I see too many people making the same mistakes and speak to too many guys talking about the good ‘ole days. I’ve talked to too many guys (young and old) reminiscing about how they used to move serious weight, but due to injuries, they’re relegated to hitting machines, the elliptical and telling stories. Too many lifters accept this fate.
Lifting heavy does not at all mean you’ll inevitability get injured. Sure, you can train “perfectly” and still wind up injured – anything can happen, but you can drastically minimize your risk by adhering to some basic principles.
These are by no means the only guidelines for a successful lifting career, but they are important lessons. Adherence to these principles will keep you healthier for longer, and allow you to enjoy a strong, successful powerlifting career.
1. Listen to your body and let pain be your guide. If something hurts don’t do it. Your body will let you know when you shouldn’t be doing something.
Don’t let a little nothing injury turn into a chronic, nagging injury or something worse. The fastest way to stop making progress is to get injured.
Be proactive rather than reactive. Do your mobility work, warm up properly, and focus on your recovery. Don’t wait until after an injury occurs to start.
2. Be consistent. “Long-term consistency trumps short term intensity.” – Bruce Lee. Don’t fall victim to the quick fix.
Train hard, train consistently. Whether it be training or nutrition, be in it for the long haul. There’s no magic program that’s going to add 100lbs to your deadlift in three weeks.
There’s no secret to making quick gains. It comes through setting goals, and training hard every week with the purpose of achieving those goals.
Short-term diets only work short term, or more than likely not at all. If you plan on dieting for a period of time, right from the get-go that acknowledges that you will be stopping that diet at some point.
Real change comes through creating healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle. Be on point 90% of the time and you will make progress. Anything that promises quick results with minimal effort is usually BS.
3. A lot of things work. Varying frequency, rep ranges, volume, intensities, squatting high bar, low bar, wide, narrow, benching toes up, flat footed, sumo, conventional etc.
Don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking there is only one way to do something. If only one thing worked there would only be one program, one way to squat, bench and deadlift, one diet, one everything. We all know that’s not the case.
Be open minded and always willing to learn.
4. Train the Big 3. If you want to get good at squatting, benching and deadlifting… train the squat, bench and deadlift.
Prioritize the Big 3. Practice makes perfect. True of pretty much everything in life and powerlifting is no different.
There are no magic lifts that you’re not doing that are going to add 50lbs to your lifts overnight. Variations play an important role in training, but nothing is more important than mastering the lifts for powerlifting.
5. Train hard, train smart. You can have the best program ever written and if you’re not training your ass off, than no program will work.
Training hard doesn’t mean going crazy, huffing ammonia, smashing your head against the bar and always gearing up for a 1RM. It means giving your best effort and concentration on the task at hand. Stay focused on your training whether it be a 5 X 5 at or smashing a new max.
To be successful you need to not only train hard, but smart as well. Train as efficiently as possible for optimal results. Writing your own programming can be stressful.
A lot of powerlifters get in the habit of doing way too much work when they’re unsure. If you’re interested more in how to optimize your program, send me an email at email@example.com with “PROGRAM” in the subject line.
6. Don’t program hop. “The grass is always greener.” At least that’s the line of thinking many fall victim to. Stick with a program at least for its full duration.
Too many people switch from: 5/3/1, to Cube, Smolov, Sheiko, Block Periodization, RTS, Juggernaut, etc. All of these work. Stick with one and see it through. When you complete it, analyze it, critique it and see where you need to improve. If you are hopping from one program to the next, you’ll be left spinning your wheels.
7. Don’t neglect your recovery and nutrition. For optimal results you need to optimize your recovery and nutrition. Don’t neglect your sleep, mobility work, and diet.
If you’re consistently neglecting these areas, you’re leaving pounds on the table. There’s more to getting strong than just lifting weights in the gym. Move better, eat better and stay in the sport for longer. It might be fun to joke around about turning purple tying your shoes and getting winded walking up a flight of stairs.
Fat doesn’t move weight, muscle does, and there’s a whole host of problems that neglecting your nutrition can cause. Almost any diet works, so look for something that’s easy for you to follow. Create healthy eating habits and live a longer and healthier life.
8. Setting up is crucial. If you have a weakness in your setup it’s going to get exposed during the lift. In order to give yourself the best opportunity to hit your lift, you have to setup properly.
Really focus on your setup for all your lifts, not just your heavy attempts. Focus on your setup every warm-up to top set.
9. Don’t miss reps in training. Missing reps does nothing to improve your strength and can often shake your confidence.
Always hit your reps and you will always walk up to a bar confidently. Take it a step further and only do what you can do with good form.
If you keep going when your technique has broken down, you ingrain poor technique and leave yourself prone to injury.
10. Be passionate about your training. Enjoy your training or you won’t do it for long.
Always find ways to stay motivated whether it be competing in a meet, against friends, setting new goals and challenges, or something else.
While almost all of my training is specific to my goals, I throw in some movements every now and then just for my enjoyment, not for any carryover to my powerlifts, they help me stay motivated.
Make sure your training reflects your goals, and also make sure you’re having fun doing it. It’s important to find ways to stay motivated.
Self-motivation is one of the most important aspects in training. If you are intrinsically motivated to do something, you WILL get it done. Lifting is for your enjoyment, so make sure you’re having a good time.
There are no tricks to getting strong and staying strong. Train hard, train smart and take good care of yourself. Follow these basic principles and enjoy a long career of lifting heavy weights.
If you have any question or are looking to increase your squat, bench and deadlift, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “BIG3” in the subject line.