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Powerlifting with Luke Bonanno

We caught up with our very own Luke Bonanno, one of our internationally qualified fitness professionals. Luke has a great resume having won the WDFPF world championships in powerlifting and we asked him for a few tips on his technique, training and mindset. 
1.) How does one mentally and physically prepare for Powerlifting training? 

As we all know, training can sometimes be more of a mental battle than a physical one. We’re all human and so, we all have days where we just don’t feel like getting out of bed or would rather just watch another episode than go to the gym. This is why I believe that although motivation can be very helpful when used correctly, we shouldn’t depend on it to get ourselves to training, but rather develop a dedicated and goal-driven mindset which will get you to training even when you don’t feel motivated to train. Sometimes this becomes increasingly frustrating, especially when you go through a plateau or even worse, see yourself regress instead of progress (which could be due to a number of factors). When it comes to powerlifting, the mental battle is half the war. When you get closer to a competition (you’d normally be lifting heavier when you get close), it’s normal to feel intimidated by the weight in front of you. Personally I like to either; hype myself up through music and by finding that mental state between anger and pride where you just feel like you can do anything at that given time; or else I sometimes choose to clear my mind and focus only on the task at hand. Physical preparation is obviously of the utmost importance when it comes to any weight training. Over the years I’ve learnt to prioritise technique and form over anything else. When you really manage to get this down you learn what muscles should be activated in each movement. Adding more weight (without getting injured) becomes easier after you’ve really got your technique down. This is also one of the ways you can maximize longevity in the sport. 

2.) What are the short and long term benefits of Powerlifting? 

Just like many other sports, powerlifting brings with it a long list of benefits. Some of these are obvious such as increased strength, muscle mass and fat loss, but that’s not it. Powerlifting can help induce your body into having better posture and as a strength sport which involves a lot of weight bearing exercises, it can also be a big contributor in building strong and healthy bones. Internally, the production of certain hormones inside the body is also affected which can lead to an overall healthier body.    Physical effects are not the only benefits however. Powerlifting helps build you up mentally and builds a strong character with determination, patience and fortitude being some of the mental characteristics which will surely be built up.  

3.) Could you give us some information on the correct form one needs for each exercise? 

We are all anatomically different and because of this, there can never be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to form. The best way to really figure out what ‘fits’ your body best is through experimentation with different methods. Sometimes even slightly changing the angle of your toes on the ground can have a tremendous effect! Having said that, if there is one cue which one should always keep in mind, it is 

“Keep a tight core” 

Keeping your core tight (as though someone were about to punch you in the stomach) will contribute to higher core activation. In turn, this can help prevent injury, through an increase in intra abdominal pressure. This should however be used diligently as people who suffer from high blood pressure can have health repercussions if this is done too hard.  

4.) Seeing your brilliant background in powerlifting, winning the World championships in your weight class, how did you go from an amateur weightlifter to the one of the best?  

Although winning the World Championships was a thrilling point in my life, my journey through powerlifting is a continuous, never-ending one. As an athlete you should be proud of your achievements but you can never really be satisfied as when you reach one goal, you just aim even higher. This is one of the things that has always kept me going and working hard. Apart from this, I also happen to enjoy knowing why things are done the way they are as I believe this contributes to a better understanding of what is expected. Breaking down every lift into smaller parts, going into the science behind each contraction and learning to understand how a slight adjustment can change the lift as a whole is something which has contributed to my progress and over the years has helped me develop better kinaesthetic feedback so I really know when ‘things are in place’. I also have to give credit to the environment I was surrounded with. My family was always extremely supportive when it came to my training and this only pushed me even more. Through them I’ve also learnt how to take certain moments in life which are particularly tough and use them as fuel which drives me to work even harder. Apart from this, both the ‘powerlifting community’ as well as the gym as a sort of ‘community’  were and still are very supportive and helpful and have always pushed me to do better. 

5.) What workouts are best to combine with powerlifting? 

Powerlifting is, in itself, very intense and can take a big toll on your Central Nervous System. This is why sometimes the best ‘workout’ you can pair-up with your regular training is rest. Your body needs time to recover and build itself back up even stronger than it was before. This is why, when training, one cannot ignore good nutrition and making sure they get enough sleep. I find that working on something such as mobility, stretching and some foam rolling on rest days is a good way to keep me feeling good and helps me prevent/recover from any injuries. This is one of the aspects of powerlifting which can really test your patience. Most of us think “work harder – get stronger” but sometimes the ‘working hard’ can mean the complete opposite of what you may think it is. Over time you realize that sometimes the best thing you can do for your body, both physically and mentally, is to go home and rest.  

6.) Everyone dreads leg day, how often should you be training? 

As I previously said, powerlifting can take a big toll on your CNS. This is one of the major factors which should determine how often AND how intensely you train. The faster you are able to recover, the more you can train. Having said that, with powerlifting your aim with training should not be to beat yourself up every workout but rather to activate your muscles to a point where you are forcing them to grow stronger. Overall, strength takes time to build and requires a particular lifestyle 24/7 rather than just hours in the gym and then going back to ‘normal’ life. You shouldn’t try to rush the process but rather just enjoy going through it and watching yourself grow. Over time I have found that 3-4 days a week seem to work best for me, however that can change from one person to another.