Find a Coach or Experienced Lifter
This one seems obvious to some, but many lifters start out their Powerlifting careers without any guidance or idea of where they should start. I’m a huge proponent of starting to build that solid foundation of technical proficiency from Day 1. A Lot of lifters develop poor movement patterns, injuries and lack of motivation early on in their lifting careers due to sheer inexperience, as well as lack of guidance- it doesn’t have to be this way though. The internet is full of excellent training knowledge, put out by great lifters and coaches. Utilize the tools that you have at your disposal- whether that’s an online coach, in-person Coach or simply finding an experienced lifter to help guide you through the process of training, and eventually competing.
Follow a Structured Plan/Program
Although some people believe that programming is useless and the main goal should be to “just train”, I wholeheartedly believe this to be a very misinformed, detrimental mindset to have if you want to be successful in the long term (especially as a newer lifter). Simply put, a program is an overarching plan that is designed to take you from one point to the next. If you’re a brand new lifter then your program should be centered around improving technical proficiency in the main lifts, as well as slowly and consistently increasing the amount of volume you can do in a given session, week, and month.
PRO TIP: If you’re a brand new lifter (or any lifter for that matter), it’s almost never a good idea to “test your max to see where you’re at” in the middle of a training cycle. Patience is a virtue that will benefit all dedicated Strength Athletes, and it’s certainly a huge factor in both the short term, as well as the long-term progress of a brand new lifter. In my opinion, if you have less than a year of training experience, you should almost never test your 1-Rep-Max (1RM) unless it’s laid out specifically after the end of a training cycle where the coach is confident that you have developed the prerequisite technique, mobility, and strength to safely execute a maximum attempt on the Squat, Bench or Deadlift. It takes a long time to develop the motor patterns, mobility, as well as strength to safely, and properly execute a true maximum lift. Focus on improving technique, building volume, and good things will come in due time.
Understand That Powerlifting is a Marathon, NOT a Sprint
As I mentioned in the previous point, the development of a brand new lifter is vastly more important than testing 1-Rep-Maxes to simply “see where you are at”. Progress can be tracked in many different ways including rep PRs, improvements in technical proficiency and total volume accumulated in a given training block. It’s important to understand that progress isn’t only measured in how much weight you can throw on the bar for a maximum single attempt, but how you progress week-to-week, month-to-month, etc. If you start a training block doing 135 for sets of 8 on the Squat, and finish the block 4 weeks later doing 155 for 5 sets of 8, then you have notedly improved, so there is no reason to throw an extra 40 pounds on the bar to test your 1RM and risk injuring yourself. This also ties into the first two points of finding an experienced lifter or coach to help guide you through the process. If you’re serious about your development as a Strength Athlete then you must seek out an experienced professional who is able to develop you properly so that you can progress and stay healthy throughout your lifting career. The lessons learned early on are the ones that will stick with you forever- which is why I’m writing this article in the first place. Being able to learn, pass on and improve the development of newer lifters is a passion of mine, so I take these first 3 points VERY seriously- as should you.
If your goal is to train to get as strong as possible, eventually you’re going to want to compete. In my opinion, an athlete should not consider competing until they’ve built up the prerequisite technique required to safely execute a maximum attempt on the Squat, Bench, and Deadlift- as I mentioned in the previous points. But, I believe it’s very important for an athlete to set short term and long term goals for themselves so that they are able to stay motivated. If you’ve reached the point in your development where you’re able to compete, I’d recommend reading up on the rules of the specific federation which you are looking to compete in and then pick a meet that is 16-20 weeks out so that you are able to properly prepare. There’s no specific timeline for when an athlete should compete, other than the aforementioned point of being able to safely execute the three lifts. Some athletes are able to compete within 1-2 years after they first start lifting, while others take longer to develop to that point. I’m a firm believer that there are no arbitrary numbers needed to compete (ie: You don’t need to be able to Squat at least 300 pounds in order to compete in your first meet), and that everyone who wants to compete should do so when they are ready to. This also ties into the previous points about finding a coach or an experienced lifter to develop you to this point. Having guidance during this stage of your lifting career is crucial and I’m a firm believer that every athlete regardless of experience level should have some type of coach there to monitor their training, as well as their development. I’ve had the privilege of coaching many great athletes to stellar performances on the platform and I can honestly say that their personal development and safety is my main concern. Finding a coach with a similar mentality will be key to the success of your lifting career, as well as your overall development as a Strength Athlete.