Two lessons from a powerlifting contest

Last Saturday we held another powerlifting contest at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc. Here’s a quick recap of the day and two quick lessons that will help you improve your lifts.

The one interesting thing about our powerlifting contests is how casual they are. We have the music playing. Everyone is joking around. And everyone is wearing triple layers of everything as it is -18 C outside.

But once we get started we look forward to seeing who can lift what for deadlift, bench press, squat and 3 rep chin up.

And it’s always fun when friends and family come by to watch. One of them observed a successful deadlift, which involves picking a bar up off the ground and standing up with it, and commented ‘now what?’

Yes, it’s true powerlifting may not impress everyone but it’s still a great way to see where you’re at. And besides seeing where you’ve made gains with your lifts you also learn quite a bit about the lifts themselves.

Lesson #1 – Sticking Points Exposed

For example, you learn your sticking points. This is the part of the lift where the bar seems to stop moving and either leads to an unsuccessful attempt or results in spending an excessive amount of energy in order to complete the rep.

Let’s consider the bench press.

If someone were able to press the bar off their chest but not be able to lock out the lift it may be that they lack triceps strength which is crucial for extending the arms and finishing a press. Maybe some isolated triceps training would help this person complete the rep more easily and push through to new gains.

Or it could be that someone is able to pull a deadlift to mid-shin but lacks the glute and low back strength to bring the hips through at the end of the pull. Maybe some rack pulls and kettlebell swings would provide strength in just the right areas to make this lift a little easier.

Even if the person completes the lift there are clues there as to what is the weakest part of the lift and this should emphasized in the next phase of training.

But what about if there are no sticking points during the lift? Or what if the person didn’t have any failed attempts? Is there anything this person can work on to improve?

Lesson #2 – Technique Issues

Absolutely. And this is where set up and technique come in to play. Let’s look again at the bench press and deadlift examples.

With the bench press imagine the person set up with their legs extended out and away from the end of the bench. As they begin to press the weight you may notice the legs kick up in the air. This is a loss of potential as they are losing contact with the floor, are not as stable as they could be and are not able to press into the ground to return the bar up.

Instead if this person set up with the feet closer to the head than the knees they would feel a stretch on the tops of the hips. Their feet would also be planted firmly into the ground providing a stable base. And as they press their feet into the ground they would be able to benefit from the equal and opposite force up into the bar.

With the deadlift example imagine the person looking up excessively before pulling the bar. This shortens the length of the spine and results in less core stability. And do you think the body generates more force when the core is stable or not? It’s obvious,isn’t it?

Yet as many people look up when they deadlift the hips and pelvis tilt down. This creates increased lordosis (arch) in the low back and makes it more susceptible to injury.

So you’re weaker and more likely to get injured.

These are just two of the many lessons learned during our powerlifting competition. Take a look below to see all the results. And join us in March 2014 to see where your lifts are at and what you can do to improve them.

Chris [fb-like]

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2 Responses to Two lessons from a powerlifting contest

  1. Jordy Kreller says:

    Oh those darn sticking points are tough!!!!!!!!! Its amazing though what small adjustments you can make and train for in order to reduce these sticking points. For example, Chris when you told me to start doing rack pulls to help me with my deadlift……I have noticed a difference now in my “finish” for my deadlift!!!! The smallest movements can make the biggest difference! Can’t wait to test my lifts before the New Year!

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