woman powerlifter at squat rack

When you hear the term “powerlifting” thrown around, do you just assume it means lifting weights? Think it’s similar to bodybuilding?

Powerlifting is actually a specific sport! And if someone says “powerlifting workout,” they mean a type of training specifically geared to improving performance in powerlifting competition.

To clear up any confusion, I have prepared this article to explain what powerlifting actually is.

The Three Lifts

In powerlifting, you must complete three different lifts – the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

If you aren’t familiar with those lifts, check out these articles:

The Competition

So, how does the competition work?

A powerlifting competition is called a “meet.” Participants must complete each of the three lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift, in that order.) Each person has three attempts at each exercise to lift the weight of their choice.

At the end, all the weight you lifted is added up for your total. (If you squatted 250lb, benched 225lb, and deadlifted 350lb, your total would be 825lb.) The goal is to have the heaviest total in your weight class. (Participants are organized into weight classes for scoring and ranking purposes.)

The Training

Training for powerlifting usually takes 3-4 days per week. (By the way, you’ll really want to find a good coach or experienced lifter to work with when you’re just learning the sport.)

A basic training plan will involve a squat workout on day 1, a bench press workout on day 2, and a deadlift workout on day 3. An optional core/ab workout may take place on day 4.

What you will NOT have is a “chest day” or a “legs day.” That’s bodybuilding talk. Powerlifting is about getting strong in three specific exercises, not making your pecs bounce on command.

What to Wear

Powerlifters have some basic and some advanced equipment. All you need to start is a singlet (like wrestlers wear.) You can wear this for all lifts. More advanced lifters will wear “squat suits” and “bench shirts” which are designed to help you lift heavier weights.

For footwear, choices include Chuck Taylor All Stars, wrestling shoes, squatting shoes, and deadlift slippers.

Last but not least, a 4″ powerlifting belt around your waist completes the look.

If you’re just starting out and doing some training at home, regular gym clothes work fine. For meets, though, you will need to be properly equipped.

For more details on clothing, equipment, and accessories, check out my Powerlifting Equipment Buyer’s Guide.

Why Do I Need Power?

Power is the basis behind almost all sports performance. Powerlifting is a great off-season workout for building maximum strength that can later be applied to your sport of choice.

It’s most applicable to sprinters and track racers, but it’s useful for everyone.

If you have any questions on powerlifting, just search through my site or post a comment right here!

Photo Credit: Greg Westfall

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