Powerlifting for women – what is it exactly? To put it simply, it is a sport that tests your maximum strength in three compound exercises, namely squat, bench, and deadlift.
In a powerlifting competition, you will have three attempts to test your one-rep max in a span of a minute. Athletes normally take around 6-12 weeks to peak for their max out day.
Does this sound confusing? Fear not, we have guest writer and powerlifter Sophia Khan to break it down. Find Sophia on Instagram.
In this article, Sophia will cover:
- Her powerlifting journey
- Is powerlifting realistic for women?
- The benefits of powerlifting
- Factors to consider when selecting a powerlifting coach
- The 7 key steps to becoming a powerlifter
Powerlifting for women: My story
Before I begin, I would like to share a bit about myself. My name is Sophia Khan, and I am a 53kg powerlifter.
I am fortunate to be part of the Hong Kong professional powerlifting team. I competed in my first powerlifting meet in September 2019 as a junior and set a HK deadlift record for both my age and weight class.
After that, I competed internationally in an Asia Pacific powerlifting meet in December 2019 as a Hong Kong athlete – it was a true honor to be representing my home city.
However, it was slightly saddening to see the male to female competitors’ ratio; there were just so few women powerlifters.
I wanted to write this article to help women understand that the powerlifting sport is accessible to women. There’s nothing to be afraid of; you can expect to find a warm environment. But perhaps a little more info would help?
Powerlifting for women: is it possible?
Fortunately, the popularity of powerlifting amongst females is increasing both in Hong Kong and around the world.
In my 1.5 years of powerlifting experience, I have noticed more and more women taking up the sport as more gyms open up, and people realize the benefits of lifting. Professional strength coaches can help both beginners and advanced athletes progress further.
Some of the women nowadays lift as much, or even more, than men. This sport does not make you masculine but rather empowers you to feel strong and is a great confidence and ego booster.
It’s never been a better time to be a female powerlifter. Striving for self-improvement and greater strength? Female Powerlifting deserves consideration.
What are the benefits of powerlifting for women?
Where do I start? There are just so many benefits of powerlifting. I can honestly say I am a much happier and healthier person thanks to powerlifting, but I will try to break all my experiences and feelings into key three points:
1. Great tool for fat loss and body re-composition
Powerlifting is considered a great caloric intensive sport due to the amount of strength and energy expenditure needed to perform the lifts. The lifts require a high-intensity burn throughout the body, thereby burning large amounts of calories. Consequently, your metabolic rate is improved, as well.
Your body ends up absorbing more food a day to get in sync with your energy levels. Even if you gain weight, it will be muscle weight rather than fat if you are eating right and not in a great caloric surplus.
2. Endorphins; you will simply feel great
Building and testing your strength in the squat, bench press, and deadlift is an incredibly satisfying and rewarding feeling. Your hard work can be measured numerically, and you can see the growth and improvement as you progress in the sport.
Developing strength requires sacrifice, discipline, and determination, but it will all be worth it when you lift a weight that was previously just a dream. This sport requires a specific training style, and once you meet your expected numbers, the satisfaction and pride you feel are indescribable.
3. A great platform to meet new people
In Hong Kong, the powerlifting community is rather small but incredibly tight-knit. Personally, I have met some of the most humble individuals in this sport. The energy and support that I receive from this community is incredible.
Everybody is highly encouraging. I personally never have the experience of being looked down on by someone just because they lift bigger weights. We all know that we started somewhere.
Find a powerlifting coach
It may be worthwhile getting a coach as well to ensure your form is right. I think it is a great idea to get a coach at the start of training to ensure your training and form are optimal. When more familiar with training, you can go for online training programs.
When deciding on a powerlifting coach, the most important thing is to try out several different coaches. This will enable you to check various teaching styles and different powerlifting techniques. Also, it’s important to find a powerlifting coach with a personality that is complimentary with your own.
However, if getting a coach is too expensive, training with a friend that is more experienced in lifting, alongside filming your training and comparing the movement with professionals, will also help.
How do I become a powerlifter? 7 key steps
Powerlifting is truly an incredible and humbling sport, and it is my honor to share some points to encourage Savvy in HK readers to take up the sport.
So how can you begin? Well, I’ll break down the powerlifting journey into seven key steps.
1. Join a gym
If you have never lifted a weight before, the first step would be to join a commercial gym. Home workouts are great, but working out at home can make it quite difficult to overload your muscles. There are numerous gyms in Hong Kong. If you would like something more affordable, go for the Physical chain – they have various locations across Hong Kong.
Like Physical, if you want something more flexible and open for 24 hours, 24/7 is great due to its vast coverage around the city. Some other common gym chains include Goji Studios, Pure Fitness, and Fitness First, and so on.
I personally go to Go24 because of the atmosphere and incredible equipment. Most gym-goers there are either powerlifters or bodybuilders, and they are all very serious about their training. Going to a gym motivates you to work harder as you will get to have a better environment, and home workouts cannot bring that experience.
2. Powerlifting for beginners: Find the right program
Find the right program that suits your needs and schedule. Do not just start with a 6 day per week program if you are starting to train as it may be overwhelming, and it will be hard to stick to.
As a beginner, try to work-out 3-4 days a week. That way, you will maintain consistency and can expect to make reasonable progress. You may increase the days later on but remember to have at least one rest day where your body recovers from the week.
There are many programs choose from, but most powerlifting programs include squatting and benching twice a week and deadlifting around once or twice a week. These big three exercises– squat, bench, and deadlift are known as compound movements. These types of exercises work out multiple body parts and are considered to be more strenuous exercises.
After you have performed your compound movements, you will need to do several accessory movements (accessories) as well. Accessories simply refer to working specific body parts to refine their look, e.g., bicep curls, dumbbell rows, etc.
3. Hypertrophy first
As a new lifter, it would actually be best to train for size rather than strength first. Most powerlifters start off doing some bodybuilding work as it helps build a solid foundation and familiarizes the body with the new sensations.
Hypertrophy refers to training around 8-12 repetitions in a set. This gets your body more comfortable with movements and eases you into a gym routine.
While training for hypertrophy, you will naturally get stronger over time and will be able to increase your weight in sessions. As time goes on, when your body adapts more to lifting and recovers faster, you may transition over to powerlifting style training.
4. Perfect the Basic Lifts
Master the compounds
While training for hypertrophy, do not neglect the three core compound lifts. You should master the fundamentals of squatting, benching, and deadlifting.
Watch a lot of training videos, record yourself, and compare your form to professionals, and so on. If you do not build the basics, you will risk facing injuries, and those setbacks will be highly demotivating.
I strictly followed this process when I was a beginner, and it really paid off. Do not be scared to do compounds because they may be more “technical.”
We all start somewhere, and if you are really nervous, do not hesitate to ask someone at the gym to check your form or demonstrate. Most people are very friendly and helpful, and they will be willing to assist you.
5. Attend a powerlifting meet
Once you get more comfortable and familiar with powerlifting, the next best thing to do is to attend a local powerlifting meet – meet means competition. Watching meets online is great, but nothing beats the atmosphere of when you see it in person.
I was really skeptical about competing and decided to volunteer for one in May 2019. I fell in love with the whole environment, and the powerlifting community truly felt like a family. Everyone was so supportive and encouraging, and it was a surreal experience.
Competing in a meet will help you understand the key rules for competing as well. This is an experience worth trying. If possible, try to attend a meet as either a spectator or a volunteer before competing. This experience will mentally prepare you for what is to come when it comes to actually competing for the first time.
6. Consider competing as a female powerlifter
It is worth competing at least once in this sport. If you really consider competing, hiring a coach is highly preferred as experienced individuals can ensure you are on the right track. They can write your program for you, and all you have to do is lift the weights prescribed.
I have been training with my coach since August 2019, and it is incredibly worthwhile. You should not worry about how good your numbers are and whether you will win or not. Regardless of how heavy you can lift, just give it a go.
It will be truly memorable, and you will not regret a minute of the journey. You will meet incredible individuals, and it will let you know what new targets to set.
7. Just train!
The fundamental key is to step into the gym, pick up the barbell/dumbbell, and train. Consistency is key, and although it will take a while, patience and hard work will come a long way.
I have been going to the gym for almost 3.5 years and have been powerlifting for around 2 years. To stay motivated, make going to the gym a part of your everyday schedule and not let any excuses get into the way. Go before work, after work, or squeeze in an hour during lunch.
What are the top 5 recommended products to get started with powerlifting?
If you’re just beginning powerlifting, you don’t need to buy special equipment, but over time, and as you can experience, some key products to consider are:
- Knee sleeves: knee sleeves are great for squatting especially when you are starting to lift heavier. This gives your knees a brace and protects them greatly. You can buy knee sleeves that are specifically designed for powerlifters. Knee sleeves offer powerlifters stability, joint protection, and warmth. If you’re serious about your squats, try Stoic knees for powerlifting. They are made of neoprene and will provide support.
- A belt: once you start lifting heavier, you will need extra support to keep your core braced. A belt can also protect your back. However, I would not suggest grabbing a belt too quickly in your workout. It is good to strengthen the core first without a belt, and once when the load feels too hard to lift, a belt is suggested and comes in handy. You can try out the ProFitness belt; it’s great value and made out of genuine leather.
- Wrist wraps: many powerlifters do eventually use wrist wraps and wraps to keep the wrists sturdy when squatting and benching. It also gives one peace of mind knowing wrists are intact. You can try Rip Toned wrist wraps which are professional grade and come with thumb loops.
- Squat shoes: especially helpful if you have butt wink. This can somewhat help with form and also gives you a stronger base when squatting due to its flatness.
- Deadlift slippers: I love Notorious lift deadlift slippers because of their no-slip feel. They have made my deadlifts significantly stronger, and they just look great as well!
How do you ensure you get enough protein?
- I normally have a peanut butter sandwich, a glass of soymilk, and a banana for breakfast. For lunch, I either have pasta or rice, with some chicken and vegetables. As a snack, I would have some almonds or another glass of soy milk. Post-workout, I just mix in a scoop of protein powder with either water or milk. Finally, as I am Pakistani, I love roti, so that I would have roti with either chicken or beef and some vegetables for dinner.
- I take regular whey protein by MyProtein. It also has great nutritional content, various flavors, and is incredibly affordable. In addition, you can enjoy at least 20g of protein in every scoop. It is a great way to hit your protein limit for the day. Just add a scoop into 200-250ml of water and milk, shake it to dissolve the mixture, and simply drink it. Very tasty and convenient, and that is the only brand I have been using ever since I started in 2018.
Which are the best restaurants in Hong Kong for eating healthy and inexpensive food?
When it comes to dining out, options are endless. If you want something healthy and not a bank breaker, some great options that I really like include; Treehouse or Mana! in Central, or, Locofama in Sai Ying Pun.
What is powerlifting?
Mirafit has a superb detailed answer to exactly what powerlifting is.
What are the main powerlifting moves?
How is bodybuilding different from powerlifting?
Firstly, bodybuilding is very different from powerlifting. Bodybuilders are competing on physical appearance whereas, powerlifters are judged on their strength. Bodybuilders place a huge emphasis on their diet, and their diet will change enormously depending on whether or not they are competing.
What foods do female bodybuilders eat?
Bodybuilders go through two phases; a bulking phase and a cutting phase.
The bulking phase involves putting on mass to help you lift as much weight as possible. Whereas, the cutting phase, which people do before a competition, involves severely limiting food intake to achieve a lean physique with maximum muscle and minimal fat.
During the bulking phase, body lifters will eat a high-calorie protein-rich diet. During the cutting phase, body lifters will munch on food such as spinach, mushroom, and broccoli.
How much should a female beginner deadlift?
Generally, a female beginner should be able to deadlift approximately 100% of their body weight. Advanced female powerlifting can deadlift around 160% of their body weight.
But as we said above, don’t worry about little or much you can lift. The key is consistency. You can start anywhere, but as long as you’re consistent, you can expect to get stronger and stronger.
What should I do after my powerlifting workout?
Similar to other workouts, after you’ve completed a power lift workout, you should cool-down, stretch, and rehydrate.
Interested in powerlifting for women? We can all make it happen if we want to. At the same time, make sure you set realistic and achievable goals, and once you achieve them, those small milestones will motivate you to push yourself even harder.
I hope the brief tips above helps and motivates you to start your own powerlifting journey.
The powerlifting for women journey is truly rewarding, and I am certain you will not have any regrets. Do feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @ Sophia Khan if you have any queries. It will be my honor to guide you on this new journey.
Buckle up, ladies; we are on a ride to self-improvement and stronger bodies. Let us surprise those around us with our strength!
If you are interested to learn more about fitness, check out our guide on fitness in Hong Kong. We cover the best gyms in Hong Kong; we review F45 and find the best yoga studios.
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