Do not think just because you label yourself a bodybuilder that you shouldn't do powerlifitng competition or training. Seven-time and current Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman does powerlifting movements during his training regiment. Powerlifting training is a great way to build strength and physical power and add slabs of thick muscle to your physique. Powerlifting competition is not only a test of the strength but of mental character. When you attend a power meet you will witness the culmination of intense training, tenacity and mental fortitude.
With that understood, let's power up.
Choosing The Right Style
First, there are many different powerlifting training styles, programs and regiments, just like there is in bodybuilding. Personally, I do "Westside & Metal Militia " style training techniques. I do Metal Militia style training when training my Bench press. I have also had good results with methods embraced by bodybuilders.
But for the beginner, I believe that it is better to stick to the basic three lifts to build a foundation. You can move on to the more advanced exercises when you've grown some. Again, in powerlifting there are three lifts and they are the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift.
Most people who have been to a gym have seen these exercises, or seen someone trying to execute them. Most, in any gym, do not know how to do the three basic lifts properly.
So what does proper technique have to do with powerlifting? Everything! Your performance in a meet is governed by strict rules, which is quite different from what you see in gyms on a daily basis.
The Rules In Powerlifting
The rules in a powerlifting meet vary slightly depending upon which organization you choose to lift in but the basics are the same. You get three attempts in each lift, 2 or three weight lights you've made your lift. Two or more red lights and you've got a "no good" lift. You can not go down in weight if you fail to get your opener but you can go up in weight.
Most organizations make it mandatory about assistant equipment, they are only certain bench shirts can be worn, only certain squat and deadlift suites are allowed and you must wear a singlet during benching. You are allowed knee and wrist wraps but no elbow or wrist straps. And chalk is mandatory.
The first lift of the day is the
squat. To get 3 white lights on your squat you must setup with your knees locked, and wait for the command, "SQUAT". Once you receive the command you must squat down until the top of your thigh at the hip is "BELOW" the top of your thigh at the knee. Yep! Most in any gym squat very high, and cannot get that low. Remember if you don't go far enough down, your squat is no good, so get low! The most important thing you must do comes next...you have to stand back up and lock out!
Hitting proper depth is the easy part. Let's face it, if you could get 1000 lbs. out of the racks you could hit depth because that amount of weight is bringing you down no matter what, but can you finish the lift? Can you get back up? When you do stand up and lock out, don't move. One extra step could cost you an otherwise perfect lift. You must wait motionless until you receive the "RACK" command.
The Bench Press
Once you make it through the squats you will get a chance to show off your skills at the worlds favorite lift: the
bench press. Keep in mind that 99.9% of all the bench presses you will see in the gym would not get passed in a powerlifting meet. Bouncing, butt lifting and the ever popular "flying foot" will all draw red lights from the officials.
The rules state: that you must pause at the bottom until the bar is motionless and wait for a "Press" command. That's right, you have to stop the bar on your chest. Let me walk you through.
First, you lie on the bench and take the bar out. I recommend that you get a hand-off from a spotter. Upon the start command, lower the bar to your chest and come to a stop. DON'T relax. Learn to descend under control as this makes it easier to come to a stop and may get you a faster "Press" signal You must stay tight (keep that breath in) and be ready to explode upon hearing the signal to "PRESS!" The head official will give the signal.
When you receive the command drive the bar to arms length and hold it there. Do not rack it. You must wait for the "RACK" command. Then you can rack it. My recommendation is to go to
www.metalmilitia.net or better yet see if you can visit the Metal Militia compound for a bench press workout. Another option would be to find out if Bill Crawford and Sebastian Burns have any lifting seminars in your area. Trust me, no one does it better then these guys.
After the bench, things get harder. Now, you have the
deadlift. This is the simplest lift to describe. You simply pick the bar up and hold it until you receive the "DOWN" command. Sounds simple enough. Well, it isn't. First of all, if your form and technique are poor you won't be able to pick up the weights.
You are not doing
stiff leg deadlifts here. A true deadlift is all leg strength, not the back. Second the pull must be one smooth motion. No "hitching." The bar cannot stop and it cannot go back in a downward direction.
Do not rest the bar on the thighs either or you'll also get red lights. Most meets are won during the deadlift. So, if you aren't a good deadlifter, you had better build up a huge lead with your squat and bench. Once the bar is loaded the head official will raise his arm. That is your signal to begin. You will get three attempts here too.
The American Powerlifting Federation (APF), International Powerlifting Association (IPA), the USAPL which is the largest organization in America, these are just a few organizations. Your rewards are especially gratifying.
Hopefully you achieve a PR in one or all of the three lifts going 9 for 9 that in itself is an accomplishment and a trophy but at least now you know you are a "real" lifter and not a gym lifter.