2016 – a Year in Review

2016 has been a rollercoaster of a year for me. I have had the chance to compete internationally as a powerlifter, I have graduated and started my new job.

In January, I was invited to the GB team squad training which was sandwiched in between my first semester final year university exams. From the training, I was selected to go to the European Classic Championships in Estonia in March. I came third overall in the Junior u47kg category at the European Classic Champs with a silver medal in the deadlift which was also a Junior British deadlift record of 120kg. Under a week later, I competed at the British Universities Championship where I came first in the u47kg category despite feeling horrifically fatigued from being Estonia having travelled back only a few days before. I learnt that doing two competitions less than a week apart is something I do not want to do again – it’s too much!

 

From March to June, I was training, completing my final year project/dissertation and revising for my second semester final year exams at university. I completed my final university exams in June and a few days later, I flew off to Texas to compete at the World Classic Championships. Training for Worlds, completing my dissertation and revising for my finals all simultaneously was extremely challenging but I’m thankful for the opportunities given to me. At the World Classic Champs, I came fourth in the Junior u47kg category and I achieved a bronze medal in the deadlift, breaking the Junior British record again with 125kg. I was so unbelievably proud to be on the podium at Worlds as I didn’t expect it! After Worlds, I travelled to New York to visit my cousin for a few days which was an opportunity of a life time and a trip I will treasure forever.

 

Once I returned from New York, I had approximately six weeks until the All England Championships. After being on such a high from all the excitement, I did feel an anti-climax coming home which I think affected my training. In July, I graduated from Loughborough University with a First Class Honours BSc in Computer Science. I was so proud of myself for achieving a First after such a busy few months. In August, I competed and came first at the All England Championships but I took a different approach to the competition. I allowed myself to be more relaxed and enjoyed it a lot more as a result. After the competition, I went to Mallorca with my family for a much needed holiday.

In September, I moved to London and started my graduate job. It was hard to adjust to a new environment, a desk job and to training after a day at work. Subsequently, a back niggle gradually came on and despite de-loading, it became more of an injury. Although, I did reduce the weight I was lifting, I wanted to compete at the British Classic Championships in October as it was my last competition as a Junior. I came third at this competition and my deadlift was 15kg below my personal best due to my back. I was content with new personal best for my squat and bench. I also had my powerlifting club, my mum, my sister and my coach travel to Newcastle to support me which meant the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Since my last competition, I have been working on my mobility and trying to correct my APT (Anterior Pelvic Tilt) among other postural issues. I believe that this is the reason I have had muscular problems /pains with my back in the past. At the end of November, after four years my boyfriend and I parted ways which was hard but everything happens for a reason. I spent December building up my training slowly again. I also enjoyed the festive indulgences with friends, creating a month of memories so as to end 2016 on a high.

2016 – you were a crazy year, full of ups and downs but definitely a year to be remembered.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Why Do Powerlifters Bench with an Arched Back?

“You’re going to break your back benching like that”, “look at her back” and “why is she doing that?”  and so on, all the comments that every powerlifter rolls their eyes at when they post a video on social media. So I guess I’ll get straight to the point, why do powerlifters bench with an arched back?

fullsizerender-10

  1. Decrease the range of motion (ROM)
    In competitions, you get a ‘start’ command which is when you should start the bench press movement. Once the bar is stationary and paused on your chest, you get given a ‘press’ command where you finish the movement and press the bar up from your chest. A large arch and wide grip significantly reduces the distance that the bar has to move to the chest, making it easier to press a heavier load. This is the same as the fact that you can squat more weight if you do a quarter squat compared a squat that is below parallel.
  2. Allows you to recruit more leg drive
    The powerlifting-style bench press is not just a chest exercise but a whole body exercise. An arched back allows you to use more leg drive. When benching in the powerlifting style, your bum is not sat on the bench but merely resting on the bench and your feet are flat on the floor. This means that the movement is coming from drive of your feet and legs pushing against the floor, not just from isolating the chest muscle. Why do you want to do this?! Which is stronger, your whole body or your chest? This in turn again allows you to shift a heavier load.
  3. Potentially safer for your shoulders
    As discussed in point 1, an arched back decreases the ROM of the bench press movement which allows for a closer touch point to the shoulders. A closer touch point means that there is less shoulder rotation. If there is too much shoulder rotation during the movement, it may lead to shoulder impingement.

I think the key point to remember is that a powerlifting style bench press is a whole body exercise, whereas a bodybuilding style bench press is a chest isolating exercise. They are performed differently as they are essentially different exercises which share a name.

Tips for the Beginner Powerlifter

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 😈.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

 

Screen Shot 2016-10-16 at 11.03.41.png

How can I start powerlifting?

This is a question that I get asked numerous times. It’s a common misbelief that you have to be a certain level or standard to compete, but this is not the case! Anyone can enter a powerlifting meet once they have gained the right membership and a point that I like to emphasise, is that the powerlifting community is SO supportive. Compared to other sports which can have quite a unpleasant competitiveness about them (athletics springs to mind), powerlifting is made up of friendly and encouraging people who want to see you achieve your best, not put you down!girls

In the UK, there are several powerlifting federations – some that drug test their athletes and others that don’t. This link below outlines the differences between them. I compete in the Great British Powerlifting Federation (GBPF) who are affiliated to the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and drug test their athletes in accordance to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). You can compete in any federation you want to, but for this post I will be focusing on the GBPF as it is the federation I compete in, it is a drug-free federation and arguably one of the most competitive federations.

I would recommend finding a powerlifting club near you if at all possible as although powerlifting is simply – squat, bench and deadlift, there are rules and commands which you need to follow for the lift to be allowed. For example, on the squat the hip joint must be lower than your knee so no half squatting allowed! 😉 A club will be able to help you tweak your lifts and prepare you for a future meet. This link provides a list of all clubs which are affiliated with the English Powerlifting Association (EPA) but other places to train can be found with the help of other resources, such as Facebook. If you want to start your powerlifting venture on your lonesome, then you can find the IPF rulebook here outlining the rules and commands etc.

So now you’ve found your club, someone to help you or you’ve decided that you want to try powerlifting by yourself, next you need to get your membership to the GBPF. This can be done quite simply here. You can find competitions to enter here but in my opinion, it is better to look at which division you are in here and go on divisional website as they tend to get updated more frequently.

I hope this post has helped someone somewhere but it is the sort of information I wish I had known a few years earlier. I also think that if you want to compete, then the sooner you do it, the better as you get a feel for what it is like. It also allows you to set goals for yourself and personally, it gives me something to strive towards. A word of warning though, once you compete you may get such a massive high that you will just want to do it over and over again! 🙂
classic