What Is “Ready?”
So you’ve started powerlifting. You have finally figured out how to squat properly, bench well, and deadlift without hitching. You can finally feel your strength gains peaking through, your hamstrings growing, and you’re walking with better posture. “I’m loving this” you think to yourself, “who the heck wouldn’t want to spend their training time perfecting these 3 lifts?” You’re feeling strong and you’re looking strong. You’ve basically hit the jackpot. The powerlifting bug has stung you.
And to fuel your motivation even more, you’ve been following all these famous powerlifters on social media. Whether you get your fix from Instagram or Youtube, you find yourself binging on lifting videos, admiring the strength of these women all over the world lifting far more than that guy you had a crush on in Chem class.
But, when you’re in the gym, people are constantly asking you “when are you going to compete?”
“Never,” you respond. “I’m not ready.”
You’ve contemplated it, as most athletes who love what they train for do, but you’ve set a barrier for yourself, separating yourself from the rest of those inspiring lifters you thought you’d hope to become one day.
So my question to all these aspiring powerlifters is… what is “ready?”
This term “ready,” first of all, is a funny thing in this sport, because there really is no determining factor that will classify you as “ready,” besides yourself. No magical powerlifting fairy is going to tap you with her wand and say “you are now good to compete,” and there is no weight that will determine a general squat to be good or bad.
Obviously, if we’re going to get into the qualifying totals of Nationals or Worlds or a new record, then yeah, “ready” refers to a high enough total, but that shouldn’t even be a concern for a novice. The biggest step is to simply sign up, get yourself a singlet, and tell yourself that you’re committing to a meet, no matter what numbers you’re coming in with.
I think that what scares most girls, even myself at first, is the idea that they aren’t “strong enough.” They see these women crushing numbers that seem next to impossible to achieve, and they make up this standard that they immediately place themselves below. It’s an understandable fear, especially with the sport being so new (especially for us girls). It’s easy to get intimidated by those crazy 405 PR’s we’re seeing pop up more and more among women lifters. After seeing that, who wouldn’t be hesitant?
But we need to realize a couple things here and learn to appreciate the beauty behind the purpose of powerlifting.
For one: we need to realize that strength is 100% relative.
Just because one girl can deadlift 300 for reps doesn’t make your new 2RM of 215 is any less significant. Have you been making steady progress over time? How long have you been lifting? How long has THAT girl been lifting? What about that injury that set you back from training a few weeks ago? These are questions you need to be asking yourself before you start comparing your own strength to someone elses (which you should never ACTUALLY do, comparisons = bad). Just like how we’re supposed to love the body we have, we should love the numbers we’ve worked hard for, no matter how high or low they may seem to you. You can totally have your own standards, but what you determine “strong” should not be based on someone else’s numbers. Your progress is YOUR progress.
Secondly: Unless You’re Trying to Break a Record, No One Cares What You’re Lifting
And it’s 100% true. Yeah, there are the competitive kids that can really focus on how much that girl in their weight class is pulling or pushing, but that is true with any sport. When you step onto that platform for the first time, no one is standing there with a clipboard checking “strong” or “not strong” right behind you. Quite honestly, no one is actually paying attention, because they have themselves to worry about. Only the judges are paying full attention, but they are just there to determine whether or not the lift is acceptable to count. But what you will earn from each and every lifter (and spectator) that watches you step onto that platform is respect. No one knows your training age (how long you’ve been training), your previous numbers, or whether you’ve done this before. It takes guts to step onto a lifting platform in front of everyone and go for a new PR, and any experienced powerlifter can tell you that. But if you’re scared that people are judging you for your 100+ bench, trust me, no one actually cares. And if they do, that’s the kind of energy that we try to steer clear of. If that’s a new PR for you, than anyone watching would and should be excited to watch you crush that new weight.
What It’s All About
Powerlifting, at least what I’ve come to find, is all about becoming as strong as YOU possibly can be. Your total is YOUR total, your progress is YOUR progress, and absolutely no one can take any of that from you. At the end of the day, whether you win a meet or not, crush a PR or fail miserably at a new deadlift attempt, you’ve pushed yourself to accomplish something that many would never imagine doing. You’re a woman lifting heavy weight and breaking the stereotype held by many, one rep at a time. Even if you choose to get very competitive with it, this is a still sport that is very much about the individual athlete. Your focus should be on whether or not you’ve become stronger than you were last time.
So my advice to you is this:
- Watch other lifters as motivation, but don’t let someone else’s numbers determine what you consider “strong.”
- Embrace the progression of your training, your numbers, and your improvements.
- Get on the platform when your ready to show off what you’ve worked hard for, not when ever this mysterious standard of “ready” is achieved (because trust me, that day will never come, it’s just an ongoing excuse)
- Encourage your teammates, competitors, coaches, and whomever else is involved in the sport. Because in the end, the sport is comprised primarily of lifters encouraging each other to become better, lift heavier weight, and finish the lift. Just go to a competition and watch the competitors screaming for a person they don’t even know to stand up from a squat and you’ll know what I mean.