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Powerlifting - Could You Compete?

Powerlifting - Could You Compete?

I began powerlifting about a year ago. I had been training with weights for almost two years, but only 8 months was really serious training. After being approached while on the bench press, I was persuaded to take up the sport by a competitive powerlifter with over 25 years of experience. With his help I entered two powerlifting meets with the BDFPA and one with the GBPF and I am now a qualified GBPF powerlifting coach.

As the fitness industry becomes more and more popular, it is becoming saturated with people trying to find different ways to stay fit and healthy. The vast majority will decide to stick to the same basic, and in many cases, flawed gym routines until they get bored after seeing no results and go back to their sedentary lifestyles. You do not have to follow this trend…

To see results in fitness you have to learn and understand what you’re doing, so it is a good idea to find something that interests you.

I found my niche with strength and hypertrophy training. I have been training with weights since I was fourteen. One of my favourite ways of training is powerlifting style training. This is based around the big three compound movements - These are the squat, the bench press and the deadlift.

Powerlifting is a sport in which you get 3 attempts at each of these movements - the squat, bench press and deadlift. You have weight and age classes and women and men compete separately. When you take part in a competition, you weigh in and set your openers which are the first attempts you will make at each lift. Once your openers have been set and the bar is loaded, you may not lower the weight for that lift, so you must either increase the weight or keep it the same for your next attempt. This means you have to pick your weights sensibly. There are strict rules relating to the way in which each lift is performed and these differ very slightly according to each association you compete with.

Let me explain…

The Squat - This is always the first lift of the competition. Once the bar has been loaded you have 1 minute to complete your lift so you have to make sure you’re ready and waiting. You can un rack the bar at your own will. Once you have the bar on your back they will ask you to start, then in your own time you will squat and the referee will tell you when you can re rack the bar.



The Bench Press - You have one minute once the bar is loaded and they will tell you when you can start. Once you have the bar settled on your chest, the referee will tell you to press and then when to rack the bar.

The Deadlift - This is the simplest of the three, as you again have one minute, but you can start when you want and only have to be told when to lower the deadlift. Do not drop the bar from the top of the deadlift as this will mean the lift doesn’t count.

My 5 Steps To Becoming A Powerlifter


Before you begin to train for your first meet, you have to perfect the three movements, in the style which you would perform them in competition. To do this you need to speak to someone who knows what they are talking about when it comes to training. The lifts should not only be safe but efficient. For example, a correct back arch in the bench press means a reduced range of motion making the lift slightly easier. By bringing your elbows into your sides on the negative portion of the rep you protect your shoulders from injury and looking slightly downwards when squatting will help to keep a neutral spine. These small tweaks make a big difference.#


Results don’t appear overnight. So do not be dis-heartened if you do not see instant changes. It is going to take time to build strength and muscle. So set yourself a long term, realistic goal and assure that it is achievable. It is also sensible to set yourself short term goals as these can help to keep you motivated and also to keep track of your performance. Do not fall into the trap of trying to ego lift and beat the biggest guy or girl in the gym. Leave the completion until meet day. They have most likely spent thousands of hour’s effort building their strength and there’s no point in risking injury just to try and show off.


If you have never trained before, or even if you are already a seasoned weightlifter, training for a powerlifting meet is hard. This is not a few dumbbell curls, trying to build some biceps or doing cable kickbacks to tone your legs. To progress you must be working in the three to six rep range with eighty per cent and upwards of your one rep maximum, performing the hard multi joint exercises that build size and strength. You must also use the basic principles of training, especially specificity, which means you should train with the same form you need to pass a lift in competition. This includes following all commands of the referees and going past ninety degrees so that the hip crease is below the knee at the bottom of the squat.


Once you have begun to train for strength you should then start to get to know your own strength. This is of great importance as it will allow you to pick good openers (the first of each of your lifts at competition). I made the mistake of picking openers that were too high at my first competition and paid the price by failing all three of my attempts at the bench press. You don’t want this to happen to you, so the advice I would give you is to pick something that you can get three easy reps with. That way you know you will definitely be able to complete the lift even if it’s on your worst day.


The final step is in regards to what you do outside of the gym. You don’t have to be a square and eat chicken and rice six times a day, only leaving bed to get to the gym. However, you do need to do things like assuring you can make your weight class on the meet day, you’re eating enough carbohydrates to maintain a good level of energy in the gym and enough protein to allow your muscles to recover. You need a lot of sleep because this is where you allow your body to repair itself. The amount of sleep you get is in direct correlation with the amount of energy you have on the next day and this is the same for food, so make sure you fuel up for the meet and big training sessions. Lastly, you need enough consistency and motivation to see progression. A good way to stay motivated is to remind yourself why you started and what you are going to achieve.

Mason is an apprentice Fitness Instructor who has been working at our Northampton gym for the last 7 months.

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