Powerlifting Tips from the Pros

Two weeks ago, 240 competitors put their brute force to the test at the Canadian Powerlifting Championships.  After the meet, we caught up with champion Dave Walters (M1 40 & Over) in search of some tips to improve our own workouts.

Lifting a total of 1,841 lbs – Squat 678 lbs, Bench Press 557 lbs, Deadlift 606 lbs – Walters wowed the crowd.

While our goals are a little more grounded, we learned some valuable lessons that anyone can benefit from.  In addition to exhibiting super-human strength, Walters is a phys-ed teacher and has schooled many students in proper techniques and tips.  He encourages most of his students to get serious and spend more time with the big lifts. “It’s hard,” he acknowledges, “but put your time in and you soon start to see big results.”

For performance busting lifts, Coach Walters shared his top five tips:

        • Warm up is critical. Start off with some light cardio for five to ten minutes or a few sets of low-weight, high-rep lifts to get your body ready.
        • Spend more time on multi-joint lifts like the three that comprise powerlifting.  These (squat, bench press and deadlift) hit up to 80% of all muscles in the body and have a big impact on calories burned. They also produce more growth hormone to help you get stronger, bigger and add more muscle definition.
        • Shoot for a weight you can accomplish six times. After each successful set, novice lifters should avoid the temptation to go big and look to add only the two-and-a-half pound plates to increase the weight with each successive set. Aim for a steady progression and lift only what your body is ready for.
        • Proper nutrition is vital. One of the biggest mistakes he sees with his students (consider us guilty, too) is binging. Be it with booze or junk food, you can quickly undo a week’s worth of work. Everything in moderation. Best to establish a good diet with plenty of protein and sufficient calories.
        • Finally, find a program. Set goals and stick to it. If you have no plan or road map, it’s impossible to measure results.

We also asked Walters to share one piece of advice for each discipline to help perfect our powerlifts:

Most people don’t squat low enough. Challenge your angles and the benefits will transfer over. Most people fall into the half-squat which mostly uses the quads. When you go deeper, your glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and more come into play. The more muscles you use, the more benefits overall.

Bench Press
Try to make it more of a chest press rather than a shoulder press, which he frequently witnesses. With your lower back and shoulders on the bench, keep your feet flat and your elbows tucked. Aim to have the bar hit closer to the sternum or lower chest.

The closer the bar is to you, the better the leverage, and the lesser the strain on your lower back. Make sure the bar remains in contact with your legs from start to finish.

Image courtesy of ennuidesign

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