5 Common Mistakes New Powerlifters Make
Powerlifting requires a lot of discipline and hard work. I mean a lot of hard work. Lost in the head down grind it out mentality are a few easily corrected mistakes that I see over and over. So rather than repeat myself I thought I’d write a blog post on the “5 most common mistakes powerlifter make”. Hopefully, these ideas will save you time, energy and heartache. Here they are:
1. WAITING TO GET STRONGER BEFORE SIGNING UP FOR YOUR FIRST MEET
This is an offense I see committed time and time again, a new lifter delays signing up for his first meet because he/she wants to be more competitive. I’ve even heard many times a lifter say they won’t sign up for a meet until they can win their class or break a record, this is frankly BS. I’ll tell you right now that the first meet you ever do in your life is more than likely going to be the worst
I’ll tell you right now that the first meet you ever do in your life is more than likely going to be the worst meet you ever do in your life, both numbers wise and performance wise. Platform experience is paramount in becoming a successful competitive lifter and delaying this experience is only going to hinder your progression as a competitive lifter.
I’m going to share my story leading up to my first meet because I believe it may hammer the point home to some people that had the same mindset I had before I became a competitive lifter. My lifting story started with playing hockey, I simply had to get bigger for my bantam draft year, I was around 6’ 160lbs and to play at the next level
“My lifting story started with playing hockey; I simply had to get bigger for my bantam draft year, I was around 6’ 160lbs and to play at the next level, with the skill level I had, I needed to get bigger and stronger.”
I started lifting weights at 15 years old. I had no real idea in what I was doing, but I eventually began to center my training around the big 3, by the time my competitive hockey career ended I had gained a considerable amount of size and strength. At 22 years old I was around 230lbs with a 585 high squat with wraps, 335
I had no real idea in what I was doing, but I eventually started to center my training around the big 3, by the time my competitive hockey career ended I had gained a considerable amount of size and strength. At 22 years old I was around 230lbs with a 585 high squat with wraps, 335 bench, and a 605 deadlift with straps. I was always interested in powerlifting, and I finally had the time to pursue it now that hockey was done for me.
I delayed signing up for my first meet for two years, I trained hard and got stronger yet. I then felt I was ready for my first competition with a 525 (sleeve) squat, 385 paused bench and a 650 deadlift all in training, I signed up for the annual UAPA Powersurge meet in Edmonton, December of 2012, I was finally ready to compete and show everyone what I could do!
I got to the hotel the night before, and I was so nervous I did not sleep 1 minute, my mind was racing all night, I watched the clock 1 am..2am..3 am..4am…5am…6 am, time to get up and get ready to go. I obviously didn’t feel very confident going into weigh-ins. I started warming up and pumped so much caffeine that I was a jittery mess by the time I got called for my first attempt, a 452 squat, which I ended up hitting no problem. I moved onto my 2nd attempt which was a 501 squat, I came out of the hole great and stood back up with the weight, as I got the rack command I dropped the loaded bar off my back! I couldn’t believe it, that’s never once happened to me in training, and I could’ve seriously hurt someone, I obviously got red lighted, so I decided to stay with 501 on my 3rd… I got called on depth there so after all those years of
I moved onto my 2nd attempt which was a 501 squat, I came out of the hole great and stood back up with the weight, as I got the rack command I dropped the loaded bar off my back! I couldn’t believe it, that’s never once happened to me in training, and I could’ve seriously hurt someone, I obviously got red lighted, so I decided to stay with 501 on my 3rd. My 3rd attempt I got called on depth, so after all those years of training I displayed a squat that was 70-80lbs behind what I was capable of doing, it was a disaster.
I moved onto the bench and did ok, I hit 342 on the opener, missed 364 on my second, and hit 364 on my third.
Then onto the deadlifts, my favorite lift, opened 600, 630 on the second and missed 650 on my third.. I ended up losing my class by 5.5lbs (2.5kg).
“I was completely crushed. How the hell did I total so low when I was capable of so much more?”
Platform experience. Plain and simple.
Now although the extreme disappointment of losing did fuel my training to new heights, there’s no doubt in my mind that if I would have done a smaller local meet or 2 prior to that event I would’ve won my class by a landslide. So if you’re serious about getting better, set your ego aside and get into a meet, the extremely vital experience will translate into you hitting your goals on the platform a lot sooner.
2. DON’T “MAJOR IN THE MINORS,” THE SQUAT-BENCHPRESS-DEADLIFT IS YOUR SPORT
In a regular gym setting it’s cool to show off your nine plate T-Bar row or your 1000lbs leg press I guess, but in powerlifting, those don’t mean a damn thing. I’m not saying that assistance work isn’t important because it can be a valuable tool in bringing up some weakness or imbalances but 90% of your workload and effort should be directed at the big 3. Squat, bench, Squat, bench, and the deadlift is the sport of powerlifting, and improper technique can lead to failure, injury, and red lights at a meet. Technique on these lifts can take decades to master and even then a competitive lifter has to analyze his lifts on a continual basis. You still may never be perfect but the closer you can get to perfect the better off you’re going to be.
So how do you improve your squat/bench/deadlift technique while enhancing the weight you can squat/bench/deadlift? Well, you just need to squat/bench/deadlift more! Think of it as practice, just like any other sport, the more you do something, the better you’re going to get at it. Don’t over think things, put the work in, listen to your body, be consistent and the gains will come.
3. WORRYING ABOUT WEIGHT CLASS WHEN YOU’RE NEW TO THE SPORT
Powerlifting meets are stressful; you’re using someone else’s equipment that you aren’t used to, you’re probably away from home, you’re probably sleeping in a hotel, living out of a duffel bag, contemplating openers, planning meals. Not to mention you are about to play out something you’ve been running over and over again in your head for weeks or even months. You have to lift when you’re called to lift, not when you’re ready.
So why add to all those stressors by doing a dramatic weight cut as a novice/intermediate lifter?
What is the purpose?
To have a better chance at winning a different colored $3.50 medal?
If you’re still gaining experience don’t worry yourself about making a particular weight class, who cares if you weigh 3kg over at a local meet, if you PR all 3 and place 7th does that not make it a successful training cycle on its own?
It’s all about the grind, focus on becoming a better lifter in the meantime and worrying about weight classes when you get to a higher level. Don’t cut weight just to cut weight when you’re still way below your potential.
4. NOT GIVING BACK TO THE SPORT
Often as a new lifter, you rely on others to point you in the right path and powerlifting is full of guys willing to give a newbie a hand. If you don’t believe me just ask a fellow lifter, chances are they’ll do whatever they can to help you out.
Once you have some clue for yourself, it is vital to the health and growth of the sport that we come together and help out. I realize that everyone has different levels of obligation outside of powerlifting…work, family, school, etc… but powerlifting is a sport that happens because of volunteer efforts, there is no money in this and if you are in it for money, you’re in the wrong place. There
There are many things you can do to help: volunteer at a local meet, become a ref, host an event, start a club, lend your time to a new lifter. Do what you can in whatever capacity your life allows and you’ll be surprised at the return you get from it.
My greatest accomplishment in this sport is and always will be the club I started 2.5 years ago out of my garage. At times it is frustrating, wasting time on people that don’t reciprocate the effort, but with time you will develop a solid group once you weed out the wannabes.
The effort in running the club has given me a significant return in that I am a much better lifter now and I can attribute much of that to being held accountable by my club mates. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished to this point and look forward to many more years of success. Give, and you shall receive!
5. DOING WHAT IT TAKES TO BE SUCCESSFUL
Powerlifting is a sport of attrition; it’ll chew you up and spit you out at times. The key is to keep an even head and stay consistent. Strength gains will come and go in waves. You need to keep yourself from getting too cocky chasing PRs every session. Conversely, you have buckle down, drive your heels into the dirt and work out of those ruts that you will inevitably run into.
Sometimes it’s tough to look at the big picture when things are going abnormally bad or good, just remind yourself that this is a lifelong pursuit and keep it between the ditches in the meantime.
There are many sacrifices one has to make to get to the next level.. social life and other aspects of your life will have to take a backseat to training, eating well, taking care of your body and getting proper sleep. If you don’t, someone else will, and that someone will probably become a better powerlifter than you. It all comes down to how bad you want it, just like everything else in life.
Are you willing to do what it takes or are you just another bystander?
About the Author
Brody Laybolt is a top level CPU powerlifter and the founder of the Cold Lake Barbell Club. He is a long time customer of Bells of Steel, having added power racks and many other items from our powerlifting line. You can follow Brody here: