Is Powerlifting Getting the Cold Shoulder?
In Vancouver fitness, HIIT (high intensity interval training) circuits are exploding: Think CrossFit, Orange Theory, F45, and many other HIIT workout classes. But what has happened to “old-school” powerlifting? Not many people can name a powerlifting gym near them. Is there still room for the powerlifting barbell movements in modern day training?
We say without question, YES. Trends come and go, but powerlifting’s place in health and fitness is deeply rooted because of its simplicity, low cost of entry, and copious benefits.
Some people dismiss powerlifting because of common, cemented misconceptions (see the list below). Many confuse it with Olympic weightlifting, body building or strongman—but powerlifting is different from these other strength-building sports.
What is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting consists of lifting as much weight as possible on three compound exercises: the back squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Weightlifting, on the other hand, focuses on two explosive movements: the Snatch, and the Clean & Jerk. Powerlifting concentrates more on developing the strength to perform different functions, while weight lifting is about the ability to move heavy weights quickly to an overhead position.
Benefits of Powerlifting
There’s a reason why so many professional athletes – from tennis stars to hockey players – incorporate powerlifting into their routines. Powerlifting helps optimize their performance while improving body composition, increasing strength and power, developing lean muscle, and more.
Produces stronger muscles, bones & joints
The most obvious draw to powerlifting is increasing your muscle strength in your back, legs, and upper body. In fact, almost every muscle in the body is strengthened in powerlifting training.
Additionally, consistent heavy lifting over time not only maintains bone mass but can even increase bone density, helping decrease the risk of osteoporosis later in life (very important for women). Bonus: Lifting heavy weights recruits your core, giving you an ab workout too.
Lowers your risk of injury
People are usually surprised to learn this one. Strengthening the muscles surrounding and supporting your joints can help prevent injuries by assisting you to maintain good form, as well as strengthening joint integrity.
You will still burn fat with powerlifting, and more of it. When you build more muscle and you’ll keep your body burning fat all day long—unlike basic cardio workouts. How? Heavy lifting leads to increasing your lean body mass, which in turn increases the number of calories you burn each day. Numerous studies have shown that lifting more weight has a long-term effect on your metabolism.
Shapes your body
Powerlifting will help you look more lean and defined than just doing HIIT workouts, which are focussed on cardio, raising your heart rate, and endurance. Powerlifting is about building muscle by pinpointing progression to heavier weight loads.
Makes you stronger and leaner, faster
Progressive overload with powerlifting has been proven to be one of the single best ways to gain muscle and strength—more quickly than HIIT workouts. Try it: Add squats, deadlifts, and rows to your heavy weights and you’ll be amazed at how fast you’ll build strength.
Powerlifting is a big self-esteem boost for all levels. Not only will you feel tough, but also satisfied: it’s great mental stimulation to learn something different from your usual workout pattern. It can also be good for when you’ve hit a ‘plateau’ in your fitness training. Incorporating powerlifting training will help you keep seeing results.
“Thanks to powerlifting, I’m stronger and leaner than I’ve ever been…at almost 50,” notes Precision Athletics co-founder and personal trainer, Pepe Picco, “Powerlifting as the cornerstone of a balanced training program has allowed me to continue to compete at a decent level in rec sports against athletes 25 years younger.”
Now for the myths and misconceptions that cause far too many people to dismiss powerlifting – giving it the cold shoulder – despite all the benefits outlined above.
Powerlifting Myths & Misconceptions
“I will bulk up too much!”
Say 3 out of 5 women in our gym. Consuming too many calories is what creates the appearance of bulk—not weight training. Muscle is denser than fat, and the more muscle you build, the tighter and more shapely your body will be. In order to gain muscle mass, there needs to be a combination of heavy weight training and a detailed focus on specific types of food & calories. Also, women can’t get much bigger muscles because of low testosterone levels.
“Cardio is the best way to burn fat.”
Nope, see the “Decreases Fat” benefit in the list above. While cardio burns more calories than weight training during your workout, lifting weights torches more fat overall, by elevating your metabolism for another 36-48 hours post workout.
“I’m not interested in bodybuilding.”
Wrong sport. Bodybuilding is about sculpting your body (think of Arnie Schwartznegger). The main purpose is to build muscle mass while minimizing body fat. To get a body-builder level of muscularity, you’d have to train and diet in a very intense manner for an extended period (usually with the assistance of steroids).
“Powerlifting is dangerous, I’ll hurt myself.”
It’s not dangerous compared to most sports when done properly. We’ve never heard of someone sustaining a concussion, fracture, or shin splints from powerlifting. It can be injury-inducing only if you don’t know what you’re doing. Get proper powerlifting training first, and focus on form.
Proper technique is essential with any strength training. Once you feel more confident, join a Powerlifting group, Powerlifting gym, or find a buddy who can spot you.
By this point it’s pretty clear that we’re big fans of powerlifting here in Vancouver. Our gym has powerlifting training classes, and several of our personal trainers to compete at powerlifting competitions.