So you Wanna be a Powerlifter

Actually paying up to join a Federation, signing up (and paying again) for a Meet, arranging travel, room and board and planning a training cycle to peak at the Meet is a pain in the ass. I know this, and I know I’m not strong enough to put up a total I’d be proud to claim. So periodically, I wonder if I shouldn’t surrender the idea altogether so I can go on about the business of lifting for…. And therein lies the existential dilemma. If I’m not going to Powerlift, what exactly am I going to do?

My long and sordid bouts with moderately heavy weights have taken many forms over the years. After all it wasn’t until 2007 that I even considered the concept of strength training. After training and competing wrapped up in Powerlifting gear, I decided to work on my raw strength and have never fully returned to a dedicated and committed Powerlifting focus, assuming if I just worked on getting stronger, I would eventually have the numbers I wanted to compete any time. There’s a few issues with that philosophy. Powerlifting is an actual sport. There are organizations with rules, judges, and the like. You can’t just show up and squat, bench and deadlift. You have to register, make weight, wear approved clothing and use approved wraps, belts and other apparatus.

The lifts themselves have rules and you will be judged on your squat depth and if you followed the commands. The bench press is likely the most specific challenge of going from just general strength lifting to actually competing. The lift is paused on the chest, and if you don’t think a paused bench press differs from your standard touch the chest and go back up bench press, you haven’t tried it. Judges will be watching to see if your butt leaves the bench and if you’ve ever watched gym lifters attempt a max effort bench press, you will see a lot of daylight between the gluteus maximus and the bench. That’s a No Lift at a Powerlifting Meet.

I gave the issue some serious consideration and decided that yes, I want to be a powerlifter. I want to be striving toward a competitive performance in the sport. I may not ever do it because of the aforementioned inconveniences and lack of impressive strength. However, if I suddenly got the urge to compete, say because a local meet was announced, if I wasn’t specifically training to compete I wouldn’t be able to just go for it when said urge arrived.  With that decision solidified in my mind, I again had to take a hard look at my training to see if I could determine why I wasn’t making the kind of progress I want to make to get my total to at least the average for Masters lifters in my weight class.

I have a lot of eBooks on strength training, but the most specific to powerlifting, from a source who has shown himself to be knowledgeable, strong, and in my view, immensely credible, is Programming to Win by Izzy of Powerlifting to Win fame. I have spent a lot of time in the last few days watching the videos on his channels. The kid knows his stuff and is strong as an ox. Eventually, information gets passed my confirmation biases and new knowledge is imparted. I have been training the way I like to train, but in no way was it optimal for Powerlifting as a competitive sport. I considered hiring Izzy to coach me directly, but before I spend my hard earned cash each month, I decided I’d at least run the programs he has in his eBook which would take me to an advanced intermediate stage and if all goes well, move my damn total up.

It was very challenging for me to accept that I am likely still a novice based on Izzy’s definitions, but I took his advice and started his advanced novice plan, even though I dreaded the thought of training all three powerlifts in the same training session. I spent my off day from lifting on Friday mentally preparing for a gruelling 3-lift session Saturday morning, but honestly, it was fun and not as brutal as I expected it to be. I ate a few extra Smarties, took a little extra caffeine and had at it. Motivated by my 3-PR results today (new 5RM’s in all three lifts), and a much improved Sumo Deadlift set up thanks to Izzy’s instruction I even purchased some new lifting shoes to further cement my commitment to the sport, and my efforts to be an actual competitive athlete and not just a dude that lifts weights.


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