How To Start Powerlifting

Getting into powerlifting can feel overwhelming; you need to learn all the fundamentals in order to both optimize your strength and reduce your chances of injury.

But once you’ve got your program structured and you know all the basics, you’ll be into the routine of powerlifting before you know it.

But how do you actually get started? The following article will outline everything you need to know to start your powerlifting program, before answering some of the most frequently asked questions regarding powerlifting for beginners. 

What is Powerlifting?

Powerlifting is developing as much strength as you possibly can, and there are three main methods used to achieve this: the low bar back squat, the deadlift, and the bench press.

This might sound quite simple, but there’s a lot more to it. The more serious powerlifters are operating at the very edge of their physical capabilities.

It’s not just physically demanding- it’s also mentally demanding. But it’s also very rewarding if you’re willing to give it your all and master the fundamentals. These fundamentals include rooting, bracing, breathing, bar position, foot position, eye gaze, and activation. 

How to Start Powerlifting

Where to Start

Your first step to train for powerlifting is to find a gym that has plenty of powerlifting equipment. Make sure it’s a gym that has a considerable amount of squatting and bench pressing stations, so you won’t feel pressured to hurry your sessions along. 

You’ll need certain equipment before you can start properly powerlifting. First off, finding the best training shoes for deadlifts can benefit your lifting sessions almost immediately. Choosing the best powerlifting belt and the best knee sleeves for powerlifting is also essential for improving your strength and reducing your risk of an injury. Other necessary equipment for performing deadlifts are high socks, wrist wraps (for keeping your wrists stable), chalk (for grip), and a singlet. 

If you’re new to powerlifting and you’ve never used a barbell, you should first get comfortable with the bodyweight movements that to a great degree mimic powerlifting. Pushups mimic bench presses, and air squats mimic squats in powerlifting. 

Once you’re familiar with these bodyweight movements, move on to an empty barbell. You might feel tempted to leap right into more weight, but first, you need to nail down your technique.

You should be doing between three to five reps at once- three sets of five or three sets of three. 

Getting into a Routine: Squats, Bench Presses, and Deadlifting

You should also be doing benches and squats a few times a week. When bench pressing, make sure you have a comfortable grip on your bar. Your feet should be planted firmly on the floor.

When (and only when) there is a spotter present, lift your bar out of the rack and bring it down slowly to your sternum. Push the bar upward quickly, in a single powerful motion. 

When it comes to practicing your squats, position the bar either below your delts or above your traps. Take the bar off the rack and adopt a comfortable position. Your feet should be pointing slightly outward, roughly a shoulder’s width apart.

Bend your knees and lower yourself as if you’re sitting down on a chair, and then stand back up. While you complete a squat, make sure your shins remain vertical, your back remains straight, and your heels stay flat on the floor. 

You should also be practicing your deadlifting once a week. Stand behind the barbell, your feet pointing outward and a shoulder’s width apart. Then, bend at your hips in order to reach the bar, and you should let your knees bend outward as you do so.

Grip the barbell and stand up. Your back should remain straight, and you should be contracting your abs as you lift up the barbell. Add a little more weight every week- roughly five pounds.

Don’t add any more than five pounds each week, or you’ll risk overdoing it and injuring yourself. 

Another key factor to consider when putting together your powerlifting routine is to incorporate cardio.

A lot of your training will revolve around bench presses, squats, and deadlifts, but it’s important to make room for cardio a few times a week for at least half an hour. No need to put too much thought into these exercises; it could be just a simple jog. 

You should also be doing alternative lifting exercises, ones that require less equipment but still help to build the same muscles. These include calf raises, barbell step-ups, pull-ups, and dumbbell shrugs. 

Lift weights between three to four times every week. It’s usually best to do two days on, then one day off, then two days on, then two days off.

Anything more and your body won’t have enough time to rest, and you may end up injured. 

Tips for a Powerlifting Program

Your powerlifting program should follow a number of concepts. First off: periodization. Having a long-term plan will help you account for when you’re expecting to peak in strength, for either a one-rep max test or for a competition. 

Next is frequency- the exposure you’re giving yourself to various powerlifting movements in any given week. Another important factor is specificity.

Your program should be designed for your specific goal. As a competition approaches, you should be doing your powerlifting movements in competition form, rather than in other forms. 

Another key concept is your type of adaptation, which essentially just refers to your ongoing short-term goals. You should incorporate a range of adaptation types into your training cycle.

You should also remember progressive overload. This just means that you’re increasing the number of times you’re doing a specific thing, such as more sets with an increasing load. 

Exercise selection is also important. The types of exercises you’re implementing in your program based on how they’re each going to support your powerlifting movements will be the difference between a weak training cycle and a strong one. 

Finally: recovery. Make sure you’re giving yourself enough deload periods in order to recover properly.

Obviously, when you start out it’ll be hard to know just how much your body can take before needing to rest, so keep an eye on any dips in your performance as time goes on. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Get a Powerlifting Coach?

It’s always recommended that you get a powerlifting coach if you can afford it, whether you’re new to powerlifting or you’re experienced.

They can help you design a training program just for you, tailored to your specific needs.

While there are other ways to get a program that might suit you (making your own program, finding free templates online or buying templates, a group powerlifting programme designed by a coach for multiple people), you’re likely to make far faster progress if you go with a personal coach. 

A powerlifting coach will also have the answers to any questions you might have, be it about technique, or the specifics of powerlifting competitions. Put simply, you can’t go wrong with having extra support. 

Is a Spotter Really Necessary?

Definitively: yes. When dealing with such heavy equipment, it’s vital to have someone looking out for you in case anything goes wrong.

Even the most experienced powerlifters should have a spotter. Problems can occur regardless of how long you’ve been powerlifting, such as your foot slipping, or your grip slightly loosening. If you can’t find a spotter, only powerlift if there are racks with safety rails.


Powerlifting is tough but rewarding. When you’re starting out, your program will be key. As long as you stick to a routine of squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and lifting weights, your strength should gradually increase.

If you’re serious about powerlifting, we recommend finding a powerlifting coach if it’s feasible. It’s not a must, but you’ll see far better results in a shorter period of time than if you go it alone. 

Remain consistent, keep your exercises varied, and always, always have a spotter (unless, as we previously mentioned, there’s a rack with a safety rail- but that doesn’t quite have the same punch for a closing line, does it?). 

Kevin Harris