Is powerlifting right for you
Paul Attard tells his story about how he got into Powerlifting and figured out if it was the right type of training for him, read his story

How is powerlifting, weight lifting and bodybuilding different?

SPC Performance Lab Taren Point Gym for powerlifting coaching bench press

I started training in 2004, where I had general goals of building muscle and getting abs, as most 17-year-old males want. As the years progressed, my physique improved, and I reached my goals, but I needed a new challenge, so I decided to train for a bodybuilding show. One day, while training at the gym, I was doing deadlifts, and someone commented on my deadlift strength and said I would probably do well in a powerlifting competition. 

At that time, I didn’t understand what strength numbers were good relative to someone’s body weight or what powerlifting was. I looked at what other people in my weight class were lifting and noticed I could be competitive, so I combined power-lifting training with bodybuilding and competed in both sports simultaneously.

After finishing my bodybuilding shows, I continued to compete in powerlifting as I was more attracted to competing in this sport. Bodybuilding was quite draining due to the dieting aspect of getting super lean for stage. Whereas for powerlifting, being within a normal body fat range is ideal for gaining strength. What also attracted me to powerlifting was the focus on the objective goals of being stronger on the squat, bench press and deadlift, which can be easily measured. Bodybuilding can be challenging to measure progress as gaining muscle is slow and somewhat subjective.

Another aspect of powerlifting I was attracted to was the technical aspect of optimising technique on the barbell lifts to maximise efficiency, which in turn helps you lift more weight. Powerlifting is an excellent sport which most people can train for. The benefits will be the same whether someone does it recreationally or wants to compete. Aside from the physical gains like getting stronger and looking better, power-lifting can help develop individuals into better people. It can provide;

  • Structure and routine, as you usually have a set program to follow. This may positively affect other aspects of one life in developing healthy habits and behaviours outside of training.
 
  • Places more focus on performance goals rather than physique. Purely chasing physique goals can sometimes be quite stressful. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you never look good enough, constantly trying to achieve a particular look, and not being happy with what you currently have. Sure, it’s good to want to improve, but this can become unhealthy if people think they’re not ‘good enough. Powerlifting shifts the focus to something easier to measure (amount of weight on the barbell). Seeing strength improve over time is an excellent way to build self-confidence due to the repeated successful attempts of achieving a task (lifting a heavy barbell up and down for reps).
 
  • Teaches patience and delayed gratification – Getting strong takes time. To be a good powerlifter, you’ll generally follow a structured program, which gradually increases in difficulty as the weeks progress with small increments in either load or weight in a planned manner. The previous training weeks generally build upon one another, which usually results in strength accumulating and peaking towards the end of a training cycle, where you hopefully will be lifting new personal bests.

However, for a program to be effective, it generally doesn’t involve lifting at maximum effort each week. Most training weeks involve lifting sub-maximally to avoid excessive fatigue bleeding into the following training weeks. Putting the foot on the gas too early may disrupt training and affect longer-term gains. As such, being patient with incremental load increases is sacrificing short-term rewards (lifting heavy right now) to allow for stronger lifts in the future.


What is powerlifting

Powerlifting is a sport whereby people’s maximum strength is tested on three exercises: squat, bench press and dead-lift. During a competition, lifters are given three attempts on each lift. The heaviest successful attempt on each lift is summed to provide a powerlifting total. Whoever has the biggest total within a specific weight and age class will be the winner of that particular class.

An overall winner is also selected, which uses a point system (different equations are used between federations) – But in simple terms, the equation generally involves multiplying a lifter’s powerlifting total by their body weight. As such, the score calculates relative strength (how much a person lifted relative to their size) instead of absolute strength (the maximum amount of weight someone lifted without considering their size). Using the scoring system, it’s often a lifter who is smaller and weighs less to beat someone larger due to having a better powerlifting score (they lifted more weight relative to their size)


What are the main reasons people choose to do powerlifting over other training regimes?

This is a subjective question and will be dependent on the person. But here is a list of why people may choose to do powerlifting over other training methods such as body-building, CrossFit, circuit-style training, etc;

  • It provides structure and routine to follow a program. Knowing what needs to be done in the gym each day to move them towards their powerlifting goals
 
  • It shifts the focus away from subjective goals like how one’s physique looks to something more objective (how much weight is on the bar)
 
  • People like the feeling of being strong and seeing their strength improve over-time
 
  • Some people like the technical aspects of perfecting technique on the squat, bench press and dead-lift
 
  • It helps people improve in other aspects of their lives, such as learning structure, and routine, giving up short-term rewards for long-term gratification, and improving self-efficacy and confidence
 
  • It is a good way to stay healthy. Powerlifting improves muscle mass, bone density, heart health and can improve mental well-being
 
  • Some individuals like being part of a community. So, it can be an excellent sport to meet like-minded people
 
  • For those who compete, people may enjoy having a competition date set to give training a purpose/something to work towards. Having competition dates may enhance training focus, intensity and consistency due to having a deadline
 
  • It provides a clear goal on what someone is training for
 
  • How is powerlifting different to bodybuilding or weightlifting
 
  • Powerlifting focuses on maximising strength on the squat, bench press and dead-lift

Body-building only judges a person’s physique. Performance is not judged. Weight-lifting is similar to powerlifting, except the lifts being judged differ. This sport requires lifting the maximum weight on two exercises, the snatch and clean and jerk


Can you transition from bodybuilding to powerlifting

Yes. Going one step further, you can train for both sports simultaneously. It has been shown that muscle mass is a strong predictor of the maximum weight one can lift in the squat, bench press and dead-lift. Stronger lifters generally have more muscle mass than weaker lifters of the same body weight. As such, exercises focusing on building muscle (like in body-building) are helpful for power-lifting training.

Although the goals of both sports may be divergent, one being physique-focused and the other performing, this does not mean that the training needs to be drastically different. The same basic training principles apply in both sports in manipulating training volume, intensity, exercise selection and fatigue management. Instead, there may be differences in how these variables are manipulated to achieve the end goals (increase muscle size or maximise strength). 

There are overlaps between the training styles, and a person training for both sports can include different training phases to emphasise one goal over the other. For example, a training cycle primarily focuses on muscle building with strength secondary, with the next cycle working on the opposite.


Can you transition from weight lifting to power lifting

Yes. The same training principles apply in both sports of manipulating training volume, intensity, exercise selection and managing fatigue. Additionally, weight-lifters often perform squats and deadlifts as these movements are necessary to perform a snatch, clean, and jerk. 

The bench press is the only exercise not necessary to perform in weight lifting. But this can easily be added into a weight-lifter program and will likely have little fatigue on the weight-lifting movements.


Is it a good idea to start powerlifting at home?

So long as you have access to a squat rack, bench press and barbell, you can train at home if you want to. Whether you’re starting at home or in a gym doesn’t matter. How your program is designed is going to be far more important in your training adaptations versus the equipment you’re using (so long as you have the necessary pieces of equipment to do a squat, bench press and dead-lift)

The benefits of a gym versus home are;

  • They may have better equipment for power-lifting, such as competition barbells, weight plates and combo racks, unless you purchase these yourself, but they can get quite expensive.
 
  • Have a range of accessory machines that can help improve power-lifting performance. Training at home may limit the amount of accessory exercises you can perform unless you have multiple machines and dumbbells.
 
  • The environment of a gym can be more stimulating.
 
  • You may like the social aspect of a gym environment / have people support you unless you have people training with you at home.
 
  • Access to coaches at gyms, unless you have an online coach. However, some people prefer face-to-face contact.

 

Can you do powerlifting at a normal commercial gym

Yes. You can do power-lifting anywhere so long it has the minimum equipment to squat, bench press and deadlift. However, you may find training more comfortable if you have access to competition-grade equipment like comp barbells, calibrated weight plates and combo racks. This equipment is not essential for powerlifting; you can use regular training gear. However, you will probably feel the difference between competition grade and standard equipment.

For example, competition barbells require to be a specific stiffness. Cheaper barbells may flex, which can make the powerlifting movements feel different. A flexible barbell will make deadlifts feel easier as it reduces the range of motion the load is being lifted. 

In contrast, a flexible barbell may make squats harder. If the load is heavy enough, a bending barbell can cause the barbell to whip and bounce on your back and may affect your balance. Likewise, the quality of the bench press can significantly impact bench press performance. For example, the height and width of the bench press pad may affect your technique.


Why is it better to start doing powerlifting at a private gym

This depends on the private gym. Does the gym have equipment specific for power-lifting? Competition-grade equipment does feel better than non-competition equipment and may enhance your progress. If the private gym is a strength or power-lifting focus, you may benefit from training with other people interested in power-lifting. E.g., having an environment that supports your goals, learning from other power-lifters and having access to power-lifting-specific coaches.


Is powerlifting good for beginners?

Power-lifting is suitable for anyone, regardless of whether you’re a beginner, young, old, or everything else in between. Irrespective of whether you’re looking to power-lift or do general strength training, as a beginner, the training process will start at the same place. 

You’ll have to learn the correct exercise technique and find a training volume suitable for your current training capacity. As a beginner, you do not need to do a large amount of training volume; you can make very easy gains as lifting weights is a new stimulus to the body, so the body will be very adaptive. 

Power-lifting shouldn’t be viewed only for experienced people; anyone can do it. Being introduced to power-lifting as a beginner is probably an advantage. Power-lifting typically involves learning efficient lifting technique, following a program, repeating the same exercises for many weeks, having a training structure (not doing random workouts each week) and valuing fatigue management and gradual load progression. 

Many people don’t learn these basics when first joining a gym. Exposure to power-lifting training principles is a great way to be introduced to lifting.


How do people get into powerlifting?

  • Joining a power-lifting gym
  • Getting in contact with a power-lifting coach
  • Training with a friend or person who already is doing power-lifting
  • Read about power-lifting online
  • Watch YouTube videos which provide information about power-lifting

 
 

What is the best age to start powerlifting?

There isn’t a specific age where everybody is at their strongest, as this will be affected by the age at which someone started doing effective/structured training. For example, someone may begin effective training at 18 years old and become very strong by the time they are mid to late 20’s. 

In contrast, someone else may start later in life at 30 and become very strong by their late 30’s. A study by Solberg et al. found peak performance and the peak age of world-class power-lifters was 35 plus, minus 7 years. Meaning the peak age was spread from 28 to 42 years old.

However, this doesn’t mean that 42 years old is the cut-off point for peak strength. There are high-level powerlifters older than this who are still hitting lifetime PBs.


Is 25 too late to start powerlifting?

No. There is no age that is too old to start powerlifting. Everyone can adapt to a training stimulus, regardless of age. Powerlifting isn’t much different from regular training; you still lift a barbell up and down for repetitions. One difference between powerlifting at a gym and regular training is that you will eventually have to lift a heavy weight for one repetition.

Some people may think lifting very heavy is ‘unsafe’, which is untrue. Weightlifting-type sports have one of the lowest injury rates compared to all sports. Powerlifting injury rates are approx. 1.0-4.4 injuries per /1000 hours of training. Whereas elite level soccer players have approx. 6.6-8 injuries per /1000 hours of exposure.

A good powerlifting coach will slowly increase your training load so you build tolerance before lifting heavier weights. As months have gone by with slow increases in training load, your tolerance to lifting a heavy barbell will improve, which can decrease the likelihood of sustaining an injury. Injuries in the gym typically occur from doing ‘too much, too soon’ hence why it’s a good idea to gradually increase the training load systematically to avoid exceeding your training tolerance and improve your capacity to handle training.

 

What would a program look like

This is highly individual, and each person’s program differs depending on their goals, needs, training history and experience, time available to train, equipment access, current injuries, etc. However, to give a very general overview of what a powerlifting program would involve;

  • Figuring out how much training volume someone needs (total sets per exercise and muscle group per week) – Beginners need less volume to progress; experienced people generally need more. An average ballpark is around 10-20 sets per muscle group per week.

    For powerlifting, a larger portion of the volume is allocated to exercises that are going to improve strength on the competition lifts, with less volume given to exercises that will have less of an effect on enhancing powerlifting performance, such as bicep curls, abs, rear and lateral deltoids, etc.

 
  • Exercise selection – For powerlifting specifically, we want to improve strength on the squat, bench press and deadlift. So, these exercises should be in the program most of the time. Squats, deadlifts and/or variations of these movements are generally performed 1-2 times per week, bench press or variants 1-4 times per week.
 
  • A training day will typically start with one of the powerlifting movements. These are prioritised first when you have the most energy. Accessory exercises will be performed after the main exercises. These can vary depending on their goals. Some exercises are selected to improve strength in the main lifts – For example, someone might perform a close grip bench press to improve triceps strength to help with bench press strength. Other exercises may not relate to actions performed in the main lifts but are used to build muscle. For example, performing a leg extension to increase quadriceps size may carry over to improving strength on the squat, as bigger muscles can potentiate strength gains.
 
  • Likewise, some exercises may be selected purely for aesthetic reasons and do not need to be done for powerlifting. E.g. someone might perform bicep curls purely for bigger-looking arms. This isn’t going to do much in terms of improving powerlifting performance.
 
  • Exercises/movements trained per session – Powerlifting programs generally train multiple muscle groups and movements daily. This is opposed to traditional body-builder programs where only 1-2 muscle groups are trained daily.

    Training one muscle group per day doesn’t appear any better than spitting that training volume of the muscle group over multiple days, for example, doing four chest exercises in a single day versus doing two exercises on one day and two on another. The latter may result in better gains as energy will likely be higher for all exercises instead of doing them all in a single day.

  • Intensity (load on the bar) – Heavier loading zones in the 1-5 rep range are generally the most efficient for improving strength. If you want to get strong, practice and adapt to lifting heavy weights. However, these heavy-loading rep zones are generally not performed on all exercises because:

1 – Heavy loads can be fatiguing and
2 – It’s not an efficient way to accumulate training volume.

  • Muscle size is related to training volume; higher training volumes typically result in more muscle gain (up to a point). As such, doing sets of 3 reps is less efficient than doing sets of 8 reps for building muscle. Thus, rep ranges are varied depending on the exercise and training phase. It’s not always about lifting heavy to get strong, but there will be periods required of lifting heavy to improve strength efficiently.
 
  • Days to train per week – This depends on the person, how much training volume they need and how much time they can allocate to training. Between 3 – 5 days of training is common. Some people like to cram all their volume in 4 training days to have more days off, but workouts are longer. Others may opt for five days, resulting in shorter workouts but fewer days off.
 
  • To reduce the stress of finishing training within 7 days, another method is having X number of workouts and taking as long as needed (up to a point) to complete these sessions. E.g. someone may have four workouts to be done, but this takes them nine days to get through.
 
  • Rest time: Rest as long as you need until you feel recovered enough to perform the next set. If you’re looking to get strong, you want to be well rested so avoid fatigue affecting how much weight or reps you can perform in subsequent sets. It’s normal to have between 2-6 minutes of rest between sets for powerlifting, particularly for the competition lifts.

 
 

How would SPC Performance Lab help someone getting started in powerlifting

1- A free consult will need to be done so our coach can discover all your details to make a program and coaching experience suited to your requirements. We will ask questions like your goals, training history, issues you have faced with training and nutrition, injury history, etc.

2- A program will be made specifically for you based on the information collected from the consult

3- The first few weeks are generally heavily focused on teaching you the proper squat, bench press, deadlift and OH press technique. The program will include other exercises, but learning the mentioned lifts is the first priority. Technique will continuously be monitored and adjusted as needed. Still, the first few weeks are generally very information-heavy, which will set you up to become a better long-term lifter. You will learn a lot.

4- Load will be incrementally increased on your lifts each week so you can continue improving your technique plus building strength and muscle. For absolute beginners, the lifts will be submaximal (no going to failure) to avoid technique breakdown. As the weeks progress, the load will gradually get heavier, and the rep ranges will reduce to get you in the lower 1-5 rep ranges. Higher reps are generally used for absolute beginners (around 8-10) to build muscle, work capacity, fitness and technical efficiency.

5- As the months progress, the reps are getting lower, the loads are getting heavier, and technique is becoming efficient and in-grained; we’ll eventually test your one rep maximums on the squat bench press and deadlift.

6- Your training program will be continually adjusted according to your progress. As you have learned proper lifting technique and have gone through the processes described earlier, starting at higher reps with lighter loads to low reps at heavy loads, you’ll be ready to begin a training program to prep you for a power-lifting competition if this is something you’d like to aim for. 

Alternatively, you can still do the same program as if you’re prepping for a competition but max out in the gym if you don’t want to compete officially.

7- Alongside training, your coach can help you with nutrition to improve performance, gain muscle, get healthier or lose body fat.


What are the different types of powerlifting people?

Beginners
Haven’t begun power-lifting or just started. Probably need to work on learning efficient technique on the squat, bench press and dead-lift. Loads should likely be light because technique breakdown probably isn’t well established, and going too heavy or fatigue will generally cause technique breakdown. 

Load should be adjusted according to the lifter’s ability to maintain efficient technique rather than the maximum amount of load they can lift, regardless of the quality of the technique. The program does not need to be complex. Can make easy gains just from performing the main competition lifts a few times a week with some accessory exercises using a linear progression program setup (reps remain the same with small increases in load each session or week).

Recreational
Have been doing power-lifting training for at least a few months and have seen some improvements in strength. Likely has much potential to get much stronger by cleaning up technique and following a program specific to their needs. 

Some small changes to nutrition will likely help optimise their training and physique. Possibly toying with the idea of entering their first competition but don’t perceive they are ‘strong enough’ to compete (which is untrue; anyone can compete regardless of their strength). Hiring a coach will probably get this person to the next level in their training.

Regular enthusiasts
Have been power-lifting for at least a year. Have made some good progress and is probably stronger than most people in a commercial-type gym. Has possibly done some novice comps. 

Takes training a little more seriously but genuinely enjoys the benefits that power-lifting has brought to their life. Has the potential to get quite strong with the proper training structure and optimising nutrition. Could eventually become quite competitive after a few years of very structured training working with an experienced power-lifting or strength coach.

Competitors
Have been training for at least a year and have competed multiple times. Probably has a particular lifting technique in-grained on all lifts. Some competitors have great technique, are very efficient and doesn’t need to be touched. Others may see improvements with some minor tweaks in their technique.

However, as technique is likely ingrained in this lifter from lifting the same way for some time, technique changes may acutely result in a performance decrement as their body is not used to lifting in this new way, although it may be more efficient than their previous technique. After practising the new technique over time, strength will generally increase, eventually leading to new PRs.

Has probably worked with at least one coach by now. Likely rotates through coaches every few years to try something new. Each coach has their own set of knowledge, experience and coaching styles. Sometimes, working with different people to learn new things and see who you click with helps people become a better lifter.

In contrast, if someone is making steady progress each year, keep doing what’s working rather than trying to look for something ‘better’. The longer you work with a coach, the more they can predict your response to training, nutrition, competitions, what you like, don’t like, personality type, and worries, etc. Then, the coaching service can be better tailored to the client according to the data collected.

SPC Performance Lab provides a free gym trial so that you can see if we are a good fit for your workout goals. No catches, no gimmicks, no contracts. Just try our gym out

Are the beginner powerlifting guides that are free online any good?

Some places that offer good information on topics related to strength, powerlifting and building muscle. Although some topics may not directly relate to powerlifting, the underlying concepts can be used to improve powerlifting performance. 

Reactive training systems

Mass research review 

Stronger by science – 

Renaissance Periodization Youtube channel

Want powerlifting coaching?
Online powerlifitng coaching

SPC Performance Lab provides Powerlifting coaching with the option to get face to face sessions in our gym, book online sessions or to join a small group. Run by Paul Attard the coaching is customised to suit beginners, recreational or competitive powerlifters.

Should a beginner powerlifter also consider nutrition as part of their program?

If you want to get the most out of your training, then yes. Nutrition, specifically your protein, carbohydrates, fats and overall calorie intake, will affect your ability to recover and adapt to training. As a lifter becomes more advanced, sometimes nutrition is the limiting factor in why people do not see further progress, particularly not having dedicated phases of eating in a calorie surplus and trying to build muscle.

As a beginner, you can get away with eating like crap and still see progress. The body is very receptive to the new training stimulus and will progress on any training, even if the program isn’t optimal. However, optimising nutrition for a beginner will help them get the most out of their training sessions so they can progress in the fastest amount of time possible.

For those looking to improve the aesthetics of their physique in conjunction with powerlifting training, particularly if you’re looking to lose body fat, nutrition will play an even more important part compared to someone who doesn’t care about their physique. If someone wants to look muscular with shape, they:

  1. Will need enough muscle mass

  2. Will need to be lean enough to be able to see their muscle mass visually
 

A surplus will help optimise building muscle mass. A deficit is typically required to reduce body fat to look visually leaner. There are some cases in absolute beginners where they can eat at maintenance calories or even a slight surplus and will lose fat whilst building muscle. However, this is short-lived and eventually, to see further visual improvements, purposeful phases of eating in a surplus or deficit will be required.

If consistency with training is hard enough and trying to focus on nutrition simultaneously is overwhelming, focus on training first. Once training has become a habit and your mental capacity is open to work on new tasks, you can focus on your nutrition to optimise your powerlifting progress. Suppose training consistently isn’t an issue and you’re just lazy fixing your nutrition. In that case, I will heavily suggest either learning to eat appropriately or hiring a coach to optimise your powerlifting gains.

 

Are powerlifters stronger than bodybuilders?

As a general statement, yes. Powerlifters are generally stronger than bodybuilders for one or more reasons;

1. There may be a genetic component where naturally stronger people gravitate towards powerlifting, and those who are naturally muscular gravitate towards bodybuilding. People will generally stick to a task they are good at, particularly if it comes naturally.

2. Getting strong is repetition-specific. You’ll get strong at doing five reps if you train with five reps. You’ll get strong at doing ten reps if you train with ten reps. Powerlifters are concerned about improving their 1RM strength on the squat, bench press and deadlift. As such, they will spend a significant portion of their training time in the 1-5 rep range. As a result, they will see strength improvements in the lower rep ranges and appear strong.

 

Bodybuilders are focused on building muscle, regardless of their strength. Training volume appears to be the main training variable to increase muscle size. Training with rep ranges between 5-25 will be more efficient for building muscle than training under five reps, as it’s quicker to accumulate training volume and is likely less fatiguing. For example, doing 3 sets x 10 reps will be much more efficient and less physically demanding than performing 10 sets of 3 reps to equate training volume.

Since bodybuilders generally lift in the higher rep ranges, they are good at performing these higher reps but not as strong in performing lower reps.

3. Strength is movement-specific. If you want to get strong on the squat, bench press and deadlift, training these movements will have the best carryover in increasing strength to be strong on these exercises. Powerlifters generally always have the competition lifts in their program. As a result, their bodies will adapt to become stronger in these specific movement patterns.

Bodybuilders do not need to squat, bench press and deadlift to gain muscle. Plenty of other exercises are more effective for gaining muscle whilst generating less fatigue. Bodybuilders typically won’t have the competition lifts in their program all the time; they will typically rotate through different exercises. As such, bodybuilders spend less time using the competition lifts and as a result, are generally less strong and skilled in these movements relative to powerlifters.

4. This is individual dependant and is a general statement. Some bodybuilders prefer to stay lean as they are more concerned with how their physique visually looks. As a result, ‘some’ bodybuilders may not dedicate enough time to being in a surplus or want to gain body fat. This can lead to issues in not being in an optimal environment to build muscle, which can affect strength gains.

‘Some’ powerlifters are less concerned about their physical appearance and are more focused on getting stronger. Intuitively, most powerlifters understand that to get stronger, it’s probably a good idea to gain body fat and be in a surplus to build muscle. Lean muscle mass is highly correlated to powerlifting performance. At equal body weights, those with higher lean muscle mass are generally stronger than those with less muscle mass.

As such, powerlifters are generally OK with gaining a little bit of body fat to increase strength. In contrast, bodybuilders may be less comfortable with doing this. As a result, powerlifters may be in a better environment for building muscle and gaining strength due to better recovery and adaption capacity from a higher calorie intake, eating in a surplus and sitting at a higher body fat percentage.

 

Can powerlifting get you ripped?

Yes and no. Looking ‘ripped’ is the combination of having high muscle mass and low body fat to show off the muscle mass. Training for power-lifting can cause significant increases in muscle mass. 

However, training in isolation isn’t going to get someone ripped. Losing body fat occurs mainly from diet. A calorie deficit sustained over time must be performed until one’s body fat is low to give the ‘ripped’ look.

So yes, you can get ‘ripped’ using power-lifting training as long as the appropriate nutrition strategy is employed to reduce body fat.

 

Do powerlifters always train heavy?

No. Power lifters will generally have different training phases. There are many, but the common two are hypertrophy/work capacity phases and strength phases. The hypertrophy phase may use higher repetitions with lower weights to build muscle and increase work capacity. Strength phases generally use lower reps with heavier weights to maximise strength. 

Training heavy all the time can become very fatiguing, may increase the risk of injury and isn’t optimal for gaining muscle as muscle gain is important for maximising strength gains. Plus, it can become mentally boring always doing the same training. As such, power-lifters will cycle through different training phases, which may involve going lighter or heavier.

 

Why don’t powerlifters gain muscle?

This statement is untrue. The best power-lifers have very high amounts of lean body mass. Research on powerlifters shows that the strongest powerlifters are the ones who have the highest lean body mass at the same body weight. Where the miss-conception may come with powerlifters not gaining muscle can be;

1. Some powerlifters may not spend time using accessory exercises / doing enough training volume to see significant improvements in muscle size. Some powerlifters may strictly only perform the powerlifting movements and variations of these lifts. Likewise, some lifters may predominantly train in the lower rep ranges (5 and under) and don’t work much in the higher rep ranges as they may perceive this as a waste of time for increasing strength.

Not doing enough volume on exercises outside of the power lifts can hinder muscle growth. So it’s not that powerlifting doesn’t gain muscle; it might be that some powerlifters may not be performing enough accessory exercises and training volume to see muscle growth.

2. Some powerlifters sit at higher body fats because they feel strong or are not overly concerned with how their physique visually looks – Individuals can have high amounts of muscle mass. Still, if their body fat is high, they might not look overly muscular. If a powerlifter with a large amount of muscle mass was to reduce their body fat (if it’s on the higher end), they’ll probably end up looking jacked.

3. Some powerlifters get stuck sitting at a low body weight to be competitive, hindering muscle growth. Powerlifters are rewarded for being able to lift heavy weights relative to their body weight. In many cases, some powerlifters are at the top end of their weight class but don’t want to get too heavy to avoid moving up a weight class but now being at the bottom of the new weight class.

In this scenario, the lifter may be very strong in their current weight class, but moving up may make this individual not strong relative to the heavier lifters. As such, some powerlifters will avoid eating in a surplus to prevent getting bigger and having to move up a weight class.

For intermediate and advanced lifters, a calorie surplus is generally needed to see significant muscle gain improvements. Consistently always eating in a deficit or maintenance calories is not optimal for growing muscle. Suppose a powerlifter is too scared of eating in a surplus. In that case, this may affect their ability to grow muscle, thus giving the illusion that powerlifting training isn’t growing muscle for this hypothetical person.

If you have any more questions about powerlifting then you can contact us to organise a free consultation, take out a free gym trial or simply visit our powerlifting gym to see what we can offer & how we can help you reach your goals.

Paul Attard
Paul Attard

Paul is the founder and head coach of SPC Performance Lab. Paul has been coaching since 2014 and has worked with all different types of people. From first timers learning the basics, all the way up to the experienced power-lifting competitors.

He tailors his approach depending on the needs, goals and experience of the individual. Paul has extensive theoretical and practical coaching experience.

- Masters of Sports & Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning)
- Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science with First Class Honours
- Competed and won multiple natural body-building shows & power-lifting competitions.
- Held an Australian power-lifting record.

Free advice

SPC Performance Lab is a gym in Taren Point in the Sutherland Shire, Sydney NSW. It is a private gym that offers strength training, powerlifting and body building training. The gym is open 24 hours, 7 days a week with membership options that include casual or regular visits.

Paul also provides a choice of personal training one on one or the option of online coaching.

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How to improve your squat depth to achieve a full squat range of motion squat

This article will cover the main variables that affect an individual’s ability to achieve a full-depth squat. The main factors to consider are flexibility and mobility, squat technique and individual anthropometrics. Each of these will be explained in detail along with practical applications for improving your squat depth.

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