Getting Back Into Powerlifting After a Long Layoff

by Ryan Stinn

So you've taken a long break from powerlifting, and now you're ready to get back to the barbell? That's fantastic! Whether you've been sidelined by an injury, life circumstances, or just took a break, the most important thing is that you're here now, and you're ready to lift. Let's go through this step by step to make your return as smooth and effective as possible.

Phase 1: Evaluate Your Current State

Before you dive back into lifting heavy, take a moment to evaluate your current physical condition. Have you maintained a basic level of fitness during your layoff, or have you been quite inactive? Have you been dealing with any injuries? The answers to these questions will help guide your re-entry into powerlifting.

Phase 2: Start Slow

This can't be stressed enough: start slow. Your body needs time to adjust to the demands of heavy lifting again. Even if you feel like you can lift heavy, starting off with lighter weights can help prevent injuries and remind your body of correct form. Start with lighter weights and higher reps to reintroduce your body to the movements and build up a base level of strength. I also find it easier to be on a structured program rather than just winging it when I show up at the gym. At this stage a very simple weekly structure is probably enough, the weights you hit will increase quickly so trying to follow percentages can be limiting.

Phase 3: Focus on Form

This is the perfect time to re-evaluate and improve your technique. As you start with lighter weights, take the time to ensure your form is spot-on for all three lifts. You may even want to consider hiring a coach or working with a trainer to help you tweak your form. Proper form will not only improve your performance but also help prevent injuries.

Phase 4: Gradual Progression

Don't rush the process. A gradual progression will keep your body safe and give it the time it needs to adapt. Increase the weights you're lifting slowly and steadily. Don’t compare yourself to the numbers you were hitting before your time off. Be patient and you’ll get back there. Remember, the goal at this stage is to build a solid foundation.

Phase 5: Listen to Your Body

Pay close attention to how your body responds to your training. Soreness is normal when you're getting back into lifting, but sharp pain or discomfort should not be ignored. If something doesn't feel right, give your body some rest, or seek advice from a healthcare professional if needed.

Phase 6: Have Fun

Finally, remember to have fun! The joy of lifting weights and seeing progress is what powerlifting is all about. Yes, it's about getting stronger and setting new personal bests, but it's also about enjoying the journey. So take your time, enjoy your return to the barbell, and remember—every lift is progress.

Welcome back to the world of powerlifting! Take it one day at a time, be patient, and before you know it, you'll be back to crushing your PRs. Remember, the only competition is with yourself. Happy lifting!