Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Powerlifting

By: Rachel Zipsie/ Friends of PRS

The rush starts, the adrenaline is pumping, you just maxed out your first single lift and decide you want to compete at powerlifting.  Maybe you find a beginner meet out there or a state meet by one of the many federations or perhaps you know someone who has competed in powerlifting before.   Whatever brings you to this sport, before you go out there and make a fool out of yourself consider these few things to get started for long term success.


Do some homework outside of the little world you are training in.    

Where are the local powerlifting gyms? Do they have a monolift, competition grade equipment, a few competition bars?  It doesn’t have to be fancy, you just need a few of the right things available to you and an environment that is suitable to train in.  Garage gyms are just fine too, just make sure you have a crew of people there to train with and learn from.  You can’t do this sport in a vacuum and having a good crew, team or group of people you can count on week in and week out to train together is critical.

A really good crew is going to make you earn your keep, and you should want to.  Participate, stay late come early and help out.  Just because you are new doesn’t mean you can can’t be a part of the team and be valuable.  You can absorb a lot by being there and helping in between your own lifts and you can give back to your teammates by sticking around until everyone is done and finished for the day.  Be humble in knowing that helping each other out is extremely important in being successful.


Don’t max out every week. 

It needs to be said, you won’t get strong maxing out week in and week out. What you will get is frustrated and most likely injured.   There are tons of resources out there to review what this sport is all about, programming methods, and many people who think they are smarter than the average bear. Do some homework and what I recommend the most is Brian Carroll’s book 10/20/Life Second Edition.   You will find everything you need here to get yourself started and to set yourself up for long term success.  You won’t find that anywhere else, not in this format and not all in one place.  Getting stronger, being competitive and being in this sport long term is covered in depth and it takes a lot more to be great at this sport than just going to the gym and reading what the internet guru’s have to say.

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Not every world record is created equal.

I recently competed at a state meet where it seemed like every other attempt announced was a national or state record in the federation.  It got to be almost annoying at one point.  It’s important to know where you stack up against competition and others, but it’s not the end all be all.   Also, it’s normal to have the desire to break an already standing record.  An All Time World Record is not the same as a Federation World Record. An All Time World Record pulls all of these federations together and then let the numbers fall where they may.   There’s nothing wrong with the Federation World Record at all, in fact; I currently hold 3 of them in the WPC, but that isn’t want drives me to compete at the highest level and really quite frankly not many people care.  I am probably not even capable of being close to the ATWR (All Time World Record), but that doesn’t stop me from chasing to be better than my last meet every single time.  Very few people are ever going to hit any of these World Records and All Time Records, so if you are in this sport to only do this – think again.  You’ll get frustrated and leave.

Gym coaches, internet sensations, and injured resident know it all’s make me crazy.

I’ve always wondered why anyone would take advice about staying healthy in the sport from someone who is constantly getting hurt and not changing their training ways.  Injuries do happen, but it’s how you respond to them that really matters. I’ve been injured, ill, sick and a host of other different things have happened to me while competing in this sport.  I’ve had to go outside of my comfort zone and seek out people who have proven success with coming back from injuries and then worked their way back on be on top of their game again.  Johnny on the spot in the gym with the newest trick to healing is doing you no favors.  The same thing goes when seeking out lifting advice or a coach.  An internet guru or a quick sensation isn’t going to keep you healthy and strong.  Selecting a good coach is covered very well in Lisa Guggisberg’s article Select Your Coach Like a Professional . Take this seriously in your consideration and be willing to pay for the coaching you are receiving.  Free advice while cheap, the person isn’t invested in your success and a good coach not only will be invested, but you should want to pay him or her accordingly.

Don’t comment on things you know nothing about.

I love it when I run into people who compete in other competitive sports say for example, strong man or cross fit competitor and they have an all or nothing opinion about how get big three strong or utilize powerlifting equipment.   What a pain to be around and it’s naive and disrespectful.  If you are converting to powerlifting from other strength sports, that’s great. Just don’t start judging or imparting your advice to other new powerlifters until you’ve earned it.  Get your total and first couple of meets under your belt and learn from others in the sport.  Just because you are probably great at the other sport, doesn’t mean it will translate.  Earn it.


Same thing goes with RAW lifters.  How exactly is a RAW lifter going to know anything about competing as an equipped lifter, what goes into it and the time it takes to learn how to properly work the gear.  Don’t get me wrong seeing a huge raw lift is bad ass, but so is seeing a huge equipped lift.  They are NOT created equal and one is not better than the other contrary to what you might read from the internet guru’s.  Learning equipment takes time.  If you weren’t successful in converting to become an equipped lifter, and you didn’t spend anytime perfecting the technique, it is not the equipment’s fault.  Look in the mirror, it takes time, dedication and a whole lot of work.

Stay humble

I’ve been very fortunate to have met and learned from some of the greatest current and former lifters in the sport.  Many of the best were extremely humble, kind and more than willing to help me.  The one thing that struck me about them is how much fun they had while competing, the process of becoming great and their willingness to stay around the sport to help new people.  If you are arrogant and aren’t willing to learn from your coach or others who have proven success in the sport, pack your bag and go home.  Don’t waste your or anyone else’s time the sport isn’t for everyone.  If you’re serious, there’s a lot of us that want to see you be successful and I hope to share a platform with you some time soon.

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