- Assisted pull-ups
Assisted pull-up machine
If your gym has an assisted pull-up machine then use that to help with your progression. Try and decrease the amount of assistance or increase the number of reps if you keep the assistance the same each week – for example, if you did 3×6 last week, then try and do 3×7 or 3×8 using the same weight this week.
Assisted pull-ups with a resistance band
If your gym does not have an assisted pull-up machine then do not worry! You can buy resistance bands from eBay or Amazon which are relatively cheap to help you. I would recommend getting a set of bands because as you get stronger, you will need to use a weaker band. You can start off with green or purple, depending on your ability and then move on to the red band before you remove it altogether! So how do I use a resistance band you’re probably thinking…
1. Loop the band through the bar
2. Put your knee in the resistance band
3. Pull-up, up and away
4. Try not to whack yourself in the face with the band getting down
This is when you start at the top of the pull-up movement and lower yourself down. How?!
1. Jump up on to the bar or alternatively use a box to the side of your bar
2. Hold the top position of the pull-up
3. Slowly control yourself down, doing it the count of 5 seconds
Quite simply – you need to build your back muscles to increase your strength over your bodyweight. My favourite back exercises are- Standing T-bar rows
– Single arm dumbbell rows
– Seated cable rows
– Lat pull downs
– Single arm lat pull downs
Barbell rows are also good as you can change your grip – wide grip, narrow grip and reverse grip to target different areas of your back. I personally hate doing wide grip barbell rows so I don’t do them! I tend to rotate these exercises when I get a new plan so I don’t get bored and I’ll do one of these exercises twice a week.
- AMRAP sets
AM-what?! AMRAP stands for ‘as many reps as possible’. I personally find that AMRAP sets for pull-ups have really helped me progress. In my training I will do 3 sets of AMRAP with a long rest in between each set (2-3 mins). Try and get an extra rep each week!
I wrote an article on ‘How Can I Start Powerlifting?’ ages ago but I still feel it is very relevant with the exception that the GBPF (Great British Powerlifting) has now change their name to British Powerlifting.
I thought an article with some tips for people who are just starting powerlifting would be helpful as I’ve seen that many of my Instagram friends are coming over to the dark side 😈.
- Find yourself a knowledgable person
I don’t mean some random Professor of Physics (although powerlifting is basically physics) but someone with knowledge of the sport. This could be a powerlifting specific coach, a powerlifting club or simply your friend in the gym who has trained/competed in powerlifting. I personally would recommend finding a powerlifting coach but I know this isn’t a feasible option for everyone e.g. students. If you look back at my first article linked above, it gives instructions on how to find British Powerlifting affiliated clubs and joining the British Powerlifting group on Facebook is good way to find others who train locally to you.
- Start thinking about a plan to follow
If you find a coach, it is likely that you will be given a plan tailored to you and your weaknesses but if not, I recommend Powerlifting To Win as your starting point. There are reviews of many powerlifting programs as well as free Excel spreadsheets which you can download, put in your 1 rep max for each lift and it will generate numbers for you. It is very important to have a structure so that you don’t end up doing the same weight, sets and reps each week so you can progress. If you are converting from a bodybuilding style program, be aware that these programs may look very different to what you’re used to.
- Test your one rep max
One what huh? Your one rep max is the maximum weight you can lift for one rep for each lift. It’s a good idea to know what your numbers are to start with so that you can measure your progress and as I said in tip 2, these numbers can be used for your program. You could just estimate these numbers but I personally think it is best just to test before you start your program so you know at what level to gage your training.
- Be prepared to make a lot of technical changes to your lifts
Even after 2 years of powerlifting training, I am still changing my technique on my lifts. No one has perfect technique and there are always parts which can be improved. As a beginner, you will likely have to make a lot of technical changes. Simple examples of this are squatting to depth and adding in a pause on bench which are not commonly done outside of powerlifting training. Don’t get bogged down by all the new cues, you will do them on autopilot before you know it!
- Don’t cut weight for your first meet
Okay, so you may think I’m getting ahead of the game here talking about meets/competitions already but don’t forget this one. If/when you come to compete, you will have enough to worry about on the day without worrying about making weight. Wherever your weight sits naturally (NO CUTTING), compete in that weight class – even if you weigh 64kg, for your first meet there is no point cutting 1kg. Your first meet should be an enjoyable experience without that added worry. One thing that social media doesn’t tell you about powerlifting is that SO many rebound and binge after competitions, just like bodybuilding, due to restriction from making weight. Yes, I was one of them and I have my wonderful coach to thank for helping me beat the viscous circle of restriction and binging that I forced upon myself.
- Embrace the singlet
Tight on your quads, baggy at the crotch and leaves nothing to the imagination – we all have to wear the lovely singlet. There is no getting past it, a singlet is a singlet but embrace the singlet is all I can say.
- Listen to your body
Powerlifting training is intense. You will be working at much higher weights compared to other types of training and the risk of injury increases with that. If something doesn’t feel right, then stop. There is nothing more soul-destroying than being injured for months on end. Remember, it is a marathon not a sprint.
I hope you found this useful and enjoy what powerlifting has to offer!
1. Embrace the change
Yes, everything may be different – you may be living in a new location or doing something completely new. It will take time to settle in and get into a new routine but embrace the new adventure.
2. Accept that you may not be able to continue the same fitness routine
That doesn’t mean you have to give up something you enjoy but perhaps making tweaks to your training regime may help with time management. You could swap high reps to low reps with a heavier weight or perhaps add in interval training instead of a 10k run. Change it up, find what you enjoy and what you can make time for.
3. Plan your meals
Don’t fall into the trap of not eating or grabbing what you can due to a lack of time. Remember that food is fuel and if you don’t eat enough you won’t recover from your training. That doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy a big fat juicy burger if you want to but you may not feel the best if you do this every night, be sensible.
4. Don’t forget to look after yourself
Make time for yourself. Whether that’s giving yourself a chance to sit down and read a book or to mong in bed watching YouTube video, make sure you get your ‘you’ time!
5. Live life
Make plans with friends, find new friends and see your family. Go out and have dinner, see a film and organise events to look forward to – after all life is for living!