Power Lifting: Do the risks outweigh the benefits?


Powerlifting has gained monumental popularity over the past couple years for not only competitive powerlifters and bodybuilders, but in the general population as well. The rise in popularity for bodybuilders began in the mid 1960’s. Today, through the use of technology, powerlifting videos and instruction can be viewed by anyone.

Powerlifting is a form of resistance training that involves the barbell squat, barbell deadlift, and the barbell bench press. Powerlifting is a great form of resistance training that can cause muscle hyperthrophy (muscle growth) and build strength. The beneficial movements done in powerlifting are multi-joint movements that use multiple muscle groups to successfully accomplish the lift. The squat and deadlift are great ways to load the spine, attributing towards increasing core strength and building bone density.

Unfortunately, powerlifting movements require proper technique and form, and at heavy loads can be a cause of high injury rates. If one does not perform the lift with correct form, then a high amount of risk is presented. For example, due to compressive forces on the spine, the barbell squat and barbell deadlift will prove to be too difficult to perform for someone with any back pain, core weakness or lower body weakness. A person with a history of rotator cuff injuries should be aware of the potential injuries presented in the barbell bench press due to its prominent stress on the shoulder. Those who have such limitations should work on progressing their strength until a safe movement can be assumed. Anyone who lacks motor control would also be at risk when preforming powerlifting movements, as multi-joint movements take a high amount of coordination.

Overall, weightlifting can be a great form of exercise, but know your limitations and slowly progress into powerlifting. Since form is vital, it is recommended to get the help of a trained professional in order to make sure that you are doing the lifts correctly and progression is appropriate. Many things should be taken into account before performing any powerlifting movement to minimize risk. If powerlifting is something you would like to add into your workout routine, working with a fitness professional is the first step. A personal trainer can teach the proper mechanics before adding substantial weight, minimizing injury risk. When selecting a personal trainer, find someone who is nationally certified and is preferably a specialized strength and conditioning coach.

Baechle, T. (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

About the Author:
Matt Aita graduated from Chico State University with his bachelors in Exercise Physiology and will be a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through NSCA – CSCS in September. He is currently working as a Physical Therapy Aide for BaySport. Matt believes that fitness should be treated as a lifelong journey that is modifiable to meet individual goals.

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