Powerlifting 1. How I became a powerlifter

David Penney Manchester UK

At the tender age of 48-years-young I have decided to enter the realm of powerlifting. In these blog posts you will be able to follow my progress and maybe it will even encourage some others to take up this sport. I am writing this post after only the second day of 'serious' training, so it would help if I provided a little background as to how I got here.

Two years ago I was extremely overweight ... obese ... I have no idea how much I weighed, but would guess it was close to 20 stone (127 kg). I did not weigh myself, but you will get some idea of how big I was by the trousers I was wearing, kindly modeled here by my friend Heather.

...and this was me at Christmas 2013 (I was wearing these trousers at the time)

I had resigned myself (rather negatively) to the fact that this was what middle age was all about and there was no getting back into a decent shape. I used to do some martial arts when I was younger but a rather unpleasant injury meant I had to stop and I never got back into it. I had never entertained the idea of joining a gym. I did not make a conscious decision to get back in shape, it just kind of happened. I used to take my 6-year-old daughter boxing every Wednesday. She trained in a very diverse gym, with a martial arts area, weights area, cardio machines and strength and conditioning facilities. This gym, called Full Contact Performance Centre, Rochdale, UK also happened to be right next door to where I was working. One day I just decided to give it a try, this was in May 2014 (5 months after the above photo and 7 months before the next photo). I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but the friendly staff explained the machines to me. I started doing just cardio, gradually increasing the time spent on the various rowing machines and treadmills. I stopped eating crap ... in fact, I ate very little ... and in no time at all I was losing lots of weight. Furthermore, I found I was enjoying my early morning pre-work work-outs, despite the fact it was making me very tired!

...so this is what I looked like after 7 months in the gym (Christmas 2014). I was even the proud recipient of the FCPC Butterfly Award for most impressive transformation that year at the gym's annual Christmas party!

As a scientist, I found myself doing an increasing amount of research about what I was doing and tweaked things here and there to optimize my sessions. I used to watch people lifting weights whilst I was doing my cardio and it looked cool ... so I started researching that too. I read books, checked out stuff online ... but I found that one of the best sources of advice was from other people in the gym who knew what they were talking about ... but that is not to say that everyone who gave me advice knew what they were talking about! After a while it became easy for me to work out who was reliable and who wasn't.

It was not long before I had stopped cardio completely and I was concentrating on light weights, using a program of progressive overload whereby I was gradually upping the weights week by week. I was also eating better and making sure I got enough sleep. I was on a roll and after only 12 months of training I was down to about 13 stone (82 kg) and had a wicked 6-pack developing! I was no longer feeling tired after my workouts ... in fact, my energy levels were significantly increased!

At this point, I decided to change track and focused more on body-building using isolation techniques, with progressive overload and upped my calories to around 3,500 per day. The idea was to bulk up. This I did and then I started cutting back to see where I was up to. I had also started to include bigger lifts in my workouts, such as the deadlift and squat, though I was not doing these to competition standard as I was using a trap bar and a safety squat bar. Nonetheless, I was starting to lift some heavy poundage. For example deadlifting 145 kg for four sets of six reps (I will post a video of this later) and squatting 110 kg.

So, the plan was to cut and then get back on with bodybuilding ... until one of the ladies in our gym took part in a powerlifing contest (July 3, 2016). It was her first one and I watched the live-feed on-line. She was brilliant and won the best female lifter award, in addition to breaking the existing record for the deadlift in her age/weight class. I was seriously impressed and inspired! It was this that set me off on my current pursuit (now just over two years since joining the gym) ... so I must say a huge thanks to Jane Girdlestone for giving my training a new direction and focus. My current plan is to build up awesome strength, using competition lift technique, with a view to competing in the m2 class when I am 50, and at a weight of 90kg (currently 93.2kg). Now I have a plan, it is time to execute it and you can follow my progress via these blog posts. I am looking forward to this exciting new part of my journey and have so much more to learn ... it's going to be great fun ... thanks for reading!