There is an epidemic of non-goal oriented and unfocused training among aspiring athletes. Athletes spend hours upon hours of their training regiments in the weight room, trying to add a few pounds of lean muscle mass to boost performance. Starting off, these athletes might make impressive strength gains but continue on the same regiment every day and plateau. These are the guys that come into the gym 5 times a week, do the same HIIT full body circuit and lifting routine daily, and are left scratching their heads wondering why their body doesn’t change after months of “grinding”. Or even worse, they try to suddenly lift a ton of weight out of frustration and get injured. Doing the same thing over and over will not change the human body and will not improve an athlete’s performance.
Enter powerlifting. While not a mainstream sport by any means, the principles of powerlifting can help athletes looking to gain that coveted performance boost in a more methodological approach. Powerlifting as a sport tests how much an athlete can bench press, deadlift and squat. Competitive powerlifting compares the numerical total of these three basic lifts between athletes. A huge deal of lifting heavy is maintaining a good “powerlifter” form, but arguably the most important principle of how to get stronger as a powerlifter (and therefore as an athlete) lies in progressive overload.
Progressive overload is a very simple but crucial concept, laying the foundation upon which successful resistance training is built. For the human body to get stronger, it must be continuously shocked with increasingly intense stimuli over a period of time. Progressive overload is most commonly understood as lifting progressively heavier over a period of time. While it seems obvious that lifting heavier is the key to becoming stronger, increasing the amount of sets completed or even reducing rest time between sets/ lifts also similarly shocks the muscles. While factors such as increasing total volume will be important to an offensive lineman, decreasing the rest time between sets and increasing repetitions may be more beneficial for endurance athletes.
This principle of slowly but surely increasing the stimulus on an athlete’s muscles is so obvious and fundamental to powerlifting, but it’s frighteningly underused. Of course, it makes the daily gym visit all the more difficult, but incorporating a powerlifting regiment into a training schedule can break through that plateau of “unfocused” training, making workouts about reaching heavier lifts and getting stronger rather than finishing some fancy circuit.