Powerlifting Split for Beginners
People underestimate the importance of being strong. Sure, you don't need to be able to deadlift 600 pounds... but you can also carry a case of water under your arm and carry the other 20 bags of groceries in like it's nothing.
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The downside is you always get asked to help someone move or you are the one that "lifts the heavy stuff" at work. I guess that's just the price you pay.
So this article is going to go over a few things — nutrition, supplementation, conditioning, and some tips to get the most out of your training.
What is Powerlifting?
Powerlifting is a strength sport where you have three attempts to lift a max weight for three lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift
Powerlifting started as a spinoff of a sport known as "odd lifts." They used the same three-attempt format as powerlifting, but they did a variety of events similar to strongmen competition.
Eventually, these three lifts became the standardized lifts.
There are different organizations that have their own rules. You'll need to do a little leg work to find a local organization to compete in. The lifts are performed equipped or raw (un-equipped).
When we talk about equipment, we are talking about using a bench shirt or a squat or deadlift suit and/or briefs. Knee wraps are permitted in some organizations as raw, but others do not.
Competitions are worldwide and powerlifting has been a Paralympic sport with the bench press only since 1984.
So you will want to get stronger in all 3 lifts. There are some events that offer bench-only or a bench and deadlift flights.
Eat Like a Powerlifter
Powerlifting is a demanding sport, so eating plenty of nutritious foods is a must. Your nervous system takes a beating, so you need proper nutrition and recovery.
No matter if you need to lose some fat, or you are at a healthy weight, we all need to focus on consuming quality nutrition. Your performance levels are reflected by the quality of the food you eat.
That doesn't mean you can't have pizza or nachos — it means you need to try to eat plenty of protein, get as many nutrients you can, and eat something fun if you have the calories left.
Putting the goal of getting nutrients in your body instead of simply stuffing your mouth has changed my life. You feel compelled to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. You will find the taste of freshly squeezed lemon juice over you fish and rice is divine.
So it goes without saying that eating out all the time isn't always the best. If you want to improve your lifestyle, you're going to have to eat better quality foods.
That doesn't mean you have to eat grass-fed, organic beef. It means you need to buy some fresh beef and make your own hamburgers. Cut up some fresh tomato, throw some sauteed onions on top, and a handful of lettuce.
So you're going to have to learn how to cook.
I invite you to purchase a wok — I use it at least once a day and I create stir fry, hibachi-style dishes, and it's so easy to cook in. Brown your meat, add some fresh veggies, and enjoy.
Here are a few foods that I enjoy eating broken down by main macro. It's not an extensive list, but these foods are going to be in my kitchen most of the time.
- Cottage Cheese - easy protein snack, cheap, and does contain some carbs
- Chicken - boneless skinless breast, boneless skinless thighs, rotisserie chicken
- Pork - pork loin makes the best tacos and stir fry
- Eggs - cheap and great for you
- Brown rice, black rice, white rice - rice isn't your enemy
- Whole grain bread - I would rather have 100-200 calories more meat than have bread
- Avocado - amazing flavor and nutritious
- Sour cream
- Cheese - fats aren't your enemy either, how much you eat is
- Olive oil
- Eggs - the yolk has nutritious fats
Eating healthy doesn't mean that you have to eat lettuce and other leafy greens. It means you eat the proper amounts of protein, carbs, and fats. It means you are getting all your micronutrients.
- Hard-boiled eggs mixed with hot sauce and sour cream are wonderful. Boil up a dozen eggs and split them up into some breakfasts. They are filling, tasty, and will start your day off right.
- Grab yourself eight ounces of milk and mix some whey protein in with it. Toast a piece of bread and throw a tablespoon of peanut butter on it.
- Steak and eggs start your day off with a lot of nutritious fats and protein. Pack some fruit or veggies to eat on for lunch — you won't be as hungry as you think.
- Stir fry is easy, especially when you cut up all of your meat first. You can weigh your meat cubes out and throw them into a nice and hot pan with a little olive oil. Brown the meat, add some fresh veggies and rice, and you have a quick and easy meal.
- Baked or pan-fried fish is great. Salmon, tilapia, and tuna are my personal favorites.
- A baked potato topped with some ground beef, sour cream, and hot sauce. I try to eat some vegetables with this meal. I may put in a generous serving of broccoli or other steamed veggies.
- Avocado toast is wonderful.
- Make some oatmeal, and then add 4 ounces of milk and a scoop of protein.
- Once you start cutting your sugar intake down, a piece of fresh fruit will taste great. Add some honey if you want to make your mouth happy.
- Pan sear some chicken breast or thighs, cut the meat up and put over a generous bed of lettuce. Drizzle some barbecue sauce and hot sauce over it for a spicy BBQ chicken salad.
Buy some low carb tortilla shells — I do this mostly to save calories. Use your wok or a pan to brown up some meat, cut up some fresh vegetables, and enjoy healthy tacos. Try cilantro and onion, make some spicy BBQ pork tacos, or come up with your own flavors.
The idea is to have base ingredients that you can turn into anything. Buy the herbs and spices. Read the labels. Simply changing the amount of nutritious foods you eat will improve your strength levels. Your body will be able to recover and use nutrients it has longed for.
Once you are able to manage eating around 80% of your calories from nutritious sources and eating the other 20% of your calories in things you like, you can start adding calories to your diet.
I recommend starting off by adding 200 calories to your diet. For example, if you ate 2,000 calories per day, start eating 2,200 calories. This is going to give your body a little more fuel without storing body fat.
If you want to get strong, eating is the way to go. You can get strong off of McDonald's, but you pay a price with your health and physique. Slowly change your diet so you can follow the 80/20 rule and then start eating more.
It's okay to eat an additional 250 calories in chicken breast... but a donut wouldn't be. Food quality matters.
Sleep Like a Powerlifter
If you want to be able to lift more, you're going to have to let your body rest & recovery. Sleep is paramount for recovery — especially when it comes to strength levels.
Sleeping is important outside of the gym, too. Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night will improve your hormonal balance, improve your mood, keep your sugar cravings down (due to hormones), lower your cortisol levels, and will improve your alertness and decision-making skills.
Take the time to put the phone down about 45 minutes before bed. It's going to suck for a while, but getting away from the screen will improve your quality of sleep. If you're having trouble kicking the habit, turn on the blue light filter.
If you have a hard time sleeping, one reason is that you aren't going to bed or waking up at the same time. What I mean is try to always go to bed by a certain time — not go to sleep at midnight one night and 1 am the next.
Your circadian rhythm will adjust and eventually, you wake up without an alarm.
Give yourself the care you need and start going to bed earlier. If you already go to bed at a reasonable time, try to get your room as dark as you can, put the phone down, set the thermostat lower, and try a noise generator.
Quit boasting about how you only got three hours of sleep.
Recover Like a Powerlifter
Many lifters don't understand the importance of recovery. When training like a powerlifter, we are pushing our nervous system to the limit. Our nervous system needs to recover otherwise you will notice fatigue and other symptoms of overtraining.
When this happens, you will not be able to produce power, and you'll likely think you are stuck at a plateau.
Making sure you perform a warm up and cool down ensures your body can safely perform the exercises and is safely returning to homeostasis. Take time to stretch, foam roll, or get deep-tissue massages. You won't realize how bad your body is taking a toll until it's too late.
Supplement Like a Powerlifter
Supplements aren't worth buying unless you have your nutrition up to par. Taking supplements to cover up a crap diet leads to subpar gains and a disgruntled consumer who says the product doesn't work.
There are a few well-studied supplements that can help you improve your performance and recovery.
You understand that protein is the building block for muscles and an important macronutrient, but why is protein so popular? The deliver rich nutrients to repairing muscles and are easier to digest than whole foods, making them ideal post-workout.
While protein supplements aren't advised to be a meal replacement, I would rather see someone drink one of these and eat an apple & an orange over a cheap snack.
Creatine Monohydrate is the most academically studied supplement in the world. It is proven to boost strength, increase muscle size and improve overall athletic performance. This is accomplished through ATP replenishment, the energy currency of muscle.
Not all pre-workouts are created equal.
Some pre-workouts are stimulant-heavy and will give you the kick in the pants you need to get the job done. Others focus on providing other essential ingredients for physical performance and contain no stimulants. Find a pre-workout that will fit your lifestyle and needs.
Branched-chain amino acids are best used as an intra-workout shake or for post-workout recovery. They greatly aid in recovery by providing your muscle rich amino acid during training to prevent breakdown and provide another energy source.
Do Cardio Like a Powerlifter
Improving your conditioning levels means you will have more work output. You'll be able to lift more weight more times and not feel like you are dying. Heart health is also essential for basic function and longevity.
4 Day Powerlifting Workout for Beginner Lifters
Find some form of conditioning you can tolerate. The more you can tolerate, the more you'll be able to lift.
Try to get a couple of sessions outside of the gym that you go for a walk, hike, or a bike ride.
If you'd rather be strictly gym, try to get around 20 minutes of cardio in every session. Spend five to ten minutes for a warm-up and then ten to 15 minutes at the end.
If you're up for the challenge, try some HIIT workouts.
- Monday - Squat Day
- Tuesday - Bench Day
- Wednesday - Off
- Thursday - Accessory Day
- Friday - Deadlift Day
- Saturday - Off
- Sunday - Off
For every exercise, you'll want to perform two to three warm-up sets. This will prime your body for the movement.
- Squats - 4x8
- Romanian Deadlifts - 3x5
- Goblet Squats - 3x12
- Walking Lunges - 3x12(e)
- Barbell Shrugs - 3x12
- Wide Grip Lat Pulldowns - 4x8
- Donkey Calf Raises - 2x20
- Barbell Bench Press - 4x8
- Incline Dumbbell Chest Press - 3x12
- Chest Press Machine - 4x12
- Skull Crushers - 3x12
- Face Pulls - 4x15
- Hammer Curls - 4x8
- Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press - 4x12
- Bent Over Lateral Raises - 3x20
- Pull-Ups - 2x as many as possible
- Planks - 4x :30-45 seconds
- Side Planks - 2x :15-30 seconds
- Hanging Leg Raises - 3x8
- Your choice of one isolation machine exercise
- Deadlifts - 5x5
- 1 Arm Dumbbell Row - 3x12(e)
- Pendlay Rows - 4x5
- Dumbbell Shrugs - 4x15
- Seated Calf Raises - 4x20
- Leg Press - 3x8
- Wide Grip Pull Downs - 2x12
Learn proper form. Picking up bad habits will make it difficult to get past brute strength. It took me being stuck for six months deadlifting before I realized this.
If you feel sluggish or a little weak, don't fight the workout. Perform the best you can without killing yourself. You may need to catch up on some sleep.
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