Continuing on from our last post about Olympic lifting, today’s post is all about powerlifting, and the benefits of hitting huge numbers on the squat, bench press and deadlift.
What is powerlifting?
Like Olympic lifting, powerlifting is based on single, maximal load lifts. The lifts tested are the squat, bench press and deadlift, performed in that order. Also like Olympic lifting, the athlete is given three attempts at each lift.
Generally, your first attempt should be 87-93 per cent of your previously-tested one rep max. For your second attempt, aim for a 2.5-5kg personal record. If you make that lift, push your limits and base your next attempt on how easy the second lift went up.
Athletes with the highest squat, bench and deadlift receive awards as well as the athlete with the highest competition total, which is the combined number of the highest successful lifts from all three categories. If two lifters put up the same total, the lighter of the two places higher.
As in Olympic lifting, there are various weight classes and age divisions for both male and female lifters. Competitions may either be equipped or unequipped, the latter of which is also known as raw lifting. The distinction is based on benching shirts and squat and deadlifting suits which provide additional support. Weight belts, wrist straps, knee sleeves and special shoes may be worn in either division.
Most powerlifters wear flat-soled shoes, such as Chuck Taylors, for squats and deadlifts. For the bench press, a sneaker with a slightly raised heel is preferred to assist with leg drive.
What are the benefits of powerlifting?
Lifting heavy weights assists muscle growth and fat loss – two things which make our bodies aesthetically more pleasing. Not only is the muscle you build attractive, but it is strong too!
Many people associate powerlifting with big, burly men, but there are many incredibly fit powerlifters out there. When your main goal is increasing strength, it is easy to overeat and therefore hold on to fat, but it is not essential and will not happen by accident.
Because of the time spent under heavy tension, powerlifters have very strong bones and are therefore more resistant to not only breakages but also osteoporosis and joint problems in later life.
Powerlifting workouts are also short but effective. The main concern is increasing the weights on the big three lifts, so there is not much time devoted to performing isolation exercises.
Outside of competition, powerlifters tend to train in a very low repetition range (five or less repetitions, with lots of single repetition sets) and often use bands and chains to improve explosiveness.
Like Olympic lifting, powerlifting is not only physically tough but mentally challenging. If you are not in the right head space before attempting a maximal lift, you will not succeed. Similarly, if you miss a lift, you have to know how to recover quickly and not let it affect the rest of your performance. This mental strength has a wonderful carry over into other aspects of your life.
Repeatedly testing the limits of what your body can do is incredibly rewarding. You will become very connected to your body, and learn to listen to what it is telling you, while also growing your self-confidence and perseverance.
How do I start?
Unlike Olympic lifting, where it is essential to have a coach teach you proper technique, powerlifting can be self-taught. That being said, you cannot expect to just walk up to a bar and execute a perfect deadlift. Take time to read a lot of articles and watch a lot of videos to learn proper technique.
If you are serious about competing, it is best to do so under the supervision of a coach who can cycle your training and nutrition appropriately in the months leading up to the competition, as well as make modifications to your form to increase performance. It is particularly helpful to have a trainer with you on competition day to keep your calm and remind you of the key points you need to remember.
Powerlifting competitions are open to everyone, but to put up a competitive total, it is best if you can squat and bench press at least 1.5 times your body weight, and dead lift close to twice your body weight or more.
Have you ever tried powerlifting?