What is Powerlifting: Unleashing the Strength Within You


Powerlifting is a strength sport consisting of three main lifts: the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. You might be familiar with these exercises, but when it comes to powerlifting, the goal is to lift the heaviest weight possible for a single repetition in a controlled and technically precise manner.

Creating a well-structured training program that emphasizes proper technique, progressive overload, and balanced recovery is essential to excel in powerlifting.

By setting and working towards specific goals, you’ll witness significant improvements in your strength and overall physical conditioning.

What Is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is a strength-based sport focusing on three primary lifts: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. In a competition, you’ll perform these exercises to lift the heaviest weight possible in each category. This sport requires physical strength, mental focus, and technical proficiency to excel.

During a powerlifting event, you’ll typically see participants divided into different weight classes, ensuring fair competition among athletes of similar body mass. You’ll have three attempts for each lift to perform your best result. Your heaviest successful lift for each exercise is recorded, and the sum of these results determines your total score.

Powerlifting can benefit your overall strength, muscle mass, and physical prowess, making it a popular choice for those looking to increase their athletic performance. Additionally, consistent powerlifting training positively impacts bone density, mobility, and general health. You can become a strong and successful powerlifter with dedication and proper guidance.

Three Main Lifts

Three main lifts form the basis of your training in powerlifting: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. As you progress in your powerlifting journey, you will focus on increasing your strength and technique in these three essential lifts. Let’s dive into each lift to understand its importance and execution.


The squat is a lower-body exercise mainly targeting your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. To perform a squat, you’ll place a barbell on your upper back, then lower yourself into a squatting position before standing back up.

Here’s a brief overview of how to execute a proper squat:

  • Position the barbell securely on your upper back, just below the base of your neck
  • Place your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out
  • Take a deep breath, brace your core, then bend your hips and knees to a squat
  • Keep your chest up and maintain a straight back throughout the movement
  • Drive through your heels to stand back up, extending your hips and knees at the top

Bench Press

The bench press is an upper-body exercise that primarily targets your chest, shoulders, and triceps. This lift requires you to lie on a flat bench and press a barbell up and away from your chest. Here’s a quick rundown of how to perform a bench press:

  • Position yourself on a flat bench with your feet on the ground and your eyes level with the bar
  • Grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Unrack the bar and lower it to your chest with control, keeping your elbows at a forty-five  degree angle to your body
  • Press the barbell back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms at the top
Physical-athlete-doing-bench-presses-2022-12-16-22-11-09-utc (1)


Finally, the deadlift is a full-body exercise that targets your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and upper back. You’ll lift a barbell off the ground by hinging at the hips and engaging your posterior chain to perform a deadlift.

Here’s a summary of the deadlift technique:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your shins touching the barbell
  • Grip the barbell with your hands just outside your knees, using a double overhand or mixed grip
  • Take a deep breath, brace your core, then lift the barbell by pushing through your heels and extending your hips and knees
  • Your back should remain straight and your chest up throughout the movement
  • At the top, stand tall with your shoulders back before carefully lowering the barbell back to the floor

Powerlifting Techniques

In powerlifting, mastering technique is crucial to maximize your performance and minimize injury. The three main powerlifting techniques are squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.

Squat depth is a critical aspect of proper squat technique. You should aim to go as low as possible without compromising your form. Proper depth not only enhances the benefits of the exercise but also ensures a legal lift in competition.

Develop a strong arch by retracting your shoulder blades and pushing your chest up when performing the bench press. This bench press arch reduces the range of motion during the lift, increasing the weight that can be lifted and decreasing strain on the shoulders.

For the deadlift technique, set up a hip-width stance, engage your lats, and drive through your heels as you lift. Maintaining a neutral spine and optimal bar path will help protect your back and allow for a strong lockout.

Important considerations for all lifts include:

  • Proper form
  • Controlled movements
  • Core engagement

How to Improve Your Powerlifting Performance

Working with a knowledgeable coach is crucial in advancing your powerlifting skills. A coach can identify improvement areas and provide tailored training and technique guidance. Besides, remember that powerlifting is about maximal strength, and having a seasoned coach can help you reach elite levels.

Another important aspect of powerlifting success is maintaining balance across muscle groups. Ensuring that all muscle groups are developed decreases the risk of injuries and improves your overall performance. Integrating various assistance and accessory exercises into your workout routine helps achieve this.

Don’t ignore the crucial role of nutrition in your powerlifting journey. A well-balanced diet provides energy while nourishing your muscles to sustain rigorous training. A powerlifting diet typically includes high-quality protein sources, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Wearing a proper singlet is essential for competitions, as it provides support and stability during lifts. Always choose a singlet that meets the International Powerlifting Federation’s (IPF) approval.

Here are some tips to enhance your powerlifting performance:

  • Focus on building maximal strength through consistent practice.
  • Master correct lifting techniques to minimize the risk of injuries.
  • Monitor your progress and adjust your training plan as needed.

Training and Progression

Powerlifting is a rewarding and challenging sport that requires commitment and dedication. As you progress in your training, the level of intensity and complexity rises accordingly. To achieve success in powerlifting, it’s important to follow an appropriate training program based on your experience level.



As a beginner, focus on learning proper technique and building a solid foundation of strength. You’ll need to spend time at the gym mastering the three main lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. Basic exercises like push-ups, lunges, and rows can also be essential for building muscle and balance.

  • Start with a simple three-day-per-week program
  • Gradually increase weight and intensity
  • Keep track of your progress and adjust your program accordingly


As an intermediate lifter, you have some experience and are ready to take your training to the next level. It is important to implement periodization in your program, which involves alternating periods of higher volume and intensity to continue progressing and avoid plateaus.


As an advanced lifter, your training requires meticulous planning and execution. Your program should include undulating periodization, incorporating various training techniques, and focusing on weak points to improve continuously. Abide the tips in the following:

  • Maintain a rigorous and structured regime.
  • Focus on individual weak points and weaknesses.
  • Monitor and adjust your nutrition and recovery.

Whatever your current level, remember that motivation and consistency are key factors for success in powerlifting. Embrace the challenge and revel in the rewards of your hard work.

Equipment and Gear

You need to be aware of the essential equipment and gear that can help you achieve the best possible lifts. In equipped powerlifting, competitors wear specialized gear that provides support and assistance during the lifts.

The most common pieces of equipped gear include squat suits, bench shirts, and deadlift suits, all designed to help you lift more weight. However, this section focuses on more general equipment and gear for all powerlifters.

Lifting belt

A lifting belt is a must-have item in any powerlifting gym bag. It supports your lower back and helps maintain proper form when performing heavy squats, deadlifts, and other exercises. Be sure to choose a sturdy belt that fits your waist comfortably.

Knee sleeves and Wrist Wraps:

Consider investing in some knee sleeves and wrist wraps to ensure joint stability and support. Knee sleeves provide compression and warmth to your knees, which can be especially beneficial when squatting heavy weights.

Wrist wraps stabilize and support your wrists, helping you lift more weight with greater control during bench presses and other pressing movements.


Chalk helps improve your grip on the bar, reducing the risk of slips and accidents. It’s particularly useful for deadlifts and other lifts where maintaining grip is crucial.


Proper footwear is essential for effective powerlifting. Look for shoes with a solid, non-compressive sole, providing stability and support during squats and deadlifts. Specialized weightlifting shoes with a raised heel can benefit those who struggle with mobility in the squat.

Barbell Collars

Secure the weight plates on the bar with collars, ensuring they don’t slide off during your lifts. This simple piece of equipment can prevent accidents and maintain the balance of the bar.

Investing in the right equipment and gear is crucial for your powerlifting journey. Equip yourself with the proper tools and stay safe while pushing your limits and breaking new records.


Division and Categories

In powerlifting, there are several categories to accommodate various lifters. Let’s go through the main divisions.


Raw powerlifting refers to lifting without significant assistance from supportive gear. This means you will only use minimal equipment like a belt, wrist wraps, and knee sleeves.

It’s often considered the purest form of powerlifting as it relies primarily on your strength and technique.


Equipped powerlifting involves using specialized gear to help support your body and lift heavier weights. Such equipment includes squat suits, bench shirts, and deadlift suits.

Using these tools can help your performance, but they also require time and practice to use them effectively.


Powerlifting is progressively becoming more popular among women. In competitions, women have their own weight classes and lifting standards.

Female powerlifters prove that strength sports are for everyone, breaking stereotypes and inspiring others to challenge their limits.

Older People

Age is just a number in powerlifting. Many older individuals continue to compete and excel in the sport.

Competitions often have age-based categories, like Masters, to accommodate older lifters and provide a platform for them to showcase their skills and strength.

Competing in Powerlifting

Powerlifting competitions bring together lifters from various backgrounds and skill levels, giving you a chance to put your strength to the test against others. To participate, you must join a federation, which sets the rules and guidelines for the competitions. Each federation may have slightly different rules, but most share three main lifts – squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Begin by finding a local competition to start your powerlifting journey. Local events provide a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with competition formats and rules while meeting new people who share your passion. A powerlifting total will evaluate your performance, the sum of your heaviest successful attempts in each of the three lifts.

In the deadlift category, you can choose between two popular styles: conventional and sumo. The conventional deadlift involves a narrower stance, while the sumo uses a wider stance for shortening the distance the barbell must travel. Experiment with both techniques during your training to find your preference and maximize your total score.

When competing, remember that success goes beyond lifting impressive weights. Proper form, consistency, and sportsmanship are essential to a successful powerlifting experience.

Final Thoughts

Powerlifting is a strength sport focusing on three primary movements: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. By participating in powerlifting, you can develop impressive physical and mental strength. This sport offers numerous benefits, such as improved overall health, increased confidence, and a strong sense of discipline.

Remember to prioritize proper form and technique as you continue your powerlifting journey. This will help you maximize your performance and ensure your safety. Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from experienced powerlifters or professional coaches when needed.

Ultimately, the key to successful powerlifting is consistent effort and dedication. Keep setting goals, tracking your progress, and pushing your limits. Enjoy the process as you continually discover your inherent strength and unlock your full potential.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main lifts in powerlifting?

There are squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.

How do I calculate my total score in a competition?

Add the highest successful weights lifted for each of the three main exercises: squat, bench press, and deadlift. That’s your total score.

How often should I train as a beginner?

Start with three to four days per week, focusing on technique and progressive overload. As your experience and strength grow, you can adjust your training frequency accordingly.

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