Five Things Done Totally Wrong in Powerlifting
So you’re probably wondering why I have a picture of my car dash as the lead into this posting. Well, I’ll tell you I have a good reason for it. You see, I keep all of my very important reminders in life in places that I see every day, my dash being one of them.
Attached to the rearview mirror I keep pieces of myself that remind me of certain aspects of my life. Like the OSU Civil War Mardi Grai beads that I keep to remind me not to drive so damn fast, as they were my mom’s beads that she was wearing when she was killed in her car accident. Or my dog’s Sally’s collar and bell that she wore every day until I had to put her down to remind me that sometimes life isn’t fair. And last but not least I have one of my medallions from a recent bench meet in which I competed and lost.
That one just pisses me off! Not that I lost, but more importantly why I lost.
That leads me to the topic of the hour or the five or ten minutes that you skim this post to see what errors I made leading up to my first powerlifting meets.
My biggest error in judgments were…
LIFTING TOO HEAVY, ALL THE TIME
Now I love to train! A LOT! I could train every day for hours on end if I could. For the better part of two to three years I trained two times a day. Once in the morning and once in the early afternoon. Sometimes it was just weights, sometimes it was mixed with some conditioning and running as well.
For me it was just the norm. I kept alternating my workout frequency all through my military career, doing not only my own workout, but workouts for my Soldiers and Unit.
After a while my body just became accustomed to lifting and training so often. Overtime it’s my belief that your body just becomes accustomed to lifting and adapts to whatever you try to throw at it.
This tactic is useful for being able to up your overall level of conditioning, stamina and just overall work capacity (that’s how many miles you can put on your car in a single tank of gas and oil change), but not necessarily the best for lifting the heaviest overall loads.
In hindsight focusing on moving the heavy weights on set days with a good amount of rest in between bouts would have been a much better option.
Taking a day of rest in the middle of the week and then one at the end of the week with some light cardio or kettlebell/mobility work seems to work the best for increasing the overall strength gains, while minimizing the amount of nervous energy from a chronic exerciser like myself.
Learning Point: You’re not going to lift bigger and bigger weights if you don’t allow your body and nervous system enough time to recover between heavy bouts of lifting. Regardless of how well conditioned the athlete.
NEGLECTING SPEED SPECIFIC MOVEMENTS
Speed is one of those attributes that seems to have skipped over my overall lifting technique in the past few years. About the time I stopped doing Olympic lifts I stopped focusing on the speed of the lifts and focused more on the reps and sets.
For several years, my lifting took a high repetition and volume based approach, which left the amount of velocity that I could perform various lifts in the toilet. This is quite common for most bodybuilding programs where the feel and control of the lifts are more important.
For powerlifting this was another of my serious mistakes. Since my overall body structure is rather long in the femur and shorter in the torso, my deadlifts are always awesome, but my squats and bench struggle along at a meager pace with gains.
Adding some more explosiveness into the mix early on with some speed squat and speed benching would have helped me immensely in pushing past plateaus by simply helping my nervous system fire that much quicker.
After incorporating this into my routine towards the end of the cycle my nervous system could produce much more force rapidly and it simply helps in getting through sticking points quicker.
Learning Point: If you’re going to powerlift you must lift explosively. Incorporate several dynamic effort (speed training) days into your programming to help master the explosiveness to push heavier weights faster!
NOT PRACTICING PAUSES
In my bench meet, one of the big hiccups was the long pause on the bottom phase of the bench press. This wasn’t something new, but it was a much longer pause than most of us anticipated and for which we were unprepared.
In powerlifting, the lift has to be lowered under control to touch the chest lightly before the “lift command” to press the bar back to the starting position.
The difficulty of keeping your body tight and under control with several hundred pounds over your chest is challenging at best, but having not trained for long pauses really stifled the amount of weight that could be lifted.
By the time the third set came for the bench under such a long pause my nervous system was so taxed from the strain of keeping the bar stable that pressing it up to the start position was all but impossible.
Hence, that pissed me off and will never happen again due to adding long pauses into the training program in order to hold the heavier weights for indefinite amounts of time.
Learning Point: You never know just what to expect with the judges or the amount of time you’re going to have to remain stable at any point in a lift. If you can’t control it at each point you’re going to have to work that particular range to make it better. Add pause benching, squatting or board presses to defeat your weak points.
NOT SLEEPING ENOUGH
Now this point is easy enough to do or so it seems, but you can never get enough sleep. Especially in today’s hustle and bustle world. If you’re training for something serious, whether it’s a bodybuilding show, powerlifting meet or sports you can’t neglect your sleep and hope to accomplish anything.
Sleep is that essential recovery tool that everyone neglects. Sure you can supplement with every known ergogenic energy booster and recovery agent. Drink the purest triple filtered whey isolate proteins and eat steak and potatoes all day long, but without at least 8 hours of quality sleep a night the gains will be slow in coming.
Learning Point: If you’re serious about getting some quality poundage up, get at least 8 hours if not more to help your body recuperate from the serious trauma you’re inflicting upon it.
NOT LIFTING WITH A TRAINING PARTNER
My last big hiccup was not lifting with a training partner. For years I’ve learned to lift by myself for the simple reason that having a training partner is a pain in the butt. For one, finding an adequate partner to lift with is downright impossible. You have to have similar schedules, similar levels of strength or close enough experience to handle strength programming differences, plus you have to agree upon a schedule and type of training program that makes everyone happy.
The problem with not having a training partner is that you’re just not able to push yourself to the edge. You can get pretty close, but not having a partner available to hand you the bar on the bench, tell you you’re not low enough in the squat or your jerking the weight up in the deadlift can make a huge difference in your performance come meet time.
Without that extra pair of eyes, hands and motivation you’re often left with your best performances that you can do alone and we all must realize that humans are social creatures, who have an innate ability to perform under pressure or while being coached. It’s human nature to perform harder when the eyes of a competent observer are upon you. The advantage of having a coach or good training partner is invaluable to help you push past plateaus and maybe just see something that you’re missing in your training.
Learning Point: You’ll never be able to push yourself as hard or as far as you can go without help. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17
There you have it, the five things that I did totally wrong in my first powerlifting meet. Hopefully you’ve found these insights useful and can heed these words to utilize in your own training endeavors and continue on lifting bigger and better!
Until next time – CRUSH IT! SMASH IT! LIFT IT!
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