In my 20-plus years of professional lifting, coaching and helping many achieve their individual goals and sporting endeavors, I have learned one major thing:
Powerlifting and its movements are for everyone, regardless of their ability and needs. There are no machines that replace the squat, deadlift or bench press. Many may argue this point, but I'm here to educate those people.
Powerlifting Movements Make You Strong
This may sound like a general statement, and it is. But many things come back down to one thing: Strength. If you are not strong, your limits are finite. Furthermore, your injury level during certain tasks, moving, lifting, running, etc., is a a much higher rate. Being strong is sometimes the only way to combat an environment that is less than optimal. And those situations are all around us, every day.
People argue that squatting and strength training are dangerous.
I'm here to argue that being weak is dangerous.
This environment is no place to be weak. With this much equipment, endurance will only get you so far. Being stronger may not only help you move, but it could save your life.
Let's face it: our American population is getting bigger. Most fire departments and hospitals deal with this on an hourly basis. Unfortunately, our strength level in these fields is lacking, which increases injury rates. My local fire department in Dublin, Ohio, has an average deadlift of 320 pounds across 130 firefighters and medics. How strong are the people who take care of you?
Whether moving objects in the garage, the house or helping out friends, we have all been put in situations where our strength is tested.
The real point is that, regardless of your needs and/or background, strength at a higher level will allow your life to become easier, even it it's as simple as getting out of a chair. Remember that strength allows us to keep doing the easy things in life. As we age, our strength decreases after around 35 years old. What you build from the ages of 25 to 40 is what you will slowly wean off of in your later years. Many of the clients at my facility want one thing: to perform better at the game of life. Strength is an asset regardless of your goals.
Powerlifting Movements Help Combat Aging and Decreased Testosterone Levels
Another great benefit to back squats, deadlifts, etc., is that they build a beefy testosterone base naturally. After a heavy squat session, the body tends to secrete loads of testosterone and other muscle building components in order to heal the vast tissue damage. Although everyone's testosterone levels are different, you can optimize your own levels my making sure you're doing the big, strong movements. But going in and doing your general circuit of machines may have only marginal results. The real changes involve the large movements of powerlifting at moderate and high intensities.
Powerlifting movements increase ligament, tendon and bone strength while decreasing arthritis.
We have all seen toe commercials for osteoporosis (bone density issues), arthritis and joint medication. The real answer is that joint health may be dictated by more joint movement, as well as increased ligament and tendon density. In my opinion, the only real way to get lasting results is to be a relatively strong squatter, deadlifter and bencher (compared to bodyweight) and to train using large multi-joint movement for your entire life.
My good friend and client Earl Bruce, former head coach of Ohio State University's football team, is 81 years old. When he started with me, his arthritis was so bad that I considered turning him away from training.
But with my continued drive to challenge new obstacles, I took on the task. Earl was frustrated after four knee operations and multiple post-surgery issues due to aging joints, and a lack of strength. After six months of training (mostly powerlifting-specific), his knees are free from aggravation and he is capable of dragging sleds in excess of 200 pounds for 10 minutes straight, not to mention squatting well over his bodyweight, and he can now get out of bed without pain. Powerlifting helped an 80-plus year old man with little weightlifting experience have a better quality of life.
It can do it for you as well.
Powerlifting Fixes Imbalances
Strength training in a powerlifting fashion helps to create better posture throughout your life. Some of the most fit and physically sound older people I have met are the ones that used to be great lifters. Why is this? Powerlifters know the value of evaluating posture and structural weaknesses on a daily basis. Great powerlifters are masters of exposing weak muscle groups and making them better. Most other types of training ignore weak points and play on genetic strengths to complete the tasks.
Powerlifting movements are required to have minimal to no weak points, so most issues are caused by weak posterior chain muscles (lower back, hamstrings, glute activation, etc.). The amusing part is that these are the same muscles that most people are weakest in. It only makes sense to use exercises that will strengthen these areas for our future health.
For most people, strength training is a means to better health. The only way to optimize this is to train your weak points and make sure you are attacking your largest muscle groups. A proper powerlifting-based-movement routine will not only make you stronger in lifting movements, but any activity where strength is needed.
Powerlifting has put me in better shape at 33 than I was at 18. My body fat is lower, and my strength is not even comparable now to when I was a senior in high school. If you can't say the same, maybe powerlifting movements can help.