I will always remember the first time I was exposed to powerlifting. At the gym one afternoon when I was 16, I went to the rear section where we had old power cages and racks set up. Two brothers were there working out. The younger brother was a football player who also did wrestling. His older brother was taller, but skinnier by comparison.
But both of them were in a power cage deadlifting for reps with 5 plates on each side of the bar. Curious, I asked what they were doing. The football player (he played center) replied that he was doing deadlifts as part of his normal training routine. His brother, who was lifting at the time, was looking to get stronger to lift the back of a car off the ground like he had seen in a Strongman competition.
I was hooked.
It was just amazing that a guy who was basically the same size as me, and about 50 pounds lighter than the football player, was lifting so much weight.
Learning from the Experts
If you want to get started in powerlifting you need to train with experienced lifters. I was lucky to start back in a time when most gyms had a section for powerlifting. While modern gyms usually have at least one power rack and a cage, for the most part powerlifting is a forgotten entity. However there are some gyms that cater specifically to power lifters and have a great set-up. This is where you should start.
For the most part, every powerlifter I have met has been a fairly friendly person who is more than happy to share knowledge. It tends to be a smaller group, but the best way to learn. Most personal trainers might understand the technical aspect of squatting, but unless you have ever pushed yourself to the limit with 500 pounds on your shoulders, it’s all theory and no practice.
Why do you want to train with an experience lifter? I see it all the time at my gym where younger lifters are trying to do deadlifts and squats or occasionally a clean and jerk. The form is horrible and they are begging for a future injury as they try to add more weight. Looking at a picture or watching a video are one thing but having someone who has done thousands of reps show you and critique your form is another thing entirely.
Form on squats, deadlifts, and cleans is very difficult to learn by yourself. I was lucky to have experienced guys willing to help me from the outset. These large compound exercises are so unlike machines and other more simple exercises.
Beyond the Basics
After you start training you can decide if this is the type of sport you enjoy. If you do then more than likely you will want to take the next steps to get serious, just like you do with any hobby. Reading more material, adding a bench shirt to your wardrobe, and looking into supplements are the next logical progression. After that you are just a short way off from checking out competitions and considering competing yourself!