Benefits of Powerlifting And Why I Train PL-Style
February 10th 2020
When you first start working out, you might have heard people throw around the term “powerlifting.”
Now we all know what bodybuilding is, but what exactly is “powerlifting?”
Powerlifting is a sport where participants compete to see who can lift the most weight in the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Different from bodybuilding, where the main goal is for aesthetics, size, and symmetry, powerlifting focuses on how much weight you can lift.
At first glance, this may seem very boring.
However, only when you understand the skill and athleticism required in order to squat 500 pounds, deadlift 700 pounds, or bench press over 300 pounds, that you will begin to appreciate the sport a bit more.
In addition, training in powerlifting could result in a variety of benefits that even bodybuilding can’t get you.
Some of the benefits of powerlifting are:
- Delayed aging
- Increased Strength
- More confidence
- Building a better physique
- Mentally stimulating
In this article, we will expand in more detail on these benefits, and go over how you can get into powerlifting if you don’t know where to start.
Delaying the Effects of Aging
As we age, our bodies start to decline in health and function.
It becomes harder for us to build muscle, lose fat, recover from hard workouts, as well as decreased strength (Anton, Spirduso, & Tanaka, 2004).
In fact, as we age, we start to see a decline in testosterone, the main hormone responsible for building muscle (Handelsman, 2017).
Our immune system also becomes weaker, leading to an increased risk of developing diseases such as cancer.
Exercise has been found to improve the lifespan and outcome of older adults. It has also been found to prevent or delay the development of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
In addition, powerlifting helps keep our heart strong and healthy, as well as maintains the health and integrity of our blood vessels.
From personal experience, I have been strength training for over six years, going onto seven. I have always used powerlifting style movements, the squat, bench press and the deadlift.
For some people my age who do not do any exercise, they look terrible if I am being 100% real.
Blame everything you want but one of the biggest reasons, in my opinion, that people do not age gracefully is because they are not strength training.
They are not pushing their bodies to their physical limits and that makes them weak and sickly.
I mean… what is life is you do not truly live through it with your own body?
One of the obvious benefits of powerlifting is the fact that it results in increased strength.
However, strength does not solely depend on the size of the muscle.
How strong you are, also depends on how efficient your nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is at recruiting the muscles for lifting a weight.
This might seem a bit confusing at first for those who have no background in biology so let me explain it in more detail.
The main function of muscle is to contract.
And as we already know, lifting weights requires us to contract our muscles.
What causes the muscle to contract is a stimulus from the nervous system (your brain telling you to lift the weight up).
This stimulus can be weak (recruiting fewer muscle fibers) or strong (recruiting more muscle fibers).
This stimulus can be trained so that you can recruit more muscles and become stronger, without any change in muscle size.
This means that no matter how big or how much muscle you have if your brain is only telling you to contract one fiber, you will be weak.
On the contrary, even if you have less muscle, if your brain can tell your body to contract every fiber of that muscle, you will be strong.
This is why in powerlifting, you can see small guys lift weight that even guys much bigger than them, cannot handle.
Here is just one example:
In this video, Richard Hawthorne aka “The Ant”, weighs in at 129 lbs, and has a world record squat of 562 lbs (over 4x his bodyweight).
I guarantee that if you ask the biggest guy in your gym to squat 560 lbs, they wouldn’t be able to do it unless if they trained in powerlifting for many years.
So training in powerlifting will get you stronger not only due to increasing your muscle size, but more importantly, it will increase the connection between your brain and muscle, allowing you to recruit more fibers so that you could lift more weight.
Training for a sport like powerlifting could help boost your confidence.
This is because from training session to training session, you will get stronger over time.
You will be able to lift weights that you wouldn’t have thought you were able to.
You will be able to look a year back at the amount of weight lifted and see how much you’ve progressed.
You will be able to lift weights that most people aren’t able to lift.
There are many different types of confidence, and the confidence that powerlifting brings is the “Effort leads to results” confidence.
As you see yourself getting stronger, and stronger, you will feel more confident inside the gym, and outside the gym in all aspects of life.
Develop a Better Physique
Powerlifting will help you burn fat and build muscle at the same time.
This is because powerlifting is a high-intensity anaerobic activity that pushes your heart to its maximum capacity as you attempt to lift heavy weights.
In addition, lifting heavy weights is one of the prime causes of muscle growth.
However, if your goal is to have a physique like a bodybuilder, the only way to get there is by following a bodybuilding routine.
Powerlifting is a great change of pace for those who have been following a bodybuilding program and have gotten bored with it.
This is because while you are following a bodybuilding program, you don’t really have much of a goal other than to lift x weight 12 times.
Whereas in powerlifting, your goal is to hit a new PR (personal record) or to lift with better form each time.
This is what has made powerlifting fun and popular.
I know of a lot of athletes who have originally started bodybuilding but switched to powerlifting and stayed because of how much more mentally stimulating, and rewarding it is.
You will feel much greater accomplishment by working towards your lifetime goals during each training session than by simply lifting weight to look better in the mirror.
How could you get started with powerlifting?
If after reading this article you decided that you want to give powerlifting a try, the first step is to learn how to perform the 3 main lifts.
That is, learn how to do perform the squat, bench press, and deadlift with proper form.
Learning proper form is crucial for preventing injuries as well as for setting yourself up to lifting heavier weight in the long run.
The next step you should do is to follow a beginner strength training program.
Our recommendation is to start with a beginner strength training program which incorporates barbell lifts (including all of the ones used during powerlifting) as well as a few accessory lifts (overhead press, incline bench press, etc.) in order to build more muscle.
A generalized strength training program that incorporates barbells is a great starting point for beginners who want to get into powerlifting.
This is because these programs teach you how to perform the lifts, as well as provide a lot of supplemental exercises so that you are training at the appropriate intensity to build muscle.
If you just start with a powerlifting program but don’t know how to perform the lifts, you will be stuck at preforming them at a lower weight, at a low intensity.
This is not ideal for muscle growth.
However, if you start a beginner strength program, you will also be prescribed supplemental exercises that could help you get stronger, as well as improve your main lifts.
One of the most popular beginner strength programs we recommend is Starting Strength due to how structured and easy it is for beginners to follow.
Check out my personal review about Starting Strength here or if you need no other explanation and want to start learning from the tips of your fingers with a physical book, you can also get that here.
Anton, M. M., Spirduso, W. W., & Tanaka, H. (2004). Age-related declines in anaerobic muscular performance: weightlifting and powerlifting. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 36(1), 143-147. doi:10.1249/01.Mss.0000106283.34742.Be
Handelsman, D. J. (2017). Testosterone and Male Aging: Faltering Hope for Rejuvenation. Jama, 317(7), 699-701. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.0129