You don’t have to lift extremely heavy weights to get benefits out of strength training. If you want to start looking like a body builder, though, power lifting is a must. This is the practice of lifting weights heavy enough to put you at failure within four to six repetitions. It’s not for everybody, and those who try it need to take extra care to avoid injury.
Learn Proper Technique
If you do a light lift with poor technique, you risk not getting the best results. When power lifting with bad technique, tiny mistakes in your form can put immense pressure on your joints and major muscles, and you risk getting badly injured.
People new to weightlifting should avoid power lifting for the first year of training to accustom their muscles to the workout and learn the basics of training with weights. Even if you’re an experienced lifter, it’s a good idea to consult with a personal trainer before taking on a power lifting regime. These professionals will help you spot small errors in your form and show you how best to correct them.
Use a Spotter
Power lifting involves putting heavy metal objects above some of the most important parts of your anatomy. Although you might perform a thousand lifts without an issue, something going badly wrong just once can mean serious injury or even death.
A spotter takes position and watches you lift, standing ready to help you hold up the weight if you start having trouble. She can also help you correct your form, or add a little upward pressure while you’re failing on your last reps. Each lift has its own best practices for spotting, which you can learn during the same personal training sessions you used to learn proper lifting form.
Some gyms have self-spotting equipment, like squat cages, that take care of this part of lifting safety without requiring a partner. As with all other aspects of power lifting, you need to learn how to use this gear. Even when it is available, you should lift with a partner whenever possible.
Understand the Safety Equipment
Power lifting challenges the largest muscles of your body, such as your quads, glutes and pectorals. As you become capable of lifting truly heavy weights, it can be rough on the joints and smaller muscles. To help alleviate this stress, you can use a variety of straps, belts and support garments.
Learn how to use any safety equipment you consider using. Worn correctly, they can help you develop to a new level while protecting the weakest parts of your anatomy. Worn wrong, they do nothing — and can even increase your chances of injury. You should check with your doctor before using any safety equipment in your workout, as the pain that indicates you might want the gear could also be a symptom of a more serious problem. For example, a twinge in your knee that a brace can alleviate could be the beginning of a meniscal tear that leg lifts — even with the brace — will only make worse.
Quit Early and Often
Power lifting will “burn,” often more than other lifting workouts you’ve tried. However, if it hurts you should discontinue the workout immediately. When using lighter weights, it’s reasonable to push through a minor ding, but the weights involved with power lifting can escalate those small problems into serious injuries.
The same goes for your power lifting regimen in general. If going above a certain weight causes acute pain, or pain that lasts for days afterward, reduce the weight and increase your reps. Be patient with your progress and focus on good form.