Powerlifting (for those of you who are unfamiliar), is a style of weight training. The object of powerlifting is to get as strong as you can. Powerlifting is comprised of three main types of lifts: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. Powerlifting began as a competitive sport, but became popular as people started to realize the many benefits of this type of training. Of the people that I personally have trained, only a small percent have chosen to compete, while all have realized the benefits.
I will start by giving this caveat: powerlifting is not recommended if you have a chronic injury or have not been cleared for this type of activity by a physician. That being said, most powerlifting routines can be customized to fit individual needs. For example, I have a client who suffered from hip pain. Her doctor diagnosed her with arthritis and informed her that she would one day need a hip replacement. He advised her against incorporating any heavy squats into her workout. I totally agree with her doctor and would never recommend going against a physician’s advice. That being said, she can still train for strength using the deadlift and the bench press.
The benefits of powerlifting are almost innumerable, but here are some of the top reasons to start powerlifting today:
Health: Increased muscle mass will help your body in a number of ways including, but not limited to: healing (by boosting immune system health), improved cognition, and increased metabolism. Powerlifting focuses on lifting heavy weight in the most efficient ways possible. Although injuries are an unfortunate reality in life, powerlifting’s emphasis on proper form and technique decreases the risk of injury-both in and out of the gym.
Goal setting: This is probably not something you think about when you read the title of this post. That’s exactly why it’s important. Most people in the gym do not have goals, and if they do have goals, they are usually vague or unreasonable. For example “I want to be fit”. What does that mean? Powerlifting gives helps you set real, tangible goals and gives you a purpose when walking into the gym.
Physique (women)- I will begin by dispelling a myth to all the women reading this. POWERLIFTING WILL NOT MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE A MAN! If you have ever seen a woman who “looks like a man” (whatever that means), it’s because she was doing something to “look like a man”-not just lifting weights. Also, why are muscles “manly”? Can’t women be strong? If your answer is “no” than it’s a good thing you never met your great-great-grandmother!
Finally, muscle, fights ageing-period. So next time you are agonizing about the reflection that you see in the mirror (a blog post for another day) just remember that if you replaced some of your current body mass with lean muscle, you would change dramatically and so would that reflection in the mirror. My challenge for you is to research what women powerlifters look like. Check out people like “meg squats” on youtube.
Physique (men)- Ok, if your goal is to be like Arnold, then there are more effective ways to go about it then powerlifting. However, if you are after a very lean frame, then I challenge you to google or youtube powerlifters that compete at your ideal body weight. Not all of them are the size of diesel trucks.
Functional carryover- the squat, bench, deadlift, and shoulder press (I know I didn’t talk about this one earlier because people don’t compete in this as often) are the four basic gross movements in both powerlifting and in life. I don’t know anyone who has ever complained about being too strong. My grandfather, who farmed his whole life, could get out of a chair better than I could at the time. When he got up, it would usually be to get something for my grandmother who did not farm and was less physically active. The moral of this story is that if you’re like me, chances are your job and lifestyle is way more sedentary than that of our parents, and that of their parents.
Comradery/community- I saved this for last because I think it’s the coolest part. I trained a woman once and, like all my clients, I trained her using a powerlifting training style. After a while, I noticed that she was getting really strong. With a little convincing, I talked her into competing in her first powerlifting meet. I knew that she would do well, and I thought that it would breathe new life into our training sessions (more on that in a future blog). She was kind of excited, but for the most part I think she was humoring me. The day finally came when she would compete. As I had predicted, she did well (setting 3 state records… not too shabby!). In competing, she met fellow competitors from other cities and states. Some of the more experienced lifters gave her advice on things like warming up, how to fuel up, and how to stay hydrated for the day.
On the drive home I think she called me two or three times about when her next competition was. She was excited and I truly believe it was because of the friends she had made (some of which I think she still contacts). The powerlifting culture is very inclusive, and newcomers will find that this community is an open and inviting one.
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!