I unapologetically love powerlifting and it is one of the best investments that I have ever made in my life. Over the years, I have shared my journey to my first powerlifting meet and I have competed in my second meet in August 2019. I have received so many questions over the last three years about powerlifting, tips to help improve lifts, techniques, what equipment to buy and…I have to admit that I haven’t been great at sharing these tips on my blog, where documenting my journey all started. For those of you who have been here from the very beginning, you would have remembered that I shared my weekly thoughts and feelings as I was preparing for my first meet. I really want to share with you what powerlifting is all about, the essentials, what it has done for me, where I am headed and how you can get started. Make sure to bookmark this post so you can refer to it later.
WHAT IS POWERLIFTING?
Powerlifting is a sport to attain as much raw strength as humanly possible. It’s an individual sport where the goal is to lift the most amount of weight in squat, bench press and deadlift at a specific weight and age category. To be a powerlifter means being dedicated to that one goal – finding out how strong you actually are and getting stronger than that. It’s pretty great! We work on those three exercises and supplement them with accessories to help us increase our numbers. Through the sport, we push ourselves to learn and fine tune every aspect of the lifts.
WHAT ARE POWERLIFTING ESSENTIALS?
Powerlifting essentials are the equipment that are used while powerlifting. These essentials provide additional support to your lifts and they can help you increase the amount that you lift each session. I got all my powerlifting gear as I was preparing for my first meet but even if you aren’t planning to compete, I suggest having these essentials and learning how to lift with them. These are the items that you will need to powerlift:
- A powerlifting belt
- Powerlifting shoes (Read: Choosing Deadlift Shoes For Powerlifting) – I have a pair for squat and bench, and a separate pair for deadlifts.
- Powerlifting Knee Sleeves
- Powerlifting Wrist Wraps
- Knee high socks
If you are competing for a meet, you will need additional equipment such as a singlet, a t-shirt, chalk, and baby powder (optional: smelling salts like ammonia). You’ll see some powerlifters use mouth guards, elbow sleeves and additional equipment whilst they are training. As you progress in the sport, these additional may be things that you would want to buy. I don’t have these things but I might use them in the future.
WHAT HAS POWERLIFTING DONE FOR ME?
Unlike most people, I started training and working out with the hope of becoming stronger and finding my confidence again. It gave me an avenue:
- To work on myself by deciding on who I wanted to be and how I wanted to express myself.
- To overcome the dangerous path of self-judgment and jealousy.
- To be comfortable in my skin and love myself as a work in progress.
- Powerlifting taught me to focus on what my body could do for me instead of what it looked like.
- It changed my mindset. It changed my life for the better.
For me, powerlifting has been transformative. While I am getting stronger, I have learnt so much about my body and myself. I have found the confidence to be my authentic self and it has transferred to other areas of my life. Starting your powerlifting journey can be intimidating and confusing, especially if you don’t know anyone in the sport. I remember when I first started and no one in my circle had even heard of it. I hope that I can take you on this journey with me as I navigate more of the sport.
WHERE AM I HEADED?
My first powerlifting meet left me with seeds of doubt. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to compete again because the micro-aggressions I had faced that day tore me down. However, I knew this was what I wanted to do and I wasn’t going to let that one day stop me from working on what I wanted to achieve. In August 2019, I competed in my second powerlifting meet and afterwards, I knew that I was in it for the long haul. My goal is work on building my numbers, build up my strength and fine tune my techniques so I can qualify and compete at Nationals. My current 1 rep max (1RM) is: 105kg/230lbs for squats, 67.5kg/147.5lbs for bench press and 115kg/250lbs for deadlifts. I still have a lot of work to do to reach actual goals for these lifts but hopefully I’ll get there in the next year or two.
HOW CAN I GET STARTED?
To get started in powerlifting, you need to hop onto a programme that will give a lot of practice in squats, bench press and deadlifts, including several variations of these exercises. The aim of a powerlifting programme is to build your strength up in these movements, so you can lift as much weight as possible when you test out your 1RM.
There are many free programmes online that you can do to start off with, especially if you can’t afford to get a coach at the moment. I have never tried any of these free programmes before but I have heard good things about them. I highly recommend getting a coach from the beginning like I did, as a coach will design an individualised programme for you based on your lifestyle and specific needs. Is it expensive to get a coach? Yes it is but the benefits outweighs the costs. I check in with my coach every week, I see more progress at a faster rate because the plan has been individualised and a powerlifting coach will be able to answer critical questions as you get started in this journey and/or you prepare for a meet.
Regardless of what you choose, all powerlifting programmes should incorporate the following concepts in order for you to make significant progress.
- Periodisation: a long-term plan getting you from A (the beginning of your programme) to B (‘peaking’ your strength to test out your 1RM or for a meet).
- Frequency: the amount of times that you will be performing the powerlifting movements, usually it’s 2-3 times a week per movement.
- Progressive overload: doing more of something over time. This includes, doing more reps, more sets, more volume or a combination of the three. (Read Progressive Overload: The How-Tos & 4 Methods)
- Adaptation cycle: the phases of your long-term training plan, you’ll have cycles of hypertrophy and building muscles (higher volumes), cycles of building strength (higher intensity).
- Exercise selection: the types of exercises that you do to support your powerlifting movements or work on your weak points.
- Recovery: having deload weeks scheduled into your programme when there are dips in your performance or signs of fatigue.