When you hear the term powerlifting you might think of large scary men tossing around heavy weights, but anyone can enjoy and benefit from this form of lifting. Powerlifting is the sport or idea of lifting as much weight as possible in the bench press, deadlift and squat lifts. While gaining strength and size you are also able to compete with yourself and keep track of your progress.
Compound lifts are exercises that use multiple muscles at once. These should be the core of any program or routine as they strengthen and build muscle fast.
Bench Press: Not only does this lift workout your chest it also incorporates the front part of your shoulders, triceps and even the back.
Deadlift: The deadlift covers a large variety of muscles including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back and inner thighs.
Squats: Squats mainly focus on the hamstrings and quads however they incorporate a lot of core and back muscles.
Overhead Press: This movement will hit your chest, traps (upper back), shoulders and arms as well as engage the core.
How to Start
The first thing you will need to do when you decide that you would like to start doing these movements and lifting heavy is very important and that is, learn correct form and posture to avoid hurting yourself. I would suggest watching tutorial videos on forums or YouTube, ask someone at your local gym that you see doing these or possibly even start with hiring a personal trainer just to get these perfected early on.
Next since the ideal goal is to lift as heavy as possible we are going to want to determine what your max amount of weight you can lift per exercise. You should have a spotter or someone close by to monitor these lifts just in case you overshot and cannot lift the amount of weight you set on the bar.
A beginner method of calculating one rep maxes would be to calculate based off of how much weight you can lift for five times. Here is a great structure to use:
- 10 reps with only the bar
- 8 reps with a light weight
- 6 reps with a moderately heavy weight
- 5 reps with a heavier weight
- 5 reps with a heavy weight
- 5 reps with an increased heavier weight (assuming form is okay)
You will than take the final set of five weight and times it by 1.15 to get an estimated amount of what your one rep max would be. This is not 100% accurate but a great way for beginners to estimate and not hurt themselves testing out the heaviest amount of weight they can lift.
Once you have an idea of what your max lifts will be its good to get into some sort of programming structure. It does not have to be anything crazy but a good start is to dedicate a specific day of the week that you will do each lift and stay consistent.
Monday – Bench
Tuesday – Deadlift
Thursday – Overhead press
Friday – Squat
That would be a decent structure to start and just make sure you keep a log of how many sets and reps you are doing each day. If the previous week you benched 185 pounds for 5 sets of 5 reps, the next week we will either want to revisit that same weight/rep range if it was a bit challenging the first time or add some weight or reps to continuously be moving forward.
Another great thing to incorporate is variations of each lift. Pause bench or squats where you will hold the weight for 2-3 seconds before pushing up is great to factor in every once in a while to help grow your muscles and increase how much you can lift. For deadlifts a more advanced alternative is lifting up about two inches off the ground holding it there for 2-3 seconds and than finishing up the motion.
Taking it to the next level!
For me I have done the whole one time a week do the compounds and seen constant strength growth. It just was not quick enough for me and eventually started to hit a plateau.
Get out there and Crush It
At the end of the day you are only competing with yourself, so remember do not get discouraged from someone else who might be lifting more than you. Instead, I like to use that as motivation, make it your goal that in X amount of weeks or months you will better yourself and be lifting side by side with that person. If you ever needed some guidance or had any questions feel free to drop a line below and I would happy to help out or critique and give any tips and tricks that I have acquired in my time of the craft.