the joy of strength training


April 21st, 2009 at 1:33 pm

National powerlifting championships: where next?

I’ve just come back from competing at the BDFPA British Unequipped Powerlifting Championships 2009 this weekend. I didn’t set the world of powerlifting alight but my final results are probably a fair reflection of where I am at the moment.

Squat: 100kg
Bench: 60kg
Deadlift: 130kg
Total: 290kg
Bodyweight: 63.4kg

There were some very impressive female lifters at the meet who have inspired me to work hard and improve over the next year. My deadlift in particular is lagging behind the top lifters at my bodyweight, so already there is a point of focus.

However the point of this post is that just as I was contemplating where to go next after this event, how on earth I am going to improve where I need to and so on – I came across this post from Catherine Imes, Master of Sport in kettlebells.

What she has to say about training is relevant to most sports, particularly strength sports. She talks about her decision to focus on technique (bear in mind that this is somebody who is already a Master of Sport so her technique must already be pretty good!) over conditioning and the importance of seeing the big picture.

…my focus has been on technical improvements and refinements. Those refinements have boosted my confidence in terms what I can do on a given day under less than ideal conditions. There is a big picture; and I’m starting to see it. My ultimate goal is to move the 20kg like I do the 16kg. To do that, I must be near perfect with my technique or as perfect as I can be.

What caught my eye here was “what I can do on a given day under less than ideal conditions”. When you compete you learn that you will not always be in the best shape on the day of competition. You try to be, but so many things have to be exactly right for that to happen.

I wasn’t at my best for the powerlifting championships this weekend and I spoke to many other people who weren’t. But that isn’t an excuse and can’t be if you have ambitions in the sport. As Imes points out, once you develop the technique, it’s yours regardless of how good or strong you feel on any given day.

I think conditioning is much easier to build and takes less time than skills and once you solidly develop skills….you own them. Everyone that asked my advice is more than fit. So, now it’s just a matter of stepping back, evaluating technique and taking the necessary steps to improve it. Initially, your numbers in practice may go down, but over the long term, they will climb significantly and your ability to handle heavier bells and longer durations will grow.

So I’ve decided to take Catherine Imes’ advice – which she freely admits is not unique, but is always worth repeating! – to focus less on numbers and more on technique, and to see the bigger picture. When I think about how much I have to lift to beat the top girls in my class, it seems daunting. But that’s because I’m only thinking about it in terms of strength. However with better technique the whole paradigm could shift.

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  • 1

    >20kg up on your prev total 😮
    Great work Sal.


    Alex B on April 21st, 2009
  • 2

    Holy cow – those are great numbers. Relative to your BW you could out lift me in all three disciplines (not that I’m powerlifter but… 🙂
    Interesting words of wisdom from Catherine ! Thanks for sharing.
    I recently found that I’m going down with all my attempts in DL. My PR is 160 now I could lift 130-140 but not more, so may be I’ll check the technique (again…) and pracise it more often than once/twice a month (as per default CF HQ programming 🙂
    Good work !

    Petr R. on April 22nd, 2009
  • 3

    Thanks guys. It’s good to have got it done and understand where I want to go next.

    Incidentally I saw on another forum that someone asked Andy Bolton ‘what next?’ for him after he broke his world record deadlift for the second time (it’s now 1008lbs!). He replied ‘break it again and again and again’. Now there’s motivation!

    @ Petr: I certainly think that more frequent practise could help.

    gubernatrix on April 22nd, 2009
  • 4

    That’s good advice – and something that I have trouble following myself.

    I often find it’s necessary to take a step back and focus on practice and improving, not performing when I train. It’s also really difficult for me mentally/emotionally – I want to push all the time, even though I know it’s not the best approach.

    Chris - on April 22nd, 2009
  • 5

    Very much agree Chris! I certainly recognise the desire to push hard all the time.

    gubernatrix on April 22nd, 2009
  • 6

    I have a competition this weekend where i hope i will lift very much the same as you have here. This competition is my second – my first was in April last year after only 2 months of powerlifting and wasnt very inspiring (bw 60kg – s 70 b 42.5 dl 117.5). It has taken a year of very very hard work to improve and I find bench in particular very slow progress, but powerlifting is addictive and so so rewarding. It’s disappointing that there are so few women involved in the sport so its a joy to find your site. Keep up the good work!

    chellenka on April 24th, 2009
  • 7

    @ chellenka: Best of luck for the comp – let us know how you get on! Are you UK based or from elsewhere?

    gubernatrix on April 24th, 2009


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