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

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Nicolle Smith, 49, powerlifter

I started weightlifting three years ago at persons under 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 film 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 athlete( and I never enjoyed running ), 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 over yoga( which is fine, but doesnt actually get the heart rate up ), or try golf( which isnt my thing ).

I tried British Military Fitness for a year, but you need the stamina 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 exerts and set out to find a qualified strength and conditioning trainer. Will Davis at Performance Pro started me off with body weight exerts, and at first, when he asked me to pick up a bar bell, 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 considered lifting weights who seem 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 each 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 goals. No one is there to show off. It really is empowering.

My weekend workout

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

Five ways to get started

1 Go to the Global or UK Strength and Conditioning website(; to find a trainer with qualifications near you: its about the trainer , not the gym. Finding someone who will teach you proper technique and kind will stimulate traumata 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 squat. Stand with your feet simply wider than shoulder-width apart, pull your shoulders back and keep your back straight. With your limbs 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 one another sort 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 volume, Starting Strength. Many lifters call it the bible of Powerlifting.

Essential kit


Powerlifting shoes, 74.95,; York padded leather weight lifting belt, 12.88,; wrist subsistences, 2.99,

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