T Nation

Getting Started for Powerlifting


Basically, I'm looking for the next step here. I've done almost a year of beginning training, I enjoyed it a lot, and now I'm looking for a program that would eventually prepare me to do a powerlifting competition. (Let's say, I would want to be ready by a year from now.) I'm willing to take this quite seriously, but I obviously have a long way to go.

I started lifting last November. Did Starting Strength, which I think is probably finished for me by now, since there's no way I can get squat PR's three times a week any more. Made some beginner's progress: when I started, I was using just the 45-pound bar, and now (for reps) I squat 180, deadlift 245, bench 105, seated press 75. (I'm female, 21, 5'6'', 130-ish.) Given where I am at the moment, where do you think I should go from here?

A few points:
1. I don't have gym access for the next couple of weeks, so this post is just for planning ahead. Right now I'm running and doing bodyweight stuff.

  1. My squat form needs fixing. Mainly, I'm rounding my back something terrible. I think I'll need a little time to work on technique with lighter weight than my max. I may even cough up the $40 for a session with a PT to sort out this mess.

Any advice would be much appreciated!


Wendler's 531 program will allow you to work at submax levels on all your lifts. It's worked for many people and some have actually used it successfully for contest prep. Plus Jim answers all sorts of questions over at elitefts if you have problems.


Any PL gyms near you? Some good coaching and lifting in that environment would probably be the best thing. And PLEASE don't waste your $$$ on a PT unless you are sure they understand PL. I have RARELY seen a PT give good squat advice (no offense to any on here who know wtf they are doing).




Highly disagree.

Alisa, any idea what federation you want to compete in? Raw? Single Ply? Multiply?

My best advice would be to find the meet first before you settle on a training style or system. The equipment changes things to a degree...so knowing how you are going to compete is a good starting point.



good place to start, even if you aren't a beginner to lifting in general


Starting Strength... After that, buy Practical Programming.


Well, the thing is, I'm a college senior. That means I have free access to a school gym, which is very good equipment-wise, and so I'm not looking to change gyms.

It also means I don't know where I'll be next year -- depending on what happens with grad school, I could be anywhere in the country. So I don't know a meet location. But probably, for cost reasons, I'd want to compete raw. I know absolutely nothing about the equipment and it doesn't seem to make sense to buy it now.

About PT's being bad -- I've seen one around the gym who seems not to be. (That is, he coaches some people who lift impressive weights.) Maybe you're right, though. It's just that I feel more comfortable asking for help from someone whose job is to help, than to bother a random guy while he's trying to finish a workout.


Make videos to ensure you're following the rules right. Go to a meet. You know how to do the lifts already, and you're strong for your weight. Lift raw. Meet people. Hook up to train. Build a base. Decide whether you want to go equipped.


why whats wrong with training westside?


Alisa I would suggest looking into intermediate programs like Madcows or Bill Starr's 5x5. Kerley, I think Westside might be a little too advanced for her numbers, I would just look for a program that is clearly labeled for intermediates.


There's nothing wrong with training that way if you are an advanced lifter training to compete in equipment.

There are much more efficient ways to get beginners and intermediates stronger without the wear and tear that Westside training can have on the body.

Many people have fallen into the trap of trying to train like an elite lifter when they are still a beginner. I did it myself and I know several others have said the same thing lately on this forum. Beginners and intermediates need to work more on building muscle and hammering home proper technique than they need to worry about special exercises, accommodating resistance, or pendulum waves.

A program like 5/3/1 or even something like Sheiko would be better for Alisa here...especially since she wants to lift raw.


Alisa, first off, you have great numbers for a female lifter of your age and size.

Do this- go to a meet. Pick a meet. Learn a little about the rules of performance for the lifts in that federation. It ain't rocket science and you get three tries to get it right. You've spent plenty of time preparing and whatever you have been doign has been working so far. Now you need to get your feet wet. If you've never been to meet before, I think you will be shocked at how cool and supportive everyone is.

Getting to the next level- i.e. going from soemone does a meet to someone that wins a meet usually involves getting some good training partners. Here's a clue, at most meets you'll see groups of 4 or 5 big guys with t-shirts from their gym and a couple of them are the strongest lifters in the meet. Go talk to them and tell them you want to train with them. Again, lifters are typically pretty supportive of other lifters and usaully welcome motivated, dependable training partners.

There are a lot of great programs and most of them work and work great for novice lifters in terms of getting stronger. I used a Westside approach starting out. It worked well for me becuase it put me under a tough lift every week and I could set PRs left and right. However, almost any PL training system is probably going to work for you.

Feel free to PM me if you have any more specific questions. Oh- and good luck at your first meet!


Well, she's interested in competing raw and trains at a college rec center. Those would be the two biggest problems.

A college rec center isn't likely to have things like bands, chains, boards and all those other fun little gimmicks that westside advocates using in training. And considering that she's talking about competing raw, all those things that work top end strength aren't going to be the best tools to use to build a stronger raw lifter.

About a year and a half ago, I was in the same situation the OP is in now. I went the westside route, and made little progress. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have done 5/3/1 from the beginning and probably would have spent less time in gear.

Maxing out on singles and even triples week in and week out didn't give me any sort of impressive strength gains. It just wasn't enough volume. I had all the aches, pains and bruises, but little else to show for my efforts. And don't even get me started on speed work, or the reverse hyper...

Now, before all of Louie's ball lickers flip out, I'm not saying that westside doesn't work, or that my program was flawless but still failed to yield results. Just that westside isn't the be all end all program for powerlifters. Especially a raw female powerlifter that is relatively new to the game.

Alisa, glad to see another woman on here getting into powerlifting. Good luck :slight_smile:


Is it possible to find a mentor of sorts.

I find someone to teach you and track your progress along the way is really helpful in your development as an athlete. Personally I would follow this as my next step, starting any type of sports.


While I tend to agree with you for the most part, I think you and some other posters have some misconceptions about what Westside is supposed to be. Westside doesn't require bands or chains and it isn't intended only for geared lifters. It is a template, nothing more. How you use that template depends on your goals and what equimpent is available to you.

That being said, your comments about volume, speed work (for a raw lifter) are spot on IMO. 5/3/1 (which is basically Westside, but varying ME intensity rather than varying ME exercises) seems to work well for a lot of people.

IMO the real problem with Westside at this stage is that the lifter is still capable of making rapid progress at intensities that don't require a rotation of exercises or extensively planned training cycles. As someone else said, a 5x5 program would probably also be very useful here.


westside can work for anyone weather they are squatting 100 pounds or 1000 pounds as long as you stick to the percentages outlined in the book of methods for the speed work, do GPP and recovery workouts.



How many raw squatters have ever come out of Westside?

5/3/1 is "basically Westside" in the same way that every other program split into upper and lower days is "basically Westside". The programming is nothing alike, there is no speed work, there is no 90%+ work, no rotated exercises. If you are doing 5/3/1 correctly, you should very rarely venture above 85% of your true max. The maximal effort method by its own definition is work above 90%.

Doing a main lift to some degree of strain or failure followed by easier accessory work is not "Westside"...its called "training for powerlifting".

It seems that we are arguing semantics here though, since we appear to also agree that Westside is not optimal for a raw lifter and is not for beginners or intermediates. High five!


What are your numbers?


I saw good result with dan john's 40-day program after i was a beginner. I'm not at a competetive level, but it really helped my form.