick. We were in the process of getting the new gym facility so we moved from the smaller Hybrid HQ One to what we call Hybrid 2.0, which is over double the size of the one we were at before. Coincidentally, we met Tim from Ghost Strong Equipment, who was totally a blessing.

 

He was looking at starting a new company and we needed all brand-new equipment for the gym. We were able to get some pretty awesome equipment.

 

I know you weren’t there at the gym earlier, but we just got in all new stuff from Ghost, all new combo racks. They’ve been awesome, I might as well give them a little plug here while I have the platform.

 

Not just the quality of the stuff that they make, but the customer service they have has been awesome. I thought the combo racks we had were perfect, and Tim just said one day, “Hey, I think we can make those combo racks better. Let me send you brand new ones.”

 

They just arrived at the gym. They thought of things that I wouldn’t have even thought about. I could look at the old combo rack and say, “This thing is perfect. I don’t understand how you could improve on this.”

 

They’ll have quick-releases, and how you can take the face savers out for squat, just all these little things that I’ll show you later when we’re at the gym. They just put so much thought, and energy, and time into making good equipment that it really shows in the work.

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s cool.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Lucky to have a cool partnership with them. HQ Hybrid 2.0 has been going well. We’ve been improving that for a while, doing all of the buildup for that. Started the apparel business. Now we got a new facility for the apparel business. Everything is moving and growing in the right direction.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Busy.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

 

Busy, yeah.

Jake BolyJake Boly

That’s awesome, man. I appreciate you sharing all that detail. Before we really dive into this full podcast, I’d love to hear a little bit more of your origin story just for listeners who might not know exactly who you are just yet, and your journey into strength through sport.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Yeah, OK. I was always pretty drawn towards exercising, and athletics and sports. I think I started playing hockey when I was four years old, which is not abnormal in Canada. When I got to, I think, grade 5 — I don’t know how old you are in grade 5 — like 10 or 11, that’s when my dad started letting me workout, and coaching me towards doing body weight stuff.

 

I did that for grade 5 and 6. In grade 7, my dad started training at a gym in Toronto called Station 7, which was owned by a guy named Gary Roberts who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. A lot of the Leafs would train there, it was a really cool environment.

 

I started going there, I would take the train down after school, and workout at that place. They had a lot of really great trainers. Some of them competed in Olympic weightlifting. That’s where I got my first introduction to that. I would see them doing it as that gym.

 

Every time I saw it, I’d be like, “I want to do that. I want to do that.” The trainers were like, “No, you can’t. Too young. We’ll wait until you have a bit better foundation.” I was pushing really hard to do that, though, because it looks so much cooler than all the other stuff that was doing in the gym. The weight training was an emphasis for me because I was a smaller guy.

 

I think I hit my full height in grade 6 or 7. I was 5’9″. I’m still 5’9″. Grade 7 and 8 was when people had some big growth spurts and stuff like that. I had friends or people who I was playing against who were over six-feet tall. I had to differentiate myself in a different way.

 

When they finally started letting me do Olympic weightlifting, that was the way I was able to do that. I took it very seriously. I had a coach who…It was actually the coach of one of the trainers at the gym who competed in Olympic weightlifting. He would only coach me if I competed in Olympic weightlifting. They took it seriously and they treated it as a sport, even if it wasn’t your main sport, they wanted you to treat as though it was.

 

That’s what I did. I started begrudgingly competing in weightlifting so that I could do the training for hockey. I did that for a number of years all the way until I was 18 and went off to university. I just quit all sports going into my first year of university, lying to myself saying I was going to focus on studying like everybody says.

 

Obviously didn’t. Had a fun time in first year, goofed around a bunch, and then started getting a little more serious in second year. Also, in second year, I was missing the athletic component of my life. I had no outlet. My whole life I was an athlete. Whether it was hockey or Olympic weightlifting, I loved competing.

 

I found another weightlifting coach who was close to where I was living, and start taking that very seriously. That was main sport so did weightlifting for a few years. I had some injuries, associated just with the fact that I was weak relative to the amount of weight that I could lift in weightlifting. If you look at a lot of the durable and most successful weightlifters, they’re able to squat a lot.

 

They have a big strength surplus over what that they can snatch in clean and jerk. You see guys like Lou, they’re are clean-and-jerking 200, 205. They’re squatting 300 kilos. Back then when my best clean was 180 kilos, I could front squat 185. Every time I had to do a heavy lift, I was crushing myself.

 

I had a few injuries and decided that I was just going to step back from Olympic weightlifting just to focus on the strength portion of it. A lot of people get that confused. You think of weightlifting as a strength sport, and in a lot of ways, it is. Strength is secondary to the actual skill in the sport of weightlifting.

 

It’s a supplement that allows you to be better at the sport just like strength training is for many other sports like football or hockey or all those other things. I was lacking in that area and just wanted to focus on it. I expected to return to weightlifting and compete in that again and that powerlifting was going to be just a temporary thing. For a while, I did compete in both.

 

I just really loved the sport. I loved how inclusive it was. I was still very competitive sport, but you got weightlifting meets, and I don’t know if it’s the same because I haven’t competed much Olympic weightlifting in the States. In Canada, it’s very segregated and clique-y. You got to the meet, and it’s like, “Oh, I can’t talk these people because their friends with this other gym.”

 

There’s a lot of that. Whereas in powerlifting, it was just a big bro-sesh. I love that aspect of it. That’s what kept me in the sport. I loved it. I loved getting stronger. I saw a lot of progress in the first…First couple of years of powerlifting, I just ran Smolov for my squat over and over again and luckily survived.

 

I took my squat from, I don’t know, maybe 200 kilos to 290 kilos in a pretty short period of time just focusing on squat. That was a level of progress that I had never experienced before because I’ve never had that direct focus. I think that was very attractive to me at the time and a big portion of why I’m still in it now.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 I love all that. I have a lot of question to follow all that up. Something I want to talk about is something that you just literally referenced is the focus on one aspect at a time. If you ask anybody on social media who follows you to a T, if there’s one something I think everyone would say in common, it’s that you can grind the F out of a sticking point and not have technical breakdown.

 

What you just said alludes to that. How important is it for you to practice the specificity of a movement, to make sure that there is no technical breakdown when sticking points arise, or when that strength curve might outweigh what you’re able to do and still be proficient in the movement? How have you approached that? How have you structured your training to accommodate for that?

 

When working with clients, how do you do that? You know what I’m saying?

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Yeah. I think it really comes down to you getting better at what you practice. If you choose to have a particular technique, and you practice that technique all the time, that becomes your default technique. For a very long time, I was strict with the way that I deadlifted and squatted and benched. I did it very strictly and that became the strongest movement patterns I had for those lifts.

 

When the lift gets heavy and I fail the lift, that’s the strongest movement pattern for the deadlift that I have is with a straight back so if I miss it, it’s because I missed the weight. Gravity wins, but it’s not because my back gets all bent and out of position. I think that in the current state of strength sports there’s a huge tendency to overanalyze and over coach things.

 

I made a post maybe a year or two ago about this exact topic. The title of it was “Don’t Do Shit Wrong Ever.” It sounds overly simplistic, but it really is that simple. If you just never do a movement wrong, then you never teach yourself to do it with poor form, that will never be what you default to when the weight is heavy. It just becomes your one and only technique. Then if you fail, you fail.

 

That’s the approach that I’ve always taken. That’s why I do it the way I do.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Talking about that approach, let’s say I’m a newer lifter who’s very invested in the social media, and they see all these folks pushing these weights, and they want to keep pushing, pushing, pushing. What would you tell them when it comes to “Hey, you’re having some technical breakdown at this percentage.” What would be your game plan? Should you scale back to a certain intensity?

 

If so, what’s that intensity and is there a duration you look to be like, “OK, you’ve been technically proficient for this long. Now you can start upping the weight.” What’s you approach to the lifter who might be a little bit over zealous with their strength and what they actually possess versus how much exposure they’ve had with a certain technique?

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

I think it’s individual. I don’t think there’s any set percentage. It’s not train at 70 or 75 percent. People might experience different levels of breakdown at different percentages just based on their strengths and weaknesses. In general, it’s pretty tough for people, especially with social media, just because of instant gratification is there.

 

You hit a PR and you put it out on the Internet. People tell you great job and you feel good about yourself. I’ve always thought if a lift looks gross, I was never proud of it. It’s not if you do a snatch and you have a hug arm bend. You do a deadlift and your back rounds. It’s never something that I would want to post. I would always want just my lifts to look good.

 

For whatever reason, that was more important to me than the actual exact number on the bar for a long time. I think it paid off because of it. In terms of how I would tell new lifters to approach it, if you go into it with the mindset that the perfect, or “perfect technique,” or the safest, straightest technique is the best technique, and you make that your only technique.

 

You don’t give yourself the option to do anything else, you’ll never run into the problem of having poor technique. It’s just if you get to a point where your back’s going to bend, miss. You missed the weight. If you can’t get it with good technique, you can’t get it period. Those maxes should become your actual maxes that you’re basing your training off of. You just continue to train like that.

 

Aside from injury and other things like that, there should be no reason why everybody can’t pull or squat or bench the way that they want it to look.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Totally. In the topic of working through sticking points or areas where there might be a little bit of abnormal technical breakdown, how important is it for you to program in variations or different movement patterns for certain big lifts that will strengthen a very specific lifting posture?

 

For example, if my technique is overall good in the deadlift, but I am noticing some back round or let’s say my hips are rising a little bit too quick in the sumo, how important is it for you to just practice the movement itself versus adding in some variants or actual some sticking point work for a certain area?

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

I personally, and in working with people, have not seen a huge difference with training a full lift versus a variation of a lift. Say if someone has a sticking point around the knee and you do a bunch of block pulls form the knee hoping that’s going to fix it. I don’t see a huge amount of carry over doing that.

 

I think it’s good to mix up where you’re pulling from just to have different stimulus in you training and stuff. As a way to target that, it’s just a very different movement to start form zero tension at the knee and pull from there versus pulling from the ground with momentum. It’s a completely different lift. I don’t think there’s a ton of transferability.

 

The way that you could approach something like that, for example, people who are experiencing back round, was back-rounding or missing at the knee was one of the ones that you mentioned. The biggest issue that you find from there is that people have weak glutes. If you see a lot of back rounding, the first instinct most people have is to go do a bunch of back work.

 

“I have rounding at the back. I’m going to do a bunch of RDLs and weighted back extension, and so on.” It’s a little bit misguided because when you see a lot of rounding in the back, it’s because people are actually favoring the structures that are stronger for them.

 

They’re using extension of their back to complete the lift whereas if you’re doing the lift properly, you’re relying on the main extensor of the hip, which is the glutes. It’s basically when the glutes fail, you can see a lot of back rounding. If the glutes are functioning properly, in most cases you shouldn’t see a lot of back rounding.

 

Something you could for that is weighted hip bridges or speed deadlift is a good one. Dimmel deadlift, things like that. Not where you’re just targeting the sticking point per se, but where you’re targeting the actual issue that’s causing the sticking point.

Jake BolyJake Boly

I love that. It’s like a multi-approach to solving one problem. I agree with that. With a lot of clients I have, a lot of their instincts, it’s like, “Oh, I need to build my back,” and it’s like, “No, you need to look at what else is breaking you down in the chain. Where is this actually going wrong, and what’s the main prime mover?”

 

Let’s say somebody comes to you and their first initiative is to strengthen their back, and you’re like, “Your glutes are obviously weak.”

 

How do you program that for improving the deadlift? Basically, I want to know how you would improve their strength and form with the additional supplementary work to strengthening what’s actually weak.

 

How much of the glute work would you put into the program? How much would you have them do on a regular basis?

 

Just to give listeners the idea of who might be running into this problem, but they might not know how to actually approach it and program it for themselves.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Sure. A less is more approach is always better. A lot of people, they’ll identify an issue, and then they’ll just go so hard on that issue without sort of giving themselves any time to adapt or change to a new stimulus.

 

If you’re working very hard, and you’re following a program that’s progressively overloading the way that it should, and then you just throw in 20 sets of something extra, it’s going to crush you.

 

Starting small, adding some glute bridges or hip thrusts, do a 3 or 4 by 10 and start progressively overloading that movement as a supplemental lift, and see how you feel.

 

Are you still recovering fine? Are you able to go back into your next deadlift session and feel OK without being fatigued? All that stuff. Then build from there. That’s one example of exercises you can do.

 

If you’re doing it, if you’re getting your glutes stronger in whichever way you choose, that’s going to translate over to lifting more in squat and deadlift. Find exercises that appeal to you, that work for your anatomy, that aren’t going to crush you, and do that.

Jake BolyJake Boly

I love that. It’s not a full change of the course of what you’re doing. It’s finding ways to implement new structure in that’s not going to totally shift your energy allotment, what you’re used to, and everything else, right?

 

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Yeah, exactly. For the most part, most powerlifters who are still actively powerlifting, they’re still in the sport because they’re still making progress. There’s always going to be things that you can improve on and that you should work on.

 

It’s a constant game of trying to figure that out, but it doesn’t mean you should just totally take a new route or derail what you’re doing right now.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 totally hear that. I want to go back to something you brought up when you were younger. That’s wanting to train when you were playing hockey as a youth athlete.

 

This is going to be a little bit of a dicey chat because I feel like people get, I don’t want to say triggered, but they get a little bit up in arms when you talk about youth athletes training, more specifically lifting in the gym.

 

I want to pick your brain on what you think of that whole topic and best approaches for it because, when I was younger, too, we talked about playing in the same tournaments of hockey growing up, traveling all around. My dad, too, started me lifting when I was 10, 11, 12.

 

He was a college football player. He was like, “You’re getting in the gym. You’re training.” He bought a Bowflex machine. I had a little EZ-bar curl. I was down there always training.

 

I want to hear your thoughts on what you think of having youth athletes lift and supplement to their sport, where people get it wrong, why people get it wrong, and the best ways to approach it.

 

To start this conversation, why do you think people get so up in arms when it comes to younger athletes who already play, let’s say, sports like hockey, football, lacrosse, whatever it might be, soccer, lifting in the gym?

 

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

It’s, one, a misunderstanding about the risk versus reward and also that the risk is different for everybody depending on what coaching you’re exposed to. Obviously, there’s some misconceptions that have been around forever like stunting your growth and all that stuff. I feel like it’s been debunked enough that I don’t need to dive into that one.

 

In terms of a safety thing and a risk management issue, if you’re going to be a guy who’s self-taught, you’re 10 years old, and you’re trying to figure out how to exercise in the gym, I wouldn’t say, “Go in and max out the snatch bench, or snatch, clean and jerk, and do heavy deadlift squat and bench press.”

 

Like I said, it really depends on what level of coaching you’re exposed to. I was fortunate enough to have really high-level coaches at a young age. I was able to learn all those things and do it relatively low risk. I’ve also been in the position where I, myself, have been the strength coach for younger hockey players.

 

For some of those guys who either don’t have a lot of exposure to training to begin with, or who have mobility issues or they’re working around injuries, there’s definitely ways that you can accomplish training safely without having to incorporate those high-risk movements like snatch and clean-and-jerk.

 

We very rarely would have the hockey players doing snatch. One, the time investment versus the reward that comes out of it. It takes so much time to teach a hockey player or a football player or any sort of athlete a proper snatch.

 

You could probably get similar benefits from teaching them just how to do a power clean, and squatting, and doing other movements. That was the approach that we took, when training hockey player specifically, was getting them to do the broader, more introductory movements.

 

That still required power, speed, timing, and those sort of things, but they just didn’t take. It wasn’t like, “Well, stop everything you’re doing in the gym for six months while I teach you how to snatch.” I think there’s a fine line.

 

Again, we’re fortunate now, especially young kids, that there’s so many resources out there. Even if you go back to when we were kids, I was just doing what my dad told me to do.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Exactly.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

I just believed whatever he said was good. Luckily, he was well enough educated in strength training that I didn’t kill myself. If you were somebody else who didn’t have that exposure to someone who lifted, that was close to you.

 

A lot of my buddies, they had no idea what they were doing. It was like I was training half of my grade. You would just see that I knew what I was doing. Be like, “Hey, what are you doing? Can you help me?” I was helping everybody out for…I was a kid. I was doing it for free.

 

It’s just evaluating reasonable risk and reward based on your individual situation.

Jake BolyJake Boly

I love that. That right there is the fundamental premises of it all. It’s the coaching that you’re getting into. I used to work with kids too out on Long Island, who specifically played hockey.

 

Like you said, we never talked about a snatch. We’d snatch pull, we would do power cleans, we’d do squats, we’d do a lot of gymnastics work. A lot of stuff that would teach proprioception and strength, and how to move without actually taking that risk reward to a level that’s unsustainable.

 

My question for you then is, coaching is obviously one of the biggest things with youth athletes. Let’s say, there’s a parent listening, and they’re deciding on, “Oh, should my son or daughter get into training?” Do you think there’s a best way to approach that, kind of gauge the level of coaching that you might be putting them into?

 

That’s always the question, right? It’s like, if you have no idea about training as a parent, and you want your son or daughter who’s playing a sport to get more active in the gym, how do you decide, like who’s a good coach, and how to navigate that, because that can be really tough sometimes.

 

I don’t think that’s often talked about. Everybody knows they need a good coach. How do you actually decide what’s a good coach for your son and daughter’s goals, risk, reward, benefits, and so forth?

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Something that a coach I had early on said to me, that always resonated with me was…Just to give you a little bit of context. He was a strength coach. One of my original trainers from that gym I was talking about.

 

I told him that I was going to this camp over one of the winter breaks that was run by hockey players. There was a strength training component or whatever. He was like, “What are you doing going to that camp?” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “Well, do I tell you how to play hockey?” I’m like, “No.”

 

He’s like, “Well, why are you gonna go listen to hockey players to tell you how to get stronger?” I was like, “OK, well, that makes sense.” How I would apply that to what we’re talking about is, seek out the specialist in what you want to do. I think a lot of people…

 

You see it all the time, and with your background in hockey, I’m sure you did too, where you do these dryland training sessions with these “hockey strength coaches,” and the quality of instruction that you’re getting is usually very low.

 

Sometimes even if you’re going to somebody who knows what they’re talking about, you’re there with 20 other people. They inevitably are going to put you in some sort of circuit, where you’re doing bench press really quick, and then you go to the next thing, and you go to the next thing.

 

The quality of your movement is not being assessed or corrected. The actual amount of time you’re spending on each exercise, the way it’s programmed, is not optimal for actually getting stronger.

 

Something that I was fortunate, and what I would recommend to other parents is, put your kid with an actual specialist. If you want your kid to get stronger, you can go to the USAPL website and see all of the different registered clubs that are in your area.

 

You can take them to a powerlifting coach. If you want him to do Olympic weightlifting, you can take him to an Olympic weightlifting coach. If you want to take him to do sprinting, you can find a sprint coach. It’s important to not cross over too much to putting your kid into a generalist program where they’re going to pick up bad habits and training mistakes.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Totally hear that. That’s funny. You said that I’m going back to when I used to go to those summer camps and they would take us outside and have us do these mundane drills that are great because they take up time. They have structure to the days and whatever but yeah, there’s no specialty there.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

 

You feel like you’re working because you’re tired out there.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Yeah, exactly.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

 

Get me to boop of my nose a thousand times over and over again, I’m going to be tired.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

Whether or not what you’re doing is constructive towards your goal of getting stronger or not is the real issue.

100 percent.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Whether or not what you’re doing is constructive towards your goal of getting stronger or not is the real issue.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 I also think it’s cool too that there’s more and more knowledge especially with specialists in certain sports of how certain age groups develop certain skills at a little bit of a faster rate than otherwise.

 

The topic I’m going to start to allude to is, when you’re younger, if you miss that window of building strong proprioception, for example, or coordination, it only gets harder to learn as you age.

 

What I want to talk about now, now that we’ve tried to talk about youth athletes training in sport, is sport carry over to strength sports. Like, you excel in powerlifting, you started in weightlifting, hockey is very explosive, and probably a lot of that, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, was developed at that age because you were used to being explosive.

 

You knew how to move your limbs through space and time and coordinate different things, like manipulating a hockey stick and the puck is hard. Manipulating a barbell from ground overhead is hard, but if you have that exposure, it’s probably a lot easier to learn.

 

Going off of that, what are your thoughts on sport carry over to strength sports? Do you see any commonalities between which types of sport athletes excel at certain sports better than most?

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

There’s been a lot of research done on early specialization in sports in kids, and it’s pretty much unanimously negative. You’re putting your kid into one sport or into a strength sport really early on and that being the only thing that they do is not great.

 

I think that the more exposure to different sports that require different skills and strengths at a young age, the better. Then you can dial it in when you get older. Me, for example, when I was growing up, I played soccer, baseball, hockey, rugby, and weightlifting. I was always doing something. I was always practicing slightly different skills.

 

Some required a lot of hand-eye coordination. Soccer, you’re not using your hands at all. Weightlifting, very different, obviously. Yeah, the exposure to all those different things really helps. You’re just developing a ton of different skills that you wouldn’t elsewhere. In terms of one that really carries over the most, it’s tough to say.

 

More than anything, it depends on the predisposition of the actual individual. Some people are just built to be really good at certain sports and some people are built to be good at another sports. If you look at people who play traditional sports growing up, a lot of the times, those are the ones that end up being the best athletes in the more non-traditional sports.

 

You hear the guy who played D1 baseball or football, and they come over to a strength sport. It’s like they’ve had this whole headstart without the injuries that have been accumulated by people who have been in powerlifting or CrossFit for a long time.

 

Look at some of the OG’s of CrossFit. There are guys like Rich Froning who played college baseball, or guys who did wrestling, or Matt Fraser who did Olympic weightlifting and other sports growing up.

 

To summarize that, I don’t know if there’s any one sport that’s the best one to put a kid into, but definitely, the more exposure you can get them the better.

Jake BolyJake Boly

I totally hear that. I like played soccer too growing up in midfield. My endurance is through the roof. I totally understand the whole picture.

 

As sports have grown and gotten so competitive, do you feel like parents are limiting their children by only putting them in one sport even though we’re continually seeing like, “Hey, just doing this one thing is gonna limit your kid somewhere?”

 

As I said earlier, you need different exposures to develop certain skills throughout certain ages, and playing different sports is going to vary with that. Do you think we are maybe getting a little bit far on the side of specialization? Should we just let kids be kids in some respects?

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

I think so. Yeah, in both senses. Speaking from my own experience, it was even apparent back when I was playing hockey. The hockey season never ended. It’s one of the longest sports seasons in general in professional sports.

 

In addition to that, the season ends and then you have the playoffs which, if you go all the way, can be almost as long the season. Then that wraps up and you’re in summer leagues and you’re doing all the summer training. It’s just a year-round process. There’s really no time to do any of these other things unless you’re really, really structured or you decide to take time off.

 

For me, it got to a point where my dad was just like, “No, we’re taking the summers off as a family.” I didn’t play in the summer leagues. I would get on the ice a couple times a week but we had a summer place in the East Coast of Canada.

 

We’d go out there and basically the whole summer was just spent…We had a garage gym out there, and I would just spend the whole summer trying to get strong. That was my main focus. Then I would come back to camp in the winter or in the fall. I would always be the strongest guy, and it wasn’t coincidence.

 

It’s not like I forgot how to skate or stick handle when I was gone. Like I said, I still go on the ice every once in a while. That’s such a huge opportunity, the off season in traditional sports, for kids to make progress in the gym both in strength and in endurance or whatever you need for your sport.

 

People get so wrapped up in the everyday skills and drills of hockey that they forget and neglect that aspect. I’m sure it’s the same with other sports as well. I’m just speaking from experience because that’s what I have the most experience in. I’m sure football has their summer camps and all that stuff where they’re out on the field all the time.

Jake BolyJake Boly

On the topic of being exposed to multiple types of sport growing up and excelling then later on in life, in strength training in general, I feel like a lot of folks get their first exposure by just bopping around the gym trying out a bunch of different stuff. In some ways, that’s similar to trying a bunch of different sports.

 

As you learn how to train and as you grow and what your strengths are, you dive into a strength sport. If you want to go down that route, do you think it’s important when starting strength training in general to try a little bit of everything?

 

Let’s say, if you just want to start strength training, you jump right into powerlifting per se. Granted that’s not necessarily wrong to do by any means, but do you think it’s somewhat limiting to just jump in straight into one niche as opposed to just trying a couple of different things, moving your body in different ways and giving yourself maybe a couple mesocycles, may be a year to try out a bunch of different kinds of training?

 

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Yeah, I think there is so much progress that can be made literally just from a person who hasn’t trained before, to just coming in the gym and just doing random stuff.

 

As long as you are not killing yourself with bad technique and grinding out raps. If you are following just…you walk into the gym, you’re like, “OK, I did back-and-bis yesterday, and we did chest-and-bis today,” you would be amazed at the amount of progress that you can make just doing that.

 

I think one of the biggest mistakes I see with people jumping into powerlifting is that they will jump into powerlifting and do this super advanced program as their first program.

 

You’re training six days a week now, your intensity is super high. You’re maxing out these variables so early in your strength training career. What are you going to do when your progress stalls? Now you’re going to train every day? You’re going to train twice a day? Or you’re going to try and increase the intensity even higher than what you’re doing now?

 

I think in powerlifting, even more so than in most other sports, it’s a game of doing as little as you can to still make progress. Ultimately, what makes people the most successful in powerlifting if just never getting hurt. If you don’t get injured, and you continue to make slow and steady progress for your entire career, that’s where you’re going to see the most progress.

 

Talk to any powerlifter. The first thing they tell you, they’ll just riddle off all of the injuries they’ve had over their career. I think that’s the most limiting thing.

 

If you can just get in the gym, and exercise and improve yourself in a non-structured way to begin with, down the road, adding structure and focusing more on frequency, volume, all those things, will pay-off more. Once you’ve already maxed out the other stuff.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Question for you there then. Let’s say there’s a listener out there who’s like, “I really want to get into powerlifting, but I’m still pretty fresh into strength training, in general.”

 

Do you think it’s OK for them to approach a powerlifting meet or training cycle, and then giving themselves a longer off-season? I feel like, for a beginner who wants to dive right into a strength sport or niche, make their in-season way shorter, and then get them a ton of off-season exposure to a bunch of different training.

 

How do you feel about that, and how would you approach that? You have somebody coming to you, they’ve only been training for about a year. They really want to compete in powerlifting for the first time, and really try and see what it feels like, see if it’s for them.

 

How would you kind of structure that program and take on what they want to accomplish and what they want to do?

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

 I actually think that competing early on into your powerlifting career, once you’ve made that switch to, “OK, I’m going to do powerlifting now,” is really beneficial. I think you don’t need to be running full training cycles and peaking for every meet that you do.

 

If you can lock into meets when the weight that you’re lifting is relatively light. You can get that experience on the platform. I think that’s a great thing because, how many times have you seen a guy, he’s trained a whole bunch, he’s strong now. He goes to his first meet and drops a deadlift from the top. Or takes a step too early to put the barbell in the rack.

 

You make these silly mistakes that cost you kilos on your total. Just because you don’t have the experience. I think that cutting your learning curve by just being around other people who have done meets. Being at the meet and seeing how they’re run, and all that stuff is really great to do early on.

 

I just don’t think you need to prioritize it the same way you do when you’re later in your career. When I was squatting 400 pounds, I could of done a meet every weekend and felt great. I did a lot of meets, there were years where I did eight meets, which is insane in powerlifting.

 

But now I am lifting a lot heavier. It’s a lot more difficult. A lot more taxing on my body, if I do two meets a year now, I’m happy with that. I think it’s a, to summarize my long-winded answer, I think It’s good to jump into meets early on.

Jake BolyJake Boly

I love that, I think as a whole, the strength sports community can be a little bit extreme. Especially when you’re an intermediate or a beginner. With diving super-head in, even now when I compete, I am by nowhere near as strong as you or Steph obviously, relatively. That’s why when I approach meets, I still approach it with a somewhat similar training style.

 

I dropped some of my accessories and focus a little more on the specificity of the big-three. I know deep down, I’m not at a level to where I really cannot compete that often. It’s one of those things you got to learn as you go.

 

I love that you made that point. Because as a whole, we can get into the mindset of, oh this is all in or none. It doesn’t have to be that way. I think that shadows a lot of what we talked about today.

 

My final question to cap this podcast is, we talked about youth training. We talked about folks who are just getting the strength training dive into the strength sport niche.

 

Do you have any advice for any listener who’s been on the cusp of diving into a strength sport, has been a little bit uncertain to do it? I know your mindset is like, “Just do it, it’s really beneficial,” but it’s not easy for everybody, right? It can be very intimidating.

 

Powerlifting meets are, yeah, they’re great. Everybody is so supportive but I think it takes a bit to get somebody’s confidence up to approach that and see that and learn that.

 

Do you have any advice for somebody who might be on the cusp of going into their first meet and they’re a little bit uncertain? Maybe they’re new to their training but they’re really into strength sport. How do you approach that mindset? How would you coach them to get there?

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

I think you nailed it when you said it could be intimidating. Especially in powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting and strength sports in general. It’s not like the NFL where the NFL players play in the NFL, and if you’re a Peewee player, you’re totally removed from it.

 

You could go to a local meet and Dan Green’s competing. It’s both intimidating and really cool in the sense that you can, as a total beginner, walk onto the stage, same stage as some of your heroes and compete alongside them. I think that just putting yourself in a comfortable situation surrounded by people who have your best interests at heart is the way to go.

 

If you’re going to do a meet, have your coach or have some buddies come so that they can handle you and count your attempts and help you with the warm-up. Have a good support system where you feel comfortable and it feels just like another training session.

 

Like I said earlier, the inclusive community of powerlifting is what made me love the sport so much.

 

Even though on its surface it may seem like an intimidating sport, if you go there and you tell people it’s your first meet, you’d be surprised at how many people are just willing to help you and be like, “Hey, do you know how much a 25-kilo plate is in pounds?” “Do you know what’s on the bar there?”

 

They’ll make sure you know what you’re doing and that you’re not messing things up. The inclusivity of powerlifting is surprising and awesome. Just have people with you who care about you and who are going to help you succeed in your meet. Other than that, don’t be a woose.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Build a community basically, and find a good coach. Find folks who support you. You never have to weather it alone.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Yeah. Community is the most important thing to build for yourself in any sport. I think it’s particularly easy to do in powerlifting just because of the low barriers to entry and how relaxed some of those local competitions are.

 

You can have people just walking out of the crowd and are judging. They won’t care who comes in the back room with you. There’s a lot of leeway there. It’s just a fun environment to be a part of.

Jake BolyJake Boly

Got you. I actually thought of a question before we go that I want to ask you. Growing up, when your dad was getting you into strength training, was he super hardcore like, “You’re going to do this.”

 

If so, what is one of your funniest stories growing up of something that he made you do it for training or to get better at hockey that you look back at now and you’re like, “Damn, why did I do that?” Or like, “Damn, that was rough.”

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Once I started actually lifting, and doing bodyweight training, he was good and that he held me back a lot. He knew I was interested in it. I think he was holding himself back a little bit too because, for him, he wanted to see what he could do with this kid. It was like a fun experiment for him.

 

Once I was old enough to actually work out, I didn’t really do anything crazy. He was pretty good with knowing the limitations of what he could coach. He did tell me that when I was much younger just like as a way to sort of subliminally train me, he would have me do things.

 

He would set up things on the lawn and make me jump from one to the other, then convince me that it was a game we were playing but he’s secretly training me to be…what’s the soldier? [laughs] I don’t know, but to be like this low key super kid, which I think is awesome, in hindsight, [indecipherable 45:27] .

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

[indecipherable 45:28] .

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Yeah, basically. [laughs]

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

That’s great. You and I have very different experiences growing up.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Why? Is your dad hardcore?

Jake BolyJake Boly

He was a college football player. There were some summers where we’d be out there. I grew up in Missouri, we had a really huge field behind us and we had a harness. He was like, “This is going to be so great for you, son. We’re going to get a harness. It’s going to be great. I’m like, “Oh, cool, a harness. Where are we going to use that?”

 

He gets this huge tire. He’s like, “You’re going to pull this tire.” He’s like, “You’re going to do 40-yard sprints and until you can improve your time, three times in a row, we’re not stopping.”

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

Oh, my God.

Jake BolyJake Boly

 

I didn’t learn to play that game until I was a month into it where I’m like, “All right. If I kind of sandbag it as I go, I’ll get out of this quick, man.”

That’s so funny. I appreciate you sharing that detail from your past. I think that’s really cool. Sounds like you had a great coming-up, and I appreciate you for coming on the BarBend Podcast. It’s been a pleasure having you on.

Hayden BoweHayden Bowe

 

Many thanks for having me. I had a great time.

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