I’ve been lifting for a long time. I began competing in powerlifting in 2012, but I’ve been a gym rat since high school. I’m 31 now, so you can do the math!
When I started lifting, there wasn’t nearly as much readily-available information about technique, training, and competing, so I had to learn almost entirely by talking with other guys in the gym. That really was a huge advantage for me, I believe, because in watching and training with others, you pick up a lot of tacit knowledge.
Tacit knowledge is the stuff that’s never really written down or explained in detail, because it’s best learned through experience and observation. I think test-taking is a great example of the value of tacit knowledge. You can read test-taking tips on the internet all day, but you can really only learn to channel the nervous energy that you get from a test by taking tests and practicing over and over and over again.
That said, some tacit knowledge can be written down — it just oftentimes isn’t for a variety of reasons. When it comes to working out, there are tons of “little tricks” I’ve learned along the way that aren’t really deserving of an entire YouTube video or BarBend article on their own, but are still valuable in their own right. Chances are, not all of these will be helpful to you, but some might, and hey — maybe that one nugget of information is all you need to take your training to the next level, and you just haven’t found it yet.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 “little tricks” for powerlifting.
10 Useful Powerlifting Tips
1. Use Straps Correctly
When using straps, you only need one loop around the bar. Assuming you’re also gripping the bar, this will be plenty of support for even the heaviest work. And, on the deadlift, if you spend a lot of time bent over trying to crank the straps on, you’ll lose some of the benefits of the stretch reflex and may have a much harder time setting up for your first pull.
Really big guys are an exception here — not because they need more grip support (in fact, it’s usually the opposite) but because they tend to have a harder time getting down low enough to put the straps on in the first place. If that’s you, then use the style that makes it easiest to get in a good setup position (which may involving kneeling down, like Brian Shaw).
2. Baby Powder Is Useful
Carry talcum (baby) powder in your gym bag. I’m honestly shocked by how many people don’t realize the benefits of talcum powder on the deadlift. When you’re pulling heavy, even a small amount of friction between your legs and the bar can make a big difference. Talc will greatly reduce that friction and may very well make the difference between a new PR and a missed lift.
When you apply the powder, don’t use your hands, or you can kiss your grip goodbye. Instead, shake a little powder directly from the bottle onto your legs (quads and shins) and shake your legs to distribute this evenly. Be considerate: don’t do this in a place where people might slip, and clean up after you’re done pulling.
3. Ammonia Has Its Benefits
In my opinion, nose tork (ammonia) solves all problems.
Disclaimer: Ammonia is a respiratory stimulant in the form of an inhalant that isn’t necessary for training or heavy lifting. It can potentially have adverse effects on one’s health. Please seek the advice of a medical professional before using, or if side effects are present.
4. DIY: Fix a Slippery Bench
You can make a slippery bench more comfortable by running thick resistance bands lengthwise across the bench. The bands are made out of a non-slip rubber that will help to keep you in place when you’re benching. This is especially important if you use a complicated setup, because even a little sliding can significantly change your position. Incidentally, this is better for the bench itself than is chalking the bench, which can degrade the surface of the padding.
5. Alleviate Shoulder Pain In the Squat
If you have shoulder pain when you’re squatting, try starting your warmup with a very wide grip. Even though squats are a lower-body movement, they’ll quickly increase your core temperature, so your upper body will get a little warm from the movement too. Plus, the gentle stretching of the empty barbell will help to loosen up the chest and delts.
As you progress through your warm-ups, gradually bring in your grip, giving your shoulders time to adjust to the tighter position. By the time you reach your first working sets, you should be in your normal position, but with significantly less discomfort.
6. Salted Watermelon Has Powers
Feeling really flat during a diet? Try eating some salted watermelon during your training. Watermelon is low in calories, but its high water content combined with the sodium will help to rehydrate you, and the sugar will give you just enough of a boost (and extra bit of pump) to help you finish the session strong.
7. Bulking Trouble? Eat More Veggies
Having trouble finishing all your meals during a bulk? Try eating more — veggies. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to eat because you’re not used to the food volume, not because the influx of calories is causing satiation. In that case, eating more veggies will help to train your body to eat more. They’re typically low-calorie, so they definitely won’t fill you up in that sense, and the added fiber may help to improve your digestion.
8. Keep Knee Sleeves Secure
Knee wraps slipping? You can chalk both the wraps and your knees to increase the friction and help keep them in place. Just make sure to clean yourself off before deadlifts!
A few other quick knee wrap tips:
- Use wrist straps to keep your pre-rolled wraps tight without having to find a rubber band.
- You can use a pair of needle-nose pliers to help tie the wrap off if (like me) you suffer from fat fingers.
- If you’re a smaller lifter, you might not need to use the whole length of the wrap. Don’t worry about it — just tie the extra off at the top so it doesn’t get in your way while you’re squatting.
9. Velcro Saves Bars
Can’t find a chalk brush? The Velcro from your wrist wraps will work almost as well for cleaning chalk or talc off barbells.
[Interested in buying your own barbell, check out our favorite barbells for every lifting need!]
10. Take a Day When You Need It
When all else fails, or if you’re having a bad day, you might be better off just skipping the gym. Come back stronger the next day — I promise you’ll be stronger, not weaker, for it.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.\
Feature image from @phdeadlift Instagram page.