How I got into Powerlifting

Can Programmers be Powerlifters? Of course! Two years ago I have never had a gym membership and was pretty much a sedentary; I played basketball in high school and once in a while with friends in Rio de Janeiro.

After I started dating my wife I started working out in a gym near Globo.com and I thought I was doing everything alright… Until I moved to the USA and started studying more about the subject.

Look good and be healthy

I worked out in a commercial gym in Rio de Janeiro for 8 months, saw some progress, but I was not happy with it. The instructors didn’t pay close attention to my program neither my progress, but I had them as a resource and thought that I should rely on them - but they have never asked me about my nutrition to begin with!

My training was pretty much a “bro split”, where you isolate muscle groups in separate days, and the focus is physique. My gym only had machines and light dumbells, and I worked out 5 times a week. I knew I was not pushing myself to my limits, and thus my workouts were suboptimal.

I wanted to look good and be healthy, and I realized that in order to do so, I need to get more knowledge on the subject by myself, and learn more about nutrition. That’s how I found strength training.

Strength Training

I started researching and found StrongLifts, a strength training routine, based on compound lifts, and that consisted of only 3 lifts a day, and only 3 times a week! That was a dream, because you go to the gym three times a week and do your best every day you go, and you are very focused - after all, you do only 3 exercises a day. One more nice thing is that you use linear progression, that means that every workout you are lifting heavier weights than the last workout.

I did StrongLifts for 12 weeks, and it was a very good progress. I also read the book Starting Strength and paid a lot of attention to my lifting form to get the most out of my workouts and to avoid injuries. I posted my progress (with before & after pics) on reddit after those 12 weeks: http://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/comments/1nkvsr/m216_159lbs176lbs_12_weeks_after_doing_sl/

After finishing those 12 weeks, I started doing a similar program created by Mark Rippetoe: Starting Strength. The main difference between the two programs is that Starting Strength use 3 sets, and has Power Cleans rather than Barbell Rows. The book Starting Strength, written by Mark Rippetoe, is an amazing resource that is going to teach you all the glory details of each movement, muscle, position, everything.

Edit: I posted my 1 year transformation to r/fitness: http://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/comments/29gvnz/1_year_progress_159lb_to_190lb_with_progress_pics/

StrongLifts

StrongLifts is basically split in A and B routines, 3 times a week, with a rest day between them (I did Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Routine:

A (sets x repetitions)

  • Squat: 5x5
  • Bench Press: 5x5
  • Barbell Rows: 5x5

B (sets x repetitions)

  • Squat: 5x5
  • Overhead Press: 5x5
  • Deadlift: 1x5

Every workout you should increase 5lb to each lift, and keep this linear progression for as long as you can - that’s pretty much the program. For more details visit the official StrongLifts website.

Starting Strength

After doing SL for 12 weeks, I felt that I should do Starting Strength and keep the linear progression, because it was less volume, meaning that you could keep linear progression for a little longer. As Rippetoe puts in the book, everyone makes great progress in the first 3 months, because you are a “novice” and your body recovers and progress very easily. After the novice phase it’s a little bit harder to progress, but still very possible. It’s known of people that do SS for years and still progress.

This program is also based on A and B days, with a rest day between workout days (I do Monday, Wednesy, Friday):

A (sets x repetitions)

  • Squat: 3x5
  • Overhead Press: 3x5
  • Deadlift: 1x5

B (sets x repetitions)

  • Squat: 3x5
  • Bench Press: 3x5
  • Power Clean: 5x3

The program has Power Clean, a very complex movement, and very hard to master. It took me months to learn how to do a proper Power Clean, but there is no known replacement for that exercise.

Redditors love Starting Strength, and that was one of the reasons that I started doing it. Besides the great book, I would like to have community support with the program.

What is Powerlifting

Powerlifting is a strength sport, consisting of three movements: Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. The goal is to lift the maximum amount of weight in each of the lifts. Sometimes Powerlifting is confused with Olympic Weightlifting, but the latter consists of Snatch and Clean & Jerk (two complete different movement from the ones in powerlifting).

How I got into Powerlifting

After doing strength training for months, reading about it, watching lots of videos about it, I decided that I should compete and see how it goes. I knew I was not super strong, but I was good to compete for the fun and experience.

I talked to my wife about it, and she told me that I should attend to a meet - but I thought she meant that I should compete in a powerlifting meet! - and I started looking for competitions close to New York.

I was searching Powerlifting Watch and I found there was a meet in Ronkonkoma, New York, in the next months, then I decided that I was going to compete. I joined the IPA federation (the federation responsible for the meet), and got my meet entry later.

I changed my programming to get my deadlift and bench press better. I wrote a detailed meet report at r/weightroom: http://www.reddit.com/r/weightroom/comments/2646gc/meet_report_2014_ipa_new_york_grand_prix/

My best attemps were:

  • Squat: 355lb
  • Bench Press: 205lb
  • Deadlift: 400lb

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJOVwpAzZyI

I had a great time and I recommend it to everyone that does strength training and is not sure if they should compete. Go for it!

Conclusion

I love strength training because it’s very easy to measure progress - if you are lifting more, you are progressing, otherwise you are not -, and you are not doing 10 exercises every time you go to the gym. And even doing strength based training, you still grow a lot of real muscle, not just get swolen.

Resources

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