THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO POWERLIFTING
Our resident strength expert Jackson Hinch explains the benefits of powerlifting to suit everybody’s training goals.
Ready to get stronger than you’ve ever been—stronger than you even thought possible? Here’s what you need to know about the sport of strength.
At some point, you’ve probably seen somebody come into the gym, load up a barbell with so many 20kg. plates that the steel was literally bending, and send shockwaves across the floor with some of the most impressive squats you’ve ever witnessed in person. And at that moment, you probably wondered: How in the hell do I do that?
The answer: Powerlifting.
Unlike bodybuilding, which emphasises the pursuit of a particular physique, powerlifting is a sport of attaining as much raw strength as is humanly possible. Primal in its simplicity, powerlifting ain’t always pretty, nor is it especially glamorous. But it is practical, unquestionably hardcore, and a virtual guarantee you will never again struggle to move your couch. It is also extremely beneficial for everybody- especially FEMALES.
To be a powerlifter means being dedicated to a goal: Find out how strong you can get, and then get stronger than that. A powerlifter takes three seemingly simple exercises—the deadlift, squat, and bench press—and works to learn and excel in every single aspect of them, since strength is just as much a skill as it is a quantifiable characteristic.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A POWERLIFTER?
On its face, powerlifting is pretty simple: Develop as much all-out strength as you humanly can, primarily through the “big three” fundamental lifts: back squat, bench press, and deadlift. But talk to powerlifters long enough, and you’ll discover that they often develop a mystic sense about their training. Like marathon runners and Ironman triathletes, powerlifters operate at the brutal edge of their own physical capability.
That means powerlifting is demanding and extremely taxing, both physically and mentally. There’s no faking it: Just you and a barbell, on a platform, locked in an eternal battle against gravity. And for lifters who want to want to go beyond merely “exercising” and dedicate themselves to the pursuit of hardcore strength, it’s rewarding—and, ultimately, transformative.
And while powerlifting has a somewhat brutish reputation—powerlifters like to say their sport is just picking things up and putting them down—anyone who’s bench-pressed twice their body weight or deadlifted 200kg. knows that powerlifting is both a sport of mental fortitude and finesse.
There’s so much to learn: bracing, rooting, breathing, optimal foot position, bar position, eye gaze, head position and activation. It’s rewarding to go through the journey of getting strong because you learn so much about your body, and so much about yourself.
5 REASONS YOU SHOULD BECOME A POWERLIFTER
Strength Translates to Everything:
Strength is the most valuable investment you can make in your life. No athlete ever said, ‘I lost this game because I was too strong.’On a day to day basis no one wants to make more trips to the car when they’re unloading groceries. Strength training is also very beneficial for fat loss. Everybody should look to be adding a strength phase into their training, especially those seeking optimal fat loss.
You’ll Become Mentally Tougher:
Just as endurance training ultimately becomes a mental battle against your lungs, powerlifting demands steely psychological composure—particularly because training often entails pushing to failure, and then getting right back on the platform. The barbell teaches you discipline, sacrifice, how to power through a weight you thought impossible, and how to navigate the darkness of hitting a weight that you’ve never done before.
Under the eye of a good coach and with the right prep, powerlifting’s injury rate is far below that of sports like football or running; it’s closer to tennis and volleyball, according to a widely cited 1994 study conducted in the U.K and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (Powerlifting has also been shown to decrease the risk of osteoporosis.)
It Rewards Longevity:
Football players are “old” by the time they’re 30, and football players and soccer players peak in their 20s. Powerlifters, on the other hand, are typically at their strongest at 35–40 years old, making powerlifting an accessible sport if, for some reason, you didn’t start it in your teens. Credit the low injury risk, and the psychological veterancy.
But You Should Know:
As with any pursuit from bodybuilding to running, progressing in powerlifting becomes progressively more difficult, requiring more effort and dedication as time goes on. And, as with anything worth doing, it takes time and focus. The road to 90% is relatively easy,” Jackson says. “The road from 90 to 100 is hard as hell.” That, and “your friends seem to ask you for help a lot more often when they’re moving out of their apartments,” he says.