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Moving from Lifting Weights to Powerlifting

So, a few weeks ago, you might have read my interview with Danny White, who has helped set up the LUU Powerlifting and Weightlifting Society at the University of Leeds. Anyone who knows me, or indeed, sees me at University, will know that I pretty much live at the gym and in gym clothes (I do own normal clothes, but who wants to walk to and from Uni with heeled boots on?!) so of course I was interested in this new gym based society. Having tried football, not being particularly interested in any other sports, and my absolute detest of all things cardio, my main form of exercising is lifting weights, so obviously, this society struck a chord!

However, this society is all about Powerlifting, which, for those who don’t know, includes three lifts only in competitions. These lifts include Squats, Deadlifts, and Bench Press. This is all well and good, and exercises I certainly already knew well due to my own style of working out. However, I was training with a ‘body building’ routine, which basically means I was separating muscle groups and intensely training them each day, except without the crazy and, I must say, huge diet. Put simply, I was training six times a week, doubling up on my legs and chest work outs. Powerlifting works a bit differently, and granted I could train six times a week but as our Coach, Chris Baldwin, has stated, it’s going to be pretty hard to maintain and/or see progress unless training is my life, and all the little bits in between include sleeping and eating. As a third year University student, this isn’t really the case (unless I want to pretty much fail my degree!). So this is a big change for me, training wise, especially as I’m usually someone who if they don’t go to the gym it means I can pretty much eat what I want that day – oops! But, I’m learning…slowly.

The Lifts


Squatting was once my favourite exercise. I think I naturally have strong legs so I manage to increase my weight on this lift fairly easy compared to most girls. That was until I tried to squat like a Powerlifter. Going low is an understatement. For a squat to count, you need get lower than parallel, I mean you’re like touching distance from that floor! In the past, I always went just below parallel and naively thought I was going low. Oh how wrong I was. With just the 20kg bar (which for me personally isn’t really that heavy), I still wasn’t low enough. Um…what?! That extra few inches that pulls you ‘in’ for a proper Powerlifting Squat has made the weight of my squats drop 20kg than I was used to squatting, which is actually pretty big (for me..!). But thanks to Chris, I’ve got a personalised programme now, so hopefully in the coming months I’ll be back on top form…I hope!



Oh the dreaded deadlift. Such a favourite with so many, but such a personal hate of mine. So much so, that I have neglected it for, well, months! Terrible, I know, but each week I made up different excuses as to why I couldn’t do them. Well, my neglect of the deadlift has shown. In my first deadlift in Powerlifting training, my form was horrible; my bank was rolling, my starting position was wrong and overall it just didn’t look good. The main issue was because my legs were so much stronger than my back – at least my leg workout has had some positive effect….right? But now it’s something I’ve started to embrace, and in fact, am determined to improve due to my own competitive nature which I often battle with. I want to be the best I can be. So I’m starting to learn to love them…slowly. Chris has suggested that four to five times a week training would be enough, and to double up on your weak spot, so not surprisingly, deadlifts are on repeat each week!

Bench Press:

I called this exercise a ‘chest press’ in my first Powerlifting session. No. It’s not a ‘chest press’, it’s bench. Don’t mix that up – Powerlifters are pretty set on calling it bench. But it does work your chest, so whatever! This is something that, sorry to be stereotypical against us girls, but for a girl, I am not too bad at in terms of strength. The only thing I am really struggling with is this ‘arch’ that definitely improves your bench press, but oh my, it feels so awkward! Yet, practise makes perfect, so I guess with that one I’m just going to have to keep trying! Oh, and there’s the pause, which I actually never really thought about. Basically, when you bring the bar down to your chest you are supposed to hold it there for a few seconds until told before you press it back up to prevent you bouncing the weight off your chest which does make it easier. So, yes it’s a good idea, but it does make it a lot harder. But it’s all good, it’s all helping in the process of increasing strength!

These lifts do all have accessories, but the combinations and the numerous different exercises that these include would go on for too long so I won’t bore you. Get Googling – there’s plenty of routines out there!

I guess the purpose of this article is to give you a bit of insight into Powerlifting and see if you might want to give it a try. If not, breaking away from habit or what you are used to doing can actually be really rewarding. Yes, it can be challenging, but everyone loves a challenge, don’t they?!

If you’d like to give Powerlifting a go at the University of Leeds then check the Facebook page where a member will happily answer any of your questions: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LUULiftSoc/ or head to the Leeds Union page: https://www.luu.org.uk/groups/LiftSoc/

Training is held in the Edge in the upstairs weights room opposite the desk every Wednesday between 12-2pm.

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