Lifting Drills For Women's Powerlifting: Not Just A Man’s Game

women lifting drills for powerlifting

Step aside, guys; women are having their turn at the squat rack, bench, and deadlifting platform. The popularity of powerlifting has exploded in the last decade with more women taking to the sport than ever before. If you thought powerlifting was only for guys like The Mountain from Game of Thrones, think again.

Powerlifting is an excellent way to build real strength, raw power, and a functional physique for both men and women. If you’re a woman who is new to powerlifting or you simply want to discover some new ways to change up your current powerlifting workout, here are some of the best lifting drills for women’s powerlifting.


Getting the obvious out of the way, if you want to excel in women’s powerlifting, you must master the top three: squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.

If you have never sat down on a bench or picked up a barbell, we highly recommend hiring a certified professional to work with you for at least one month until you’ve mastered the form of each. We have plenty of material to help as well; check out the following articles:


What do the top three powerlifting exercises have in common? The barbell.

To reach new heights with your personal best, it’s important to use traditional barbell lifting; after all, that’s what you’ll find in competitions. With that said, using dumbbells and variations of the same exercises can help to avoid plateaus, continue increasing strength, and give you a nice break from the norm. Here are some great exercise substitutions:

Squats: Placing the dumbbells of your shoulders, you can perform a front squat that focuses the contraction in the quadriceps. A wide-legged sumo squat with a heavy dumbbell can strengthen the hip flexors and glutes. An overhead dumbbell squat can significantly improve balance and stability.

Check out @naturallystrongbeauty crushing this set of squats.

Deadlifts: Using dumbbells for a Romanian deadlift can help you learn to perfect your traditional deadlifting technique.

Bench Press: Dumbbells force each side of the chest to hold equal responsibility; there’s no compensation occurring here. Cycle through dumbbell bench presses with a flat, incline, and decline bench. Perform dumbbell flys and the dumbbell pullover to work your chest from every angle.

Watch @its.heavy make progress on the bench press.


A typical powerlifting workout will have you using up to 100% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) or the amount of weight you can lift with proper form one time. Since you’re using so much weight, the set ranges are higher with low repetition ranges. While most of your workouts should focus on this, reaching a new personal best requires periodization or using different acute variables.

For one of your workouts every week, try cycling through one of the following training methodologies:


  • Weight used: 50 to 60% of your 1RM
  • Repetition range: Higher – 12 to 20 repetitions per set
  • Set range: Lower – 2 to 5 sets

Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth)

  • Weight used: 65% to 75% of your 1RM
  • Repetition range: Medium – 8 to 12 repetitions per set
  • Set range: Medium – 3 to 6 sets


  • Weight used: 75% to 85% of your 1RM
  • Repetition range: Lower – 3 to 6 repetitions per set
  • Set range: Higher – 5 to 10 sets

Here’s an example of a month’s cycle you can use in accordance with your current powerlifting program:


  • Monday: Powerlifting
  • Wednesday: Endurance
  • Friday: Powerlifting


  • Tuesday: Powerlifting
  • Thursday: Hypertrophy
  • Saturday: Powerlifting


  • Monday: Powerlifting
  • Wednesday: Strength
  • Friday: Powerlifting


  • Tuesday: Powerlifting
  • Thursday: Powerlifting
  • Saturday: Powerlifting

Feel free to change up how you perform your workouts. The idea is to introduce different training methodologies once per week to challenge your body in a new way and increase results.


When competition time comes around, you’ll be expected to use the standard grips that are designated by the organization holding the event. For training, you should use these same grips as well, but experimenting with different grips can help to increase grip strength and improve performance. Here are three grips to consider trying:

Supinated Grip: Opposite the standard pronated grip, which is what you currently use for all of your lifting, the supinated grip takes the barbell from underhand, not overhand. This grip wouldn’t be ideal for the traditional back squat, but it’s great for front squats. You can also use it with a deadlift and bench press; however, you’ll have to lower your weight load.

Alternate / Mixed Grip: You might already be using this for your deadlifts, but this is when you have the left hand as pronated and the right hand as supinated, or vice versa. This wouldn’t be useful for the squat, but it could prove helpful during a bench press.

Check out @barbell_barbie97 using the mixed grip for a deadlift.

Hook Grip: An unconventional grip style, this is when you break all of the traditionally-held rule and put your thumb underneath your middle and index fingers. The hook grip is great for preventing barbell roll out so naturally it’s ideal for explosive-based exercises.

Not happy with your level of grip strength? Read our article on how to increase grip strength for powerlifting.


For some odd reason, there’s a natural tendency to compare powerlifting with other weightlifting disciplines such as strongman and bodybuilding. All have their own unique goals and methods of achieving them, so instead of saying one is better than the other, why not learn from all three?

First, if you’re not sure what the difference between powerlifting and Strongman is, we suggest you read our article on it.

Powerlifters can learn a lot from Strongman lifters and bodybuilders. By incorporating some of the exercises and techniques from other disciplines, female powerlifters will see their own ability and results improve. Here are a few things you can use from Strongman lifting and bodybuilding:

Focus on Hypertrophy: As mentioned above, try lifting like a bodybuilder one day per week. Use supersets with no more than 65% to 75% of your 1RM.

Walk Like a Farmer: The Farmer’s Walk is a Strongman favorite and a must for every powerlifter. It can help to build total body strength with a focus in the core. Add this to the end of your powerlifting workouts.

Take it Slow: Powerlifting is built on explosive movements. Whether in your warm-ups or for one exercise per workout, try counting the seconds for the concentric and eccentric portions of the exercise. For example, many bodybuilders will use a two-second count up and a two-second count down. Do this for each and every repetition to feel an intense burn.

Drag a Sled: Strongman lifters use the sled drag to build raw power and brute force. Powerlifters who add this into their workouts can see a huge boost in their squatting and deadlifting power.


Are you new to female powerlifting? Have you been powerlifting for a while? Which of these lifting drills do you think will help you the most? Are there any lifting drills that we forgot to mention? Let us know on our Facebook.

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