No longer is powerlifting a man’s arena. Women have been making their way into the sport for years, setting impressive records while demonstrating incredible strength. Interested in getting started with women’s powerlifting? Here’s a quick start guide of what you need to consider before you step up to the barbell.
START WITH THE BASICS
Women’s powerlifting is all about three exercises: the deadlift, the squat, and the bench press. It’s a tally of your three best numbers from these lifts that will give you that personal best you’re striving for. So, what better place to begin than with these three lifts?
Barbell Back Squat:The barbell squat targets the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and abdominals. Ideal for boosting strength, barbell squats are the foundation of powerlifting. To master the barbell squat:
- Position the barbell across your traps (You can also opt for a low-bar variety, but we recommend this for more advanced lifters)
- Place your feet at or just outside of shoulder width
- Stand tall with the barbell and brace the core
- Bend at the knees while you drive your hips back
- Lower yourself towards the ground
- Pause once your thighs reach parallel (or go beyond parallel if you have the flexibility)
- Contract your quadriceps and glutes as you stand back up
Barbell Deadlift:The deadlift activates the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, calves, quadriceps, and abdominals. Our deadlifting checklist offers a more in-depth breakdown, but here’s a rundown on how to perform a deadlift:
- With a flat back, keep your hips above your knees
- Take a deep breath then pull the barbell up slowly
- Pull in a straight vertical line with an overhand grip and straight arms
- The barbell should touch your shins but not drag against them
- Once the barbell is at your thighs, lock out your hips by tightening your glutes
- Do not lean back
- Exhale your breath as you slowly lower the barbell back towards the ground
- Push your hips back but do not bend at the knees until after the barbell has passed them
Barbell Bench Press:The barbell bench press targets your chest, front deltoids, abdominals, and triceps. Learn how to perform and increase your bench press:
- Lie on a flat bench with your feet flat on the ground (If your legs don’t reach, you can use the foot rest at the end of the bench)
- Brace your core and pinch your shoulder blades together for stability
- Use a grip that is just outside of shoulder width
- Focus the tension in the chest as you push the barbell straight up
- Slowly lower the barbell towards your chest
- Pause at the bottom then push the barbell back up – Do not lock out the elbows
Although you’re just starting out, you may be wondering whether you need powerlifting gear. The answer is yes, but only a few items. For beginners, we recommend keeping it simple with these three worthwhile buys:
Weightlifting Belt: Provides your abdominal muscles with a force to push off of when performing squats and deadlifts.
Alpha Grips: Dramatically improves your grip strength, allowing you to pull more weight for a longer period of time.
Wrist Wraps: Protect your wrists during heavy lifting, keeping them safe from over extensions.
Once you dip your toes in a bit more into the world of powerlifting, then you should consider more gear such as deadlifting shoes and chalk.
DEVELOP A SCHEDULE
Create a schedule for yourself where you focus on improving your performance with these three exercises. We recommend at least three days per week of performing the deadlift, squat, and bench press. You can alternate week to week where your workouts have only one exercise or all three.
As you improve, increase this number of workouts per week by one. Ideally, your goal would be safely lifting five times per week, assuming your rest and recovery game is on point.
ATTEND A LOCAL MEET (BUT DON’T LIFT)
There’s no better way to get motivated than to attend a local meet. For your first meet, don’t plan on lifting. Instead, look at it as your chance to educate yourself, have a better idea of what you’d like to achieve, and get pumped.
SET YOUR GOALS (BASED ON THE MEET)
Based on the feedback from the powerlifting meet, set some realistic goals for yourself. How much would you like to deadlift within six months? How many pounds would you like to bench press in three months? Using a micro (weekly), meso (monthly), and macro (twelve month) scale, set goals for yourself with the knowledge that you’ll probably be changing them as you go along. No goal is ever static.
CONSIDER GETTING A POWERLIFTING TRAINER
With your goals set and your motivation high, this is when we recommend getting a powerlifting trainer. Even if you’ve been practicing the basic exercises, you want to make sure that your form and posture are perfect BEFORE you start lifting heavier weights. The knowledge you’ll acquire from a few sessions with a trainer could save you months spent in recovery from a weightlifting injury.
COMMIT TO YOUR FIRST MEET (AND LIFT!)
Return to the place where you found powerlifting meets and sign up for your first one. That date will be your deadlift. It’ll set a fire underneath you to get up and get going. Write on the calendar, commit, and work your butt off until the big day arrives.
HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT GETTING STARTED WITH WOMEN’S POWERLIFTING?
Is there anything we didn’t cover? Need us to expand anything we suggested? Have your own tips for getting started with women’s powerlifting? Let us know on our Facebook!