How To Get Started In Powerlifting

By Matt Culkin; NCSF CPT, SFL/SFG, USAW L2

Competing in your first powerlifting meet is a rewarding prize in itself. For anyone who has competed before or still does understands this best. It’s a feeling of accomplishment in your self for pushing through mental barriers and maximal physical exertion in one day towards a personal goal or total. After weeks or even months of preparation you finally get the chance to compete to really test yourself and see what you can achieve physically.  Here are a couple of tips on how to compete in your first powerlifting meet in your local city or town.

The first thing I did when I looked into competing in powerlifting was to find a “real” gym along with finding a strength or powerlifting coach to train with. I use quotations around the word “real” because I’m referring to actually gyms that have Power racks, bumper plates, kettlebells and people who care about getting stronger and better at lifting. Finding a coach is key to any lifter as it gives them guidance to follow an individualized program as well as lifting correctly. Coaches also provide intangible advice to lifters to aide in mental preparation and physical preparedness for an upcoming meet.

Now that you’ve found your coach and gym the next step is finding out what Federation is in your town or area where you live. A couple examples are; USPF, SPF, IPF, NASA, ELA, etc., the list goes on when you look it up but find one that is relative to where you live and sign up for it. That way you can look up the federations rules for competition as well as what the schedule is for the day of the meet (VERY CRITICAL!). Also it never hurts to ask around about the federations to see how they’re run as well as what the experiences of the lifters are who have competed at them.

This is the fun part in powerlifting, actually moving WEIGHTS! Getting under the bar and moving heavy weight is why you got involved in powerlifting isn’t it? For me it definitely was the reason why I started to compete and continue to this day. It’s a simple yet primal feeling you get when you lift heavy things and are able to move more of it over time, this continues to fuel the drive to want more, to push yourself harder and further. Competition brings the best out of us as people; we thrive off of pushing not only ourselves but also others as well to see who can lift more weight.

Finally we come to meet day, its time to put together all of the hard work and training to this point to test your self to push, pull and squat some heavy ass weight!! For me and for others it’s about enjoying the day to be around other like-minded people who love to lift as well as compete. While your making friends during the meet don’t forget to bring your bag and plenty of things you may need while at the meet. Bring some prepared food; water, any pre workout and protein to help keep nutrients in while your lifting. Keep these in mind so you wont be caught off guard by any situation to remain focused on performing at your best.

When it comes to picking a gym keep a few things in mind that you want to get out of it as well as it being a gym that will benefit your powerlifting goals. That being said here a are couple gyms to look into for powerlifting; Metroflex Gym/Dallas, TX, Westside Barbell/Columbus, OH, Five Points Academy/NYC, DeFrancos Gym, Austin, TX, Gym Jones, Salt Lake City, UT, York Barbell Club/ York, PA and Super Training Gym/Sacramento, CA.

A couple more options to consider for powerlifting is invest in a pair of good shoes such as Adidas or Nike to train in as well as the classic Chuck Taylor’s, which are strangely ideal for weightlifting, you understand if you own a pair already. As far as gear goes I would get a good belt, I recommend Inzer; they make a solid belt to buy for the heavy squats and pulls you perform. I wouldn’t worry about getting single or multi-ply suits quite yet as I’m more of a proponent for raw lifting in general. Lastly find a good pair of knee high socks for competition purposes as well as a singlet to wear when you compete.

In conclusion by putting all these into action you’ve put yourself on the right path. Always be mindful of what gyms you lift at as well as the people you meet, more times than not finding the right combination of both makes the lifting experience that much greater. Find a program that is accessible to your goals, from there continue to train smart and lift hard throughout your powerlifting journey!

About the Author

My name is Matthew Culkin and I am the Director of Strength & Conditioning at Five Points Academy in New York City. I’ve been coaching athletes and working professionals alike for 7+ years now as well as working with Five Points’ muay thai and judo competition teams. During my free time I spend it cooking at home frequently, taking care of my dog as well as keeping busy with my wife, whom I recently married last November.

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