Swindon Barbell had 4 entrants to this year’s British championships; Yasmina Couty in the -63k seniors, Helen Toms in the -84k Masters category, Charlie Shotton-Gale and Christie Civetta lifting in the -84k seniors.
Powerlifting involves 3 lifts; squat, bench press and deadlift.Each lifter has 3 attempts to get the highest weight lifted for each movement.The best attempt of each lift is added together to give a total, those with the biggest total win.
Yasmina preparing for her final Deadlift to secore Silver Medal overall
Yasmina was entering this competition as a practice run for some technical changes she has been making in training and ended up, unexpectedly, winning silver medal! Yas achieved a massive 5k personal best on her squat and 2.5k on her deadlift giving her the second highest total in the 63k ladies class and silver!
Helen Toms squatting 140k in the Masters 2 age category
This was Helen’s second competition in full Powerlifting equipment (which involves a lifter wearing tight clothing to remove joint weakness and give more emphasis on the muscle strength). The nerves showed a little as she missed her opening 2 squats but achieving a successful lift in the 3rd attempt gave Helen a good base to move on to bench in which she got a 5k personal best and the same for the deadlift giving her a result of 140k squat, 75k bench and 155k deadlift and silver medal in the masters 2 (50-59 years old), second to the current world silver medallist I might add!
Christie Civetta pulling 172.5k Deadlift to secure her overall Bronze Medal
Christie, who is studying her Masters at Bristol University, is originally from USA and only turned a senior this year so this competition hit her with many firsts.Nevertheless, the competitive American turned her nerves into determination and missed none of her 9 attempts achieving a 190k squat, 107.5k bench and 172.5k deadlift.Christie managed to pull her last deadlift not only to add 25k to her personal best total but also for the bronze medal!
Charlie Shotton-Gale benching 137.5k for new British Record
Charlie Shotton-Gale, who is an old hand at British championships, this being her 9th competition, was entering with a mind-set of hopefully breaking a couple of her existing British records. Never did she think she would have such a successful day as she did. Charlie hit a smooth 215k squat, adding 2.5k to her British record, she then went on to add 5k to her British Bench record, increasing it to 137.5k, and 2.5k to her deadlift record to 202.5k. This meant she increased her personal best total and thus the British record by 15k, to 555k, giving Charlie a total of 4 out of 4 British Records in the 84k female senior’s (23-39 years old) category. This was down to her achieving successful lifts on 9 out of the 9 she attempted getting only 1 red light the entire competition.
Charlie Shotton-Gale squatting 215k for a new British Record at -84k body weight
Swindon Barbell have a busy calendar in the coming months taking members to the British Masters championships, the South West Championships as well as Charlie Shotton-Gale gearing up for the European Championships in May.
Charlie Shotton-Gale, Multiple British Champion, World ranked 6
There have been a lot of programs popularised in the media from a simple linear progressive program to the 5/3/1 (8) and Eastern European programs.
If you are training for your first ever competition, or indeed if you are just entering in to a pure strength training program, you will want to keep it simple and consistent.
Focusing on the ‘big 3’, which includes the back squat, the bench press and the deadlift, is key, aswould be starting light and working on your technique before you begin to add load in the form of weight to the bar.
Developing a good technique is the most important aspect to a beginners lifting career, and this may take up most of their initial few weeks of training before they can add loads (weights) (1, 2). Working solely with a wooden or plastic technique pole developing movement patterns so that the neuromuscular system can familiarise itself has been shown to have immense amounts of benefits to novice lifters when they start to add load to their movements (1).
Keeping to a simple linear progression can be the most effective manner of allowing the body to adapt successfully when increasing load over time. This can be in the form of a 12 week structured load progression and volume (sets x reps)reduction, such as 4 weeks of 5 sets of 5 repetitions (REPS) on each exercise, separating the week in to a squat day, bench day and deadlift day. This would be reduced to 3 sets of 3 reps per exercise for 4 weeks and completed by 3 sets of 2/1 for 3 weeks.
This last 3 weeks is termed ‘tapering’ and is used when loads of near maximum are being lifted to ensure recovery is optimal for the muscles, the neuromuscular system and the central nervous system. (3, 4).
During a tapering phase, you will also start removing any auxiliary, or assistance, work you were doing to enhance the movement and ensure the body receives the recovery itneeds.
Once the tapering phase is complete, a rest period of between 2-5 days is necessary before competing. This will ensure that any small aches and pains receive time to heal, and will allow your body to regenerate in time for maximum effort (4).
Dean Bowring, GB Powerlifting, World Champion 2010
On competition day, a minimum amount of work is required to ensure the balance of muscular readiness is achieved but fatigue levels are not detrimentally increased.
Proficient coaches will ensure their athletes are warmed up thoroughly but not fatiguing, and are physiologically and psychologically ready to perform at their maximum.
Strength athletes that have been training and/or competing for at least 1 year may find they need to start altering their basic progression and begin another effective yet simple program such as the 5/3/1 (8). This program bases its progressions over 4 weeks i.e. 1 week of 3 sets of 5 reps (3×5) on each exercise, followed by 1 week of 3×3 then a week of 1 x 5/3/1. This is followed by a lighter ‘de load’ week of 3×5. The entire program is based on percentages and is easy for intermediate lifters to follow.
This program also finishes with a tapering week before competitions, as do all programs to ensure there is ample rest and recovery before you attempt to lift the maximum your body can.
Eastern European programs have become very popular for elite and long standing lifters because they consist of high volume multi lift structures that train each exercise several times a week. Such programs include Smolov (7), Sheiko (6) and the Bulgarian weightlifting program that has been adapted for powerlifting.
These programs follow an undulating progressive nature, training each exercise every trainingsession under various loads and volumes often utilising high volume low weight technique work alongside low volume high load force development before the program alters in exercises used after 3-6 weeks, depending on the program.
These programs are only recommended for those who have been regularly training and competing for over 2 years as the strain on the muscles and neuromuscular system is immense.
For lifters who have been training and/or competing for under a year focusing on simple progressive programs that develop good technique is the most recommended protocol. Once a lifter has developed their techniques and ability, moving on to a still simple but more varied program can enhance the progress the lifters achieve in their competition weights.
Finally, for very experienced lifters it is recommended that high volume varied lifting programs are adopted, such as the Eastern European powerlifting programs (6, 7.) or Western European programs such as the Norweigan Powerlifting Program and Synthesised Training System.
If you would like to download this article, please click on the link below:
Pyne, D., Mujika, I. & Reilly, T. (2009).Peaking for optimal performance: Research limitations and future directions. Journal of Sports Sciences.Volume 27, Issue 3, 2009, pages 195- 202. DOI: 10.1080/02640410802509136
The squat exercise has been used by Sports professionals and leisurely athletes for decades and has been shown to be a very effective mechanism for developing muscle strength, size and tone. But why should you do it? What if you have a bad back, knees or ankles, should you still attempt to squat? What type of squat should you do?
This short article should help to answer some of those questions.
What is The Squat?
The squat is where a person bends their knees and hips to lower their upper body without bending over – as seen in the video.
You can squat with no weight at all (Body Weight), with a barbell (Barbell Squat), or with weights in your hands such as Kettlebell or Dumbbell squat’s.
The Squat strengthens leg and buttock (Caterisano et al., 2002. Schoenfeld, 2010) muscles and can enhance knee stability and in healthy individuals. This means that the Squat exercise is using all your leg and bum muscles to work, making them stronger with better tone and shape. It also means that if you have healthy knees, keeping your squats to a depth of parallel (which is where the hips are lowered to equal height of the knee), the pressure through the knees shouldn’t cause any damage (Escamilla, 2001. Fry, Smith, & Schilling, 2003).
But what if you have had a knee injury? Esamilla (2001) shows that squatting to a knee rang of 50 degree bend can still help to develop the leg muscles without putting pressure on the knee.
This could be a simple act of sitting on a dinning room chair and standing up again, repeatedly over a number of weeks until you are comfortable with the movement through your knees.
How can I learn how to Squat?
The best way to learn to squat is:
Hire a professional to teach you
Watch the videos on this post over and over again, film yourself over and over again until you are happy what you are doing is what you are seeing here!
The second option, granted, is slightly more risky then the first however it is cheaper and you might get a terrible professional who teaches you wrong anyway!
If you are going to learn how to squat make sure you follow these rules:
if you do hire a professional, make sure you get them to show you how they squat and make sure it is like a video you see here.
If you are going to learn alone, don’t just be the only one watching you, get others to watch the videos here and watch you to compare.
What about my back? Isn’t squatting bad for a back?
If you have never squatted before, or are still learning, read this section carefully.
A Rounded back will incur greatest amount of pressure on the lower back due to smaller amounts of back muscles being recruited (Holmes, Damaser, & Lehman, 1992, (Delitto, Rose, & Apts, 1987). This means that if you do not keep your back muscle ‘tight’ and ‘engaged’ they will not help with the movement, which will cause your back to ‘round’ and increase the amount of forces being sent through your spinal column. The great news is this is easily fixed and once corrected prevents almost all lower back pressure when squatting for healthy individuals.
A Narrow stance will increase lower back strain due to pelvic movement at deep squats (Chiu, Comfort). You can see in the picture someone doing a narrow stance (feet hip width apart) and a wide stance (feet wider then hip width). The narrow stance will increase the strain on the lower back when squatting because the structure of the pelvis is that if the thigh bones are closer together the pelvis struggles to stay still and so has to move backwards, causing strain on the entire lower back.
However, if the feet are wider and the toes are pointing outwards (like your hands when you were taught to drive, at ’10 and 2’) then they thigh bones don’t get in the way of the pelvis allowing it to stay in a neutral alignment with the spine whilst still developing the leg muscles, regardless of stance (Swinton, Chiu, Comfort, Acaw, signorile).
The distribution of forces through the knee and hip depend on how far the knees travel in front of the toes during squat. Knees forward means there are more forces going through the knee (weightlifting style squat). However, if the knees stay still and hips move back this means more hip and lower back forces are experienced (powerlifting style squat). (Fry, Smith, & Schilling, 2003).
Wretenberg, Feng, & Arborelius (1996) demonstrated this difference by studying weightlifting style ‘high bar’ vs powerlifting style ‘low bar’ squat and showed the the powerlifting squat put more emphasis on the hips, whereas weightlifters had a load distribution that was more even between the hip and knees.
The Squat can also enhance ankle strength, however if you see the knees collapsing together whilst squatting it could be due to poor ankle flexibility (Shaub). This can be remedied by sitting back in squat (powerlifting style squat) which can also activate the bum muscles (Gluteals) more and reduce need for ankle flexibility by keeping lower leg upright. (Chiu, 2009).
What is the difference between weightlifting and powerlifting squats?
Here is a video, I’m not that great at weightlifting squats however the bar is higher on my shoulders and my body is more upright at the bottom of the squat. The powerlifting squat means the bar is lower on my back and I lean forward more.
Notice that my spine stays straight throughout and my hips move only minimally.
What sort of squats are there?
2 Foot Squats (Bilateral)
Weightlifting ‘high bar squat’
Powerlifting ‘low bar’ Squat
Single leg squats (Unilateral)
Bulgarian Squats/ Rear Foot Elevated Squats
Caterisano, A., Moss, R. E., Pellinger, T. K., Woodruff, K., Lewis, V. C., Booth, W., & Khadra, T. (2002). The Effect of Back Squat Depth on the EMG Activity of 4 Superficial Hip and Thigh Muscles. Journal of Strength, 16(3), 428–432.
Chiu, L. Z. F. (2009). Sitting Back in the Squat. Journal, 31(6), 25–27. doi:10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181bb397c
Comfort, P. Ms., & Kasim, P. (2007). Optimizing Squat Technique. Journal, 29(6), 10–13.
Delitto, R. S., Rose, S. J., & Apts, D. W. (1987). Electromyographic Analysis of Two Techniques for Squat Lifting. Physical Therapy, 67(9), 1329–1334.
Escamilla, R. F. (2001). Knee biomechanics of the dynamic squat exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33(1), 127–141.
Fry, A. C., Smith, J. C., & Schilling, B. K. (2003). Effect of Knee Position on Hip and Knee Torques During the Barbell Squat. Journal of Strength, 17(4), 629–633.
Full Text PDF. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://graphics.tx.ovid.com/ovftpdfs/FPDDNCOBMFHECC00/fs041/ovft/live/gv012/00005768/00005768-200101000-00020.pdf
Holmes, J. A. M., Damaser, M. S. B., & Lehman, S. L. (1992). Erector Spinae Activation and Movement Dynamics About the Lumbar Spine in Lordotic and Kyphotic Squat-Lifting. Spine, 17(3), 327–334.
McCAW, S. T., & Melrose, D. R. (1999). Stance width and bar load effects on leg muscle activity during the parallel squat. [Miscellaneous Article]. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 31(3), 428–436.
Schaub, P. A., & Worrell, T. W. (1995). EMG activity of six muscles and VMO: VL ratio determination during a maximal squat exercise. J Sport Rehabil, 4, 195-202.)
Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). Squatting Kinematics and Kinetics and Their Application to Exercise Performance: Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(12), 3497–3506. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bac2d7
Signorile, J. F., Kwiatkowski, K., Caruso, J. F., & Robertson, B. (1995). Effect of Foot Position on the Electromyographical Activity of the Superficial Quadriceps Muscles During the Parallel Squat and Knee Extension. Journal of Strength, 9(3), 182–187.
Swinton, P. A., Lloyd, R., Keogh, J. W. L., Agouris, I., & Stewart, A. D. (2012). A Biomechanical Comparison of the Traditional Squat, Powerlifting Squat, and Box Squat. Journal of Strength, 26(7), 1805–1816. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182577067
Wretenberg, P., Feng, Y., & Arborelius, U. P. (1996). High- and low-bar squatting techniques during weight-training: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 28(2), 218–224. doi:10.1097/00005768-199602000-00010
SG Fitness hosted an introductory seminar on the Deadlift at Battleground Fitness UK. For those that attended please see reminder notes below to enhance your learning.
For those that did not attend, have a read and make sure you are there next time to make sure you get the best out of your lifting.
What you wanted to focus on:
Technique/Types of Deadlift
We covered various deadlift techniques from conventional, sumo and olympic style first pull deadlift.
Olympic Weightlifter completing his First Pull Deadlift
Charlie Shotton-Gale half way through a 1RM attempt in a conventional style Deadlift
Pat Constantine completing his Sumo Deadlift
Types of grip
We discussed the double over hand and alternating grip.
Double overhead is usually used for olympic lifting such as cleans and snatches as they require to catch the bar after the pull, the grip used is usually referred to as ‘Hook Grip’. Whereas higher weight powerlifting style deadlifts tend to use alternating grips that are stronger.
If you are not training for a Powerlifting or Weightlifting competition it is advised to use straps if you experience grip issues.
We discussed a routine of
An example of a warm up routine that will ensure you are ready to perform you maximum weight of that day.
What issues you have experienced:
How to remove lower back pain
If you are experiencing lower back pain it is likely due to one of 2 issues:
you are rounding your back during the lift and so putting pressure on the lower back in a flexed position
you are leaning too far forward during the lift and so using the hamstrings and back too much rather then utilising the front and core as well.
Belts are highly recommended to use when training for high strength deadlifts. This is because of the intra-abdominal pressure that supports the lumbar section of the spine to enhance the stability of the upper body. An explanatory paper by Dr Frankel covered the research on using a belt whilst weight training.
What did you want to achieve:
Bigger 1 rep max – how to achieve this
By altering techniques throughout the seminar there were 6 personal best’s achieved
A display of each person increase on Personal Best lift.
We discussed endurance based deadlift as some participants are entering the ‘Super Human’ contest in which they will be continually deadlifting as a team for 20 minutes.
Recommended to adjust foot stance and hand position during training before they find a technique that is most suited to their body and posture that will reduce back pain and ensure leg movements are used for deadlift above back pulling.
If you would like more information please see Swindon Barbell, British Powerlifting or contact us.
This article will look at:
Classic and Equipped Powerlifting in the UK
What federations are out there for you in the UK
Which federations are best for able body and Paralympic powerlifting.
Where to find out more information
What is Powerlifting
Powerlifting is a pure strength based sport that tests leg strength using the squat, the upper body strength using the bench press and the back using the deadlift.
The video here shows the structure of a competition – 3 attempts on the squat, 3 on the bench and 3 on the deadlift. the best (highest) weight from each lift are added together to give a total.
The person with the highest total wins.
Powerlifting has 3 subcultures – equipped, unequipped (Classic) powerlifting and bench press only.
The video shows an equipped lifter competing which includes wearing squat and deadlift suits, knee wraps and a bench shirt.
Dean Bowering (former IPF champion and multiple British Powerlifting Champion and record holder) deadlifting in a deadlift suit, belt, deadlift socks and deadlift slippers.
Bulgarian lifter preparing to bench press wearing a Bench shirt.
Charlie Shotton-Gale, multiple British Powerlifting champion and record holder, squatting wearing a Squat suit and Knee Wraps.
Powerlifting equipment started increasing in development at the end of 1980’s and beginning of the 1990’s. It is a very different style of lifting to unequipped (Classic or Raw) lifting because the lifter has to not only be able to lift the weight, they have to be able to contend with the tightness of the equipment as well as the limited breathing and increased amount of pain.
Unequipped or Classic powerlifting is more akin to gym lifting in which you are allowed to wear knee and elbow sleeves along with wrist straps and a weightlifting belt.
Stephen Manuel, multiple British Powerlifting champion and IPF World Silver medallist and squat record holder, celebrating in Classic powerlifting approved SBD knee sleeves, wrist straps and singlet.
There are many different federations within the UK and the are separated in to drug tested and untested federations.
Which Federation is for you?
The largest and most populated of tested federations is British Powerlifting, which is affiliated to the oldest powerlifting federation the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and adheres to the World Anti Doping Association (WADA).
This caters for Classic and Equipped, Full 3 lifter Powerlifting and Bench press only. This does not have a separate Paralympic section (as of Feb 2018) however all abilities are welcome to compete.
British Drug Free Powerlifting Association (BDFPA) is an alternative which is affiliated to the World Drug Free Powerlifting Association (WDFPA) and is the only federation recognised by the British Services such as Army, RAF and Police at this present moment.
This caters for Classic and Equipped, Full 3 lifter Powerlifting and Bench press only.
There are many untested federations within the UK including British Powerlifting Congress (BPC) and British Powerlifting Union (BPU) or Federation (BPF).
If you are looking for natural or tested federations please check with the federation you competing in or are thinking of joining.
If you are thinking of competing in the British Powerlifting the pathway of competing follows
You do not have be a federation member and the cost of competing is generally 50% of that of federation competitions. You also do not have to wear competition standard attire such as singlets.
This is based on the area you live and Swindon is included in the South West (SWPLA). Everyone can enter no matter your experience or ability, however it is required that you are a British Powerlifting member, be wearing competition attire and cost on entry will be full price (usually £25).
Depending on weather you are equipped or classic will depend on when your competition is in the year. Classic powerlifting has become very popular since the IPF introduced the Classic World Championships in 2012 and so national championships have separated from equipped nationals, with a further separation of men and women’s championships due to high numbers.
To enter nationals you will need to:
Achieve the qualifying total for your category of lifting (equipped or unequipped), age, weight and gender category.
Achieve this within the last 12 months at a regional level and be active within your region. (Please see qualifying procedures)
Be a member of British Powerlifting
Send in entry form including price of entry.
Wear competition attire.
To be able to compete internationally you be will required to:
Have either won or achieve silver medal status at your national championships
Attend the relevant Squad sessions that you would have been invited to
Received an official invite from the British Powerlfiting confirming your position on the squad
Be able to self fund the trip. British Powerlifting will partially fund aspects of the trip, but as of 2018 the cost of the trip falls entirely on the athlete and/or their sponsors.
This is where it can get a bit confusing because, for Paralympic Powerlifting, they come under British Weightlifting. Weightlifting is not Powerlifting, it is the Olympic sport of the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch. However, as it is an Olympic Sport, Paralympic Powerlifting runs within the British Weightlifting banner under the governance of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) but more information can be found on the World Para Powerlifting website.
Help for Heroes Paralympic Powerlifting
Help for Heroes have joined forces with British Weightlifting (BWL) to enable injured vets to use Powerlifting as a pathway to recovery.
This has been taken in to the Invictus Games where a selected few athletes can go and compete in a multi-sport, recovery based competition.
Once these athletes have completed their recovery journey through H4H, they have 2 options in Powerlifting – to access one of the able bodied federations to compete in Bench only (or 3 lift if their abilities suit) or to compete under BWL heading toward World Para Powerlifting.
In October, 2014, I met with novice Powerlifter Rachael Armstrong.
She wanted to improve her strength to compete in the British Drug Free Powerlifting Association (BDFPA), reduce her body weight to compete at the 70k weight category and improve her power and cardiovascular fitness to continue with her CrossFit.
I started Rachael on an online support program, which involved developing programs, nutrition support and weekly catch up’s via Chat or Skype regarding her development.
I wanted to include as much weightlifting derivatives that would compliment her Powerlifting technique and improve her power development (Garhammer, 1981, Kawamori & Haff, 2004).
“Naively when I first started the programme I was a bit unsettled that I wouldn’t be testing 1RM for a few weeks as before I’d always had at least 1 ‘man test,’ sessions a week at the gym. I really liked the inclusion of Olympic lifts in the programme and they’ve really helped with my explosive power (my max box jump used to be 30″ and now it’s 36”).” Rachael discusses her training with SGF.
Throughout the following 12 weeks we worked together to develop her program, which was based on an undulating (Rhea, Ball, Phillips, & Burkett, 2002), and to ensure it complimented her lifestyle as she had been posted to overseas with the RAF and was limited to the foods she could eat and exercises she could choose. Rachael also suffered with a small wrist injury after a minor incident with a power clean which had to be taken in to account.
Regardless she trained very hard and completed everything that was given to her and more so as she kept up with her CrossFit alongside her Powerlifting training.
Rachael competed at the BDFPA Welsh Powerlifting Championships on January 28th 2015 achieving +7.5k on her squat with a 107.5k, increasing her bench by 2.5k to 62.5k and adding a massive 15k to her deadlift with a final lift of 155k.
“I was absolutely petrified the night before the comp and kept on going over the warm up routines you’d given me. Was slightly put at ease after I’d got into my weight cat with .4kg to spare. After talking through with my trainer, Charlie Shotton-Gale, the Monday before, I decided to not go all out on the squat and save myself for the deadlift.”
This competition was also in the 70k body weight category which is a lower body weight then her previous competition, which means Rachael lost 6k in bodyweight whilst still increasing her individual lifts by a total of 25k.
Rachael completed the competition by winning her weight category and taking the welsh records, an excellent result and a very happy lifter, as well as coach!
“One of the best things Charlie told me was to take your time on the set up, that’s improved my squat no end”
Rachael is in maintenance training at present preparing for the Single Lift Championships in February 25th 2015 in which she is aiming to break all the previous personal best’s.
Garhammer, J. (1981). Strength Training Modes: Free Weight Equipment for the Development of Athletic strength and power-Part I. Journal, 3(6), 24–26.
Kawamori, N., & Haff, G. G. (2004). THE OPTIMAL TRAINING LOAD FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF MUSCULAR POWER. [Review]. Journal of Strength, 18(3), 675–684.
Rhea, M. R., Ball, S. D., Phillips, W. T., & Burkett, L. N. (2002). A Comparison of Linear and Daily Undulating Periodized Programs with Equated Volume and Intensity for Strength. Journal of Strength, 16(2), 250–255.