Habits of Successful Powerlifters

In today’s climate, the access to information is easier than it has ever been. Whether it’s the 1000s of articles written around sets/reps, exercises, and training methods, or the millions of training videos posted on social media. There is no denying there are many different ways of getting strong. But, in the age of information overload, what sets the best lifters apart from the rest of the population? 

What habits do the more successful lifters share?

  1. They play the long game

If you want to be strong, you have to be in it for the long run. No one became Andrey Malanichev after 6 months of training. You won’t find many top level lifters that regularly miss training sessions. To achieve even just a decent level of success in powerlifting, training must be a priority. Skipping sessions because you’ve got a headache or work was stressful that day just won’t cut it – Guess what? The weights don’t care! Physiologically the body can only adapt at a certain rate. After a year of training, adding 10kg to your squat PB isn’t going to happen overnight. In fact, at the top level, a 10kg PB after a whole year of training would be considered a success. 

There are no shortcuts, strength gains are earned and not given. They don’t come easily and you have to consistently put the work in week to week for a very long time.

  1. They Recover Properly 

Unfortunately, despite the previous rant, the training in the gym is only a small part of becoming a successful powerlifter. In order to maximize the training adaptations, optimal recovery is key. By this I don’t mean you need to be getting in a cryotherapy chamber every night and consuming ridiculous amounts of CBD oil (despite what you might see on Instagram). Often the most simple recovery methods are overlooked, despite being the most important:

  • Sleep – most people require 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function properly. Sleep is key in reducing your bodies fatigue. If you’re getting below 7 your recovery rate is going to be drastically reduced and injury risk will increase. Going to bed earlier and having a quality nighttime routine is a really simple way of improving your recovery rate

  • Food – Are you getting enough calories in? Without adequate nutrition, you’re not going to get the training adaptations you’re looking for. Strength gains are optimized when in a caloric surplus, so simple methods such as tracking your food can have a huge impact on your results

  •  Injury Prevention – During training, little nagging injuries will inevitably creep up. Keeping on top of these by doing mobility work, foam rolling, seeing a physiotherapist, can all aid in preventing these small problems turning into full-blown injuries. The athletes who continue to progress year after year are often those who are injured the least. Injuries = lost training time, so anything you can do to prevent them will be beneficial to your powerlifting career.

Overall, improving recovery will help reduce fatigue level, reduce injury risk and optimize training adaptations, and therefore is a key aspect in the sport of powerlifting.

  1. They Embrace the Mundane

Hitting PBs during training and on the platform is great. In fact, it’s the reason we’re in the sport in the first place. At times it can seem like the top lifters are hitting PBs during every training session when trawling through social media. However, we only see a small amount of each lifters training, and these are often only the highlights of their preparation. In reality, the work that goes behind those PBs is fairly monotonous – endless sets of 5 can be fairly dull and don’t pull in the ‘likes’ that a deadlift PB does. What beginner lifters need to understand is that those boring sets of 5 are where the strength gains truly come from. 

Training in the 75-85% range for multiple sets/reps/sessions, develops both the skeletal muscle and the nervous system and allows the lifter to improve their movement pattern during each lift. New lifters often get caught up on testing their strength levels, when they should be concerned about training at a high frequency and volume in order to build their work capacity. Great lifters give as much focus to this part of training as they do the ‘fun’ heavier training. Focusing on lifting technique and producing as much force as possible (treating the lighter weights like the heavy ones) is key in developing more efficient technique and building muscular strength and size. Paying attention to this ‘boring’ part of training will later translate to those big PBs on comp day.

  1. They Believe in Themselves

Self-belief is a huge part of powerlifting. Not only for when you’re getting under a heavy squat and need to have the confidence that you can lift it, but also for your long term success. It’s very easy to see the top level lifters lifting ridiculous amounts of weight, that currently you can’t even consider unracking and get discouraged. However, all these athletes were at one point where you are now. They didn’t just suddenly squat 400kg one day. How many times do you hear people (or yourself) say ‘I’ll never be able to lift that’? This can put you in a mindset where you’re restricting your lifting potential by consistently telling yourself you’re not good enough. The guys at the top believed they had the potential to be up there with the best at some point, despite not being there at the time. Although it may seem like there’s a huge gap between where you’re at now and the best lifters in the world, have the belief that you will put the work in and eventually you will get there. After all, they managed to do it, why not you?

Wrap Up

Although there are probably exceptions to the rule, these are 4 habits that the vast majority of high-caliber powerlifters sick to. When embarking on your powerlifting journey, adopting the same approach to your training as the top lifters can go a long way in speeding up the progression and breaking through those stubborn strength plateaus. 

Tom Smith

Strength Coach

Raw Strength Gym

PS - If you’d like to join STRONG (our Powerlifting program at RSG) here’s what you get:

  • 4 Powerlifting Sessions per week with your Coach so you develop your technique safely and see rapid strength gains

  • Customised training plan written specifically for you with your body type, weak points and goals in mind - we also give you a body scan and advise on nutrition

  • Accountability and support whilst training as part of a small private team with other novice powerlifters

We aim to help you eat better, feel motivated and LOVE powerlifting with a great sense of belonging with our Barbell Club.

Go ahead and enroll now:  http://www.rawstrength.uk/strong-powerlifting-course

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