Powerlifting focuses on three main lifts: bench press, squat, and deadlift. Together, these three lifts work the entire body to build strength and muscle mass. The lifts are simple to understand and have become a popular choice for resistance training in both male and female populations in recent years.
Despite its popularity, choosing a program or training routine is still difficult for most people who don’t have experience as a strength and conditioning coach or trainer. Here are a few considerations for choosing a program when you’re ready to get your hands on some weight lifting equipment.
Know Your Schedule
Before you can decide on which program to follow, you need to take a realistic look at your schedule. While there is an argument to be made for people having more time than they think they do, there are still considerations about the time of day, frequency, and duration of your visits to the gym. Having a gym at home opens a few more doors when choosing a program.
You may find a program that you like that requires you to visit the gym three times a week for two hours at a time. However, you find it impossible to carve two hours out of a day. Instead, you opt for a program that requires you to be at the gym one hour a day, five days a week. You’re able to fit this in after work or during your lunch break, making the commitment easier. Don’t be afraid to wake up extra early or shift things around to get to your training session.
The key to a good powerlifting program is progression. That is, you want to continuously be lifting more weight as to overload your system and increase your strength. Progression can be gradual or aggressive, depending on your timeline and goals. For example, simply adding five pounds to your barbell for each lift every week is a form of progression, if your reps and sets stay the same. Alternatively, if you struggle with the five-pound jump, you can stay at the same weight and add another set. If you want a more aggressive progression, you might add sets and weight each week.
The best way to assess your progression is to look at the total weight lifted over a week. By multiplying your reps and sets, then adding everything together, you’ll be able to see the sum of all weight lifted during your weekly training. If that number goes up each week, you’re progressing.
Be sure to choose a program with a deload week or incorporate your own. Deloading is a period in which you drop back to lower weights and pause your progression. This gives your body a chance to fully recover from the wear and tear it has endured during training. By lifting light weights, you are maintaining your muscle memory and reducing the chance of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when you get back to the gym.
If you find yourself powering through some aches and pains to get to the deload week, use the time to see a massage therapist or physical therapist to address any concerns you have during this time.
Muscle Grouping and Workout Plan
You’ll want a program that incorporates accessory work, or you’ll have to add it on your own. Different muscle groups should be worked on different days, allowing for a recovery and regeneration break in between. If you follow a program that does all three lifts on the same day, ensure you are taking rest days in between each workout. Ideally, you’re working on one major muscle group while another recovers.
Powerlifting can be as simple or complicated as you make it. Just remember to be safe, have fun, and push yourself to finish your workout.