I recently had a friend who is a personal trainer tell me she was interested in powerlifting. She asked if I could give her some tips since she had no experience with this sport in particular. I figured since I wrote a lot of this out for her already, it would be good to share with others too! Hopefully this helps!
I always first start with choosing a meet a few months out at least. Once you commit, it gives you a goal and makes you more accountable to stick with it. I hear so many people say… “I’m going to do this or that meet,” then they end up backing out because they “aren’t ready” or “their numbers aren’t where they want them to be.” I never understood this. Why do you have to have an elite total the first meet you do? Just do a damn meet! Get the jitters out and experience under your belt. Learn from it. And then do it again. Your first meet is not suppose to be the best meet of your life. Ask any powerlifter out there.
Now let me talk to you about a few things with programming. I’ve learned quite a few things these past years of competing and using many different training methods. There are a TON of programs out there. Some better than others, some work better for some people than others, but nothing beats having an experienced coach (in person or even remotely) that can help with form, cues, and also know how to tweak a program regarding your specific needs. If you can’t afford one then there are a ton of cheap programs online as well as a second option. If you do this I can’t stress this enough – STICK WITH IT! So many people program hop. How can you know exactly what a program does for you if you don’t follow it the whole way through? I definitely suggest just picking one and following it the whole way through (usually 12-20 weeks) not adjusting anything and really following the percentages they suggest. There is 5th Set, Cube Method, and a ton of other “template” style programs out. If you are serious though, I definitely suggest getting a coach. You will thank yourself later.
Unfortunately, with powerlifting most people usually start out in a bad place with form and percentages because they believe it’s all just lifting heavy, but to really get the most out of your training in all honesty high percentages or pulling maxes in your training is ridiculous, you save that for peaking right before a meet and then obviously the day of the meet.
Others may disagree but you won’t have a long career in the sport if you are maxing out or even grinding every rep in the gym. You will just get injured. Trust me. I learned the hard way at the expense of my back injury. Now I know. Before my last meet for a YEAR I never pulled anything above 315 until peaking right before my meet and at my meet I pulled 450 – there is no need to test all the time or work with high percentages.
Unfortunately, there’s this “go hard or you’re a pussy” mentality which only gets you social media followers and a bad back, hurt knee, or torn rotator cuff. I can say this because I’ve been there lol. I did it and I hurt myself and now I train smarter. Luckily, I have a very experienced coach now that keeps me in check. It’s definitely marathon sport not a sprint.
I’m not bashing any method or training style, I’m saying this from my heart so less beginners don’t get hurt. I promise you over time with bad form you will get hurt. Some of the programs also do prescribe too heavy weight or you are using way too heavy of a max to base your percentages off of. Don’t use a max that you had 2 years ago as the weight you base the program off of. My coach gives me a training max. I hit something I can get for 3 reps then try to AMRAP it with good form. Off of that he then tells me what my training max will be. Even if it “feels” easy at first you will add over time. Remember each week it just gets heavier! So don’t get discouraged if you are using less weight then you think you should.
If anyone has any specific questions that I missed just message me and I will be happy to help or point you in the right direction!