Mastery of Technique – Learn how to execute your lifts correctly.
Do not sacrifice form in order to lift more weight. Poor form can lead to inefficient lifting technique and injuries which will hinder strength development. Consistent training with proper, efficient lifting form is a big key to increasing strength. Be patient with your climb to the top. Learn how to lift correctly; it will pay off in the end. Every lift should be executed the same, regardless if it is a warm-up or a max single. Become a Master of Technique.
Mental Intensity – You have to prepare yourself mentally to lift.
Leave the cell phone in the locker-room and leave long conversations for afterwards. Let your intensity build during your warm-up, and be ready to go when working sets are loaded. If your current gym is not a good environment for mental intensity, then you need to switch gyms. A small group of us started Jackals Gym 25 years ago. It is a private club with lots of chalk dust flying around and heavy metal cranked up. It is a great atmosphere for getting strong and is definitely not a social club.
Goal Setting – Set long term goals and establish a plan to achieve these goals.
National Championships and World Records do not come over night. I was 31 years old before I won my first National title and 45 years old before I set my first Open Class World Record. These accomplishments took years and years of setting goals and implementing effective training programs to achieve those goals. In my opinion, the best way to build long-term strength is by achieving small goals one at a time. You need to have a long-term vision of where you want to be 5-10-20 years from now. You cannot accomplish your ultimate goals overnight. During my climb to my peak strength years, I tried to make small personal records (PR) in each lift every meet. This reinforced to me that I was making progress and my training was solid. I never tried to better my PR by a large margin. Constantly missing lifts gets in the way of progress. Set reasonable goals and make sure your training is set up for you to achieve those goals.
Identifying and Strengthening your Weak Areas – It is always more fun to train the movements that we are strongest at but identifying and strengthening our weakest part of a movement is equally or more important. There is always a reason for a failed lift, whether it’s a bench press at lockout, a squat that stalled out at the top, or a deadlift that lacked speed off the floor. In order to move beyond our failed attempts it’s necessary to figure out what part of the movement needs to get stronger. For example: my legs have always been my week link, but it has not been from lack of training. Looking back I remember it was not much fun training a high volume of front and back squats three days a week during the off-season but getting my legs stronger was my key to competition success. Also, if your bench press is your strong lift and your deadlift is your weak lift, you still want to make sure you keep your strong lift strong but concentrating more on deadlift training may be just what it takes to rise to the top.
Start Competing – Too many prospective powerlifters want to be at World Championship strength before they ever start competing.
This never works. Developing high levels of strength and having success in powerlifting takes time and experience. Lifting in a meet is entirely different from lifting in the gym. It is important to start competing to get comfortable with lifting in a competition format. There are many rules to follow and now you have to complete your lifts in a certain time frame. If you do not compete, you do not have a benchmark to determine if your training methods are working. Do not be afraid of failure or not being the strongest in your weight class. Your short-term failures help you to achieve long-term success. How can you continue to work your week areas if you do not have a way of measuring your strength levels? I suggest competing more frequently when you first start out. As you become more seasoned then you may want to limit yourself to 2-3 big contests a year.
Brad Gillingham, CSCS, Team myHMB athlete