If the thought of getting dressed up in a leotard, shouting and grunting at the top of your voice and lifting heavy weights in front of a room full of strangers at a competition floats your boat, powerlifting is for you. Even if you're not into the competitive side of things, though, powerlifting is still an effective way to burn fat, build lean muscle and boost your motivation in the gym. As a female lifter, a few tips will help you in your foray into powerlifting.
Build the Big Three
The big three are your competition lifts -- squats, bench presses and deadlifts. Women are often afraid to gravitate toward the free-weight area in the gym, but you'll need to overcome your hesitations and embrace barbells and benches if powerlifting is going to be your game. You might be used to doing these exercises already, but form is paramount in powerlifting. If you don't lift the weight properly, it won't count. On squats, your hips need to be below your knee joint in the bottom position, the bar must touch your chest on bench presses and deadlifts should be one fluid movement. The judges will give you calls of when to lower and lift the weight, but it's worth hiring a coach for the odd session or training with other experienced powerlifters to get used to the techniques and calls.
Look around the gym, and you'll probably see all the women and most of the guys wearing weight gloves. These are a no-no in powerlifting, though. Gloves make gripping the bar harder and negatively impact the feedback you get through your hands, according to weightlifting coach Sally Moss. Get some chalk instead and use it liberally in your sessions. File down any calluses and moisturize between workouts to keep your hands healthy.
Switch to a Sumo Stance
When it comes to deadlifting, there are two ways to go. Conventional deadlifts utilize a narrow stance with your hands outside your legs, while sumo style require a wide stance with your hands inside your legs. Females are better suited to the sumo style, according to trainer Cassie Smith of Bodybuilding.com. They require more hip, hamstring and glute strength and place less stress on your lower back. You'll be stronger in the sumo stance and at a lower risk of injury.
Keep Your Calories High
The great thing about powerlifting is that it will help you burn fat and get stronger at the same time. Consuming too few calories will seriously impact your performance, though, so eating a little more than you would usually is vital. Keep an eye on your weight and body fat levels and aim to stay within a few pounds of your weight class. You certainly don't want to jump into a weight-loss diet when you start lifting, though. You need lots of protein and carbs, claims female powerlifter Monique Newton, who eats around 2,500 calories per day on a diet based around healthy protein sources such as steak and tuna and carbs from potatoes, rice, oats and pasta.
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.