Posted by Ellie Hearn in Muscle Building
Estimated reading time: 9mins
Copywriter by day powerlifter by night, I’m Ellie and I’m the copywriter here at Bulk Nutrients. If you told me five years ago I’d be competing in powerlifting I never would have believed you.
Because five years ago I had only just joined my first gym and before that was never really interested in the sport. Now? You can find me at the gym at least four times a week, it’s been quite the turnaround!
Clocking into the gym after a long day in the office is very therapeutic for me, it takes my mind off the day’s events and helps me relax.
Not to mention, there’s something so empowering about lifting weights and feeling strong. It’s motivating and gives me the confidence I have sometimes lacked. However, there’s a difference between getting after it at the gym and actually competing.
So why did I decide to do it?
“I’ll give it a shot”.
That’s what I said to my powerlifting husband when he mentioned an upcoming local comp. As blasé as I make it sound, I am seriously nervous.
I’m usually the cheerleader supporting my hubby from the sidelines of his powerlifting comps, and I get nervous enough watching him!
I’ve never been the competitive kind of person so I’m going into this wanting to try something new and challenging and have a whole lot of fun.
As they say, nothing good grows in comfort zones, so here I am preparing to compete in powerlifting.
First, let’s talk about what exactly it is.
Powerlifting is a competitive strength sport that combines the three ‘powerlifts’; the squat, bench press and mighty deadlift. In competition, you have three attempts at each lift to achieve the highest weight possible.
The roots of these three lift sport date back as far as Greek and Roman times, but women weren’t really involved until the 1980’s when the first-ever women’s world championship was held.
Today women are an integral part of powerlifting across the world. Over the past few years, numbers of female powerlifters have doubled making rise to women’s only events and brands like Girls Who Powerlift which started as an Instagram account (and now has more than 132,000 followers!).
In powerlifting, there’s plenty of hype, funky socks, chalk and sour worms and it looks like a whole lot of fun.
So what have I changed over the past weeks and months to prepare me for my comp? First, let’s talk training…
Bye-bye 8 week booty bonanza challenges and hello hardcore strength training!
Training, of course, is the most crucial component of preparing for a powerlifting meet. Although I have always primarily done strength training sessions, I certainly had to switch the gears to build strength.
What’s this mean? No cardio. (woohoo!) I mean you won’t catch me running on a good day but there is no space for HIIT workouts or treadmill sprints leading up to a meet, only strength-focused programs where the weight has gotten consistently heavier.
This all began several months ago when one of my favourite female fitness influencers released a new program designed to build strength called Uplifted, and I wanted in!
Programmed by Meg Squats, Uplifted had me training all three of the main lifts on a specific training day each, usually with an additional bench press session and sometimes with an overhead press day and let me tell you it was pretty tough!
Uplifted and many other powerlifting/strength programs operate on the well known RPE scale, the rating of perceived exertion.
Basically, RPE is a measure of strength used to self-regulate training intensity. In layman’s terms, how heavy did that set feel on that day at that time? And going off that, how many more reps could you do?
For example, a set at RPE 7 should feel like you had around 3 more reps in the tank. RPE 9? you could possibly grind one more rep.
Once I got my head around this and started making my way through the program, the numbers grew on the bar and so did my excitement, suddenly I was hooked.
Side note: If you’re looking for inspirational, strong women to follow on social media you can’t go past Meg Squats. She’s funny, she’s real and she’s damn strong.
After finishing Uplifted, I moved onto a five-week powerlifting program from Matt at Raw Strength Tasmania designed to help me ‘peak’ for the meet.
Peaking is essentially increasing the volume (how much you do) and intensity (how heavy it is) before backing off the volume while keeping the intensity high.
As I was so used to training at higher volume, I needed to practice single reps and work on hammering down technique and this program had been awesome for that. Let’s break it down a little…
I have four training days programmed, one session for each lift (squat, bench and deadlift) as well as a ‘skill session’ to finish the week off.
Each day follows the same pattern. I work up to a top single then move onto volume or working sets at a slightly lighter weight before tackling some accessory movements to compliment that particular lift. For example, my bench day isn’t ‘chest day’ but incorporates accessories that support that lift such as back or arm work.
My skill day follows the same pattern again warming up to top singles but combines all three lifts with extra bench volume for practice. I’ve never been so sweaty all my life! Thank goodness for plenty of rest and intra workout carbs.
The best thing about training so hard is food, hello carbs it’s nice to see you!
When it comes to diet, I have done it all. From intermittent fasting to low-calorie transformation challenge meal plans such as Ashy Bines Booty Challenge.
But short-term fads weren’t getting me anywhere, I was looking for something long term that would support performance and would help me slowly drop body fat over time. So, see ya later fad diets because I found RP!
Renaissance Periodization (RP) is a nutrition concept developed by trainer Nick Shaw, a competitive powerlifter, bodybuilder, and coach. It’s a long term meal plan designed to fuel performance as well as meet bigger goals like muscle mass or fat loss. Programmed to fit into training and non-training days RP times carbohydrates around training to enhance performance and recovery.
Right now I’m eating hot oats for brekky.
The verdict? I love it. I need a plan when it comes to diet and this gives me the structure I need to stay on track with flexibility in foods. I also need to not go insane. I get to eat plenty of delicious, real food.
Here’s what I’m usually eating right now on a training day…
Some days I’ll opt for apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon over rice and some days rice cakes and jam are my choices of carbs, I change it up as I feel.
Now to supplements! As I work here at Bulk Nutrients I am very familiar with supps. Here’s what I am using during this prep (and every other day too!).
There you have it, all the details on how my training and nutrition have changed leading up to my comp. Stay tuned for the second instalment of this blog series where I talk about technique, rules and gear and comp day prep.