When the words ‘powerlifting’ or ‘powerlifters’ come to mind you might think of big burly men pushing stacks of iron and devouring mountains of food. But, as I have found from my own personal experience, this isn’t really the standout feature of powerlifting and certainly isn’t a necessity when incorporating it into your fitness regimen. In this article I will be discussing exactly what powerlifting is, how it compares to other training styles and will point out some of the positives of this style of training in particular.
What is powerlifting?
Powerlifting is a sport which focuses on getting as strong as possible in the three primary lifts, also known as ‘the big 3”. The deadlift, squat and bench press. These exercises form the foundation of powerlifting training and the first focus for anyone new to the sport is to learn how to do each movement with appropriate technique. Once the technique has been mastered, then the focus can shift to lifting as much weight as possible whilst maintaining good technique.
Since the goal of powerlifting is to lift as much as possible, powerlifting workouts involve low reps (generally 2-4 repetitions per set) with high percentage of maximal weight and long rest periods between sets (3 minutes or longer).
Bodybuilding, in comparison, uses higher rep ranges (often >8 reps per set) which is better suited to increasing muscle size (hypertrophy) rather than power. This is also very different to the programming found in high intensity interval style (HIIT) gyms that have become popular in recent times. So why would someone like to train this way?
As a novice to powerlifting these are the benefits I’ve enjoyed so far:
- The simplicity: almost the whole body is trained in just three lifts! This also means I can easily remember whether I am ready for another session of either deadlifts, squats, or bench press.
- The functional component: the big 3 lifts each require action of multiple joints and muscles and increases the strength of the entire body. Squatting is essentially getting in and out of a chair, deadlifting is picking something up off the ground and bench press helps with everyday pushing and pulling movements
- Better connection with my body: each training session pushes me to my limits! I have to focus hard to ensure my brain talks to my muscles effectively to get maximum recruitment of all the right muscles for the lift I’m working on. I’ve found that by pushing my nervous system to its limits I am feeling stronger rapidly. This type of strength is known as neuromuscular strength and refers to the brain having improved communication with your muscles. Improved communication with muscles can contribute to Injury prevention
- Powerlifting has a unique way of motivating you that likely stems from its simplicity. Many people will tell you – there is just something really satisfying in seeing the numbers of each lift increasing. I feel motivated to persevere to keep going and increase the weight that I’m able to lift in each exercise.As a final note, make sure that whatever exercise you choose, it is something you enjoy doing. If you are stuck in an exercise rut, then powerlifting might be the right thing to spark your enjoyment and motivation. Make sure you tell your physio if you are starting any new exercise and ensure your body is moving well to avoid injuries. At Barefoot we can develop a plan to get you back to exercise and even ready to try powerlifting if that is your personal goal.
Want to learn more about powerlifiting? Or book an appointment at Barefoot? Click the link here. Physio Alistair