My workout: ‘I fretted I’d get big if I did powerlifting, but I’ve dropped a dress sizing’

Nicolle Smith, 49, powerlifter

I started weightlifting three years ago at the age of 46. Id done competitive athletics in my 20 s and wanted to find a physical activity that would challenge me. I loved the movie Rocky, and the classic train sequence from it, so I decided to join a boxing club. Non-competitive boxing became my second love for 10 years. But eventually it started to take a toll on my body, and I cease just after my 40 th birthday.

If youre not a runner( and I never enjoyed operating ), the options for fitness in the middle years really narrow down to a handful of activities. Many play tennis( which yields a high chronic injury rate in the over-4 0s ), take up yoga( which is fine, but doesnt genuinely get the heart rate up ), or try golf( which isnt my thing ).

I tried British Military Fitness for a year, but you need the staman of a younger athlete. I considered CrossFit, but there was no way I was going to manage the dynamic moves. I was intrigued by the strength-based exercises and set out to find a qualified strength and conditioning trainer. Will Davis at Performance Pro started me off with body weight workouts, and at first, when he asked me to pick up a bar buzzer, I told him I didnt want to lift heavy weights; I worried that I would get big. He insured I would not. I thought about the women Ive watched lifting weights who appear lean, and changed my mind.

Powerlifting consists of three lifts: the squat, the bench press and the deadlift. Lifting weights is technological, but thats what I love about it. You make improvements every week. It has a huge health impact for women as they age. I had a bone density scan last year and the technician told me mine was off the charts. I have also dropped a dress sizing as fat has gradually become muscle.

Lifting provides a challenge for me, and I love the training environment. My gym is full of athletes of all ages, each with their own aims. No one is there to show off. It really is empowering.

My weekend workout

Sessions per week ? Three.
Best pre-workout meal ? Peanut butter on toast.
Most exhausting move ? My maximum deadlift of 92.5 kg; one and a half times my body weight.

Five ways to get started

1 Go to the Global or UK Strength and Conditioning website( nsca.com; uksca.org) to find a trainer with qualifications near you: its about the trainer , not the gym. Finding someone who will teach you proper technique and sort will build injuries less likely.

2 Be patient. Powerlifting takes time. You might spend weeks learning the basics, but once you have mastered them, youll be thrilled when your weights get heavier.

3 Start with a simple squatting. Stand with your feet merely wider than shoulder-width apart, pull your shoulders back and keep your back straight. With your arms above your head slowly push your hobo back as you lower it to the floor. Pause and come back up.

4 Get a gym educate buddy; you can watch each others kind and help move the plates on and off the barbell, which can be tiring on your own.

5 Mark Rippetoe is an expert lifter and former Olympic coach. Watch his video explainers or find his book, Starting Strength. Many lifters call it the bible of Powerlifting.

Essential kit


Powerlifting shoes, 74.95, adidas.com; York padded leather weight lifting belt, 12.88, sweatband.com; wrist supports, 2.99, amazon.co.uk

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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