Powerlifting and Weight Loss


Sebastian Padilla

Gotta eat big to get big…right? But what if you’re already big? 

As powerlifting becomes more and more popular the general population is looking at it for more than just strength and size. For some it’s quite the opposite; it’s about losing weight. 

Here’s the thing, like anything in life you need a plan of attack to be successful. Losing weight at its core is rather simple, eat less and move more, but to be able to execute this simple formula you need to set things in place. 

Most people think that means setting a running schedule with a heavy emphasis on steady-state aerobic work, like jogging. But what most outside the strength community don’t know is that strength training in general will lead to better fat loss than just mindlessly spinning your wheels at the gym or doing endless hours of cardio. 

How to train for Powerlifting When You’re Starting Overweight

First, how’s your mobility?

Powerlifting starts with getting an idea for your mobility. In other words, how flexible are you? Obviously, being flexible isn’t what powerlifters are known for. 

But the big 3 lifts–squat, bench, and deadlift–require more mobility than you might think. And if you’re on the bigger side, those movements may not be doable yet. 

If you’re struggling getting into proper positioning for squat, bench, and deadlift, it’s alright to start with alternatives and work your way there. For example, instead of Squats, you might get started with leg press instead. Leg press won’t suffice as a substitute for squat once you’ve gotten the hang of things, but when you’re still a beginner, it’s no big deal. 

All that matters for you at this early stage is just getting your body used to progressive overload, because that’s what powerlifting’s all about.

All you need is progressive overload

Let’s talk about strength itself for a second. That’s why you’re interested in powerlifting, right? So, where does strength come from? How does getting stronger actually work? 

To get stronger, you need to expose your muscles to progressive overload. Progressive overload is the concept of gradually putting the body under heavier and heavier loads over a prolonged period of time, usually measured in weeks or months. In terms of exercise programs, it means slowly increasing sets, reps, or both on a week-to-week basis. 

When done properly, progressive overload leads to muscle growth or hypertrophy, also known as “getting massively jacked.”

Alternatives to S/B/D

For squats I would say a belt squat would be the closest to it, followed by a goblet squat, split squats, and leg press in order of closeness to squatting. Now you’d still benefit from a lot of other accessory movements such as leg extension, leg curls, RDLs and any sort of row. By combining 3-4 of these movements with 3-4 sets each you have yourself a solid workout. The only thing needed to progress would be to slowly increase the weight week per week. 

As far as benching goes, you would most likely not need to modify much from a typical powerlifting routine of benching and upper body accessories, but if you’re new to benching you might wanna put extra emphasis on technique just like you would any new movement. 

On the other hand, deadlifts seem to be most affected by being a larger person. It’s rather simple,if you have too much mass in your midsection it is hard to get into an  optimal deadlift starting position. Unfortunately the only real way around this limitation is to lose that mass around the midsection but in the meantime other movements can help give your body the stimulus needed to grow while mimicking deadlifts as closely as possible. 

A trap bar deadlift is my go to movement for those reasons followed by barbell RDLs, dumbbell RDLs, and leg presses. Now take one of the movements above and add some of accessories mentioned earlier for squats and you get yourself a proper deadlift day. 

Pacing yourself is essential

It may feel frustrating at first not jumping straight into the deep end. For a lot of people, myself included, losing weight is just as much an emotional journey as it is a physical one. Still, you have to remain objective with yourself. 

Trust me: going from almost no activity to basically trying to work yourself to death is an extreme shock to the body. 

If you do it that way, then sooner or later you’ll crash. I guarantee it. By slowly ramping up your training, you’re setting yourself up for consistency. And consistency is key.

It’s this simple: you stay consistent to working out  3-4 times per week, push yourself adequately hard each session (but not so hard that you can’t train the next session) and eat enough protein to recover. At a certain point, these become habits that you’ll learn to accept in order to successfully shed the weight and keep it off. 

Remember to be patient and invest in yourself for the long run. Take it this weight loss journey at a sustainable pace while prioritizing your technique and consistency in the gym. 

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Alex Gaynor


Sebastian Padilla


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