Women’s Powerlifting: What’s The Best Way To Get Started?

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The numbers back this up. In the United States alone, the number of women powerlifters have doubled since 2015—and this includes only those women who compete in powerlifting events, not the uncounted number of women who train powerlifting without announcing to the world that they are powerlifters.[1]

Before long, women will be able to walk into most gyms and find a woman powerlifter who can help them get started. Until then, this step-by-step guide can help you find your first few steps down the path.

1. Find a Program or Coach

If you’re a newbie to the gym or a beginner powerlifter, start by finding a training program or a coach—or both. Online coaching is becoming more available, but you’re better off asking around and seeing if you can find someone local who can train you face to face. Once you get your feet on the ground, you can transition to an online coaching or training program, and maybe even organize your own women’s powerlifting group so you can train together.

To supplement your training program, I recommend “Jailhouse Strong” by Josh Bryant, “5/3/1 For Powerlifting Simple and Effective Training for Maximal Strength” by Jim Wendell, and the Westside Barbell website.

2. Master the Basic Lifts

Learn the proper form and technique for the three main power lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift. Mastering these lifts requires experience, which is why you should do your best to find a local coach. For more information on how to do each of these lifts, review Layne Norton’s articles “How to Squat,” “How to Bench Press,” and “How to Deadlift.”

3. Schedule Your Training Sessions

Just like you schedule your work and the rest of your life, set up specific times when you will go to the gym to train. As you probably know by now, if you don’t set time aside to do something, you’ll find something else to fill that time—and it probably won’t be something as challenging as powerlifting practice.

Schedule your workout time—and your rest—so you can stay on track and work slowly but surely toward nailing your powerlifting skills. You’ll be lifting some heavyweights as part of your powerlifting training. That means you need more rest than you would with a typical bodybuilding split.

Warming up is also a critical part of powerlifting training. Make sure you make it part of your daily training, including on recovery days.

4. Attend A Local Powerlifting Meet

It’s fun and exciting to watch people lift heavy weights and smash records. It can also be highly motivating and a great way to network with other women new to the sport, as well as with the pros. There’s no better way to learn how a meet is run, how lifters train for contests over time, what they do in the runup to the event, and how the judges make their decisions.

Many powerlifting events are live-streamed on powerliftingwatch.com and YouTube if you can’t attend a meet in person.

5. Set Realistic Goal Numbers

At first, your coach can help you set reasonable, attainable goals. As you progress, they can then help you identify records and rankings for each weight class and division that might be within your reach. Bookmark powerliftingwatch.com so you can start getting to know the culture.

6. Choose Your First Meet!

For your very first event, start with a local gym meet or a push-pull event. These kinds of meets are usually laid-back, fun events that won’t overwhelm you. Shoot for an event that’s at least 8-12 weeks away so you have ample time to prepare for it.

Before you start to train for a specific event, make sure you understand the rules and regulations of the federation sponsoring the meet. Your coach can help you with this, too!

7. Start Training!

You can get all your ducks in order, but you have to push them in the water so they’ll learn to swim! Once you have your coach or program lined up and have your gym clothes and gear ready, it’s time to hit the gym and start training! And when you hit it, hit it with energy and consistency!

  1. Belfer, I. (2017, September 01). ‘I Call It Iron Therapy’: The Heavy World of Women’s Powerlifting. Retrieved from https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/7xxaxq/i-call-it-iron-therapy-the-heavy-world-of-womens-powerlifting

About the Author

Laura Hughes

Laura Hughes

Hughes has worked in the fitness industry for more than eight years, training hundreds of clients from beginners to competitive athletes, post-cancer treatment survivors, and hospital…


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