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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Powerlifting: What I've Learned So Far

Hello, my name is Annie.  Welcome to Powerlifting for Dummies.  I'll be your instructor today.

I kid, I kid.

In all seriousness though I do want to share a simplified version of what I've learned (so far) about powerlifting.

Step 1: Find yourself a good gym with people who know what they're doing.  

About a month ago I joined 22nd Street Barbell.  It took some convincing from a co-worker and member of 22nd street.  I already belonged to gym and I had most of the equipment I thought I needed. After weeks of feeling like I had maxed out what I could do on my own and annoying people by asking for a spot I decided to check it out.
Photo taken from 22nd street barbell

My first impressions: dark, intense, friendly.  It's in the basement of a building downtown.  Nothing fancy, no mirrors, no complimentary hand towels, drinking fountains or rows of cardio equipment.  What I did find- a big group of welcoming, knowledgeable, hardworking men and women who know a crap ton about powerlifting.

My first day there I benched.  I got on the bench and before I could even grab the bar I was stopped.  Technique, technique, technique.  Multiple people were there to offer guidance, encouragement and lift offs.  Have you seen how powerlifters bench?  Yea no, neither had I.  Check out Caroline from Beauty Power Grace benching here.  I've got lots to learn!  Do you feel the stretch in your quads just watching her?  Yow!

I was lucky enough to have this guy- Phil Schultz offer to take a look at my squat and I've been following him around ever since.  I just do what he tells me to and so far it seems to be working.

Photo taken from 22nd Street Barbell Facebook Page

Step 2: Get yourself a pair of lifting shoes.  

I'm one of those people who wear running shoes everywhere even though I don't run...ever.  When it comes to powerlifting (and I'd go so far as to say lifting in general) running shoes are not your friend.  The cushioning in running shoes that is meant to absorb shock when running actually provides for a pretty unstable platform for lifting.  One of the top picks for powerlifting shoes?

Chuck Taylors baby!  The sole is flat and thin which allows you to feel your feet better during lifts.  The first time someone told me that I though, "Yea, ok." but I did it and it's totally true.  I feel more stable and I'm able to push my weight towards the outside of my feet better which keeps my knees out. New shoes and some tweaks to my squat technique and bye, bye back pain.  Oh yea and a belt... see Step 3.

Step 3: Get a powerlifting belt.

The purpose of the belt is to stabilize your midsection. All I know is that it helps me squat, deadlift and I'm supposed to "push my belly out like I'm trying to break the belt" when lifting.  Oh yea, and I was told to wear it everywhere when breaking it in.  Even to work.  :)

Step 4:  Realize it's going to be hard 

I really got into a comfort zone working out on my own.  I knew exactly what weight I could lift and how many reps I could safely complete without a spotter.  But when you're goal is to get stronger you've got to push yourself beyond comfortable.   For me, it helped to have an experience lifter like Phil to tell me I was capable of more.  In my first month at 22nd Street I lifted 50lbs more in both the deadlift and squat then I ever even thought of attempting before on my own.  

I don't think I'll ever forget my first attempt at maxing out on deadlifts.  It was brutal.  It took me two attempts but I finally pulled 275.  It felt so heavy. Never in my life had I felt weight like that in my hands.  It was my first realization that it's supposed to feel heavy.  If it doesn't feel heavy, add more weight! 

Please note there are bands on the bar to provide the most "help" in the bottom of the squat
I'm also wearing totally uncomfortable but very helpful knee wraps.  

I'm in love with powerlifting.  I feel like I'm finally capitalizing on my natural talents for the first time since college softball. It doesn't monopolize our time, it's cheap (so far anyways), it's fun and it's kinda like giving birth, ladies you'll know what I mean.... Once it's over, you forget how hard it was.  I'm definitely hungry for more.  Weights, not babies that is.  Well maybe babies... 

Your turn:  Any powerlifters out there?  If so how did you get your start?  If no, would you try it?  (And really, I won't be offended if you're not into powerlifting.)  

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  1. Love this! This is so interesting to me! I LOVE crossfit and one of my favorite parts of it is the heavy lifting :) We will have to deadlift together last max was 285 :) You look strong and beautiful Annie!

    1. Dang Dawn! That's awesome! Deadlifting is easily my least favorite so far but I'm working on it! I'd love to get together for a workout sometime!

  2. Keep going Annie! I'm excited to train alongside each other and hopefully inspire one another to be our best!

    1. I'm already inspired by you, lady! I'm looking forward to it too!

  3. You inspire and motivate me to keep growing. Keep kicking ass lady!