How to Start Powerlifting: A Guide for Beginners

How to Start Powerlifting: A Guide for Beginners
Lady Deadlifting

Have you hit a plateau and just need some help shattering it. Perhaps you are interested in continuous strength gains, but aren’t necessarily interested in bodybuilding. If so, Powerlifting might be what you are looking for.

It’s something that anyone who can pick up some weights can get involved with. With some consistency and a good routine, you’ll see your overall strength improving day by day. 

If you have no idea what powerlifting is, we created this guide just for you. With it, you’ll have a more concrete idea of where and how to start.

What is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is an athletic event that has different goals than most other events within the fitness world. Instead of competing on looks, how fast you can sprint, or how quickly you can run through a course, it aims to test your maximal strength in three areas: the bench press, deadlift, and squat.

Like most competitions, it offers various bodyweight, gender, and age categories for you to compete in.

As a powerlifter, your goal is to lift as much weight as possible for a single repetition. In competitions, judges will add your heaviest bench press, deadlift, and squat. Then, they will add them together to give you your powerlifting total. This determines your ranking.

However, while winning is cool, most powerlifters never actually compete. Many people powerlift because they want their physical strength to increase more than they care about the competition aspect. They like the training style and revel in pushing the limits of what they considered their max strength.

Why Powerlift?

Before getting into anything in life, you should know how it will benefit you. Whether you’re a man or woman, there’s no excuse not to be physically fit, especially in a world as crazy as ours.

There is a whole list of benefits that accompany an overall fit lifestyle, whether that is running for extended periods of time or lifting weights for physical wellness.

Let’s look at how Powerlifting can positively impact your quality of life.

1. Strength is Everything

The most valuable investment in your life is your health. A close second is your strength. No athlete ever lost because they had too much of it, and being strong makes life a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.

For example, you don’t need to make as many trips to the car when unloading groceries. In the event of an emergency, you can lift more people to safety. Or, if, God forbid, you are being attacked, a little extra strength could make the difference between escaping unscathed and not escaping at all.

Physical strength can help save lives—both yours and your loved ones, and powerlifting can help you build yours.

2. Increase Mental Fortitude

Powerlifting demands a lot from your psychological composure. The training often requires you to push to failure. After that, you must get back on the platform.

This sport will teach discipline, sacrifice, and how to push through your limits. It helps you hit a weight you thought you could never move before. The battle in your mind is always the toughest battle to win, but once you do, everything else is easy.

Your brain usually gives out faster than your body, and when that happens, it’s over. Powerlifting helps teach you to push past your brain telling you when to stop and re-wires your brain to push when you don’t think you can. Winning the mental battle is what pushes you past the plateau.

3. Powerlifting is Safe

Under the tuition of a good coach and the right prep, powerlifting is relatively safe. The overall injury rate for powerlifters is lower compared to other sports like basketball and football. In most cases, it’s closer to volleyball and tennis rates.

With good form and coaching, weight lifting in general is incredibly safe.

4. The Sports Rewards Longevity

By the time they turn 30, basketball players are often considered “too old.” Most football and soccer players reach the pinnacle of their careers in their 20s. Powerlifters are typically at their peak between 35 and 40 years old.

It’s what makes powerlifting an accessible sport. It isn’t something you needed to start in your teenage years to be good at. Add in that physical strength peaks for both, men and women, in the mid to late twenties and plateaus for about 10-20 years before beginning to decline, and you can see why powerlifting is accessible to pretty much everyone.

As you age, you have a lower risk of injuries and better mental fortitude due to experience.

As a side note: Powerlifting might give you an incredible edge when you get much older and begin to experience the “old-man strength” phenomenon.

5. Powerlifting Rewards Dedication

It can be a bit challenging to progress as a powerlifter. However, with dedication and effort, you’ll be able to get there. As an endeavor, powerlifting needs time and focus to succeed. It shares that idea with other forms of fitness, such as bodybuilding, which take years to perfect and get where you are going. Fitness has always been the long game, after all.

Most experts agree that 90% of powerlifting is relatively easy, revolving around dedication, consistency, and form. It is always the last 10% that is the most difficult of all.

Powerlifting for Beginners: How to Start?

Starting with your powerlifting journey is easy—choose your gym.

An average big-box gym is often enough to begin with this sport. Franchise gyms that focus on general fitness, like Planet Fitness, probably aren’t going to be your best bet for powerlifting, though, and you must eventually find a powerlifting-friendly gym once you hit a certain level.

What is a powerlifting-friendly gym? The location must have a setup that enables you to train on the bench press and squat stations for a long time. Never settle for a gym where you get glares from people because of your training regimen. You want to find a place that allows you to push some pretty serious weight, and has plenty of benches, squat racks, and deadlift stations available.

Then, to maximize your powerlifting routine, learn from coaches and other powerlifters. Seek out the ones who know more, and ask for a mentorship. Ask the local CrossFit gym if you don’t know anyone. Some have independent powerlifting clubs you can join.

Thirdly, in terms of initial investment, you do not need much gear to get started. Get powerlifting shoes since they offer a solid, raised heel. It helps get you into a better position under the barbell while engaging a posterior chain.

If you’re doing some deadlifts, a simple pair of deadlifting slippers is enough. Their thin rubber heels reduce your range of motion. At the same time, it maximizes your foot’s surface area on the floor.

Chalk is also a great investment, as it helps improve your grip, and is useful whether you are benching or deadlifting. Your squat’s tightness also improves when using chalk.

Invest in specialized equipment once you’re ready to commit to powerlifting, such as knee sleeves and lifting belts.

Finally, add in competition movements to your workout. These movements have lots of variations. The techniques involved in powerlifting are specific to the sport.

The way you do the bench press, deadlift, and squat as a powerlifter is different. It’s something unique when compared with bodybuilding. You aim to decrease the range of motion whenever you lift.

The goal of powerlifting isn’t isolating your muscles. Instead, it’s all about making your muscles coordinate toward a single action. It’s why you must use each body muscle when making the motion.

How to Avoid Common Rookie Mistakes When Powerlifting?

As you get started with powerlifting, you must know what warning signs to look for and avoid various pitfalls. Avoid overtraining by knowing its symptoms. 

Work Your Way Upwards

Never start your powerlifting journey with more than what you can handle. Most people lose their motivation because they fail on a novice program. They let their ego take over and interfere with their training, and it’s all downhill once that happens.

Just like in the rest of your life, as you become a powerlifter, you must leave your ego behind. Educate yourself instead, since it helps set your expectations. Learn more about form and basic methodology before getting into the sport.

Keep Your Discipline

Do you plan on focusing on powerlifting? If so, keep your focus on it and nothing else. It probably isn’t a good idea to play football five days each week or sign up for a triathlon during a powerlifting cycle if you want to make maximum gains, especially as a beginner.

Never stray far from your powerlifting training plan throughout its duration. Always keep a laser focus on your goals if you intend to gain more in the long run.

Differentiate Between Strain and pain

A 5×5 deadlift workout is a draining ordeal. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran, gutting through it will result in the same experience. However, never fight through actual pain.

Pain isn’t your weakness leaving your body. It’s a warning sign that your body is in danger. Making some progress is fine, but overdoing it can result in a trip to the emergency room.

Learn your body and the difference between pain that requires a trip to the doctor and the discomfort that gives you the gains. Pain in a joint is almost never good, but the pain that comes from pushing through outright exhaustion and failure sets usually won’t send you to the ER unless you are sloppy.

Do the Right Way for Reps

Every gym has that one guy boasting that he can squat 500lbs. The truth is that he will proceed halfway through the wimpiest motion range in the world. That’s embarrassing and won’t serve to improve yourself.

As you’re starting, ensure that you’re working through the full range of motion. After you have form down perfectly, work your way up the weights. Half-reps won’t count, making them essentially useless.

Get a Knowledgeable Trainer

You can’t ask a running coach to train you in powerlifting. As a beginner, getting a USA Powerlifting-certified coach, or even a personal trainer, is a huge benefit. They can plan your training while introducing you to the various nuances of the sport, and reinforcing an overall fit lifestyle.

Eat More Vegetables to Bulk Up

When bulking up, finishing your meal can be an ordeal. All that protein you should eat can get tiresome. And quickly. Eating lots of vegetables alongside extra protein can work wonders for your muscles while helping you make the gains you are dreaming of.

The best thing about veggies is that they’re low in calories but incredibly dense in nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Proper nutrition helps your body function at peak performance, regulating everything from hormones to bone and muscle growth as well as immune system responses.

When transitioning your meals into something heavier, be sure to do it slowly. Get your stomach ready to digest more food than it usually does every day. 

Remember this: You don’t need to add too much extra each day. 200-500 calories more than your maintenance level is enough to begin building up some good mass.

Use a Different Warmup to Relieve Shoulder Pain

If you have shoulder pains, use a different warmup routine, one that uses a wide grip. Squats use lower-body movement, but they increase your core temperature rapidly. Hit lower body warmups first before transitioning to upper body movements.

This way your upper body begins to get warm from the lower body movements. Then, add in a gentle stretch with an empty barbell to start to loosen your delts and chest.

As you progress with your warmups, bring in your grip gradually. This gives your shoulders more time to adjust to a tighter position. Once you reach your first working set, you get used to the normal positions.

The idea is to slowly warm up problem areas, rather than jump straight into them.

Bonus Tip: Eat Salted Watermelons

Eating salted watermelons during training. It’s low in calories, but it’s rich in water and sodium. It rehydrates while giving enough energy boost because of its sugar content.

With the extra pump, you can finish your training sessions stronger. It’s why salted watermelon is a good way to relieve your flat feeling during a diet.

Let us help you out.

If you are interested in adding powerlifting to your routine, we’re here to help. We offer a variety of customized workout programs to suit your goals.

Personal trainers, like those found here, can help guide you on your pathway towards reaching your fitness goals, whether that is getting bigger, stronger, faster, more lean, or just generally feeling better.

We can get you setup with a periodized workout plan, supplement information, and advice on nutrition to help you reach your goals.

Talk with us today, and let us help you with our training programs.

The only thing you need is some motivation and a willingness to change some old habits.

Generally, our clients start to see some pretty awesome changes in 2-3 months time, some sooner.

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