Powerlifting Tips for Beginners, According to the Expert
Powerlifting is the act of lifting as much as possible in the bench press, deadlift or squat for one rep at a time, and it’s in fact different from Olympic Lifting.
“A lot of people mistakenly think about powerlifting as a big guy lifting big, really heavy weights,” says Mike Farr, who is more commonly referred to as Silent Mike by his fans.
Farr is a powerlifting athlete and coach whose YouTube channel has accumulated more than 15 million views and become one of the most followed, trusted sources for weightlifters and fitness enthusiasts alike.
“Sure, you will see men and women at the highest level of powerlifting throwing around those big numbers, but at its core, powerlifting is accessible to everyone,” he says.
What Really Is Powerlifting?
“Powerlifting is the one rep max at a squat, bench press and deadlift. In competition, you get three attempts at each to lift your most weight. Add up the weight from your best attempt at each, and that’s your powerlifting total,” says Farr.
Already confused? Farr says not to stress.
“All beginners really need to know is that powerlifting is just lifting weight to get better.”
“Squat, bench press and deadlift are the exercises where you can lift the most amount of weight, so look at them as a foundation for other aspects of fitness,” he continues.
“Whether you’re trying to run faster, jump higher, throw a ball farther or be better at a power clean, if your deadlift, your bench press and your squat improve, it’s a good indicator that the rest of these things will have a better chance at progressing.”
If you fall into that camp (who doesn’t?), Farr says you are a great candidate to begin powerlifting.
How Do I Start?
“These three movements are more technical than people give them credit for,” says Farr.
Because of that, beginners should not rush into adding plates on a barbell, regardless of how sexy it seems.
“If you’ve never used a barbell before, there are some bodyweight movements that mimic the powerlifting lifts. You know, an air squat mimics the squat and a pushup mimics a bench press. Become comfortable with those bodyweight movements first,” he advises.
For those who already have these bodyweight movements mastered, Farr recommends picking up an empty barbell and using just that for the first powerlifting session.
“Think of these lifts as skills,” he says. “The No. 1 key is technique.”
“Do sets of three to five reps. Maybe three sets of three or three sets of five.”
“Beginners should bench and squat two, maybe three, times a week and deadlift around one time a week. Every week, adding a little more weight, while trying to get better and more efficient.”
“For the first three to six months, you should be able to add some kind of weight almost every week.”
What's the Secret?
Farr has been powerlifting for a decade, but he still believes there is more to learn and more room to improve.
“Think about powerlifting like a golf swing or a free throw,” he says. “It a sport of repetition.”
“By repeating the same movements over and over, you will get better at the movements, and then over time you’ll become healthier and able to lift more weight.”
As that “more” becomes increasingly heavier, Farr has two golden tips to keep in mind.
First, find a coach.
“If you can find a good coach to work with in person, it’s always best,” says Farr. “If you can’t find one, find someone online who you think is trustworthy.”
“Do research on that person like you would with anything else. When you’re going to buy a new TV, you do research on what the best brand is. When finding a good coach, you need to do a little bit of research.”
Secondly, remember it is OK to keep reps in the tank.
“I’m never big into going to failure,” says Farr.
“When you lift to failure, you can cause too much stimulus, so then your next workout may have to sacrifice performance as a result.”
“If you save one, two or three reps in the tank, you’ll always be focusing on that good technique. The closer to failure, the technique tends to become crappier.”
Does Farr have you inspired to begin powerlifting? Tweet @Reebok to let us know how your first few sessions go.