Why do some people powerlift? Well for me and I’m sure for others, they have fun and get a thrill out of lifting heavy weights. Lifting heavy weight is something that a lot of people strive to do on a daily basis. But before someone can lift heavy weights, they have to think about their safety, and also what parts of the body and muscles work together in order for that person to put up big numbers.
There are 3 lifts that powerlifters perform: squat, bench and deadlift. Each of these lifts use different body parts to perform. In order to maximize the weight that someone is able to lift, they need to train those muscles the right way, but there are also other things to they need to consider. The way I think about lifting big weights is a combination of three things: 1) Form, 2) Muscle groups and 3) Breathing. Each of these components are essential for being able to lift heavy weights and still maintain an injury free life.
The first component is Form. The proper form when performing any type of lift is the single most important piece to remaining free of injury. There are ways to teach form for all lifts and that is important. Once someone has the basic form down, they can tweak it however they see comfortably. This will allow them to lift the maximum amount of weight.
When performing a squat, you want to act like you are sitting down in a chair. You want to begin the squat by pushing your hips and butt back and just sit down, don’t squat with your knees first. Many people push their knees out first when squatting, that is a big no no. Hips and butt down slowly and bend at the knees. During this motion you want to squat until your hips go past your knee cap, nothing above that because it is not a complete squat in powerlifting. On the way up, you just push with your feet and stand up.
While performing a bench press, you want to make sure that you always have control of the weight and make sure that you are tight throughout the whole movement. Before you begin the bench you want to squeeze your back together along with your butt and create an arch in your back. You never want to bench being completely flat on the bench, because that is not a way to create power at the bottom of the motion. It is also bad for your body. You want to make sure that your feet are placed firmly on the ground flat, to the side of you and not in front of you. You want to place your hands at least thumbs length away from the smooth part of the bar or wider if you feel necessary. When lowering the bar you want to aim at the point right underneath your chest and make sure that you control the bar on the way down. When at the bottom you want to make sure not to slam or bounce the bar off your chest and then just push it back up to the top, until your arms are locked out.
Finally when performing a deadlift, all you are doing is lifting dead weight off of the ground. You want to place your feet about shoulder width apart and then place your hands right on the outside of your legs. You want to sink your hips down like you are squatting and that is your starting position. When pulling the weight you want to pull and raise your hips at the same time. Don’t raise your hips before you start pulling because that is how you hurt your back. You want to keep the weight close to your body and lift up straight. At the top of the lift you want to make sure that you pull your shoulders back and then put the weight back down making sure you don’t drop it.
Now for each lift there are certain muscles in your body that work together to help you perform the lift. For squatting you primarily use your quads (front of your leg), hamstrings (back of your leg) and calves. You also use your back and shoulders too, but those are secondary muscles. Some exercises to strengthen these muscles are, quads: leg press and leg extensions, for hamstrings: seated leg curls, good mornings, for calves: calf raises, calf press. When benching you use a bunch of muscles: chest, back, shoulders, triceps, biceps. To strengthen these you can perform, for chest: dumbbell flyes, machine flyes, for back: lat pulldowns, dumbbell rows, for shoulders: front plate raises, dumbbell lateral raises. For triceps: rope pushdowns, overhead extensions, biceps: dumbbell curls, EZ Bar curls. When doing deadlifts you use all the muscles you use for squats but primarily your hamstrings. A few more exercises you can do to strengthen those are lying hamstring curls with a rubber band or Romanian deadlifts.
Finally the last component to lifting big weight is breathing. When performing all of these lifts you want to make sure that you are breathing correctly. Before each lift you want to make sure that you are settled with the weight. You then want to take a big breath to fill up your lungs. You want to hold this breath the whole time you are performing the motion and then exhale at the top of the lift. If you are doing multiple reps repeat this process.
These three components are the most important things to remember about lifting big weight. Master form and breathing and continue to strengthen the muscles that work together for each lift and you will be amazed with how much weight you can lift!