Standing Tall: How Powerlifting Builds Mad Confidenceby Jennifer Blake
“Stand up straight,” my mom was always saying to me.
I was a painfully shy kid and my parents knew it. I’m also an only child who was more comfortable around other adults than other children. I had no problem looking a grown-up in the eye and holding a conversation but put me at school with a bunch of kids and I would close down tight as a clamshell.
I was awkward in that “Baby from Dirty Dancing” kind of way: that painful, the deer-in-the-headlights, “I carried a watermelon” comeback kind of way.
“Stand up straight and act confident. No one will ever know you’re feeling nervous,” my mom would say when I told her how weird and gawky I felt at school.
So I did. My mom is a very successful, warm, and gregarious person with a lot of friends, so she should know, right?
You could say I took it too far: walking back to class after lunch one day in the sixth grade, I heard a girl behind me say, “If Jennifer walks with her nose turned up any higher she’s going to fall over backwards.”
Real confidence is built through enough experience and successes, big and small, to carry you through the inevitable failures, big or small. (Which I eventually got, by the way, and as a result started standing in a much more relaxed way. But still with really great posture.)
With lifting weights, there is no “fake it till you make it” because you can always measure the weight on a barbell. The strength you build is real, and it means something. Here’s why powerlifting, in particular, gives you the confidence of a superhero:
1. You’re Committing to the Practice
That sounds more like what you’d hear a yoga instructor say, but it’s true. Lifting weights, especially heavy ones, is a skill that requires a lot of time and effort to get right. Because powerlifting is a sport that tests your max effort in the squat, bench, and deadlift, in training you’ll be doing a whole lotta squatting, bench, and deadlifting.
If you love to lift like I do — and actually this applies to anyone with a passion for a physical activity they want to see improvement on — you know there are great days, days where you feel like queen of the world because every moment feels super-controlled and easy yet strong; and you know there are not-so-great days where you’re moving slower, like your feet are dragging in mud, and the weight feels much heavier than you think it should.
We all have those days. And the bad days don’t mean you’re actually less strong than you were on a great day, it just means that you’re not going to show up to the gym every day feeling the same. On the days you’re lower-functioning, you need to respect your energy levels and not push yourself too hard. The potential for great days (and greatness) keeps us in the gym, but I’ll argue that it’s the sticking through the not-so-great days that have the most influence on your actual strength gains.
That’s called “getting comfortable in the suck.” To be clear, if every training day truly suck, then something’s gotta give, and that something should be your training plan — otherwise it’s going to be you. Switch it up. But gently plugging through the occasional blah day nets you more reps under the bar. And over time, that adds up.
Practice does not always make perfect, but practice certainly does make for proficiency.
Powerlifting is great for accountability because the desire to demonstrate your personal best on the platform is a great motivator. Taking the great days with the “meh” days will build your strength in the main lifts as well as your sense of self-efficacy; you know you can do it because you already have so many times before.
That’s the sort of confidence that carries to you success on and off the platform.
2. You Get to Fly Your Freak Flag a Little
You know those days where you break out of your usual routine a little? Maybe you decided to go for a walk over your lunch break instead of eating at your desk and you came back into work feeling brightened, with a different perspective because you broke up the sameness of the day? Or you got into an impromptu play session with your kids where you decided to keep your cell phone in your pocket at the park and got down to dig in the sandbox with your kids? (No judgement here, by the way — my phone and I have a close, personal relationship.)
But that feeling of breaking away from the usual, that sense of adventure and fun? That is the feeling I get every time I compete in a powerlifting meet, and from the vibe of the people there, I don’t think I’m the only one.
Everyone is in singlets and looks mildly ridiculous. No matter what type of underwear you’re wearing, you’re going to have visible panty lines, or VPL (who cares). Everyone is geared up in various accoutrements like thick leather weight belts, colorful knees sleeves, wrist wraps. Hilariously, the International Powerlifting Federation rulebook refers to what you’re allowed to wear at a meet your “costume.” There’s likely loud music, people getting pumped up and sniffing ammonia before an attempt (not me or my lifters, thanks), lots of grunting and hooting, and clouds of chalk and baby powder.
It’s a damn strength circus, and everyone is in it together. There’s a sense of anticipation in the air, and everybody is leaning into the weird together. It’s invigorating.
3. You’re Becoming Better Every Single Day
My husband used to watch that awful show (sorry if it’s your fave!), Eastbound and Down, which was about a washed-out baseball player who’s forced to return to his hometown to take a job as a substitute Phys Ed teacher.
Even though the show is, in my opinion, obnoxious, the main character, Kenny Powers, has a line that has stuck out to me, even as I was trying to tune him out:
“I play real sports, I’m not trying to be the best at exercising.”
Here’s the deal: you obviously have the freedom to do any exercise you want, whichever way you choose, and you don’t need permission from Kenny Powers or (even though I’m nicer) me. But there is something to be said for having a purpose for your training, a mission of sorts.
This is the result of the practice mentioned above. To make progress in any endeavor, you need to be consistent. It’s not sexy and it won’t sell magazines, but it’s the truth. To get started and stay at it, you need an intrinsic motivator, and powerlifting can trigger that: you’re not just exercising because you feel like you should, you want to train because that’s how you build a stronger you.
The entire process is cyclical: consistency breeds results, which breeds motivation. And motivation leads to more consistency and more results.
In the end, you’re standing on the platform, stronger than you’ve ever been and likely chuckling to yourself, remembering every time your mom told you to stand up straight and how certain you are that this isn’t exactly what she meant.
Oh, hey! You like to talk about lifting weights? Yep, me too, and that’s exactly why I’ve created the Unapologetically Powerful Big 3 School, an exclusive ecourse written with the sole intention of improving your squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Because we don’t like to just talk, we want to walk the walk, too.
The Unapologetically Powerful Big 3 School ecourse is where I give you the information you need to build a strong foundation in the three powerlifts, and have a blast while doing it (because as I like to say, strong is so, so fun!). The course is free and my goal is for you to go forth and crush upon completion.
I want this for you. You with me? Click below to get signed up for the Unapologetically Powerful Big 3 School ecourse now!