10 Essential Exercises for Powerlifting

10 Essential Exercises for Powerlifting

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The strict curl is the fourth event in some powerlifting federations.

The sport of powerlifting involves three lifts: the squat, bench press and deadlift. Powerlifters spend the majority of their time training with these exercises but also include a variety of supplemental or assistance exercises to improve their performance of the main lifts -- commonly referred to as the big three. For each of the big three, there are several very important assistance exercises.

Supersize Your Squat

The first competitive lift in a powerlifting competition is the squat. Squats are primarily a leg exercise, although your lower and upper back must also work hard to support the barbell. Essential assistance exercises for the squat include good mornings, box squats and leg presses. To perform good mornings, rest and hold a barbell across your shoulders and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly, push your hips back and lean forward as far as you can without rounding your lower back. Stand back up and repeat.

Bulk Up Your Bench Press

The bench press tests upper-body pushing strength and specifically targets the chest, shoulder and triceps muscles. Essential assistance exercises target these areas of the body or address the upper back -- a strong upper back being essential for shoulder health and muscular balance. Three very common bench press assistance exercises are weighted dips, face pulls and paused bench presses. A paused bench press is performed like a regular bench press except you hold the bar at chest height for a couple of seconds before pressing it back up to arms' length. This simulates the conditions of a powerlifting competition and also means you have to start your lift from a dead-stop, which is much more challenging.

Dominate the Deadlift

The deadlift requires a strong back, powerful glutes and hamstrings and a vice-like grip, so essential accessory exercises should address one or more of these. Farmer's walks, barbell hip thrusts and rack pulls will all help you increase the weight you can deadlift. To perform rack pulls, set a bar in a power rack or on blocks at around knee-height. The reduced range of movement will mean you can lift a heavier weight so load the bar with slightly more than you can deadlift from the floor. This will expose your forearms, hips and back to supramaximal loads which will make you stronger.

EZ Not Easy

In addition to the squat, bench press and deadlift, some powerlifting federations also contest the strict biceps curl using an EZ or cambered bar. If you want to get better at this exercise, you should include EZ curls in your workout. As the rules of the strict biceps curl preclude you from swinging the weight up using your legs or back, perform this exercise while leaning against a wall -- the same way it is performed in competition.