The most common powerlifting questions answered
There are so many questions I get asked about powerlifting, here are some of the most common ones & our view on the correct answers & approach to consider

Common Powerlifting questions we get asked at our gym

SPC Performance Lab Taren Point Gym for powerlifting coaching bench press

Our gym in Taren Point receives emails and phone calls from people of all walks of life that are interested in powerlifting. Powerlifting in Sydney is done by men, women as well as a wide range of ages from 17 to 50 – it is such a diverse training choice. 

There is lots of information if you start searching on Google, although you really have to spend the time to understand the source of the information and how credible it may or may not be. 

You have to be particularly careful of websites that have been created to rank online for the word powerlifting that then sell either ads, products or courses – they are created to literally get found, but the quality of the information may be questionable, so always double check.

Below are the common things I get asked & my responses to each of them. Powerlifting is a strength sport that involves three main lifts: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. You aim to lift as much weight as possible in each of these lifts within the rules and guidelines of the sport or your personal goals.

 
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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.

Is 30 too old 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 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.

How many times a week do powerlifters train?

How many times people train per week is individually dependent. Generally, powerlifters train 3-5 days per week. But rather than focusing on the optimal number of days to train for powerlifting, focus on a realistic number of days you can train per week, which you can sustain over the long term. There’s no point in doing a 4-day program if you can only maintain it 50% of the time. You’re better off doing three days per week if you can sustain that >90% of the time.

Likewise, you don’t necessarily have to fixate on training X number of days per week. You may have a 4-day program that takes nine days to complete if you’re time-poor. Training once every few days is still going to give you gains. 

Will this give you the quickest rate of gains? 

Maybe not, but you can still achieve a similar amount of training gains if your days a spread a little further apart. It just may take a little longer to reach the goal post. 

Is powerlifting 3 times a week enough?

Yes. You can still make plenty of gains by training x3 per week. 

You may need to prioritise your training volume into areas that will be the most effective for improving your power-lifting performance, for example, allocating most of your training volume to the power-lifts themselves and accessory exercises/movement variations, which may best carry over to improving your strength. 

Whereas exercises that may not give you the best return on your investment for improving performance should be a last priority, for example, bicep curls, calves, etc.

What is the best way to train for powerlifting?

This is not an easy question because there is no best way to train for power-lifting. You are an individual, and the training plan that may give you optimal progress may not be optimal for someone else. 

Likewise, what is an optimal training plan to maximise your rate of progress now may differ in a year as you have become more experienced. 

But to give some basic principles. 

 

  1. If you’re new to barbell lifting, you must learn how to correctly perform efficient technique on the squat, bench press and dead-lift. 
 
  1. You should probably work on increasing muscle size (which will also help improve work capacity), as muscle size appears to be related to increasing strength 
 
  1. You will need to eventually be exposed to heavier rep ranges (e.g., between 1-5 reps) as strength is specific to the rep ranges you’re exposed to. E.g., if you train with higher reps, like 8+ reps, you’ll get stronger in the higher rep ranges with less carryover to the lower rep ranges. If you train with lower reps, such as <5, you’ll get stronger in the lower rep ranges with less carryover to the higher rep ranges. 
 
  1. More isn’t always better. Just because four sets of squats are getting you stronger doesn’t necessarily mean eight will be even better. Training volume is generally increased if someone is not making gains and appears to be recovering well. For example, if you’re doing six sets of squats per week (twice a week x 3 sets) and you’re not overly tired, getting enough sleep, have low outside stressors, consuming enough calories, etc, but are not getting stronger, this may be an indication you’re ready to do a little more training volume as the current amount may not be sufficient for you to make optimal progress.   

Is powerlifting harder than bodybuilding?

This question is subjective, and both are difficult in their own ways. Power-lifting can be difficult concerning going through phases where you need to lift heavy loads (<5 reps) at a high effort on the squat, bench press and dead-lift to optimise strength gains. Heavy phases of training and be both physically and mentally draining. Particularly when doing this for multiple weeks in a row, such as leading into a power-lifting competition.

In bodybuilding, you do not necessarily need to squat, bench press or deadlift to build a muscular physique. You can grow your muscles from machines only if you want. 

However, if you’re preparing for a bodybuilding show, you will have to a period where you’re training in a calorie deficit to achieve very low body fat levels. Training in a low-calorie state coupled with a low body fat percentage can be extremely exhausting. Both sports will have phases of easier and harder training.

What age is the strongest in 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 20 too late to start powerlifting?

No. If your goal is to be an elite-level power-lifter, you can reach peak strength well into your 40s. So no, being 20 isn’t too late to start power-lifting. If your goal is to be the best power-lifter you can be, irrespective of other people’s results which are out of your control anyway, then any age is a good age to start power-lifting. 

Regardless of the age you begin power-lifting, 20, 30,40,50+, you’ll probably feel good knowing you’re becoming a better version of yourself. 

At our powerlifting gym in Taren Point in the Sutherland Shire we make it really easy for anyone to get started by offering;

 
So irrespective of your age we can either help you get started for the first time or provide assistance to develop your existing baseline training regime. Any powerlifting coaching that we provide has a program created that specifically suits your age & goals so that it is specific and relevant.

What is the average lifespan of a powerlifter?

No one knows and it isn’t something that is measured or recorded.

There needs to be longitudinal research looking at the life span of a power-lifter. 

However, considering that physical activity increases life expectancy relative to a non-physically active life, we can suspect that drug-free power-lifters will likely live just as long, if not longer than the average person who does not lift.   

What age is Master 1 in powerlifting?

A Master 1 powerlifter is 40 to 49 years of age. 

A Master 1 powerlifter refers to an athlete who competes in the sport of powerlifting and belongs to the Master 1 age category. In powerlifting, athletes compete in three main lifts: the squat, bench press, and deadlift. 

Powerlifting competitions are usually divided into various age categories to ensure fair competition among participants of similar age and experience levels. The age categories may vary slightly depending on the governing body or organisation that oversees the competition. Each age category may have different qualifying standards and records.

A Master 1 powerlifter in the sport of powerlifting has typically gained significant experience and skill in the sport over the years and has reached a competitive level in their age category. They would have likely spent a considerable amount of time training, honing their technique, and building strength to excel in the three main powerlifting lifts.

Is 17 too late to start powerlifting?

No. If your goal is to be an elite-level power-lifter, you can reach peak strength well into your 40s. So no, being 17 isn’t too late to start power-lifting. 

If your goal is to be the best power-lifter you can be, irrespective of other people’s results which are out of your control anyway, then any age is a good age to start power-lifting. 

Regardless of what age you begin power-lifting, 20, 30,40,50+, you’re still probably going to feel good knowing you’re becoming a better version of yourself.  By training at a gym that specialises in offering powerlifting equipment you get access to all the most relevant equipment but also a supportive community of like minded enthusiasts who are training with you.

Going to a powerlifting gym is different to a general, commercial chain or franchise. Our gym in Taren Point has been kitted out to specifically focus on strength training, strength and conditioning, powerlifting & bodybuilding.

At what age do powerlifters peak?

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 power-lifters older than this who are still hitting lifetime PBs.   

Is 50 too old to start powerlifting?

No, people can start power-lifting at any age. The benefits from strength training will still work, regardless of your age. Sure, your ability to progress may be a little slower relative to if you were in your 20s, but this doesn’t mean you still can’t get very strong and build a significant amount of muscle mass. 

Regardless of age, your body will still adapt to a training stimulus.

If you’re worrying about getting injured because of being 50+ years of age, strength training will likely reduce the likelihood of injury. Your capacity to tolerate training loads generally increases as you consistently train. Injuries typically occur from doing too much too soon. 

So long as you’re increasing training loads appropriately, the risk of injury from power-lifting is relatively low compared to team sports such as soccer and football.     

What age should you stop powerlifting?

Never. 

If someone has been power-lifting all their life, their capacity to handle strength training would be high. Thus, powerlifting will not be ‘bad’ for an individual who is adapted to strength training. Heavy strength training isn’t bad or dangerous for anybody if it’s planned systematically. Training should be adjusted according to an individual’s training tolerance. Some people need more training to progress, and some need less.

Stopping strength training is not suggested. Sure, some people may decide they no longer want to compete in powerlifting for personal reasons, but it is highly suggested to continue strength training throughout your life. Strength training will offset the loss of muscle mass and strength from aging. The likelihood of getting injured or ill at a later age is reduced in those who strength train versus those who do not.

Does powerlifting go by age or weight?

Both. There are age and weight categories.

Powerlifting competitions typically use weight classes rather than age categories to ensure fair competition among athletes. Athletes are grouped into different weight classes based on their bodyweight. The specific weight classes may vary depending on the governing body or organisation that oversees the competition.

Weight classes allow athletes of similar bodyweight to compete against each other, as powerlifting performance can be influenced by an individual’s size and body composition. This ensures that competitors are relatively evenly matched in terms of their physical characteristics.

In addition to weight classes, powerlifting competitions may also have divisions based on experience level or skill, such as novice, open, or elite divisions. These divisions help to further categorise athletes based on their level of competition experience and skill level.

While age is not the primary factor in determining powerlifting divisions, some competitions may include separate age categories or divisions, such as Master divisions for different age ranges, to recognise the achievements of athletes in different age groups.

Does age matter in powerlifting?

In a power-lifting competition, there are age categories, and you will compete in your appropriate age bracket. In terms of whether age matters for starting power-lifting, age does not matter. 

The benefits from strength training work regardless of the age you are. Sure, your ability to progress may be a little slower if you’re aged 50+ years, but this doesn’t mean you still can’t get very strong and build a significant amount of muscle mass. 

Regardless of age, your body will still adapt to a training stimulus. 

Are powerlifters healthy?

There is no research looking at the health of power-lifters. 

However, when reviewing research on individuals who regularly lift weights, a range of benefits are seen, such as assisting with the prevention of diabetes, decreasing visceral fat, improving insulin sensitivity, enhancing cardiovascular health, reducing blood pressure, lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing good cholesterol (HDL). Lifting weights also increases bone mineral density and reverses aging factors in muscles due to ageing.

At what age you are strongest at gym?

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 power-lifters older than this who are still hitting lifetime PBs.   

Do powerlifters always train heavy?

Not always. Yes, if you want to get good at lifting heavy weights, you need to be exposed to lifting heavy. However, always lifting heavy is likely not the best way to maximise strength. One of the variables that likely contribute to strength is muscle mass. Research comparing stronger to weaker competitive powerlifters shows that the winners generally have more muscle mass. As such, it is likely beneficial to do training phases where the load is a bit lighter and the reps higher to prioritise building muscle.

Additionally, always lifting heavy can be quite fatiguing and can lead to an accumulation of fatigue which the body cannot fully recover from unless there is a period of reducing the load (deload), to let fatigue dissipate. High fatigue, which isn’t managed, can lead to symptoms such as lethargy, lack of motivation, decreased mental well-being, muscle soreness, achy joints, increased susceptibility to injury and sickness, sleep disruptions, and increased anxiety and depression. 

Training is generally periodised, where power-lifters will focus on particular goals, depending on their training phase (e.g., build muscle or maximise 1RM strength), plus to manage fatigue. Since power-lifting training is broken into phases, there will be times when an individual is training with heavy weights, then phases where the weights are lighter.    

How can you qualify for national or international powerlifting events in Australia?

To qualify for national or international powerlifting events in Australia, you usually need to meet certain performance standards or achieve specific totals in your weight class. 

The qualification criteria may vary depending on the competition and the organisation governing it. Paul Attard has been a powerlifting competitor in Australia and can help you get prepared for a local competition.

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.

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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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