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September 10, 2021 9 min read
You’ve heard the term dozens of times, maybe you’ve even used the term yourself. But do you actually know what powerlifting is?
Like functional strength training, powerlifting seems to be used as an umbrella term or used interchangeably with bodybuilding or weightlifting. However, there are characteristics of powerlifting that distinguish it from other types of lifting.
Let’s jump right into what makes powerlifting special.d Knowing exactly what powerlifting is will give you a good foundation of knowledge for the topics we’ll discuss later.
Powerlifting is often thought of as a method of strength training, but it is more accurately defined as its own strength sport. Any powerlifting training session is done with the structure and requirements of a powerlifting competition in mind.
So what exactly is this structure?
At the typical powerlifting meet, you will see three lifts of importance: bench press, deadlift, and squat, all done with a weighted barbell. You will never see dumbbells or kettlebells at a powerlifting competition. It is safe to assume these competition lifts would be the main focus of powerlifting training programs.
Within these three lifts, powerlifters will get three attempts to perform their highest possible one rep max. Each competitor performs all three lifts and the top lifts of each are added for the total competitor’s tally. This allows people of different areas of strength a chance at an overall win. So, even if your deadlifting isn’t up to par, a strong bench press or squat may be all it takes.
This tally is compared to other competitors that fall within the same weight class, based, of course, on your body weight. This way the competition is fair, as heavier lifters tend to be able to lift heavier due to pure physics. Age is also taken into account in competitions.
However, in some powerlifting competitions, there will be an overall best lifter. This is determined by the ratio of body weight to weight lifted. So, even if a huge dude has a good lift, it definitely is not as impressive as a much smaller lifter moving the same weight.
Seems easy? Think again.
Not only do you have to perform your absolute best in just three lifts, but there are also a stringent set of standards and rules to follow within each lift. Fail to meet even one lift criteria and that attempt will be disqualified. A lot of the standard for powerlifting has been set forth by powerlifting federations, such as the International Powerlifting Federation, or IPF.
You may be interested to know that powerlifting has strong roots in ancient Greece.
These days, it’s a well-established sport. Stemming from weightlifting, which has been an Olympic sport since the late 1800s, powerlifting was not officially established until around the 1970s when the IPF was founded.
Although powerlifting is only officially relatively new, it has been around much longer than the IPF was founded. The entire history of powerlifting is lengthy, yet captivating. If you’re highly interested, check out some of history’s best powerlifters, such as Ed Coan, Eddie Hall, or Mikhail Koklyaev.
If you’re interested in powerlifting, your next question might be where on earth you’ll be able to show off all your hard work. After all, when and where powerlifting meets are is not really common knowledge.
Like any well-established sport, there are levels to tackle, each level covering increasingly more areas. Your first powerlifting competition will be a small, local meet. Typically you can find these meets by contacting your local powerlifting gyms who may host the competitions.
Doing these meets, even if they may seem arbitrary, is a great way to see where you stand and is also good for practicing the pressure of competing. However, it’s not likely you’ll have a large audience and you may not even have another participant in your weight class. .
The biggest meet you can possibly do would be an international competition. While this can, of course, be a goal of yours, getting there takes serious time, dedication, and, of course, some major wins under your belt.
Next to practice and strength, there are a few things allowed at competitions to give lifters the ability to capitalize on their strength as much as possible.
With all the rules and specifics, you may be deterred from powerlifting. However, the benefits of this strength sport heavily outweigh its cons. Training for powerlifting and competing in competitions will help you:
In reading all this, you may be wondering how powerlifting actually differs from other strength training methods, like bodybuilding or weightlifting.Here are the main things that make powerlifting unique:
If you’re not big into aesthetics or super fancy multi-part lifts, powerlifting might be your thing. Bodybuilders, while they may train similarly to powerlifters, put nearly all of their focus towards their physique. Powerlifters, however, have one main goal: to perform at their best. Powerlifters don’t really care whether or not they get cut in the process. For this reason, many weightlifters may simply appear big but not necessarily jacked.
Very unlike powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting participants must learn very complex and dynamic movements, such as the clean and jerk. Powerlifting is all about lifting heavy with just three main and, comparatively, simple lifts that all stay within one plane of movement.
Just as powerlifters are not concerned with their appearance, they also aren’t concerned with following any sort of rigid diet. Bodybuilders live and breathe diets while powerlifters utilize them much more seldomly. Sure, they may need to shed a few pounds to stay within a certain weight class or they may need to bulk up a bit.
If anything, powerlifters like to stay in a healthy surplus of calories to help perform at maximum energy during lifts, typically utilizing products such as Steel Supplements Whey Iso Protein Powder.
But, overall, you should not expect to feel too focused on your food being a powerlifter. Each powerlifter is different in this aspect, however.
Powerlifters are mainly concerned with building maximum strength in their muscles. In order to do this, they must allow for proper recovery times between training sessions. You’re not likely to see a powerlifter training one muscle group more than 2-3 times a week.
In total, they may even only train 3-5 times a week. However, don’t mistake this for laziness. Powerlifting training sessions are intense and highly difficult, requiring maximum energy. For this reason, powerlifters can afford and even benefit from training less than bodybuilders or other types of strength training might.
Powerlifting is its own unique and special type of strength sport. In fact, powerlifters, are some of the most hardcore and dedicated people out there. The great news is, anyone can get into powerlifting. Building strength through powerlifting is almost guaranteed when done properly, so don’t feel discouraged if you’re starting off as an absolute beginner.
If you’re someone who prioritizes the nitty-gritty performance aspect of lifting, then you should try out powerlifting. Getting into powerlifting is rewarding and fun, but won’t come without some hardships. Preparing yourself with the proper knowledge and specifics on the sport will already give you a leg up on your first training session. No idea where to start?