Powerlifting is an individual sport, where the objective is to simply lift as much weight as you possibly can for one repetition (or one RM). There are three core moves used in powerlifting - the bench press, squat, and deadlift (also known as the three big lifts). While it may sound simple, as there is only one rep with just three moves, don’t be fooled! Powerlifting is for advanced lifters and involves a combination of commitment, hard training, and strategy.
That’s not to say that anyone can’t get involved, but it is absolutely crucial to ensure that you are ready for this type of training and competition before commencing. It’s essential to understand the specific techniques and proper form to use when performing the bench press, squat, and deadlift. Secondly, it’s important to understand the commitment required to compete as a powerlifter, including spending sufficient time building your body and strength, utilising a complete and balanced training program to build a foundation of strength and a balanced body.
So you’re interested in powerlifting but are not sure where to start? Here is a guide to help you get started.
Train for powerlifting movements
Tweak your program to begin focusing on the three core movements. Focus on maintaining your technique, but make consistent progress and add more weight as you get stronger. Strength training programs like Starting Strength or StrongLifts (see our previous article
on this topic) can help you down this path. This kind of training will help you move towards your one repetition maximum – the weight that you are able to lift for one rep. With this kind of training, always ensure you have a trainer or a training partner to spot you, or you lift within a quality power rack or cage with self-spotting facilities to maximise your safety.
Training is only one component of powerlifting. It’s important that you eat enough calories to maintain your ideal weight, and sufficient protein to maintain and grow your muscle mass. There is a lot of information freely available to assist you with getting the right mix of calories, carbs and protein in your diet to maximise muscle growth.
Ensure you have the appropriate equipment
Flat shoes are a popular choice for powerlifters as they allow for an even distribution of force, and provide greater drive for movements like the squat and deadlift.
High socks may sound silly, but when doing deadlifts, the bar can cause plenty of issues on your shins (anyone who’s ever completed deadlifts has at some point grazed their shins). You may find that wearing high socks will actually help protect your shins a little.
Wrist wraps can be used to provide support for one of the weakest joints, the wrist, allowing you to comfortably lift more weight, or you can work with accessories like FatGripz to help grow your grip strength.
Lifting belts are controversial, as many bodybuilders end up becoming too reliant on them for both training and competing. A lifting belt helps you lift more weight. If you’re careful about how the belt is integrated into your routine you can still benefit from using one for heavy weights, particularly in competitions.
Train with other powerlifters
This will give you plenty of support and motivation in your training, and you’ll also learn a lot by training with those that are more experienced than you.
Go to a meet
There’s no better way to see what goes on in the world of powerlifting than to attend a meet or a competition. This will give you a true feel of the sport. When, or if, you eventually decide to enter a meet for yourself, it’s a great opportunity to see how you compare to others in a similar age and weight class.
Whether you are serious about powerlifting or just want to add to your fitness routine by incorporating components of powerlifting into your training program, the biggest factor to your success is consistency. Make sure you eat well, sleep well, and train hard!