What is Powerlifting?

When I first started hitting the gym during my weight loss kick, I didn’t know where to start. I’d done research, but really needed someone with hands on experience to show me what to do.

I tried several types of exercises with varying weights and rep ranges, but the style I felt got the most results was powerlifting. The main reason that drew me to it is that the sets, although tough, were usually over quickly. However, what made me keep doing it were the results that I was seeing and how fast I could lift heavier and heavier weights.

If you’re in good health, and have no known injuries, I suggest you try it.

Brief overview of Powerlifting in Competition:

By definition powerlifting is a competitive sport. It mainly consists of competing with your opponents over the three major compound lifts: Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift.

In competition, you are allowed to do each of these lifts three times, with your highest lift being counted in each category. The heaviest lifter wins, and lifters are grouped by their age and weight.

These lifts are performed either equipped, or unequipped.

Equipped means using articles of clothing that are tight and supportive around muscle groups which can make the lift easier to perform (for example, a bench shirt which offers more support to your shoulders while benching).

Unequipped means using no supportive clothing and lifting whatever your body can naturally.

What I find most interesting about powerlifting is that it is one of the few turn-based sports out there. Powerlifting meets can sometimes feel like a chess match. This is especially true when the opponents are evenly matched, by carefully selecting what weights to lift for their 3 turns in each category. A clever lifter can make an opponent under or overestimate what they’re capable of. There’s a lot of mind games and it’s a lot of fun.

The Benefits of Powerlifting

Just because you’re interested in powerlifting, it doesn’t mean you have to compete to do it. More people train in the style of the powerlifter than actual perform in competitions.

Powerlifting training comes in many shapes and sizes but the main aspects are that you are lifting heavy weights under a low rep range.

This style of training has a ton of benefits that can help your health and your overall physical performance.

Strength – It is POWERlifting after all…

One of the main benefits of doing powerlifting is that you’re going to get stronger, a hell of a lot stronger.

You’re concentrating all your efforts into lifting heavy weights only a handful of times. This makes your body get used to this kind of activity. If you’re performing the big three lifts of Bench, Squat and Deadlift you’ll train pretty much every muscle in your body.

This also helps your overall strength as your muscles learn to work together, which you don’t get with isolated exercises. In doing so can also help with your body’s coordination and fights muscle imbalances.

Fat Loss – Get Strong and Lean

Lifting heavy weights takes a lot out of you. It needs your focus, power and of course, your energy. The amount of energy your body needs during and after a powerlifting session is great for promoting your overall fat loss.

Studies show that an intense powerlifting session can increase your overall caloric output by 15% over a 24 hour period.

A lot of this is factored into your repairing your muscles after the session and the amount of extra oxygen your body needs over the recovery period.

Skeletal Health – Great for your muscles and your joints

To repeatedly lift heavy weights, you need a lot of strength in your muscles to handle it. However, what you also need is a strong skeleton to support these lifts.

Powerlifting can help build up your overall skeletal health. Lifting heavy can help increase the overall bone and mineral density in your skeleton to prevent injuries when training.

This can help decrease the risk of osteoporosis

Risks of Powerlifting

Although it’s a great sport and beneficial to your body – you need to know what you’re doing and focus at all times.

A lot of the risks and dangers of powerlifting come to down to a lack of experience and not knowing when to stop. You can only chase a stronger lift for so long during a session until your form starts to suffer and you start to put your body at risk.

Here’s quick lists of risks associated with the sport:

  • Back Problems – Not using proper form or lifting more than you’re capable of can sprain your back muscles and even bulge the disks in your back. This happens more with squats and deadlift.
  • Overtraining – Powerlifting is addictive, especially when you start. You’ll want to see results more and more. However, you should always take a rest. Not giving your body time off in the week can actually weaken your muscles rather than strengthen them.
  • Serious Injuries – Lifting too much weight with improper form can cause muscle tears, bone breakages and nasty sprains which can take months of recovery or more. Know your limits and be patient with your body.

My Thoughts

Powerlifting is great for improving your overall strength and health. Make sure your are fully familiar with the lifts first before undergoing a rigorous powerlifting program.

It also wouldn’t hurt to consult with a fitness expert or personal trainer in a 1-on-1 session so you can learn the basics.

Be smart about it. Taking unnecessary risks without full knowledge is definitely not advisable in powerlifting. You can hurt yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Take full care, be patient with your lifts and keep lifting strong.

– JD