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Powerlifting for CrossFitters by Mark Bell - CrossFit Journal

In Competition, Powerlifting, Videos

March 26, 2011

Video Article

CrossFit Pleasanton recently hosted the Southern Powerlifting Federation’s 4-in-1 Powerlifting Event, which included divisions for CrossFit, raw, and single-ply and double-ply suits.

Competing in the event was none other than Mark Bell, one of the top bench-pressers in the world. Bell is owner of Super Training Gym and is running CrossFit Powerlifting Seminars on the West Coast.

With a PR of 854 lb., Bell said he was going to try for 870 or 900 lb. on the bench, over a 1000 lb. on the squat, and over 750 lb. on the deadlift.

“I’d like to be in the top five of all time in the 275-lb. weight class, and to do that I’d have to total, I believe, it’s over 2,620, so that’s the goal for today,” he said.

According to Bell, he’s been powerlifting since he was kid and actually lied about his age to get into his first competition.

“Ever since then, it’s been something I’ve been real passionate about,” he said.

To improve his game, Bell explained that he has shed fat and gained muscle.

“Since I’ve done that, I’ve been stronger and stronger at this lighter weight class,” he said.

6min 05sec

Additional reading: Left-Coast Westside by Mark Bell, published Feb. 16, 2011.

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22 Comments on “Powerlifting for CrossFitters ”


wrote …

"People don't really realize that muscle can create a lot of strength, they think that fat, because it's creating leverages, that it can make you stronger." Wait, what?


wrote …

Isn't this the guy from the Documentary 'Bigger, Stronger, Faster' who admittedly uses steroids regularly?


replied to comment from Ian Butler

Yes, this is him. Strong guy, and definitely knows his craft and his sport very well. Especially if Louie is willing to let him preach his words.


wrote …

We don't get to see the bench or total?


wrote …

Awesome to see Mark on here! More please.


Zach Even - Esh wrote …

Guys!!!! This video does NOT do justice to Mark's knowledge or Jesse Burdick's knowledge

A few weeks ago they held a powerlifting seminar at my gym and they blew the doors off, BIG time! EVERY1 was sooooo amped up w/what we learned it was awe-inspiring.

The workouts we went through, the details Jesse and Mark unveiled and the passion for strength, speed and power was unrivaled. I have been to MANY seminars and this one opened up my mind and brought me knowledge that has made me a better coach for my athletes and a better lifter / stronger lift for my own training.

I e mailed MANY affiliates through NJ, Pa, NYC and NONE of them even replied to the e mail :)

I'm telling you straight up, if this seminar is in your neck of the woods go out and do it, you will be blown away by how much you learn regarding strength and power.

As Coaches, the efforts that CF puts towards helping us get the best education is unmatched.

And, I'm saying this without hesitation, if you're a CF Coach or CF Gym Owner you need to constantly be on the hunt for greater knowledge.

I'm shocked that out of the many affiliates I e mailed, not only did they not show up, but they didn't even reply to the e mail.

I would do this seminar again, in a heart beat!



replied to comment from Emily Moin

Emily -

I'll make a guess at what Mark meant, but it's only a guess. For a person who isn't fat, imagine you slide on an inner-tube, and put it around your mid-section about where your legs meet your hips in front. For deadlift and squat, down at the bottom of the movement, that inner-tube will be significantly compressed if it's big enough and will act like a spring. As long as you can keep your back straight and keep it compressed, the inner-tube will do a lot of the work at the bottom of the movement. Now, just substitute fat for the inner-tube and you get a similar effect.



wrote …

It is amazing what steroids can do for an individual, superhuman feats. Not sure why we are promoting people who openly admit to the use of steroids, what is the message we are trying to send?!?


replied to comment from Ian Butler

Ian -

For what it's worth, completely separate from steroid use, I imagine Mark has a lot of insight on training and technique. To be at the top of any sport, it would seem to be a requirement to have those dialed in.



replied to comment from R.E. Lewis

Louie is also very open about his steroid use and has been featured in the journal a lot lately as well. It doesn't change the fact that they're some of the best in the world at what they do.


wrote …

I believe 100% in what Zach writes. Mark and Jesse will be coming to CrossFit Woodland on April 17th for our Grand Opening and I am stoked to have them share their insight on how Powerlifting and Crossfit coexist.

Regardless of what a person has done to enhance their performance, they still have had to put the work in to get their. Their techniques, training modality and knowledge are what we are trying to tap into. I have never heard Mark say, in any video, movie or print, the only way to get strong is to juice.

We are working out some of the minor details, but if you'd like more info on our event, contact CrossFit Woodland.


wrote …

All y'all haters saying "we shouldn't promote coaches who are also steroid users...their accomplishments are illegitimate" ring about as hollow as the parent that says:

"We shouldn't let Barry Bonds coach my kids' high school baseball team...clearly Barry Bonds knows nothing about hitting a baseball...the drugs did it all for him."

Grow up and get real or watch the rest of the clean lifting world pass you by on tips from dudes that have 30 years in this business.


Sean Villagracia wrote …

I don't know about you guys, but I'm excited about the Powerlifting certs!


wrote …

Zach, as an affiliate owner in upstate NY I'd love some emails about good strength/crossfit seminars going on in the Northeast. I'm always on the hunt for knowledge and while I can't guarantee I'd be able to make it all the time, I can guarantee I'd reply to your emails! add me to your list,


replied to comment from Emily Moin

Emily, there are a couple of things to consider about adding weight. The first thing to keep in mind is the adage "mass moves mass." When someone starts gaining weight, they initially put on just lean weight, mostly muscle, very little fat. Their body uses the excess calories they are consuming very efficiently. As time goes on their body finds it harder to build muscle, without storing the excess calories as fat. So they hit a sticking point, depending on the sport, of whether the muscle that comes with the extra fat is worth it. This is the case in powerlifting, this is obviously not the case in crossfit. If for instance, I gain a lot of weight and my chest and belly get bigger, this would aid my benchpress (I speak from experience). I wouldn't have to move the bar as far, it shortens the bar stroke. Plus, I may have a bigger gut, but my arms also increase in size, with very little added fat, because the body tends not to store it there. This can also happen if my legs get huge with the squat, even if I have some belly that is hanging out. What he was saying is that at some point his strength to weight ratio was not worth the extra weight he had to carry. In my own experience I had a great bench when I weighed about 30lbs more, but I had trouble getting a good setup on the deadlift. I weigh less now, but my deadlift is a lot better. Unfortunately, my bench is not what it once was. These are the trade offs, finding the right weightclass in powerlifting can make a huge difference. Hope that helps.


wrote …

Gotta respect Mark Bell, taking steroids doesn't get your bench up to 900 lbs, it may help but only hard work can get it up there. If you haven't seen Bigger, Faster, Stronger you should definitely check it out, I don't advocate steroid use but there's no getting around the silliness and unbacked myths that have made steroids look like the ultimate evil in the athletic world. for each sport or hobby their are ways to improve your ability. several are listed in Bigger, Faster, Stronger: for people playing in orchestra many take Beta-Blockers to completely enable that person to be nervous, allowing them to play as if no one is watching. but beta blockers aren't a moral decision, its obvious if you want to be the best in an orchestra you will take something to help you to play your best. The same thing goes for power lifting, if you want to be your strongest you will take something to help you achieve that strength- steroids just happen to be that enhancer.


wrote …

Steroid use doesn't diminish the fact that the man is strong as all hell. Unrelated, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the top men at the Games use some sort of enhancer. I don't think that steroid use changes the amount of work people like this have to put in to be at the top.


wrote …

As mentioned in other comments, it still takes an insane amount of hard work to get as strong as these guys are. The biggest thing steriods will do for you is acclerate the recovery process. So each workout can be taken to extreme maximal effort. It is an aid, but there is still no substitute for hard work. Let's also not forget that some of the most celebrated athletes in the 70's and 80's openly admitted to the use of steroids as well, but it was not illegal then. I don't hear anyone trying to discredit their accomplishments. I am against the use of steroids because it is currently illegal, however I still respect the amount of hard work that goes into the training. Highly recommend watching Bigger, Faster, Stronger...very interesting points are raised. No matter what get under the bar and train! All you need is Iron and Soul!


wrote …

Not that I'm putting down the sport of Powerlifing, but what is really the point to squat 1000+ lbs or benching 900+ pounds. It's very impressive, but how is that going to positively contribute to the well roundness and health of an athlete?? The body can only take so much. I keep hearing the same thing from men that powerlifted when they were younger and are now in their late 30's and early 40's..."my joints are paying for it."

I personally love the powerlifting exercises when I CrossFit. Clean and jerk and snatches just to name a couple, but I prefer to use a weight where I can do multiple reps and get a great total body workout out of it. I really like the WODs when we are maxing out because I like to see where I'm at and how much stronger my body is getting. But to just make it the main focus in one's physical training to just get the one big lift is really pointless to me.


wrote …

Marcella, everyone is entitled to their opinion of course. Try looking at Powerlifting as a sport, which it is to the athletes who compete in it. If joint pain in later years was the biggest concern for all athletes who are passionate about their sports, you would not have an NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. The point is you are willing to put in every ounce of work, every bit of pain, sacrifice everything that does not contribute to your goal and love of your sport. So for Powerlifting, it is 100% necessary for their focus and obsession with these movements.

At the same token, the strength and power created through the mastery of these lifts is amazing, and can help with all sports, even Crossfit. For example, if you deadlift 600lbs, repping out 225 in a wod like Diane is cake; the force it takes to squat a 1,000 lbs also applies to that athlete being 300+ pounds and able to jump and touch 12', which if you research is not uncommon for a powerlifter to do (have outstanding verticals and sprint times). I met a Girl when I was at Westside Barbell who in her 2nd year of high school, 15 years old, and weighing 100lbs deadlifted 225# 17 straight times with no rest (she is a track runner). Strength is massive in sports. If you can move 1000 lbs as quickly as a powerlifter does, with the right conditioning, you will move your own bodyweight with incredible ease and force. Lastly, the best Crossfitter score on the workout "DT" was in the minute range when Louie Simmons had one of his lifters do it (with NO Crossfit experience) in well under 4 minutes, so strength has its purpose. They have a different focus, but they are still capable of amazing other things. Sorry for the long-winded response haha.


wrote …

They better keep testing games athletes.


wrote …

Mark, pack in the cold North American winter and come to Australia for the summer. It would be awesome to see the seminars held down here.

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