Beginning Powerlifting!

Some people think that there is no difference between powerlifting and bodybuilding, and I can't blame them. But once you get into it, you can tell the difference like you can tell the difference between black and white.

1999 WNPF Alabama State Powerlifting Champion
2000 WNPF Alabama State Powerlifting Champion
2000 USPF Alabama State Powerlifting Champion
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Some people think that there is no difference between powerlifting and bodybuilding, and I can't blame them. But once you get into it, you can tell the difference like you can tell the difference between black and white. Powerlifting is sort of a mix between weightlifting and bodybuilding. Now the reason why I say this is because you see a variety of weightlifters' physiques and bodybuilders' physiques that can display strength and power. Powerlifting involves the display of strength through three exercises: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. They judge by the numbers, not by the physique or size. It's simple, the highest total wins!!

Nine out of ten people can excel at this sport simply because its fun and you NEVER lose. You see, in powerlifting, if you set yourself to a specific goal and you achieve it, it doesn't matter if you win or lose, as long as you achieve your personal goal. For example, if you set yourself to do a 405 bench in competition and let's say you do that, but you place third in your class, you're very unlikely to feel like you lost.

Powerlifting goes in depth with the mind further than bodybuilding I think. There is so much that can cause an "off" day at a powerlifting meet. For one, your body might not of had enough rest, or your mind is distracted. You have to be 110% percent the day of the meet.

Also powerlifting uses equipment like any other sport to protect yourself from injury. For instance, bench shirts help protect your shoulders, knee wraps help protect your knees as to wrist straps protects your wrists, singlets and suits help to make sure you don't break your form in competition and of course a weight belt that protects your lower back.

Powerlifting helps you to gain self-esteem and confidence. If you're looking to start powerlifting competition, you have to know everything from the equipment needed to the routine and diet. So here goes!!!


The equipment needed in powerlifting is essential. I'll explain each one in detail from head to toe. First, the bench shirt. The bench shirt is an invention that was made to protect the shoulders. The bench shirt also helps get lifters out of the bottom-position on the bench where most lifters have trouble at. It's very tight around the arms and chest simply because when you get it, it's custom-made for you! Before you get a shirt, you have to give your arm and chest measurements so the tightness of the shirt can be determined. This shirt is hard to put on and take off, which is why before your attempts you should wear it once. If the shirt is loose, you might as well go without it. Also, don't let anyone else wear the shirt, simply because it was made for you.

Next is the wrist straps. The wrist straps helps to protect the wrists from excessive strain by the weight. These can help a whole lot on the bench and squat, since the wrist are vulnerable through those exercises. The suits (squat or deadlift) and singlets (wrestling or power) are made for tightness and help with form. The suits helps to prevent injury in the hip area and help to even increase tightness on the bench.

The belt is another piece of equipment that most lifters should already have. This protects the lower back from strain and pull. You can use it on the deadlift and squat. It might help on the bench, but for some lifters it might not make a difference.

Finally, the knee wraps. The knee wraps protects knees during the squat and deadlift. They work the same way as the wrist wraps. Chalk is also used as an equipment but it is supplied in competition.

In competition, they have several rules that are followed. In competition, you're expected to go at or below parallel on the squat. Bodybuilders do "high" squats while powerlifters have to go deeper to hit parallel. You're also expected to do a "rest-pause" on the bench. This where most lifters fall short of. I'll explain the signals later. There are hardly no stipulations on the deadlift, its simple. There are signals that you must also follow in order for your to get a "good" lift. On the squat, you have a "squat" signal which is where you do your actual squat, then you have a "rack" signal where you rack the weight. On the bench, you bring the bar down to your chest then you wait for the "press" signal (which shouldn't be no more than 2-3 seconds with the right weight), then you wait for a "rack" signal to rack the weight. On the deadlift, all you have is a "down" signal, you can pull at your own speed. If you rush through the lift or "miss" the signals, you will miss the lift, regardless if you got the attempt or not. That's how judges are able to judge fair lifts by the signals. If you don't pause on the bench, it will be a missed lift. As long as you can get used to the signals, you can have a "good" lift. All it takes is practice in the gym.

As far as the rules are concerned, they are simple. For one, most powerlifting meets ban the "false-grip" (where the thumbs are on the same side as the fingers.) bench because the risk of the bar moving off the hands during the lift. Also, one of your fingers must cover the space on the bar. If not, they won't permit the lift. On the squat, they won't let you touch the plates. Some meets go the same way as gym rules go (i.e., no cussing). Also, no velcro belts are allowed in competition simply because they are unsafe. They might be tight, but since they are velcro, they tend to loosen up under pressure, especially on the squat. Buckle belts eliminates that from the picture and ensures safety. All powerlifting meets have a rules briefing meeting where they discuss all of the rules. Be sure to ask all the questions you can about the equipment (most meets do equipment checks) and rules.

There are ten weight classes. For the men, they are: 114, 132, 148, 165, 181, 198, 220, 242, 275, and SHW (or superheavyweight). For the women, 97, 105, 114, 132, 148, 165, 181, 198, and 198+. According to your weight the day or night before the competition, you will be placed in the nearest class. For example, you have two lifters, one at 191 another at 199. Well, the 191 lifter will be placed in the 198 class while the 199 lifter will be placed in the 220 class. The 199 lifter is over the 198 limit for his class, so he will be placed in the next heaviest class. But there is little things you can do to get weight, like chew gum, use the bathroom, take a shower, even do cardio to drop weight. But its best to think about what class your going in before the meet rather than the day of.


The routine, I think can go either way. But most of the time, you'll be doing periodization or cycling as it is commonly called. This works because you work up to doing a new maximum rep (max or 1RM) everytime. I've used periodization a lot and I'm a big believer in it and because of it, I've seen progress. Some people cycle from 6 weeks up to 16 weeks. The only difference is the more weight that will be done at the end. There are phases, hypertrophy, strength, power and peak. The hypertrophy phase helps condition the muscle for more mass while the strength phase helps with strength increase. The power phase brings about power and you peak out in your peak phase, which will end your cycle. Below is a cycle that has all the phases outlined. In order to customize the cycle to your needs, you have to multiply your 1RM by the percentage listed (i.e. 1RM=300; 300*50%).

Chart 1: Sample Hypertrophy Meso Cycle
Week Sets Reps Intensity Rest
1 5 10 62% 3 Minutes
2 4 10 64% 3 Minutes
3 3 10 66% 3 Minutes
4 3 8 68% 3 Minutes
5 3 8 70% 3 Minutes
Chart 2: Sample Strength Meso Cycle
Week Sets Reps Intensity Rest
1 5 6 75% 3 Minutes
2 5 6 77% 3 Minutes
3 4 5 79% 3 Minutes
4 4 5 82% 3 Minutes
5 3 4 85% 3 Minutes
Chart 3: Sample Power Meso Cycle
Week Sets Reps Intensity Rest
1 3 4 87% 3 Minutes
2 3 3 89% 3 Minutes
3 3 3 91% 4 Minutes
4 3 3 93% 5 Minutes
Chart 4: Sample Peaking Meso Cycle
Week Sets Reps Intensity Rest
1 3 3 95% 5 Minutes
2 2 2 97% 7 Minutes
3 2 1 99% 7 Minutes

Here's another powerlifting cycle that I got gains on and it give you a sizable pump as well. This cycle is eight weeks as well.

1 2^12 60%
2 2^10 65%
3 2^8 69%
4 2^6 74%
5 2^5 79%
6 2*4 85%
7 2*3 90%
8 2*2 95%

Judging your max at the end of a cycle is a good thing to do to boost motivation. 1RM chart is based upon your actual max, not assumed. You can make yourself a jackass easier that way. Use this chart at all times when trying to judge a max. For example, if your 1RM on your bench is 405, then 95% of it would be 385(or 384.75). Lets say you did 2 sets of 2 using the cycle above, well take 385 and multiply it by 1.115 (see below).

Repetitions Squat Benchpress Deadlift
1 1 1 1
2 1.0475 1.035 1.065
3 1.13 1.08 1.13
4 1.1575 1.115 1.147
5 1.2 1.15 1.164
6 1.242 1.18 1.181
7 1.284 1.22 1.198
8 1.326 1.255 1.232
9 1.368 1.29 1.232
10 1.41 1.325 1.24

The routine below is a basic powerlifting routine. Its designed to help you get used to the order of lifts---the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. You do bodyparts according to what lift your doing that day. For example, on bench day, you might be doing chest, triceps, and shoulders, muscles that help the bench. Use the routine in conjunction with the either of the cycles above.

  • Squat(use the strength cycle)
  • Olympic Squats/Pause Squats 1x3(alternate)
  • Leg Press 4x6(heavy)
  • Leg Extensions 3x10(moderate)
  • Leg Curls or Seated Leg Curls 3x8
  • Seated or Standing Calf Raises 4x15
  • **Squat Walkouts(1x1) and Rack Squats(3-4x2) can be done in place of squats
    • Bench Press(use the strength cycle)
    • Incline Bench/Decline Bench 3x10
    • Wide-Grip Bench Press 1x10
    • Dumbbell Bench Press 3xfailure
    • Behind-the-Neck or Front Shoulder Press or Seated Press 4x6
    • Lateral Raises or Bent-Over Lateral Raises 3x10
    • Barbell Curls 3x8
    • Hammer Curls 3x8
    • **Bench Press Lockouts(3-4x2) can be done in place of bench
    • Deadlift(use the strength cycle)
    • Good Mornings 3x10
    • Behind-the-Neck/Front Pulldowns 4x6(heavy)(alternate)
    • Cable Rows, Dumbbell Rows, or Machine Rows 3x10(moderate)(alternate)
    • Shrugs 3x10
    • Close-Grip Bench Press 3x10
    • Triceps Extensions or Dips 3xfailure
    • Heavy Cheat Curls 2x6
    • Hammer Curls 3x8
    • **Rack Deadlifts(4x2) can be done in place of deadlifts
    As you can see, triceps are being worked on a different day from the bench simply because your triceps need special attention since they will help out on your bench. Keep a log of your progress and go up in weight every week(5-10lbs a week.)

    The diet of powerlifting will require lots of calories because the more calories your consume, the more strength will be accompanied by the weight. Protein is the name of the game and lots of it will aid you very well in competition. Here's a diet that is used in "Keys to Gaining Size and Strength".

    Cheese omelette Protein drink
    Milk Supplements
    Supplements ?
    ? ?
    Tuna salad Broiled steak
    Slice of hard cheese Baked potato
    Orange juice Green vegetable
    ? Milk
    ? Supplements
    ? ?
    Broiled Chicken Cold cuts
    Rice Yogurt
    Small salad Raw nuts and seeds
    Iced tea Milk
    Supplements ?

    Meal replacements can be used if your short on time and you can used fruits like apples, banana, etc. Your goal here is muscular weight-gain. As for supplements, you should be taking protein, if not anything else. Creatine is a good choice as well. If you read "Keys to Gaining Size and Strength", you know that the powdered stuff is no good, save Cell-Tech Hardcore. Better choices would be either liquid creatine or effervescent creatine. Stay on top of your supplements and diet as well as your routine and you will come out on top!!

    Powerlifting is a great sport to get into and everyone will like it a lot simply because of the display of strength that's usually seen. Take time out to plan out what you want to accomplish at a meet. Use the plan above and in either eight weeks or seventeen weeks, you will be ready for the competition. One more thing, don't worry about whose in your weight class. Compete against yourself, first!!

    Most of the competitions I went into, I didn't worry about who was in my class. It was interesting to meet them, but I didn't worry about what they did. Keep that in mind and focus on yourself. Well, if you have any more questions, call me at 334-207-5650 or email me at