I’m going to do a Powerlifting comp.
Before I go any further, here’s a quick “strength sports 101” for people whose brains go blank when they see a barbell*
Bodybuilding: the one where you use weights in the gym to make your muscles big, but then at the competition you don’t lift any weights up and down. You pose on stage in sparkly pants/bikini. The judges neither know nor care what weights you can lift.
Powerlifting: the one where you lift weights up and down in the competition. You only do three different lifts. Bench press (lying on your back on a bench and pressing the bar up and down), squat (standing up with the bar on your back, and squatting up and down), deadlifting (leaning down to grab hold of the bar, then standing up with it). The judges don’t care what you look like in a sparkly bikini, but they are very strict about how you lift your weights up and down.
Olympic lifting: the one you might see on TV sometimes during major sporting events, where people in singlets do athletic stuff with a barbell like lifting it over their heads. The lifts have funny names, “snatch” is one.
Strongman: the one you probably watch on TV over Christmas. You’ve probably only seen massive great big giant men doing it. The events are very memorable, even if you’re not sure why they’re doing them; things like pulling a truck, deadlifting a car, or lifting a series of very big heavy stones.
OK, so the one I normally do is bodybuilding. I’ve done strong(wo)man a couple of times. Now I’d like to have a go at powerlifting. If I ever give Olympic lifting a go, you have permission to make me eat any one of my numerous hats.
There are lots of powerlifting federations/associations (just as with bodybuilding) but I’m choosing to compete with the BDFPA (British Drug-Free Powerlifting Association), partly because lots of my friends lift with this association so I’m guaranteed to have friends at my comp, and partly because – as a natural bodybuilder – I’m serious about competing in tested sport wherever the option exists.
Full Power? Whassat?
At most powerlifting competitions, you can either do “full power” which means you have a go at all three lifts (bench, squat, deadlift) or you can opt to do just one lift.
Equipped or unequipped?
You can also lift “equipped” (which involves bits of kit which help you be able to lift more weight, such as bench shirts, knee wraps) or “unequipped” which means you can use a belt and that’s about it.
I’m going to do full power (yolo) and unequipped, because I just want to see what I can lift, and I can’t be bothered getting used to lifting in kit – it’s a whole new world of technique.
What do you wear?
As an unequipped lifter within the BDFPA, I wear a singlet (kindly lent to me by my powerlifting buddy from the gym) with a t-shirt underneath, long socks for deadlifting, a belt, and any suitable shoes. I’ve got myself some Olympic/squat shoes for the…er..squat (obvs) and I must say they make a lot of difference. I really love them. They make me feel much more secure as I squat, I feel I can go deeper (which is important, because if I don’t go deep enough at the comp, my lift won’t count), and my posture feels better. The belt and I are not enjoying such a harmonious relationship at the moment, but it’s early days. I hope that, with time, I will be able to see past the belt’s tough, unrelenting exterior and that it might soften up and be more gentle with me. Until then, I will (wo)man up and deal with the pain!
I’ve barely started training for the comp, but I’ll post more about training another time. I do bench, squat and deadlift regularly, and can lift OK weights for all three. But obviously I’m keen to do as well as I can at the comp. And training for just one maximum rep is very different to using the three lifts as part of hypertrophy-style bodybuilding training.
At the moment I can lift:
– 60kgs for 2 reps (bench)
– 100kgs for 1 rep (squat)
– 140kg for 1 rep (deadlift)
And yes those are all executed properly according to powerlifting rules – I train in a powerlifting gym and my training partner is a powerlifter.
I’d like to get the bench up a bit, the squat up quite a lot, and the deadlift up a fraction if possible.
Here’s what I need to do before the comp:
– get used to the belt
– make sure my technique is “comp legal” for all three lifts (hitting correct depth, locking out, pausing at the chest etc)
– poss smash belt with meat tenderiser?
– try to get my lifts/numbers up as much as possible (particularly bench which is my weakest one of the three)
– poss run belt over with truck
– decide on my openers (the weight I’ll nominate as my first attempt on each lift)
– decide how much I’ll probably go up by after that (you do each lift three times, so you nominate your opener, and then have two more goes on each lift, obviously going up in weight each time, but by how much is up to you)
Have you done a powerlifting meet? How was your first comp? I’d love to hear any advice, funny stories, dos or don’ts.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.