Women’s Powerlifting Introduction

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It won’t surprise you to know that I first stuck my toe into the vast sea of the fitness industry because I had some sort of revelation which made me realise I had to do something about my weight. It was getting me down and I wanted to feel good again. At the time, I thought losing weight and looking slimmer would solve all my problems and make me happy again, after all, that’s what society tells you isn’t it? Plus, I haven’t always been overweight, but as my career progressed and I got busier, I found my attitude towards being active and eating healthily waned. I was always ‘too tired’ (excuse 1) and I justified it by reminding myself that I had a stressful job (excuse 2) so I deserved a takeaway in front of the TV. But, just a mere five years ago ‘those’ photos of me in New York shocked me into developing a new attitude (and ditching some other baggage but that’s a different story)

The change

In 2015 I dieted. I dieted like someone possessed. I lost weight and I was happy but the weight stopped dropping off (oh hello plateau) until a friend lured me into the gym, a place I said I would never go in a million years. She showered me with promises that cardio will get the weight moving in the right direction again and it worked! I developed a new found love for cardio machines, spin classes, body combat and anything that made me sweat like a lunatic. By this time I had shed around 50lbs and dropped a few dress sizes (not to mention bra sizes which was both a blessing and a curse) and was pretty happy with my new silhouette. But……I grew tired of the same routine so I picked up some weights. I made friends with guys in the gym who were also moving weights and developed a taste for it. Shocked at how weak I was compared to how ‘fit’ I was, I started working harder and by 2016 I was well into the ‘bro’ style training and constantly checking for gains. In August I had an almighty set back when I was involved in an off-road Segway incident (yes, I said Segway) and broke my elbow and opposite wrist. Cue the hilarity of not being able to do ANYTHING for around six weeks. Seriously, being in your thirties and needing meals on wheels and help washing your hair puts things in perspective (shout out to all the amazing mums out there) But, at least it was summer and long walks around the beautiful rural area of where I lived kept me sane, to a point

Well, hello there Powerlifting!

In 2019, I started to think more seriously about my goals. What did I really want out of all this? What would make me happier? It was shortly after I had decided I was going to work on improving my bench press that I had a serious conversation about powerlifting. I had just embarked on a more powerlifting focused workout programme so it made sense. Suddenly my world changed.

The training was different to anything I had ever done before. Sets and reps were nothing like my previous programmes and there was a whole different attitude towards planning strength gains and progression. I will be honest, I wasn’t sure how this would work, how could I possibly be building strength by doing less reps and sets than I was doing in other routines?  And resting for longer than 90 seconds? Whaaat?

The initial transition was weird but I liked it. I liked it a lot. I focused heavily on bench press as it was my favourite (something I now regret slightly as I shouldn’t have taken my eye off the ball with squats and deadlifts but more on that another time). I had so much to take in when training such as perfecting good form and technique when performing the lift properly not to mention all the rules of competition! I had constant questions, worries and frustration throughout my first six months of powerlifting training which was good as I learned so much from it. I was the absolute WORST when I was going for a new personal best on the bar and I couldn’t press it successfully. And don’t get me started on the ‘chicken-wing’ issue – another repercussion of the cursed elbow and shoulder instability BUT I worked through it, I got advice, I researched issues and different training methods that could help and eradicated any little issues that could be barriers to my progression. I grew from the experiences, I started to know what to expect and how to deal with the unexpected.

My confidence was soaring and I became a better all-round lifter although this highlights something else about this training, something that can be difficult to understand at first. The process of how time seems to work in powerlifting. Everything feels like a slow and steady process; the strength gains, the technique perfecting and, annoyingly, recovery time for injuries. This can be challenging for an impatient girl like me but, I now know from experience, patience really is a virtue and it is so important to recognise that, through a well prepared program, magical things will happen and the return is priceless.

Takeaway

No, not that kind of takeaway! But some experience points, things I learned during my journey:

  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. Powerlifting was not something that was common place in the gym I went to but I went for it anyway and I have never looked back.
  • Nothing worth doing is ever easy…but it will become routine. Powerlifting is a totally different way of training to most gym routines and it will be challenging but you will soon get used to the methods just like any other regime. I learned to brush off the remarks I got in the gym regarding my training – as my strength increased, the comments decreased, funny that eh?
  • Find someone with knowledge of how to put together an effective training plan for you, this is essential to enable you to meet those strength goals.
  • Don’t let body image impact on your training. Focus on what you want to achieve, ensure you have a solid plan of programming, visualise getting the results you want and the rest will follow. Of course, Powerlifting has a required weight category for competitions but find your happy medium. It’s about what you can lift not what you look like.
  • Be patient. Strength increase does not happen week on week, and you shouldn’t be testing it every week either but it does happen. If you have a solid programme you will see a strength increase every cycle, trust in your programme and you will reap the rewards.
  • Injuries aren’t the end of the world. When I started my powerlifting training I was still nursing a tendon tear in my pectoral area from trying to do pullups (NEVER AGAIN) which was proving to be troublesome when benching but through research and advice I discovered ways of stretching the muscles which actually helped them heal and improved my bench press at the same time. Bonus! The key is listening to your body…
  • … on that note, de-load weeks are also a must. Your body needs some downtime to recover and reset. Believe me, if you don’t schedule some recovery time your body will do it for you.It’s much better that you plan for it!

Look out for my next article when I will be sharing the good, bad and ugly of my first competitions.

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