Last Updated 11th August 2016: Powerlifting is a topic we talk about quite a lot on the Ghost Fitness blog. It’s also something close to my heart as this is training I personally do. In this article I’m going to breakdown what powerlifting is, the training styles that are usually associated with the sport as well as some recommended websites and guides if you are looking to get started in the sport.
What is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting is a sport very similar to the Olympic weightlifting. In powerlifting there are 3 lifts, the total amount of weight lifted across these 3 lifts gives you a “total”. The individual with the highest total across all 3 lifts is the winner. Similarly to weightlifting you have 3 attempts for each lift, usually competitors will start with a below-maximum attempt and work up to a potential PR.
The lifts themselves are the squat, bench press and deadlift. All must be performed to the rules of the specific federation you are competing in. The most common rules are: A below parallel squat, where the knees are above the hip crease. During the bench press the barbell must come down to the body and be paused until a judge gives the push or press command. And finally in the deadlift you must reach full lockout of the back, hips and shoudlers so your body is standing fully erect.
There are many weight classes in powerlifting. Below is a table of the weight classes associated with the most popular powerlifting federation, called the IPF. There are a number of other federations around the world with different weight class specifications, but generally the IPF is considered the leader in drug free powerlifting.
Equipped Powerlifting vs “Raw” Powerlifting
There are 2 types of powerlifting. The first and oldest is the equipped variation. The same 3 lifts are performed but the individual can use equipment during these lifts to aid themselves, hence the name. The most common pieces of powerlifting equipment for equipped lifters are: squat suit and a bench shirt. These both allow the athlete to lift a heavier weight, which is why you see equipped records set a lot higher than the raw variation.
Raw powerlifting on the other hand is where you perform the lifts without any equipment (kind of.) There are items that you are allowed to use when competing in raw powerlifting competitions, these are: wrist wraps, weight lifting belts, weightlifting shoes and knee sleeves. Some federations also allow wrist straps and knee wraps, although you should check with the federation before starting a competition. You can find out a few of the difference between the two here or on this video.
Powerlifting Training Styles & Programming
Powerlifting training is very different to weightlifting or bodybuilding training, especially the latter. Bodybuilding training is designed to build muscle and size, whereas in powerlifting (although muscle growth occurs from the training) the primary aim is to build strength in the 3 main lifts. As a result powerlifers generally have a different training structure to individuals just looking to build muscle.
A couple of week back we finished our review of the 6 week strength training programme. This was by Jonnie Candito and extremely strong and [youtube] famous powerlifter. This training programme shows the differences between the training styles. Below are the main variations between bodybuilding training and powerlifting routines.
- Lower rep ranges – Powerlifting generally has lower rep range training, to follow more closely with the 1 rep max end goal that the individual is training for.
- Lower total number of sets – As a result of the heavier sets, generally in powerlifting routines you have a lower rep range. This is due to the stress on the CNS (Central Nervous System.)
Powerlifting Guides & Recommended Sites
There are a number of great powerlifting routines and websites, below are a select few I would recommend if you are interested in getting started with this type of strength training.
- Candito Training HQ – The powerlifting blog of Jonnie Candito, as I’ve already mentioned Jonnie is an experienced powerlifters, one of the strongest lifters in the world in his weight class. The information on the site is mainly targeted to teaching individuals the correct patterns for their exercises and learning the correct form for the 3 major lifts.
- Powerlifting to Win – Another tutorial based website created by Izzy Narvaez providing extremely in-depth guides to powerlifting training as well as a number of tips and resources you should definitely check out.
- Powerlifting Watch – One of the biggest blogs dedicated entirely to powerlifting. The information on the site is very useful and covers a wide range, from information, tips, news, events, records and more. Although the site could be updated and brought into the 21st century design wise!
- JTS Strength – JTS’s Powerlifting section is a more advanced look at powerlifting form and correcetive training methods for lifters who have been training for a few years. The guides are more thorough and target individual issues or problems very closely and the ways to overcome these, the perform place for more advanced lifters.
That’s it, a very quick introduction to the world of powerlifting. Over the coming weeks and months we will be posting more articles on powerlifting in general, so if you enjoyed the article remember to share and subscribe to the email list!