Step 6: Repeat step 5. Over and over. And then again. And often. And maybe hire a coach.
---> Step 6A: Pick a program to follow or hire a coach
There are lots of internet resources available for powerlifters. The hard part is weeding out the good sources from the bad sources and deciding what's best for you, specifically. While training "templates" are available from most of today's popular coaches, tailored programming is the best method for improving athletic performance. An individualized plan will not only expedite your results, it will also be specified to your anatomical accommodations, technical weaknesses, experience level, available equipment, and goals. This is the point in your training where your gym efforts become a "science experiment." Every human body responds slightly differently to the various training methods and the "experimentation" in your training will involve learning what is most effective. While you're a beginner, you will make some large gains in your strength fairly quickly (many endearingly call these "n00bie gains") because you're just starting out on your journey to great strength. As a beginner, choosing a template program is fairly easy and will likely yield results if you're moving from zero strength training into training for powerlifting. Linear progression will be evident at a quick rate as you first begin your training routine because your body is adapting to its new regimen and will respond to a new stimulus quickly. When you've been lifting for several months (and sometimes longer than a year, depending on the person), you will likely begin to plateau on your lifts. You will notice that your strength does not increase as quickly and it is harder to increase the weight on your lifts. This is normal. At this point, you may want to invest in some books on programming or begin working with a coach. A good coach has the knowledge to expedite the "science experiment" portion of your training as they are knowledgeable in the best practices for building muscle, strength, and power (and many have training on nutritional guidance, as well) and will be able to program beyond trial and error in a more intentional way. Decide what's going to benefit you the most here:
Months/years of trial and error with a steep learning curve
a little money out of pocket for someone else's expertise to help you progress faster
This is an important decision for driving your powerlifting career forward because you are establishing, both emotionally and financially, the investment you are willing to make into advancing in this sport.
It's worth mentioning that if you are not going to compete in powerlifting, there is no particular need to try to increase the weight of your lifts over time, though most would consider that general strength training rather than powerlifting. ---> Step 6B: Improve your technique
This is where a coach's eye really comes in handy. Frugal lifters will often post brief videos of their lifts in FaceBook groups and on Reddit community threads to get feedback from other powerlifters. While there's nothing inherently wrong with doing this, remember that these groups and communities are often filled with other novice lifters who often do not have much more expertise than you.
You will VERY likely hit a point on each lift where your technique prohibits your strength from increasing. I cannot stress enough how valuable a coach is for working technique. Yes, you can learn a lot from YouTube but unless you have the knowledge to coach yourself, it would really be beneficial to hire a coach for some informed feedback.
Step 7. Decide whether or not you'd like to compete
Competing is not for everyone. The equipment and registration fees can often be prohibitively expensive. Competition gear will be further discussed in part 3 of this blog series but remember that you'll need appropriate shoes for each lift, a singlet, deadlifting socks, belt (optional but recommended), knee sleeves (optional but recommended), wrist wraps (optional), knee wraps (equipped only for some feds), squat suit (equipped only), bench shirt (equipped only), plus pay a membership fee for your chosen federation and a registration fee for each meet on top of that (drug-tested feds usually also charge a fee for testing).
If you're a beginner, competing is a thought to keep in the back of your mind as you gain experience in training and refining your lifts. If you love the culture and demands of the sport, you will likely enjoy competing. As a woman, I've personally enjoyed the aspect of meeting so many badass and inspiring women through both training and competing as a powerlifter. The benefits this sport provides are vast and special but the real
Come back for Part 3 of this blog series if you plan to compete!