When you think of women's sports, powerlifting probably doesn't automatically come to mind. However, the preconceived notion that female strength athletes are all big, bulky and masculine is false. The lean muscle built from powerlifting training will make you look lean, toned and defined, notes elite female powerlifter Jean Fry. Women's powerlifting is divided up into age categories -- juniors under 23 years old, seniors between 24 and 40 and masters above the age of 40, and then by weight classes too, according to USA Powerlifting guidelines. To succeed in powerlifting, your routine is critical.
Learn the correct techniques. Powerlifting is a very technical sport and the competitions have strict rules. The techniques needed may be different than what you're used to when training in the gym. For example, your thighs must be slightly below parallel to the floor at the bottom of a squat, you need to pause the bar on your chest for bench presses and deadlifts should move in a smooth, controlled fashion with no jerking. Ask a qualified powerlifting coach or someone with competition experience to assess your technique.
Follow a tried-and-tested powerlifting routine, rather than trying to make up your own. Frequency is key, notes powerlifter Chris Smith, owner of Train Better Fitness. Unlike bodybuilding splits, where you work muscles just once a week, in powerlifting you should be doing each competition exercise twice or even three times per week. Popular routines such as Bill Starr's 5x5, Smolov, Sheiko and Westside all advocate multiple squat, bench press and deadlift sessions each week.
Regulate the intensity of your workouts. Powerlifting is very demanding and you won't be able to train at maximum intensity all the time. Many powerlifters use a block periodization method of lifting. This involves four to six weeks of light, high-rep training, followed by four to six weeks of heavier training with decreased volume and finishes with two weeks of all out effort, where you try to beat your personal bests. Take a week off, then start again at phase one, using slightly heavier weights than before.
- Train with fellow powerlifters if possible. This will increase motivation and you'll pick up some welcome tips.
- Check with your health care provider before beginning a powerlifting routine.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.