Like Olympic lifting, Powerlifting is a competitive strength sport that is comprised of four core exercises – the Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, and Leg Press. Where the goal of Olympic weightlifting is to achieve speed, functional strength, and core power through technique and timing; the goal of Power Lifting is to maximize total strength and overall body mass. Studies have shown deadlifting is the single best exercise for increasing the body’s muscle mass and weight. Similarly, squats and bench press are two of the most effective lifts at increasing strength and mass in the legs and chest respectively.
We’re not here to provide a history lesson in the sport nor information pertaining to the current rules, weight classes and the results of the International Powerlifting Federation competitions. We are here to build strength, advance our understanding of the mechanics and principles of the lifts, and ultimately find ways to improve our form and technique so we can get the most out of our workouts and finally conquer Linda as Rx.
Except for the Deadlift, which is unique in just about every sense of the lift, all other forms of Powerlifting involve the sequence of Eccentric muscle contractions followed by Concentric muscle contractions, or vice verse. Unlike Olympic lifting which is performed with varied fluid movements, Powerlifting involves linear movements, pushing and lowering the weight in the same direction for each rep. This steady repetition of pushing and lowering (or ‘decelerating’) the weight is what makes Powerlifting so effective at building shear strength and muscle mass. How does that work???
Skeletal muscles increase in strength and size through contractions caused by the synthesis of actin and myosin proteins, per the sliding filament theory. In order to activate the chemical pathways necessary for protein synthesis, tension (in the form of resistance) against the muscle must be great enough to cause synaptic vesicles to release the proteins for synthesis, which in turn stimulate muscle contraction through a series of really complicated chemical reactions involving adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that aren’t important to our discussion of Powerlifting. The takeaway here is that skeletal muscle contraction in one of two ways – Concentric (‘lifting’ of the weight) and Eccentric (lowering of the weight).
It’s important to note that concentric contraction occurs when the force generated by muscle contractions exceeds the force of resistance against the contraction, resulting in the shortening of muscle fibers during contract. Accordingly, eccentric contraction occurs when the force generated by muscle contractions is insufficient to overcome external resistance and muscle fibers lengthen as they contract. Eccentric Contractions are therefore normally involved in the process of decelerating weight (bringing the barbell down gently during a bench press for instance), while Concentric Contractions are involved in the pushing and pulling, of ‘lifting,’ of weight.
So how again does Powerlifting produce superior strength?
It comes back to the topic of simple, repetitive movements. Powerlifting exercises involve relatively confined movements performed over both long and shorter range continuums with each lift targeting a narrow muscle group (excluding deadlifts). Many people believe shorter ranges of motion allow the athletes to lift heavier payloads, however recent research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests longer ranges of motion (even if performed at slightly less weight) produce stronger and larger muscles over time.
Whatever your preference in Squat and Leg Press degrees is, Powerlifting exercises facilitate extreme tension that can be maintained for long durations of time (thin squatting 150% your own bodyweight for 3 sets of 10 reps).
Power lifting targets all the major thigh muscles as well as the the chest, arms and to a lesser extent shoulders and back; testing the athlete’s limits of strength in each muscle group. If you are new to the sport it is advised to work up core strength in each of these muscles groups with lower-impact, lower range lifting exercises before you test the grueling demands of powerlifting exercises.
For instance beginners should work up their base leg strength by leg pressing and training on the leg extension machine before jumping into the power rack and squatting 200lbs. Unfortunately
Performing squat requires great deal of strength and a perfect posture is essential for successfully executing this move in order to avoid any injury. The best of all squatting techniques is the back squat. It greatly enhances the leg strength along with reinforcing the quads, glutes, abs, hamstrings, and the entire back of the lifter.
Bench press is another basic exercise that is recommended for novice athletes and Crossfit athletes to train their muscles to get strong. Bench pressing engages muscle groups in the chest, arms, shoulders, and forearms, providing sufficient amount of hard work to gradually build good amount of strength. It is an excellent exercise which teaches new Crossfit athletes how to bear down and push hard, which translates and helps in performing other heavy lifts later on.
The deadlift is one of the fundamental movements that are a must for any Crossfit athlete. It packs a punch in developing sheer strength and improving quality and skill of performing other movements. It is an excellent compound exercise which aims at building strength in muscle groups like the hamstrings, lower back, forearms, quads, traps, and glutes.
Leg Press is a beginner exercise for building leg strength for performing heavy weight exercises like squats. This exercise primarily targets muscle groups including quads, glutes and hamstrings. It is performed using a leg press machine.