Updated: Nov 11
Regardless of your reason for increasing strength, powerlifting is an excellent way to do so. While powerlifting is not sport specific, outside of powerlifting competitions, the general improvements in strength and power that occur transfer into any sport, functional movement, or other physical feat.
Below are a few simple, but important points. Do not dismiss these are commonsensical, because if you are reading this and looking for a way to maximize powerlifting to get strong, it means you are not addressing one or more of these points. The points are not in order of importance, as all are equally important.
1. The path to greater strength and power through powerlifting is a straightforward one, but not necessarily an easy one or a quick one. Any good powerlifting program will provide immediate results, that is an increase in strength in the first 4-8 weeks, but to see exceptional improvements in strength and power, you must train for months and years.
2. Understand that the law of individual differences applies. This law, which is common to exercise and training programming, states that no two people are the same. As a result, the exact path taken, results achieved, and time it takes to achieve the same will vary. You cannot focus on what someone else is doing; focus on what you need to do.
3. Regardless of your starting point, you must engage in a program that includes the bench, squat, and the deadlift as well as variations of the same. Additionally, it is beneficial to include an overhead pressing movement for the greatest overall improvements and body balance. Focusing on just two movements, such as only the bench press and deadlift, will limit the effectiveness of your program. At the same time, being too varied, such as working in variations too often will limit progress. Most of your time should be spent focusing on the bench, squat, and deadlift, as well as supporting exercises.
4. You must assess your one-rep max on the major movements. This might seem simple, but some people do not want to test max or even estimate it. The reason this is important is all weights for a powerlifting program are based on your current one-rep maxes. If the program does not consider your current one-rep maxes, it is flawed and almost guaranteed to fail you or, at the very least, provide you with less than optimal results.
5. The program should be periodized, meaning the intensity, sets, reps, and other aspects of the program change over time. The program may follow a linear path, meaning intensity increases in intervals over the duration of the program, or the program may have a staggered approach, meaning intensity increases over a set interval before backing off and then increasing again, or some other approach. These are just two ways to approach the periodization part of the program and there are others that may be considered, but your program must be structured.
6. The length of the program must be sufficient. A 4- to 8-week training cycle is not good enough to see real progress. Ideally, the program runs 12-16 weeks in length. For optimal results, you will need to run the program multiple times.
7. You or your trainer must be intuitive when working through the program. During almost every training cycle there is a reason to adjust. You or your coach need to know how to do this. A failure to do so does not equal a lack of results, but you results will be impacted—the degree to which is in question.
8. At the end of the program, you must test max again to determine if your one-rep max has increased. You or our trainer must also assess the quality of the training program as it applies to you specifically and determine if changes need to be made for you to achieve your best results. The current approach may work, but changes may help you progress better.
Powerlifting for greater strength and power follows a straightforward path. However, each coach or trainer applies is or her touch to the program. Regardless, he or she should be able to help you see starting results in 4-8 weeks, with even greater increases over time. If this does not happen, or the results are sub-optimal, your trainer or program is failing you. I have helped people add hundreds of pounds to their maxes, sometimes in a matter of months. I can do the same for you. Find out more here.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, and the International Sports Sciences Association. Nathan has 17 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.