As a weightlifter with some powerlifting under my belt, I find it intriguing how sometimes divided the two sports can be. Talk with many avid weightlifters, and they will argue the power and technique involved with snatches, cleans, and jerks makes weightlifting far more masterful than powerlifting. Talk with heavy pullers, pressers, and squatters, and they will argue that withstanding monumental spinal loading, volume, and training intensity is just as metabolically and neuromuscularly challenging.
After training and competing in both sports, I decided to dig deeper to shed some more light on the subject. Here are four things I believe weightlifters can — and should — learn from powerlifters.
1. Increase Volume to Gain Muscle, Strength, and Power
It’s no secret that one of the most effective ways to increase long-term strength, muscle mass, and power potentials is to increase training volume (sets and repetitions) of large compound movements like squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows. In weightlifting, I often found myself shying away from double digit rep ranges, drop sets, and training to muscular fatigue. Powerlifters, on the other hand, train like that with many assistance lifts, often striking a balance between programmed high intensity strength work and less stringent hypertrophy training.
As a weightlifter, you can reap immense benefits from high rep and maximal effort training. Driving muscular hypertrophy is at the foundation of strength, power, and neuromuscular development in intermediate and advanced lifters.
2. Explore Conjugated Strength Training
Conjugated strength training is huge in the powerlifting arena, thanks in large part to Westside Barbell and people like Matt Wenning. It’s pretty damn effective for making athletes stronger, increasing neural drive, and allowing athletes to train harder without sacrificing central nervous system overshoot and overuse injury.
The idea is to constantly vary the exercises and abilities often, so that you can minimize the effects of overtraining and keep the body gaining strength and muscle. Additionally, by constantly varying the strength lifts, you are able to make the training stress more transferable to other environments.
As a weightlifter, I found myself doing the same three squatting movements, and hardly ever doing deadlifts in non-conventional ways. Understanding sticking points in squats, limitations in pulls, and exploring variational strength lifts like yolk carries, Zercher squats, rack pulls, box squats, and board presses (just to name a few) will allow all athletes to increase strength, muscle, and motor neuron recruitment.
3. Do More Sled Work
Powerlifters and strongman athletes love sleds workouts, as do most other athletes. Sleds allow us to train only the concentric muscle actions, which helps to decrease muscle soreness caused from eccentric components of a lift. Using sleds as a tool to increase training volume, improve work capacity, and recover from hard squat sessions can pay off huge for weightlifters.
4. Get Hyped, and Have Fun
Watch a weightlifter approach the platform, and you will see a distinct difference between them and a powerlifter. Often known for more focused energy, weightlifters can sometimes forget that it is OK to go HAM and make some noise.
Understanding how to dance the line between high focus, fun, and intense training — without lack of focus and technique — is something I have learned more and more while being around other lifters. So remember, it’s totally cool to go out and get an arm pump, chest day, or good ole fashioned leg day, if and only if you are not in competition mode.
Learn and Grow Together
Hopefully these points have struck a chord within you, and have challenged the training stigmas that surround the two worlds of weightlifting and powerlifting. Take the time to dissect the science, the inspirational stories, and the daily trials and tribulations of each sport, adapt, and grow accordingly.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.