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Becoming a powerlifter - New beginnings

So lately I've been starting out on a new fitness adventure, and I thought it would be fun to write about it and take you guys along with me.

Over the last few months I have been getting more focussed in my strength training towards a powerlifting model. When I noticed I wasn't really progressing as much as I would have liked, or with the balance between lifts I wanted, I decided to start a formal programme, and then it occurred to me that it would be fun to compete. So now we have this whole "starting out in competitive powerlifting" situation, which is both maddeningly confusing and very exciting.

So let's start from the beginning.

Starting out the heavy lifts.


Those who are familiar with my background will know that I am a dancer, perinatal exercise specialist and long time gym dodger.

While I had a history of strength training in my teens and early twenties, that was forsaken for martial arts, dancing, pilates, yoga and bodyweight training. As a result, it wasn't until I took my Level 3 personal training qualifications that I really started getting into lifting heavy, and lifting barbells (I've always been a dumbells kind of person).

When I decided to get certified as a personal trainer it was my plan to work with people who wanted to bring exercise into their lives, but didn't want to go anywhere near the gym - to develop the fitness scope of my dance and prenatal classes, and work more closely with individuals. This is what I do and I absolutely love doing so.

But in the course of learning how to be a "gym PT" (a necessary part of training) I rediscovered my interest in training in a gym environment - which is to say that I was lifting every lunch hour. So I'm in this interesting place where I am an old hand at fitness, but a newbie at heavy strength training. I love this, it reminds me of how as a dancer, walking into a class in a new style, or even just a new teacher, can send me flying out of my comfort zone and remind me exactly what it feels like to be a beginner again, frustrating, overwhelming, confusing and thrilling.

So what is powerlifting?

Powerlifting is a class of strength competition which is judged by the weight lifted for 3 movements: Bench press, squat and deadlift. These lifts between them represent whole body strength, and in competition are performed for single reps.


What's the difference between powerlifting and weightlifting?

Weightlifting usually refers to olympic weightlifting. In olympic weightlifting there are 2 competition lifts - the snatch and the clean and jerk. I quite enjoy the olympic lifts, the technique feels a lot like dancing to me - finding the flow of energy, the right boost, the right pathway to trick gravity and make that barbell weightless at the right point - but I am wary of the risk to my wobbly joints when throwing heavy barbells around.

Finding a place under the barbell


Back in May I started training at Train Station. Training in my studio is great, but they've got all the stuff I need to lift more weight than I ever physically could, plus the social support network of a bunch of other lifting enthusiasts. Plus it makes me actually leave my house!

When I started I was still trying to hit my bodyweight deadlift target (70kg). Within a month of joining I pulled a 105kg deadlift. It's clearly a good environment for me!

I decided to get serious on my programming. A while back on an episode of The Fitcast, I had heard Jen Sinkler and JVB talking about their powerlifting programme - Unapologetically Powerful. I'd heard it was a very well structured programme, and I like trying out good programmes, because that helps me to learn how to write really good programmes too. So this seemed like the time to give it a bash.

And it is a great programme. I'm down 2 weeks of preparation and 3 weeks of main programme now, and my weights are going up immensely - that's before I've even hit the short sets and heavy training.

It occurred to me that as Unapologetically Powerful is a meet prep programme, it might be fun to try competing, just to see what goes on; and it just so happened that there is a meet local to me, a week after I will have completed the first cycle of the programme.

And from there, I went off down the rabbithole of finding out about competitive powerlifting, which we shall look at in my next post....

The separation of work and play


There's a strange dissonance between being someone who loves training in a gym, but working with personal training clients who generally don't. I sometimes have to remind those who follow my training, that I don't expect them to do what I do, except that they too should find their own best way to make being fit a part of their life that they love and look forward to.

On the other hand, it no longer surprises, but still delights me, when I have a client who arrived with a dislike of "exercise" born from a bad experience with compulsory sports in school, who I am able to introduce to kettlebell training, or free weights and suddenly they realise that this is something that they can really get into, and get good at and find immense satisfaction in. They just needed to have the opportunity to try, in a non threatening space.

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